The Temple! – John 2:13-25

The Temple! – John 2:13-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 26, 2014

I have heard sermons where the speaker equates today’s church as the new temple of God, however, we no longer continually offer sacrifices of live animals, we do not burn incense to represent the prayers of the people to God, and we do not wash our hands and feet before coming into worship nor do we bow down before the altar of God. And of course nothing separates us from the presence of God: Neither curtain, priest, nor mercy seat can keep us from his presence! While some of the things we do remind us of the temple or tabernacle of God, the church is radically different from the temple.

The Temple was an important part of the Jewish worship of God. It represented the presence of God with his people and a place where folks could come to pray, praise, and sacrifice to God. Now it was Passover which was kept on the fourteenth day of Nisan, in commemoration of the Lord’s passing over any home that had its doorposts painted with the blood of a lamb, when he killed the firstborn of every household in Egypt. Jesus more than likely had gone to Jerusalem before and we know he was there when he was eleven teaching in the Temple courts. But now the Temple is being misused and desecrated by his own people. How would Jesus respond as he walked through the Temple?

READ: John 2:13-25

The event we are about to study in the life of Jesus had such a tremendous impact on the disciples that it is one of the few circumstances of Jesus’ ministry that is mentioned in all four Gospels. I believe it is because of how Jesus responds and how others viewed what he did there. We discover…

I. Jesus shows us his passion for the temple! (Vv. 13-17)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

1. We learn that “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Direction in the New Testament has to do with elevation and not direction such as north or south. So when “Jesus went up to Jerusalem” it means he traveled in elevation up toward Jerusalem which was where the Temple was built on Mt. Zion. John records what comes next early in Jesus’ ministry while the other Gospels record it happening toward the end of his ministry. Some think there could be two occasions where Jesus cleansed the Temple; however, it could also simply be the process of writing that folks in Jesus’ day used. They did not care so much when something actually occurred and were more concerned about sharing that it did indeed occurred. Either way, we find Jesus in Jerusalem at the Temple during Passover and it was there “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.” Jesus found this distressing. The place that was to be considered the most holy place on earth was being used to store and sell animals and for the exchange of differing currencies into Temple coins! All sacrifices had to be bought with Temple currency and the powers that be had a real racket going. Temple sacrifices had to be bought with the acceptable Tyrian coinage, and a high percentage was charged for changing coins. “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” They had desecrated that which was to be a holy place and turned it into a money-making scam! Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We would do well to ask ourselves if we desecrate the holy place of God on Sundays in order to make it more acceptable for ourselves rather than a place of worship. My grandmother would say that there should be a certain amount of decorum maintained. We would call it manners or respectability. Perhaps we have bought into the lie that since God lives in us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we can do anything we desire during worship. God did not live in a place made by human hands, nor does he live within the walls of a church building, yet when his people who are called by his name gather themselves together to worship, he is there. And what we do while we are there says a lot to the Lord about whether we honor him above all other things; things like lattes, the Internet, Facebook, texting, or other distractions we deem more important than focusing on him. Perhaps we need to overturn some of the tables in our lives so we can focus on what is truly important when we worship. Here, Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

We no longer have holy passion and so we often expect our worship leaders, music ministers, or pastors to invoke in us the passion we lack. The sad truth is, no matter how emotional one gets, emotion never makes up for a true passion for the Lord. This is why we discover that…

II. Folks can misunderstand the true temple! (Vv. 18-22)

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

1. When we get caught in our sin we can either respond one of two ways, either by repenting and turning to the Lord or by getting defensive and demanding God prove we were in sin. Sadly, far too often those caught in sin do the latter. This is exactly what the Jews do after Jesus upsets their ill-conceived con game. The Jews vehemently demand of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Basically they are saying, “We know we are wrong in doing what we are doing, but what gives you the right to do what you did!?” They are trying to shift the blame for their sin to Jesus! Jesus would later remind these same hypocrites, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” In fact he tells them that the only “sign” they are going to get is the one of Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 NIV)” And here Jesus bluntly answers them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus wanted them to think about his answer, but they were thickheaded and confused because of their sinfulness. When we are in sin we never want to admit it is our problem, that we should change, or that we do not understand the significance of our ungodly behavior. They respond, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” We may wonder at how dense these folks were, but how dense can we be in our response to our sinful condition? We know that “the temple he had spoken of was his body.” But that should not excuse our behavior. Notice that it was only “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” What is the reason we are so confused? Folks can misunderstand the true Temple!

EXAMPLE: Paul would later remind his readers that “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” Jesus didn’t cleanse the Temple because he thought God lived there, he cleansed it because it represented the place where God met with his people. Our lives in Christ are to be kept clean as well because we are now his temple, bought with a price, the blood of Jesus our personal sacrifice. When we hypocritically treat our lives in Christ with disdain, as the Jews did the Temple courts, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple!

Jesus cleanses the Temple area of animals and the money changers tables, but his time in Jerusalem was not done. He had other things to do. Jesus knew that the Hebrew nation was focused inward instead of on what mattered. They were to not only reach those who did not believe but they were honor God with their lives. The problem was and is that…

III. People often think they are the Temple! (Vv. 23-25)

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

1. Wow, the Jews just demanded of Jesus that he show them some miracle in order to justify his actions concerning their sins and now we read that “while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Interestingly, John chose not to describe any of them. John’s interest is in introducing us to Jesus and showing us how others viewed him. Folks are often more interested in making themselves the center of the universe rather than God. And isn’t it fascinating while those who questioned him about overturning the money changers tables and demanded he give them some miracle to show he could do such a thing, could now see for themselves by the miracles he performed! I believe John deliberately gives us this piece of irony to show their hypocrisy. No matter how many miracles Jesus did, they probably would not have believed he was the Messiah! This is why “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Jesus knew that people’s first inclination would be to make him into some kind of rallying point, to make him their political puppet king who would rescue them from their oppressors the Romans. Later, they try to do this on several other occasions, however, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15 NIV)” Those who opposed Jesus would falsely declare that Jesus wanted to make himself king! When Jesus was asked by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, “Are you the king of the Jews?” meaning was he declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36 NIV)” Temporary fame or excitement over his miracles would soon fade because people would just demand more and more, kind of like those who hike clear around the Sea of Galilee in order to get more food from him! Therefore, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” People often think of themselves as the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We may say we worship Jesus or that we believe in God, but what we do next can say a whole lot about what we truly believe. When we show up for worship expecting God to “bless” us because we happened to be there; when we are haphazard with our prayers and demand God listen when we have a need; or when we know more about episodes of The Walking Dead than we know about books of the Bible perhaps we think God should revolve around us. Maintaining a way of life had become more important to the spiritual leadership of Jesus’ day than knowing the Messiah! And this was the problem just as it is today, people often think of themselves as the Temple! It is time we stop focusing on ourselves and begin to focus on what God desires; people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

Conclusion:

Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple, and sometimes people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Wedding! — John 2:1-12

The Wedding! — John 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 19, 2014

According to a recent article by Kelsey Thibodeau of WGGB/CNN, “Marriage can be an expensive adventure. But can the size of your ring be a predictor of how long that marriage will last? New research from Emory University suggests the bigger the diamond, the shorter the marriage. Researchers surveyed 3,000 adults who’ve been married at some point. They found that men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on engagement rings were more likely to end up divorced than those men who spent less than $2,000. The same appeared to be true for women receiving rings. The more expensive it was, the more likely the woman reported being divorced. The study also suggests the more expensive the wedding, the higher the divorce rate. Women whose wedding cost $20,000 or more are 3.5 times more likely to divorce than women who spent $10,000 or less.”

Here we find Jesus invited to a wedding in Cana. It is a wonderful retelling of an intimate event in Jewish life. And what makes it even more delightful is the fact we not only find Jesus, but his mother, and the disciples there as well. I find it somehow comforting that Jesus enjoyed the normal things, the traditional things, and the joyous occasions of family and friends. What could be more enjoyable than a wedding of a friend or beloved relative? It is here we see the Savior at the wedding…

READ: John 2:1-12

I know that some pastors would rather do funerals than weddings; as one minister related to me, “Grief over death makes people see life in a healthier perspective and silences the obnoxious relative.” However, we find the wedding a place where…

I. Jesus does his first miracle! (Vv. 1-5)

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

1. The third day could refer to three days after meeting Nathaniel, three days after Meeting Peter, or three days following John the Baptist telling his disciples to look intently at the Lamb of God. More than likely it was three days after meeting Nathaniel. And now, “a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.” We also discover that “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” She must have had a major part in the wedding planning and execution of the celebration, the feast, and the events. The reason I say this is because of her involvement in what occurs next, her concern for the wedding couple, and the embarrassment it would cause them, because “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’” A simple guest would not have been aware of such an intimate detail and certainly would not have been concerned. Yet we find Jesus’ mother both knowledgeable and anxious about the couple being embarrassed. And, interestingly John never names himself nor uses the name of Jesus’ mother. Here we read Jesus replies, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus’ response has been dissected and discussed for centuries; however, within the words he uses we see his respect and love for her. Could she have known of her son’s ability to perform miracles or of his Messianic status? I would say “No” because we find her and the rest of Jesus’ siblings trying to discourage him later in the direction his life would take and John notes, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. (v. 11)” And, we see Jesus immediately responds to her request, “My time has not yet come.” It was not time for him to reveal himself to the general public through any outward sign. His mother commands the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” He still had not called all of his disciples yet to follow him and he was not willing to do something dramatic to draw attention to his self but out of respect and love for his mother, he does his first miracle.

EXAMPLE: “Keep calm and eat bacon.” “Keep calm and put the kettle on.” These sayings originate from the phrase: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This message first appeared in Great Britain as World War II began in 1939. British officials printed it on posters designed to offset panic and discouragement during the war. My favorite would be, “Keep calm and ask mom!” There is something very endearing about Jesus doing this act of kindness. I do not believe Mary forces him into doing something he does not desire to do. The answer that Jesus gives his mother might be better translated as, “What do you want of me? I am not prepared for this.” Yet for sake of a young couple and because he loves his mother, Jesus performs his first miracle.

Jesus is always using the simplest of things for great things. He does this when feeding thousands, using a fish net, or in providing wine for a wedding. We discover that…

II. Jesus provides the very best using the mundane! (Vv. 6-12)

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

1. John relates that “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.” This was no small gathering but rather a large celebration where perhaps the whole village was invited or at least a large group of folks. We find that there is between 120 and 180 gallons of water, and soon to be wine involved! This was not a few bottles of Champagne! Jesus tells the servant to “Fill the jars with water” and to fill “them to the brim.” They have no idea what is about to occur but in the time it took them to finish filling the jars and when the master of the banquet tastes the newly drawn liquid, it miraculously changes! Jesus simply tells the servants, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” Obediently they do so “and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.” The water was used for purification rights before the meal so the participants would come to the meal clean. The master of the banquet “did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” This ceremonial water that was turned into wine ceased to be what it was before and became what it was not: celebration wine! The wine used in Hebrew meals was far weaker than what we drink in our day because wine for the Jew was seen as a food item to be enjoyed as part of the meal and not something to get a buzz from. And during most feasts folks would bring out the stronger wine first. This is why we learn that when the master of the banquet “called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’” The plain water of cleansing became the joyous drink of celebration! Jesus uses the mundane to provide the very best!

EXAMPLE: How often have parents planned and schemed to give a child a present they wanted only to later find them playing with the box it came in instead. I loved getting a refrigerator or washing machine box and turning it into a rocket ship, army tank, or play house. It is taking something simple and turning it into something wonderful. However, what Jesus does is more than using one’s imagination, it is the power and presence of God actively involved in the lives of those he loves. The Savior of the world provides the very best using the mundane! How truly marvelous is that? And yet this is exactly what Jesus does with our lives when we trust him with them? I believe so.

Conclusion:
Jesus does his first miracle! Jesus provides the very best using the mundane!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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John 1:35-51 – The Calling!

John 1:35-51 – The Calling!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 12, 2004

Tom T. Hall, an old country western singer, wrote a song that went, “If you love somebody enough, you’ll follow wherever they go. That’s how I got to Memphis.” The sentiment of the song is quite true because if you truly do love someone enough you will follow wherever they go. This is why Jesus would later relate to his followers, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus calls us we are to leave everything and follow him.

A young man went to the same work he did every night with the same crew and the same duties he always did, but this evening he would be called. He never suspected that his friend would introduce him to the one who calls us eternally. Just as those who thought they were following a good and righteous man named John the Baptizer so long ago never realized that the one they followed would point them to the one they truly needed to follow. Let’s discover this morning what that calling means for each of us…

READ: John 1:35-51

In this section of John’s gospel we find Jesus calling his first disciples. When we are called by God we are to follow him wherever he leads us. The call of Christ calls us from our sin into his wonderful grace, from our normal way of life into his marvelous way, and from the darkness into his light; but first and foremost…

I. The call of Christ asks us to go with him! (Vv. 35-39)

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

1. The following day after John had given Jesus that wonderful name as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind we find him with two of his own disciples. He now turns to them and “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” This is more than a pronouncement it is a benediction, a sanction or a kind of an approval of who Jesus is. John is encouraging them to go with Jesus! How would it be if you were asked to devote the next 3 years of your life to one who would ultimately die? That you would be called to devote the rest of your life to proclaiming his gospel message! We discover that John fixes his gaze on Jesus and he knows that his ministry is about over and this is the one whom he has been preparing the way for. It is time for his disciples to be with Jesus. “When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” It is interesting to note that when John points them to Christ, they do not ask him why nor debate the issue, they “followed Jesus.” Of course this was in the sense that he was walking by and now they are following after him, but it would lead to much more. “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’” It is a natural thing to ask when strangers begin to tail after you. They heard John’s words, realized what they meant, and it reached into their souls whereby they had to choose and choose they did. Now, Jesus addresses them. I believe that Jesus perhaps overheard John and he knew these men had a choice to make. Perhaps God the Father whispered to his Son’s ear, “These are the first of many.” Whatever the case; “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’”  And then they immediately respond, “‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” They become Jesus’ disciples in that moment. Called to follow Christ, they now go with him.  “‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.” The call of Christ asks us to go with him!

EXAMPLE: The “tenth hour” was about 4 PM in our time frame since it was around ten hours after sunrise. So it was quite natural for them to go with Jesus after being invited to do so to see where he was staying. They spent the rest of the day with him, and probably shared the evening meal as well. While we are not implicitly told they did, the timing and the structure of the events suggests this is true. I wonder what they talked about, what the food they shared was, and how they made their introductions. In fact we learn from the other Gospels that “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 4:17 NIV)’” What I find truly fascinating is the fact that when John told them who Jesus was, they immediately curious and wanted to find out for themselves what that meant. Too few folks are curious about Jesus in our day and age. Perhaps we need to induce curiosity in others concerning Christ so that they will want to see for themselves? Remember, the call of Christ asks us to go with him!

It is easy to secretly follow someone. You do not have to put yourself out, risk embarrassment, or stand out in the crowd. However, following Jesus does not work that way. It becomes a matter of public record no matter how hard you try to be a secret saint. There simply is no such thing in the kingdom of God. And afterwards, we soon discover that…

II. The call of Christ asks us to invite others! (Vv. 40-44)

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

1. Here begins a delightful tale of one disciple. We find “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John said and followed Jesus.” He realizes the one he has been introduced to requires that we share him. That is the very nature of discipleship. The disciple shares his teacher, his rabbi, with others. Andrew appears two more times in John’s Gospel (John 6:4-9; John 12:20-22); and both times he is bringing someone to Jesus. The unnamed disciple is thought to be John the son of Zebedee, brother of James and author of this Gospel. Andrew is about telling others who he has found. “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” Interestingly we learn from the other Gospels that Peter and John return to their father’s business of fishing. And it isn’t until later when “Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV)” Curious of what Jesus is teaching, later they would have to decide to go and completely follow after him. Jesus takes them from their fisher nets and makes them fishers of men instead. After meeting Peter, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” Names often depicted one’s character and Jesus knowing these men are to be chosen, gives Simon (he who hears) the Aramaic name Cephas (stone). Peter would become the stone the disciples would depend upon after Jesus’ ascension.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus asks the disciples who they people say he is and then he asks who they think he is. Peter submits that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah the Son of the Living God. Jesus responds to Peter that while he is petros (a small pebble), it would be upon the truth Peter just exclaimed the petra (large stone) that Jesus would build his church! “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” Philip was a fisherman as well, Bethsaida means fish house. And, interestingly, we discover “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” It begins with Andrew and John and they in turn go tell others. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!

EXAMPLE: When I was four years old I received an invitation to a birthday party for the little girl down the street. Being shy, I did not want to go. My mother dressed me in my best clothes, handed me a wrapped present with a card, and sent me off in the direction of the little girl’s house. After receiving a phone call wondering where I was, my mom came looking for me. She found me hiding in the bushes next door. She dragged me out, brushed me off, and marched me down to the birthday party. Invitations can be wonderful to receive. I stayed long enough to shove the gift at the girl, grab a piece of cake, and flee out the backdoor. I think the other kids had a great time. Birthdays, weddings, or parties but what if the invitation was to follow the Lamb of God? To follow the one who can save you from your sin and give you eternal life? Jesus tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV)” Jesus invites us. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!

Some folks have a struggle with predestination, the notion God knows who will come to him and that it is he who calls us, frankly I do not. If God created all things, sent himself as Jesus to redeem us, and now lives in us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, I find it quite reasonable and comforting to know God knew beforehand I was his. However, in the calling we do not know who is chosen and here we learn that…

III. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith! (Vv. 45-51)

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

1. Like Andrew Philip does not let moss grown under his feet. We find that “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” At this point in time Philip does not know of Jesus extraordinary birth, but he does understand a few vital truths concerning Jesus. God told Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NIV)” Daniel, Micah, and Zechariah were just some of the prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah and now Philip had seen him, he tells his friend Nathanael!  Incredulous that such a small smelly fishing village could produce the Messiah to come, Nathanael asks, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nazareth was the backwoods; it was full of backwards folks who would not understand the intricacies of spiritual truth concerning the Messiah. Philip’s response is simple, “Come and see.” Nathanael does not expect to experience what he does next, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’” Skeptical, Philip asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus responds to Philip with just the information this skeptic needs to hear, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” How did this man know when and where Philip had asked him to “come and see” for himself? For this skeptic it was enough, only the Messiah could have the foreknowledge Jesus had concerning Nathanael. He exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” I honestly believe Jesus had a wonderful sense of humor and we see it displayed here with Nathanael. I believe that with a twinkle in his eye, Jesus smiles and responds to Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that! I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man!” Nathanael believed Jesus was the Messiah simply because Jesus had seen him under a fig tree, well Nathanael – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Nathanael would see far greater things than he could understand and hear greater things than he had ever heard. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

EXAMPLE: God takes us where we are and then begins to build us in him. He never asks us to understand all there is and then come to faith. It is impossible to do because we are to respond in faith, not by sight! Besides we cannot fully understand spiritual truth without the Spirit of God living within us! This is what Jesus is referring to when he responds to Nathanael the way he does. Jesus is basically congratulating Nathanael on his simple faith! There is a beautiful story that takes place at the verify end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Another skeptic, Thomas, tells the other disciples who claim they saw the resurrected Jesus, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it. (John 20:25 NIV)” Thomas wanted all the answers to what he could not grasp. Jesus then appears to him and the rest and Thomas learns that faith is more than seeing and believing. Jesus tells him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29 NIV)” The writer of Hebrews would state “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)” The folks who lived before Christ were applauded for their faith, not what they fully understood! While they knew God created the universe, they did not know exactly how he did it so and they follow God by their willingness to trust in him and who he is! We do not need to clean up our lives nor understand the Bible; the call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

Conclusion:
The call of Christ asks us to go with him! The call of Christ asks us to invite others! The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Sticks and Stones and Little Boys

Sticks and Stones and Little Boys
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 6, 2014

Sticks and rocks are beautiful things, if you do not believe me then you do not have any little boys because sticks, rocks, and little boys go together. I am not sure why, they just do. Perhaps it is our “aggressive” natures outwardly manifesting themselves. I certainly believe this is why too many little boys in our day and age have little or no imaginations because their overly protective parents do not let them enjoy the simplicity of a good stick or rock. Of course the Darwinist would postulate that it comes from our Neanderthal background as cavemen! I do not think so. I believe it is simply the outward expression of boyhood to have a good stick or rock on hand.

I remember well my mother telling me in no uncertain terms, “If you run with that stick young man you will poke someone’s eye out!” Or how she would grumble as she emptied my pockets before doing the laundry, knowing that if she did not then she would hear the clanging of the rocks in the dryer I had treasured in my patched jean pockets. She never realized that you would have to have the stick at just the right angle and then you would have to meet the other unsuspecting person’s head at just the precise time for certain impact. Of course these kinds of miracles happen all the time in the life of young boy because it seems they are always poking someone’s eye out with a wayward stick, scrapping their knees, running in the house, or carrying a ton of rocks in their pockets to pound dents into the inside of the dyer with. I digress. My mother would often lovingly place each rock by the door where the dryer was so I could replace them in my clean jean pockets again!

Just a few years ago I opened the backdoor of our church just in time to see a trio of boys walking by with their sticks. They had scrounged them from the trash bin where I had thrown them after tripping over them for the umpteenth time. When I asked them where they had gotten their sticks from, they answered, “What sticks?” I almost immediately responded, “The one’s you will poke someone’s eye out with!” but I held my tongue. Instead, I pointed to the wooden pikes they held in their grubby hands, too which they responded, “Oh, you mean these sticks!”

My grandson has a pile of stones and sticks by the front door our house. If we are buried under a pile of ash from Mt. St. Helens in the next few days I am sure future archeologists will dig up my front door and determine that we worshipped at some shrine whereby we placed certain prized rocks and sticks! And yes, we find them in his pants pockets as well. When asked why he saves them or if we dare ask him to part with even one rock, you would think we are robbing gold from Fort Knox. Each is a prize to be kept and treasured. And in fact he cannot be outside for long without finding a wayward stick to carry, tap on things, and use with his imagination.

See, these two stories prove my point that little boys and sticks and rocks go together. In fact there may be some kind of unknown magnetism between inert discarded branches and random stones and little boys. And I am sure that just as Grog’s mom once told him a millennium ago, “You play with stick, you poke um eye out!” a future mom will declare, “You play with that stick with your anti-gravity belt and you’re gonna poke someone’s eye out!”

Sadly, in our day and age too many “adults” have lost the imagination of sticks and stones and only think of them in the politically correctness of their convoluted narrowly focused world. However, my advice is to let little boys have sticks and random rocks to treasure and play with, as long as they do not poke the dog, hit their little sister, or bonk one other on the head with them. Of course if this happens, so what? You may as well as give up now because even if you do not live where your little boy can find sticks and stones, a boy will find a stick or rock of sorts somewhere. In fact, if you ever go camping they will suddenly appear in your campsite, and fathers, you may never have to hunt for firewood or rocks to make a fire or fire pit with again!

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The Lamb of God! — John 1:29-34

The Lamb of God! — John 1:29-34
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 5, 2014

I remember some of the names my mother had for me. Some were rather embarrassing, and no I am not going to share those with you! We all have nicknames or pet names others have given us that we would rather not share with anyone. Yet there are some names we are proud to let others know we have. Names like father, mother, grandfather or grandmother, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, son or daughter. These names are ones we often carry with pride and enjoy when we are called by them.

John the Baptist not only testified about the Messiah to come, but he also gave him one of the most endearing and fascinating names ever. It is a name that people have used, found comfort in, and wondered at for thousands of years. Here in John’s gospel we see him writing about John the Baptist and his ministry down by the Jordan River and it was there while he was doing his baptizing that John the Baptist shares with others the wonderful name of the Messiah to come: The Lamb of God! Let’s discover what this means for our lives this morning…

READ: John 1:29-34

I have to laugh when I hear folks argue about who Jesus was or is because there is so much historical evidence pointing to exactly who he is. John writes that…

I. The Lamb of God is Jesus! (Vv. 29-31)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31 NIV)

1. While John was baptizing down on the Jordan River near a small town named Bethany, Jesus, his cousin comes down to the river. We discover that the very “next day John saw Jesus coming toward him.” Perhaps they had grown up together and had seen one another, after all Mary did journey to her Aunt’s house to share her pregnancy predicament with Aunt Elizabeth. We know that after Mary discovers her pregnancy that “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zachariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39 NIV)” So, it does not seem too farfetched to think that these young men had known one another, after all they were cousins! But now John sees Jesus not as his pesky cousin he grew up with but in an entirely new light. (I know cousins can be pesky because when I was three years old, I met my cousin Steven for the first time, and I bit him on the arm! He was five and had been bugging me.) But whatever the case, we discover Jesus is seen by John differently. John now looks towards Jesus and proclaims, “Look (behold), the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Some think this was probably after Jesus had been baptized by John, spent time in the wilderness, and was tempted by Satan and so was changed and charged with his mission. John no longer saw Jesus as his cousin but rather as the one God-ordained, God-gifted sacrificial offering that took the place of the Pascal lamb and the sacrifice it represented! Jesus is the one who “takes away the sin of the world!” He could because he is the one John had already spoke about where he said, “A man comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” Jesus can take the sins of the world away because he is God, and was before John, surpassed him, and everything else! But why did John say, I myself did not know Him? While they were cousins, sometimes family cannot see you for who you truly are! I believe John did not know that Jesus was the coming Messiah until he was revealed to John by the Father. John however knew Jesus was the “reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel” as the good news, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
EXAMPLE: M. R. DeHaan writes for the Radio Bible Class, “A tourist who had visited a church in Norway said that he was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower. He learned that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To remember that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell. John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Peter said that the full weight of our sins fell upon Jesus (1 Pet. 2:24). And the apostle Paul explained, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We all have fallen in sin, but on the cross Jesus took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. He now offers eternal life to all who personally put their faith in Him (Jn. 3:1-16). Have you been saved by the Lamb?” The Lamb of God is Jesus!

Few of us have someone important go to the mat for us or give us a personal reference. Here in John’s gospel we discover that…

II. The Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit! (Vv. 32-34)

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34 NIV)

I. What John the Baptist had to say about Jesus probably did not carry to much weight with the crowds in his day and age; we have the advantage of hindsight. But here we discover John “saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on” Jesus. John’s Gospel does not say the Spirit appeared like a dove at Jesus’ baptism, however it is inferred and we know from the other gospel accounts that it did indeed occur. However, the invisible Spirit came from heaven and manifested himself in the form of a dove and John saw the Spirit as a dove remain on Jesus. Isaiah foretold that with the Messiah to come that, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD–and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV)” Interestingly, we see that John “would not have known him, except that the one who sent [him] to baptize with water told [him]” that “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” So in these few words of John the Baptist we discover that he indeed heard his calling directly from God and that he followed what God told him to do. And what John is telling us is the fact that he would not have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah without God’s direction! God would show John exactly who the Messiah was and do it with a pronouncement that only God could make, that of the Holy Spirit resting on him when he asks to be baptized! The other gospels relate that, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:16-17 NIV)” For John the Baptist this was proof enough and he would declare, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God!” John teaches us that that the Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!
EXAMPLE: God proved his love for by sending his son Jesus and he testified to the fact by the display of his Spirit resting on him at his baptism. Randy Kilgore writes, “When Hans Egede went to Greenland as a missionary in 1721, he didn’t know the Inuit language. His temperament was often overbearing, and he struggled to be kind to the people. In 1733, a smallpox epidemic swept through Greenland, wiping out almost two-thirds of the Inuit people—and claiming Egede’s wife as well. This shared suffering melted Egede’s harsh demeanor, and he began to tirelessly labor to care for the people physically and spiritually. Because his life now better represented the stories he told them of God’s love, the Inuits could at last grasp His desire to love them too. Even in suffering, their hearts turned to God. Perhaps you are like the Inuits in this story, and you are unable to see God in the people around you. Or perhaps you are like Hans Egede, who struggled to express love in a way that taught people about God. Knowing we are weak and needy people, God showed us what love is like. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins (John 3:16). That’s how much God loves you and me.” John teaches us that that the Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!

Conclusion:

The Lamb of God is Jesus! The Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Testimony! — John 1:19-28

The Testimony! — John 1:19-28
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 28, 2014

Did you ever witness something you had a hard time explaining? I have. We were headed home from camping and the night sky filed with a brilliant light that flashed across the starlit darkness. At first we thought it was a UFO, but we knew they did not exist and so then we wondered where in the world the streaking light was coming from. We then realized that we were near Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is a United States Air Force Base located 9.2 miles northwest of Lompoc, California. It is under the jurisdiction of the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command. And then we understood immediately what the strange light was, a rocket fired from Vandenberg.

A person’s testimony is simply them trying to explain to others what they have experienced and witnessed. Here in John’s gospel we are discovering what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus. Sometimes it was difficult for him to do so, but John persisted in his testimony and because of that we have one of the most beautiful narratives that describe Jesus’ life and what those around him thought of him as well. Today, we will look at the testimony of what others thought about Jesus…

READ: John 1:19-28

Again, we are looking at John the Baptist and what he thought about his own ministry and the ministry of Jesus. We may wonder why but in the Apostle John’s day many followed John the Baptist and wondered how this cousin of Jesus fit into the narrative of what God was doing in their world. And so, here in John’s gospel we have…

I. The testimony of John the Baptist! (Vv. 19-23)
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
1. As in the other three gospels (Synoptic Gospels), the ministry, words, and actions of John the Baptist was so influential that the religious and secular authorities in Jerusalem decided to investigate him. “Levites” is John’s way of describing some of the city’s leaders. The priests and Levites trucked out to where John the Baptist was doing his preaching to ask about his baptism and what he claimed about himself. So “this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.” John’s gospel begins to introduce for us the public ministry of Jesus to the nation Israel. Some feared that perhaps John the Baptist was the Messiah to come, so they go to find out if he was or not. Yet John the Baptist “did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’” In our day and age and in John’s as well, there are those who would quickly claim to be something they are not in order to gain recognition, fame, or perhaps fortune. Over the centuries we have had charlatans a plenty. To each question asked of him, if he were the Messiah (the Christ), Elijah, or some other important prophet John the Baptist readily responds with “I am not” or a flat out “no”. John wants only that which God has given him to proclaim or do. Here is a wonderful bold man of God satisfied with the task he had been given, whether great or small. Frustrated by John’s answers, they finally ask him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Do not be mislead here because these snakes wanted an answer that could either give them a way up or a way out of any predicament they might find themselves in when they return with an answer their big city bosses did not like. They either wanted to be able to hang on to the coat tails of John or hang John by his own words. Politicians and pendants have not changed. “Give us something we can take back with us to increase our station with those who sent us.” So, they place the results squarely on John the Baptist himself, “What do you say about yourself?” John the Baptist’s answer is brilliant in its Scriptural simplicity and wonderfully wise in its response and sets into motion the ministry of Jesus to the world. “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’” John the Baptist was the pathfinder, the scout of God, and the testifier to the truth that was coming into the world! John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!
EXAMPLE: John the Baptist was one of those rare men who were completely comfortable in his own skin, even if it was draped in a camel coat! Few men in our day and age understand this. There is a good saying that states, “Real men know a real man. Real men follow Jesus!” John the Baptist was a real man; a man’s man. John was a man who was comfortable with godly things, speaking about righteousness, and willing to risk it all in order to affect his society and his surroundings. Not comfortable in getting all he could while he could, John knew God’s plan was bigger than his meager life and far grander than his existence. John the Baptist did not assume that which he knew he had no right to. He was a giver; a giver of himself, a giver of God’s word, and a giver of the truth. Here, in his gospel, John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!

John was a rare breed, he was literally the last of the Old Testament prophets. From this point on there would be no more prophets of God like that of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Moses or others. The reason is obvious, all the prophets pointed to the Messiah to come, as did John the Baptist. This is why John the Apostle now begins to describe for us…

II. John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus! (Vv. 24-28)
Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
1. The Pharisees were an important sect of Judaism and outnumbered the Sadducees. There were about 6,000 of them and they were most influential toward the general population. They believed in angels, the Messiah, an afterlife, and held a strict interpretation of the Law which also embraced many oral traditions. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, the Pharisees were the only religious group to survive the Jewish war of 66-70 AD, and their teachings formed the basis for the Talmudic tradition of Judaism. We discover that “some Pharisees who had been sent questioned” John by asking him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” their question to John the Baptist was essentially, “Since you have no official title or you do not claim to be anyone important, why are you baptizing?” Interestingly, John the Baptist knew exactly why they had come to him. We learn that when “he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’ (Matthew 3:7-8 NIV)” In fact, while he did not think he was anyone of importance in the scheme of things, neither were they, because he knew that even “out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham! (v. 9)” His response again is illustrative of who John was and how he viewed himself, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know.” Remember John the Apostle had already told us that Jesus “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)” The religious and social leaders of the day did not recognize John the Baptist for who he was and neither would they recognize Jesus for whom he was! John related that simply put, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” His message was one of announcement; the Messiah would come and John the Baptist would not be worthy to even do the most subservient task, such as untying the Messiah’s sandal strap! This was John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We discover that John the Baptist always kept pointing people to repentance and the Messiah to come. He wanted to prepare them for the coming message of God. If they had not prepared themselves by repenting of their sins, they would not be prepared for what God would do in their midst. In fact, we will see for ourselves that even while many of these same folks see the miracles of Jesus, hear the words of Jesus, they are not willing or ready to receive the gospel of Jesus. The same is true for our day and age. I believe it is because many of us have either been misled or have forgotten what our task in life is to be after we come to Christ ourselves. On the night Jesus was betrayed one of the last prayers he prays is this, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:18-21 NIV)” As Jesus sent his disciples to witness, he sends us as well, and just like John the Baptist our testimony is to be about Jesus!

Conclusion:

We have seen for ourselves the testimony of John the Baptist and the testimony about Jesus! What do you testify about in your life?

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Incarnation! – John 1:14-18

The Incarnation! – John 1:14-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 14, 2014

Joan Rivers made no apologies for all the plastic surgeries she had over the years. Sometimes we can look in the mirror and not like what we see. When you look in the mirror what do you see? What do you think it would feel like to be a different person? Vernon Grounds writes that “You will never know. You may modify your body by exercise and diet. You may change your mind and your behavior. You may even resort to surgery. But you and I will forever be the unique individuals God created us to be. Regardless of how much we may try, we can’t actually experience what it is to be another person.” He continues by relating, “What was it like, then, for God to take on our human nature and live as a man who was despised and misunderstood on this fallen planet? He already knew exactly what sinful people go through. After all, He is all-knowing. Yet He voluntarily came… That’s what the incarnation is all about.”

Yet, how does a holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God actively enter into his creation that is now tainted by sin to become one of his own? It is hard for our mind to wrap itself around and this is exactly why God knew he was going to enter into our world the way he did, through his son Jesus. We have a habit of using words that some call “churchy.” Incarnation is such a word, but it means exactly what I just said. A holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God entered actively into his creation to cleanse it from its sin condition. John writes to us about the incarnation; let’s discover what John writes about it and what it means for our lives…

READ: John 1:14-18

How can human beings become the children of God? LDS falsely teach there was a pre-existence, or a pre-mortal life, in which human spirits were literal children of heavenly parents. Earth was created as a testing ground. The doctrine of eternal progression was succinctly summarized by LDS Church leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” This totally against biblical teaching; Scripture teaches us that there is one God, he created all things, and sin entered the world through mankind’s disobedience. However, God had a plan and John gives us that plan through…

I. The summation of the incarnation! (Vv. 14-15)
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. 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.’”
1. God’s plan was truly simple, magnificently beautiful, and wonderfully wise. John writes, “The Word became flesh.” This should cause any rational person to pause and ponder at the magnitude of what God did. The Messiah, the eternal Word became one of us! Flesh in the physical sense not in the sinful weak worldly ungodliness of human existence. He did not simply appear, nor did he come floating down on the wings of his angels; rather, he entered into existence by making his “dwelling among us.” He literally pitched his tent within our camp! John could testify to this fact because he had seen it for himself, “We have seen his glory!” John was an eyewitness to the Word becoming flesh. He walked with Jesus, he ate with him, and he slept near the same campfire as the Messiah! The messenger of God told Joseph, Jesus’ adopted papa to “not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins… ‘and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:20-21, 23 NIV)” John was witness to “the glory of the One and Only” and would later write, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1 NIV)” Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace (mercy) and truth (the gospel).” John the Baptist also testified concerning who Jesus was by crying out in the wilderness, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John the Baptist knew his place in the plan of God. He would state, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. (Mark 1:7 NIV)” Jesus would ask the crowds, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind… I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (Matthew 11:7, 11, 13 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: I watched an old western the other day and in it they had to send out scouts to see where the enemy was. A scout was sent, at the risk of his own life, into enemy territory so he could get an idea of what the enemy was up to. John the Baptist’s entire life was one of being a scout in enemy territory. John was aware of not only who the enemy was but who he was scouting for. “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.”’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:7-8 NIV)” He told the questioning crowds, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!

No one knew God before Jesus because he was unknowable. Paul would say, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 NIV)” John teaches us about…

II. The revelation of the incarnation! (Vv. 16-18)
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
1. John knew from what Jesus has done for all mankind that “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” Jesus is the source of God’s mercy and love and we will learn that he loved the world so much that he willingly sent his son for our salvation! What many do not understand is that the entire creation has received the grace of God, “one blessing after another”, because of Jesus, but those who receive him as Savior and Lord receive the ultimate grace of God, Jesus and an abundant life in him! Literally “grace in place of grace.” The Christian life is one that is continually blessed with the grace of God because of Christ! Paul would write that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV)” In fact it was God’s plan that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)” God pours his grace on us because of Jesus! Like Paul, John knew that what the old law of Moses could never do, Jesus did! “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The Law of Moses could only continually condemn folks because once the sacrifice was made by the human priest for sin, sinful man turns around and sins! This is why Paul would write, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)” Only God could do this because only God is holy and all powerful to do so! Jesus, being God did it! John reminds us, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: When a magician does a magic trick behind a curtain he often has someone throw back the curtain to reveal what has occurred. The curtain of God was torn away in the temple because of what Jesus did for all mankind. Because of Jesus we have free access behind the curtain! Viola, God has torn back the curtain through his Son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins! We no longer live in the darkness because the light of God has revealed all the hidden spaces and shown us the way of salvation through the blood of Christ! John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!

Conclusion:

We have looked at the summation of the incarnation and the revelation of the incarnation, now what will you decide to do with this information?

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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