Story 20: The Light that Shines: Where Are You Getting Your Hope?

John 1:9-13

People walking towards a huge cross passage

What do you do with your words?  I’ve got to admit that sometimes the phrase “talk is cheap” is a good description for the things I take the trouble to say.  If the Bible is right (and I believe it is) then we can know that the opposite is true of God.  He only says what is absolutely true.  And because He is God, His Words have the power to make whatever He says happen.

John began the story of the life of Jesus by explaining that Christ is the Word of God (see John 1:1-3). He made all the heavens and the earth. He has lived forever, all the way backwards into eternity, with no beginning, because He is God Himself. The Lord Jesus reigned in Heaven with God the Father through all of human history until the time came for Him to come down to earth to be born as a human infant.

Wow.  Even for those that don’t believe in Christ, it is an astonishing concept.  God became a man.  It is such a strange and epic moment that it is hard to grasp, especially for those of us who actually believe it is true!  The King of Creation that continually keeps the universe going…who energizes the breath of all living things…became a tiny, breathing baby boy.

We don’t know how it can be true, but it is. It is greater than the human mind can comprehend. Trying to figure out all that God is and does is kind of like if a butterfly tried to figure out how a computer whiz has programmed a video game.  It isn’t in the nature of a butterfly to comprehend such things…it is quite beyond their capacity.  The difference between the human capacity for understanding and God’s is much greater than the difference between a butterfly and a computer nerd.  John was very careful to make this the first thing he explained about Jesus in his book. This is what he wrote next:

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:4-5

Do you see how John uses the words life and light to describe the power of Christ’s work in the world? He brings life where there was none before. He gave life at the beginning of the universe. And now, Jesus brings new life for humans who have been scarred and brutalized by the sin and death of the Curse.

John also speaks of Christ as the light. You can imagine what happens in a very dark room when a candle is lit. When Jesus shines in this world, He always brings light against the darkness and confusion of sin. He shines the brightness of purity and truth against corruption and lies…even the lies we harbor in the deepest places of our hearts.

As we read about Jesus’ life on earth, we will see Him shine His perfectly right ways into the world of His time. His life of righteousness showed the ways that the people of His time were getting it wrong. And though His perfect life of obedience took Him all the way to death on a cross, He made it possible for us to be right with God again. The darkness of Satan and the evil of the Curse can never undo the beautiful work that Jesus began when He came to earth.  One day, He will destroy them both utterly and completely.

The question of the Gospel story was never if Jesus would have total victory. He is absolutely all-powerful and totally undefeatable! The question of the Gospels was this: When the people of His day were given the light of Christ to see their sin and their need, would they repent like the righteous heroes of the Old Testament, or would they harden their hearts in stubborn rebellion?  This is what John said:

“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

John 1:9-11

Wow. John is telling us ahead of time what is going to happen in the story. Jesus came as the Messiah, the Savior, to the Jewish people. They were the nation of Israel, God’s treasured possession on earth. They had been picked out by God to be a holy nation of priests who would welcome the Savior of the world when He came to break the power of death and sin. But John says here that when He came, His own people rejected Him. They refused to repent and worship their holy Lord. It was a great and terrible tragedy. It was the lowest point in human history. But that is not where the story ends. For not everyone in the nation of Israel would reject the wonderful love of the Savior. This is what John said about them:

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”

John 1:12-13

When John writes about believing in Jesus’ name, it means that His followers accepted and embraced everything about all that Jesus claimed to be. It is not enough to believe that Jesus was a wise teacher or philosopher. It is not enough to believe that He is just one good god among many other gods. The Lord Jesus said that He was the only way, the only truth, and the only light, and that nobody could come to God the Father unless they came through belief in Him.

Saving faith in Jesus Christ means faith in Christ alone. The gift of knowing Jesus as Lord is something that is given by God…not by human will or striving.  It isn’t something we can inherit from our parents.  When a person comes to Jesus in faith, it is like they are born again. This birth is not like their first birth, when they came from their mother as a squirmy little infant. This birth happens inside the heart. It is as if the Lord took our sinful hearts of hardened stone and gave us new hearts of living flesh. We become new creatures. He purifies us and makes us holy, trading the debt of our sin for the righteousness of Jesus.

Wow.  That is what the Gospel, or the Good News, is all about. That is the bottom line of the Christian faith.

As we read on through the Gospels, we will come across many characters. Each of them will have to respond to the coming of the Messiah. Some will show themselves to be the children of God. They will repent and follow Jesus. Others will show themselves to be the servants of God’s enemy. They will rebel and fight against the Good News of God’s Kingdom. They will try to destroy Jesus. But as John the Apostle already told us, the darkness could not overcome the light of Christ. Two thousand years later the people and nations that ruled the world back then are gone, but the light of Jesus still shines all over the globe in the hearts of millions upon millions of devoted disciples.

As we read through the stories of Jesus’ life, we will have choices to make. Which of the characters do we want to be like? Will we chose to believe, or will we reject the Savior? Will you respond in stumbling acceptance of Him like John or Peter? Or will you refuse His message like the religious leaders of His time? The authors of the Bible never meant for their audience to read it like an old, ancient document or a moral code. They did not want to merely give a history lesson. Their goal was to challenge us with choices…choices with the power to transform us into the image of Christ.

The way we respond to Jesus is the most important thing about our lives. It is dangerous to read about Him if we aren’t willing to let Him have His way in our hearts.   If is also dangerous to not read Him…a chance to respond might not come again.  The only safety is found in going deeper into His story, embracing Him with belief, and letting Him have His way with our lives.

 

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