Receive Life: 1. The Word Became Flesh John 1:1-18 March 9, 2014 Pastor Steve Richards

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Receive Life: 1. The Word Became Flesh John 1:1-18 March 9, 2014 Pastor Steve Richards This morning, we begin a study of the Gospel of John. Over the next six weeks, I would like you to join me in reading
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Receive Life: 1. The Word Became Flesh John 1:1-18 March 9, 2014 Pastor Steve Richards This morning, we begin a study of the Gospel of John. Over the next six weeks, I would like you to join me in reading the entire Gospel. As you entered, you received this study guide, and if you ve signed up for the version, it will come to you each morning. By spending about 15 minutes a day, we will read through the entire gospel by the week after Easter. During worship, we will look at the major themes in order to answer three questions: Who is Jesus? How does Jesus bring life to me? What response is required of me? My preaching will take a little different approach during this series. It will be more Bible teaching, that s why you may want to bring a Bible with you or at least this study guide as I address each of the themes. But my hope is that you will also hear a message that will touch your life. Let s begin with a few things about this book. Although it is called the Gospel of John, we don t know who wrote it. The writer never identifies himself by name, but refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. What we have is someone who witnessed Jesus. He saw Jesus with his own eyes, touched him, and walked with him in his ministry. By the second century A.D., the church said this was the disciple named John. It was the last of the four gospels to be written, somewhere around 90 A.D. by the last living disciple. The rest of Jesus disciples had been put to death. It is as if John knew his life was coming to an end and after reading the other four gospels wanted to share his recollections of the life of Jesus and what his life means. And that s what sets John apart from the other gospels. Mathew, Mark and Luke are called synoptic gospels syn, the Greek word for together and optic, the Greek word for seen. In other words, Matthew, Mark and Luke are seen together. They contain many of the same stories, are focused primarily in Galilee, and compact the three years of Jesus ministry into one year. But John includes different stories. It s like he was saying, there s more to who Jesus really is and here s why that matters. In the Synoptics, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God. John speaks of Eternal Life. The Synoptics use parables. John uses metaphors that point to deeper meaning. His stories always have two levels. There is a surface level of the story, but there is also a deeper level that points us toward Jesus as the source of life. I grew up learning about Jesus, but I don t ever remember thinking or hearing about a personal relationship with Jesus. I suspect that s because the emphasis was on the Synoptics. Matthew, Mark and Luke emphasize following Jesus, taking on his way and living by his ethics. But John tells us we find life by believing in and having a relationship with Jesus. The gospel of John begins with a prologue, which is one of the most beautifully written passages of the Bible. It gives us in summary what the rest of the gospel will describe. I was reminded of the road that we took to get to my grandparent s house. They lived out in the country, ten miles from a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. When we turned off the main road, we still had a mile and half on a gravel road. We would drive over a creek bed and up a hill, and if you had never been there, before you ever got to the house, you knew what you were coming to by what you saw along the way. You could tell that the people who lived along the way were far from affluent. Their homes looked like they were barely getting by and yet you could tell they were hardworking by the cattle grazing in the pastures. You could tell the importance of water by the cattle ponds in fact one of the ponds provided the brown, dirty water that flowed from the faucets inside my grandparent s house. Drinking water had to be carried in. Along the front of every house, there was a large porch filled with rocking chairs and if it was evening, every rocking chair was filled by a person who would be waving to whomever drove past. And just before reaching their house, there was a small southern Baptist Church. In the midst of everything else in a rough, hardworking life, faith mattered. By the end of that mile and half trip, you had a pretty good idea of who you would meet when you stepped into my grandparent s house. And that s what we find with the first chapter of John. These first eighteen verses introduce us to the full meaning of everything Jesus was and is and did, and once we step into the rest of the gospel, we understand what a great introduction it is. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And that should remind us of the first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning, God created... John wants us to see this as more than the story of one person in one time and place. This is the story of God and all of creation. The Word in Greek is LOGOS, which means logic or logical. God is the reason and logic behind everything that exists. Whenever I speak a word, I am speaking part of me. The breath from inside me makes noise as it passes through my larynx and mouth. And we are held responsible for whatever comes out of our mouth right? Even if we didn t intend, once it s out of our mouth it lives and brings forth a response. Some of you remind me of things I said in sermon years ago that I have forgotten long ago, but somehow the words live on. Genesis tells us: God said, let there be light and it was so. God acts by Word and that Word is a person, and that person is Jesus. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. This is the central claim of the Gospel: God has come in human flesh. The mind, logic and purpose of the Creator has become like us. God took on human flesh to walk among us and show us who God is. This is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Other religions provide moral teachings and a way to live. Only Christianity says that God loved us so much and wanted us to know the heart and character of God so much that God became flesh, one of us. The invisible God became visible in Jesus Christ. In John 10:30, Jesus says, I and the Father are one. In John 14:7, he says, If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. So when we pray to God, we picture Jesus and it is in relationship with Jesus that we know who God really is. Who is Jesus? In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John uses the metaphor of light. Jesus came as the light to dispel the darkness. On Christmas Eve, we extinguish all of the lights, and we sit in the dark with just one candle. Whenever we find ourselves in utter and complete darkness, it is a scary place. It feels threatening. Sometimes we stumble and fall. Every Christmas Eve, I m afraid that in that dark moment as I m walking across the Chancel, I m going to stumble and fall down these steps. But it is only when we experience the dark that we understand the power of light. Whenever there is a natural disaster, there is great power when the people of God show up. Last week, I received an from someone who gave away one of the Care Kits that were distributed in January. She said that one day last week she passed a woman standing at a street corner, a woman that she had passed before but for whatever reason never had the Care Kit with her, so instead she d give a cereal bar or a bottle of water whatever she happened to have in the car. But that day when the woman on the street walked up to her car, the woman had a black eye and a split lip. And the first thing the woman on the street said, You ve helped me before. And the woman from Messiah said, I pray for you. The woman on the street said, I m trying to leave a bad situation. The person from Messiah said, There s a list in the bag of places that can help. The light shines in the darkness. Maybe it s the loss of job and you ve been without a job for a long time, too long really. You know the darkness. Or you are at the bedside when someone you love dies. You know the profound sense of loss. We know the darkness, but Jesus offers light. Darkness is also a way of saying we don t know where we are going. We are in the dark. We stumble, and Jesus comes as light. He guides us by the example of his life. He shows us the power of forgiveness, grace, love and compassion. When we walk in his path, we find life. And that life enables us to be light to others. I remember when our daughters were little, we would sit down on their beds before they went to sleep at night, and we would pray. I wanted their final thought at night to be that God was with them and they were never truly alone. I still want that for them. One night last week, I sent a text message to one of my daughters who was having a rough week, and I said, You are never along. God will never let you go. We don t have to be afraid of the dark, because God is light and the darkness will never overcome it. John says, In him was life... Life is mentioned 42 times in the Gospel of John. In John 20:31, we are told that s the purpose of this Gospel so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. And when John says eternal life, he s not talking about what happens when we die, he is talking about what happens right now the moment we first believe. Jesus says, Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24) When you trust in Jesus, you pass from death to life. You live differently because you know death is not the end. You are in a path that does not end. Your death is not a period, but a comma and that changes how I live. My years on earth are but a prologue for what is yet to be. How do we access this life? Have any of you ever given your car keys to a 16 year old? I think the most terrifying car ride of my life was during rush hour on 494 through Bloomington as our daughter who a week earlier had gotten her driver s license was driving me to the airport. There was a moment when it felt like my life flashed before my eyes and I thought this would be my last car trip or at least the last time I turned my keys over to someone who said, Dad, can I take the car? I had to close my eyes and whisper, Lord, help us. In that moment, I surrendered. I gave up control. And there s a word for that TRUST. It is the same thing I did 32 years ago this spring. I heard the verse from John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And I realized there is nothing that God would not do for me and all that God asks of me is to surrender control Trust. And my life changed. I don t want any of you to miss that. I don t want you to say, I attended Messiah Church all these years and listened to the pastors who talked about Jesus and how to follow him, and yet I never heard about a relationship. What sustains me is my relationship with Jesus. I wake up in the morning, knowing that God is there. The first thing I say in the morning, Lord, thank you. I give my life to you. Because I know God cares about me and there is nothing I can do that will ever separate me from God s love. What I did 32 years ago, was to step into his life. Jesus doesn t want to get into your life, he wants you to step into his. God is not some distant character, but as close to you as the air you breath. Jesus calls us to step into his life. Today, I invite you to surrender to trust him with your life to step into his life. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome the light. I want to invite you to step into life in his name. Study Guide Monday In the beginning the Word John s prelude was like the overture to a great musical work. In the beginning was the first of many allusions to Genesis 1-2. Jesus, the creator, was creating anew. The life and light images also came from those beginning stories. The Word told both Jewish and Greek readers why Jesus mattered so much. The Word, who was with God and WAS God, made his home among us (verse 14). God did not shun our darkened world, but came to live here and in this world, Jesus life created new life and light for all who trusted in him. Read: John 1:1-18 In Hebrew thought, Genesis 1 said God created by speaking (cf. Psalm 33:6), and Proverbs 8:12, said Wisdom was with God at creation. Greek thinkers saw the Word (Greek logos) as the force that directed the universe. Writers like Philo often personified the logos as a pilot, or God s son. But Greek thinkers said the logos couldn t connect at all with the corrupt material world, while John boldly wrote, The Word became flesh. What does is say about your value to God that He became flesh rather than wishing you well from a distance? John s great poetic prologue included us! Verse 12 said, Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. In what ways has Jesus brought you life? What does it mean to you that God loves you and wants you as his child? Prayer: Lord Jesus, in my darkest times I feel unlovable, unworthy of your love. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear how much you love and value me as I read your story again in John s gospel. Amen. Tuesday The Lamb of God John the gospel writer introduced us to John the Baptist (or Baptizer), a fiery preacher of repentance. People wondered if he might be the long-awaited Messiah, but he directed their attention to Jesus. Andrew and Philip answered Jesus' call, and then invited Peter and Nathanael to join them in following Jesus. Read John 1:19-51 John the Baptist twice called Jesus the Lamb of God, the first time adding who takes away the sin of the world. In John s gospel, Jesus died on the cross on the afternoon when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. How does the phrase, Lamb of God, help us understand Jesus mission? At what points in your life have you needed Jesus to take away a burden of sin and shame you ve been bearing? John summed up the purpose of his ministry as being that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel. When two of John s disciples followed the Lamb of God, they asked, Where are you staying? and Jesus set a model for us by saying, Come and see. Andrew led his brother to Jesus; Phillip didn t argue with Nathanael s doubts, but also said, Come and see. When, and in what ways, has being a follower of Jesus meant that you were spending time with him, listening and learning? How might you do more of that, during this Lenten season and beyond? Prayer: Lord, as I respond to your invitation to come and see during this Lenten season, draw my heart closer to yours. Teach me to love as you love. Amen. Wednesday New wine new power Jesus changed water in jars used for ritual purification (verse 6) to wine as a sign that he offered a better way than his day s rigid, repressive ritual system. When he cleansed the Temple, he challenged an ugly, lying trade. The Temple rulers exploited their control of Temple shekels and ritual animals to make huge profits from pilgrims who came to worship God. In linking these two stories, John said Jesus was declaring that he was the way to God, not rituals that had become more obstacle than signpost. Read John 2:1-25 John called Jesus challengers the Jews (verse 18), and used that term for them throughout the gospel. Some readers fear this was an anti-semitic slur. But Jesus and all his first followers (including John himself!) were Jews. The Common English Bible conveys John s true meaning by saying the Jewish leaders. How does history show the spiritual peril of seeing God as for or against whole ethnic groups, no matter how individuals respond to God? In what ways is God helping you grow beyond bias against ethnic groups, denominations, political parties and other people groups? What did verses say about Jesus? (He clearly was not anti-social the wedding feast story showed that.) In what ways have you learned to put your deepest trust in God and God s love for you, instead of in people? Prayer: Lord Jesus, it s amazing to realize that the same power that changed water into wine is transforming my life more and more into the kind of life you want me to live. Please work in my heart. Amen. Thursday Light and darkness, life and death John s story introduced one powerful man, Nicodemus who was a Pharisee, and returned to John the Baptist, the great prophet. The two men drew their power and greatness from very different sources. Nicodemus authority came from religious status attained through strict outward piety. John the Baptist s authority came from his Godgiven message, pointing to the greatness of the coming Messiah, not to himself. John s humble joy as Jesus must become greater (verse 30) showed the inner change Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus. Read John 3:1-36 John said Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (verse 2). As he cleansed the Temple, Jesus challenged the Pharisees power and authority, so Nicodemus may have needed the darkness to hide his interest in Jesus from other Pharisees. Although he came by night, Jesus invited Nicodemus to live in the light of God's kingdom. Their conversation changed Nicodemus (cf. John 7:45-52; John 19:38-42). From what kinds of darkness did you come to Jesus? How has God brought you from the darkness into the light? Jesus said of John the Baptist, I tell you that no greater human being has ever been born than John (Luke 7:28). Yet when John s followers saw Jesus' growing ministry as a threat, the prophet said, A person can receive only what is given from heaven [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less. (verses 27-30). Where do you find your source of joy and greatness? Does John s countercultural model of what matters most in life challenge you to rethink any of your attitudes or actions? Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for bringing light to the darkness and life from death. Help me to remember that my greatness and joy come from you above all else. Amen. Friday I Am the one who speaks with you Jews and Samaritans tended to shun each other. But John said that Jesus had to go through Samaria (verse 4). That wasn t a geographic requirement, (look at the map on the back cover). As the story unfolds, it becomes clear John was describing a spiritual necessity. Jesus talked openly with a woman that even the Samaritans would have shunned. He offered her living water, and her response made her the first witness to Jesus in John s gospel. Read John 4:1-30 Usually women drew water at evening together, visiting around the well. This woman came to the well at noon and alone. Yet Jesus, a Jewish man whom she expected to despise and avoid her, spoke to her respectfully, asking for her help and treating her with dignity. In verses 13-14, Jesus told her he could give her living water that will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. What deep inner thirsts in you has Jesus' living water quenched? The woman took refuge in an abstract religious issue after Jesus question unmasked her troubled life. But Jesus wouldn t argue about whether Jerusalem or Gerizim was the true holy mountain. He said the key was not WHERE people worship God, but that they worship in the Spirit and truth (verse 24). Have you ever used head questions to avoid opening your heart to God? What is so necessary about honestly opening your heart, your whole inner life, in order to worship in spirit and truth? Prayer: O God, you aren t willing to settle for my head, nor for just my head and hands. You seek my heart, too and, sometimes with fear and trembling, I offer it. Remind me that submission to
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