Posted by: stpowen | December 22, 2012

Christmas Contemplation (2). The True Light Coming into the World

1 Tim. 1:15. ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’

Transcribed from a sermon preached at Honiton Evangelical Congregational Church.

Read John 1:1-14.

Christmas is upon us. The lights are up on the trees, the last cards are doubtless flying through the post at this very moment. The carols are playing in the shops amid the ringing of the cash registers. We can become so tied up with the paraphanalia of Christmas that we forget its meaning. We can become so familiar with the story of the Nativity that we miss its wonder. We can become so involved with the details- the inn, the shepherds, the wise men- that we can forget , if we are not careful, who it is in the manger: that the tiny infant wrapped in swaddling clothes is actually the Lord of Glory.
‘Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who, throned in light sublime,
Reigns amid the cherubim.’

John’s Gospel does not dwell upon the story of our Lord’s birth as Matthew’s and Luke’s do. Rather, John tells us who Jesus of Nazareth really is. He calls Jesus the Word. Why does he do that? The writer to the Hebrews tells us (Heb. 1:1): ‘God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to our fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.’ The Lord Jesus is God’s word; He is the One who reveals God to us. ‘No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him’ (John 1:18). If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus (John 14:8-9). If you want to know what God would say to you today, listen to Jesus and to the Apostles whom He instructed. He is the very Word of God. And there was never a time when He was not so (1:1-2). He is separate from God, but God nonetheless. It is He who made all things (v.3), when Gen. 1:1 tells us that God made the heavens and the earth. ‘By the word of the LORD the heavens were made’ (Psalm 33:6).

In verse 4 we learn that the Lord Jesus is the source , fountain and cause of all spiritual life. If you would know true life, if you would know eternal life, look to Him. ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light’ (Isaiah 9:2). He is the light of life.

And the light (v.5) continually shines in the darkness. The same light that shone in Bethlehem all those years ago and drew the shepherds and wise men to it, still shines today, and whoever will come to Him in true repentance and faith will find the light of life. ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’ (John 8:12). And yet, ‘The darkness did not comprehend it.’ Better, perhaps to say, the darkness did not apprehend it, did not attain to it. What darkness? Fallen mankind, darkened by sin and unbelief. ‘And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil’ (3:19). Like so many cockroaches, the natural tendency of unsaved humanity confronted by the light of God’s word is to scuttle back into the darkness. Why is that? It is mostly, I think, because of pride. We are naturally so many little Pharaohs, declaring, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?” (Exod. 5:2). “I’ll decide what’s right and what’s wrong, thank you very much!” Coming to Christ involves humbling yourself and saying in effect, “God’s right, and I’m wrong, and from now on I’m going to do things His way,” and in their own strength, people will say no such thing.

In verse 6, we meet John the Baptist. It is instructive to note the contrast that we are given between him and the Lord Jesus.
Christ is God; John is a man sent by God.
Christ is the Word of God; John witnesses to the Word.
Christ is the Light; John testifies to the Light.
All ministers of the Gospel should be judged by the standard of John the Baptist. Is your minister called to witness faithfully to Christ? Does he minister the Glorious Gospel of God to you? If he does, esteem him greatly and honour him, for there are few such witnesses about and ‘Many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1).

In verse 9 we learn that Christ is the true Light. He is true in four respects:-
1. He is the undeceiving Light. Many years ago in Cornwall, ‘wreckers’ used to put a light on a cliff top so that sailors would think it was the true light of a Lighthouse and go astray in their navigation, ending up on the rocks so that that their ships might be pillaged. The Lord Jesus is the True Light in opposition to the misleading lights of philosophy, cults and false religions. Jude 13 speaks of, ‘Wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.’ The ‘wandering stars’ are the planets in the night sky. Mariners cannot use them to navigate their course because they do not keep in a fixed place like the stars, but move about the heavens. Jesus Christ is ‘The same yesterday, today and forever.’ You can plot your course through life confidently by the light that He gives, for He will never lead you astray.
2. He is the Real Light, as opposed to the ceremonial types and shadows. The Old Testament rituals and sacrifices pointed to Christ, the Lamb without spot or blemish (eg. Lev. 1:10; 1 Peter 1:19), but they could not save. ‘For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year after year, make those who approach perfect’ (Heb. 10:1).
3. He is the underived Light; the source of all spiritual life. Hence He is called the Sun of Righteousness, in opposition and contrast to all that is borrowed or communicated from another. Jeremiah said of the false prophets of his day, ‘They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD’ (Jer. 23:16). The Father says of the Lord Jesus, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7).
4. He is the superior or supereminent Light; true in opposition to all that is ordinary or common, to all human conceptions of God. “Well, what I think about God is this….” or “I can’t believe that God could do that……” “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He [and He alone] has declared Him’ (John 1:18).

And the True Light comes to all and gives light to all (v.9). It is not restricted to one race, to the wise, the clever, the good or the religious. All may come to Christ who will.
‘His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.’

The Lord Jesus bids you, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28). Laden with sin, laden with fear, laden with guilt, burdened with trying to be righteous in your own strength, Christ bids you come to Him. Whatever your burden, you can lay it down at the cross, because there He has done everything necessary to give guilty sinners peace with God. He has taken away sin and dispensed righteousness. He is the Light for everyone who will come to Him.

But now, in verses 10-11, we come to the sad part. The Lord Jesus came into the world that He had made, and by and large, men did not know Him. He came to His own Jewish countrymen, who had His commandments and the Scriptures that testify of Him (John 5:39-40), and they rejected Him. So it is that most people actually hate God (whether or not they admit it to themselves) and would like to be rid of Him. They want to be their own little gods and do what they want to do, and they want their consciences to stop bothering them. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that if ever a perfect man appeared on the earth, men would kill him at once because he would show them up. So it proved.

But to those who do receive Christ, to those who believe on His Name- Word, Son of God, Messiah, Saviour, Redeemer (Matt 1:21)- he gave the right, the privilege, the honour to become children of God. What is this right and where does it come from? It is nothing else but the New Birth (John 3:3) and it is (v.13):
‘Not of blood.’ Being born to Christian parents cannot help you, nor being born in what used to be called a Christian country.
‘Nor of the will of the flesh.’ It’s not something you can do for yourself out of your own corrupt and fallen will.
‘Nor of the will of man.’ No human third party can help you. It is not in the gift of some priest sprinkling water on you; nor some famous evangelist ‘slaying you in the spirit. It is not in the incantations of the priest, nor in the ministrations of the social worker, nor even in the words of the preacher- I can’t make you a Christian; I can only point you to the One who can. It is ‘Of God.’

If you would be born again- if you would be born of God and know Him as your Father, you must go to Him for it. And you must go as a beggar. You have nothing to offer Him that He would want. You hear people saying, “I gave my heart to Jesus!” Oh really? ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.’ (Jer 17:9). ‘For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness’ (Mark 7:21-22). Are you going to offer that to God? No! Salvation is God giving you a new heart and a new spirit within you that loves to keep His commandments (Ezek. 36:26-27). We must come as beggars, saying, “For Your Name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity for it is great” (Psalm 25:11). Greater than I can atone for; more entrenched than I can repent of in my own strength. We cannot save ourselves; we cannot haul ourselves up to God’s standards by our own bootstraps. But that is why Jesus came, and that is the true meaning of Christmas. ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief’ (1 Tim. 1:15).

He has done everything that is necessary to save you. He has lived the life of complete righteousness and total obedience to God’s laws that you and I cannot live, and He has taken on His own sinless shoulders the punishment for sin that we deserve. Therefore God will not refuse to receive us when we come to Him in repentance and faith. ‘The one who comes to Me……’ Be he never so wicked- the worst wretch that ever lived ‘…..I will by no means cast out’ (John 6:37). I have no idea who may read this: but if there are robbers, rapists, murderers, child-molesters, Moslem suicide bombers who by God’s grace find their way to this blog; whatever your sins, however great your wickedness and depravity, I bid you come to Christ. He will not turn you away.
Believe on His Name- The Friend of Sinners- and you will know for yourself the true meaning of Christmas.

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