Monday Reverb – 03January2022

SERMON REVERB

A New Light, A New Beginning

John 1:1-4,6-13,14-18

Scientifically speaking, there is no magic in the coming of a new year. Most people understand that New Year’s Day celebrates another successful trip of the earth around the sun and not some mystical “reset button” on our lives. We intellectually understand that we will have the same problems on January 1 as we did on December 31Yet, every year we make resolutions, celebrate, and hope for a brighter day.  It is like the hope of a new beginning is irresistible.

Perhaps we are wired to crave a new beginning.  It could be because we want an unpleasant situation to end. Maybe we are in a rut, and we desire a break in the monotony. Or it could be that we carry pain or shame, and we want freedom from that emotional burden. Whatever the reason, there is something inside us that is attracted to the thought of a fresh start. It may be that deep down all humans subconsciously know that our lives, our world, need to be remade. We need to be made new. We need a new beginning.

Towards the end of the first century, life for the Christian community was challenging.  The Jerusalem church was being scattered because of the destruction of the Holy City and persecution by Jewish leaders.  Most of the 12 apostles had been martyred and believers had good reason to fear for their lives. Christianity was catching fire in the Gentile world, but disagreements between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians threatened to divide the emerging church.  It is in this climate that the apostle John wrote his Gospel. Note how he starts:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:1-9)

To John, Jesus is the beginning of everything; he is the light the world needed.  Christ’s relationship with the Father, with the Holy Spirit in their midst, is the true start to all things.  This passage should remind us of the creation story in Genesis because John quoted the phrase, “In the beginning.”  The world had become dark, and God started by saying, “Let there be light.”  In a similar way, the apostle was presenting his audience with a new beginning — the light has come, and he has a name.

Further, John is giving us a glimpse into the relationship between the Father and the Eternal Son apart from us, and their connection is deeply intimate.  It is a relationship of love that led to the creation of the universe.  It is that same love that compelled Christ to put on human flesh and dwell amongst us – to become the light that removes the darkness.

John’s relationship with Christ gave the apostle the insight to see creation as a relational actthe result of the internal relations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Moses, the author of Genesis, was inspired to write about the beginning of the world, and the law was given through Moses but Moses did not enjoy meals with Jesus.  Moses was a mighty prophet, but he did not hear Jesus laugh or sing. Moses saw incredible things, but he never felt Jesus’ comforting embrace.  It is no wonder that John wanted to reintroduce his audience to the God of relationship.

Let’s read the next 9 verses:

He 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.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  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. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)  Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:10-18)

The Holy Spirit inspired John to understand that his readers needed to be reminded who Jesus isto help them deal with all the challenges they faced.  It may have seemed like a dark time to John’s audience.  It may have seemed like the gospel movement would end.  Many believers were suffering for the sake of Christ, so John wanted to shine a light on Jesus and remind them he was the true light.  He did not want his audience to have a superficial, shallow understanding of Christ.  Rather, the apostle wanted Christians to live in the reality of God’s power and love.  So, John started by revealing that Jesus is the Creator God.  He is the one John the Baptist spoke about; he is the one and only Son, who came from the Father; he is the Son of God who became the Son of Man.  Their hope in Christ is well placed because he is the reason that hope exists.  He is the source of hope and the light for all humanity.

Not only does John distinguish his Gospel by invoking Genesis 1, but he also gave Jesus a title not found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John called Jesus “the Word,” which is a term packed with meaning.

  • In Greek, the term refers to a person’s words and the logic and reason behind those words.
  • In Hebrew, “the word of God” is a synonym for “the law of God.”

The law was viewed as the tool God used to bring about his will on the earth.  Since John was appealing to people with both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, it made sense for the apostle to have both definitions in mind.

Therefore, John explained that Christ embodies the reason and wisdom of God, and he is the means by which God accomplished his will on the earth.

Jesus has the power to make things new and to make new beginnings.  John hoped his audience would live in the reality of Christ.  He wanted them to see their situation through the lens of Jesus, the One whom the darkness cannot conquer.

Do you need a new beginning?  Do you need to see a way out of darkness?  Do you need a fresh start? The good news is that Jesus is the light to illuminate your path, and he is the way to a fresh start.

The Word of God has made all humanity new through his life, death, and resurrection, and he is willing to make you new as well.  We are not talking about a superficial newness, like we seem to crave on New Year’s Day.  We often desire change like weight loss or having a better work/life balance. These things are good; however, the change Jesus brings impacts this life and the life to comeHe can change us on the inside in such a way that everything becomes new.

  • He brings a new beginning to how we see God.
  • He brings a new beginning to how we see ourselves.
  • He brings a new beginning to our purpose.

He may not change our problems, but he can cause us to soar above our troubles.  He may not change how you look, but he will make you confident in the skin you are in.  He may not bring back the person you lost, but he will comfort you so you can comfort others.  He can do all things well and make everything new.

As we celebrate a new year (and we are free to celebrate), we need not wait for a planet to orbit the sun to get our new beginning.  We can turn to Christ as the light for our way out of any darkness.  He is our fresh start.

THE APPLICATION

1.  This process begins with honest, humble prayer.  We should be transparent before God and tell him our heart’s desire.  At the same time, we need to humbly acknowledge that our desire may be misguided.

  • For example, a person may ask God to help them lose weight, which is the most common New Year’s resolution.
  • In his love, God may give the person what they need instead of what they want.
  • While losing weight may be helpful, God may be more concerned about that person’s self-image or concept of beauty.
  • What may seem like God ignoring our prayer may be God working to cure our disease and not treat our symptoms.

2.  The next step in seeing the way forward is letting God make us new.

  • We can be so focused on what we think we need that we do not let God give us what we truly need.
  • We can derail God’s restorative work if he operates in a way we do not expect.
  • Using the same example, the person who desires weight loss may have a negative self-image due to past trauma.  In praying about the weight loss, God may begin to bring those past hurts to light.
  • It is natural to want to avoid thinking about those painful memories, but God would not bring it up unless he was willing to bring healing.
  • In this example, talking to someone, especially someone with counseling experience, could help find God’s path to renewal.
  • As believers, we need to follow where the Spirit leads, trusting God to know the best way to make us new.

3.  When we allow the light to show us the way and to make us new, the final step in the process is to share our newness with others.

  • Christ-followers belong to each other, and God will not make us new for ourselves alone.
  • We can share our newness by sharing our testimony — telling the story of how God brought renewal to our lives.
  • We could also seek to bless those who are trying to make the same journey.
  • Sharing the insights that God gave us can be of tremendous benefit to others.
  • Plus, helping our brothers and sisters gives our own struggles meaning and allows us the joy of seeing God make someone else new.

Celebrating the new year can be a great reminder of the new beginning we have in Jesus.  We do not have to wait another year to get our fresh start because Jesus is the Creator.  He knows how to make something out of nothing.  He is also the Light and he knows how to chase away the darkness.  He is the Word so he knows how to accomplish God’s will in our lives.  Our Jesus knows how to make everything new.


DOCTRINAL REVIEW

11.1 What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God and salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. To preach the gospel is to proclaim the fulfillment of God’s purposes through the sending of the eternal Son of God in the power of the Holy Spirit to break into our fallen world, overthrow its evil, and transform and redeem all who were captive to sin and evil’s power and eternal consequences.

11.2 What are the central events of the gospel?

  • The central events of the gospel are about Jesus: his birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  Through these events in the life of Jesus, God’s kingdom has broken into our time and space to bring about our salvation.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 … Romans 5:15 … John 1:12John 5:11-12        

11.3 Is the forgiveness declared in the gospel extended only after repentance?

  • No.  The gospel is the astonishing good news that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  God’s forgiveness of us is unconditional, and it is given before our confession of sin and repentance.  Freed by the Holy Spirit in response to the Word of God, repentance is how we receive the forgiveness that has already been freely given to us on the basis of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.  To refuse to repent is thus to refuse God’s gift of forgiveness.
  • Colossians 3:13  … Mark 11:25  … Colossians 2:13  … Matthew 18:21-22  … Hebrews 12:14   

11.4 How should we respond to the gospel? 

  • With repentance and faith.  The Son of God was sent by the Father to assume our human nature to himself and to rescue and transform it in himself.  This was done to reconcile us to God so that we might become his beloved adopted children.  Jesus Christ came, lived and died for our sins and has made us his own before and apart from our believing in him.  He has bound us to himself by his love in such a way that he will never let us go.  Therefore, the Lord calls on all humans to repent and believe in him as Lord and Savior.
  • Romans 10:9-10  … Acts 16:31   

 

11.5 If sin is so evil, how can God forgive it?

God forgives our sins because he has the grace and power to overcome them and set things right.  In forgiving our sins, God is not overlooking or ignoring evil.  God is opposed to sin and evil and always will be. God judges what is sinful and evil and condemns itBy forgiving us, God rescues us from the dominion and eternal consequences of sin, making all things new, including our human nature.

 

11.6 How does God make human nature new?

  • 2 Corinthians 8:9    For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.  
  • Hebrews 2:17      Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Our problem as humans is not merely that we sin, but that, by nature, we are sinners.  We have a corrupt, fallen nature that is inclined toward sin, often not able to resist temptation to sin.  That is the bad news.  But the good news is that God has remade human nature in and through the eternal Son of God who, in becoming human, took upon himself our corrupt human nature and healed it on our behalf.

 

11.7 What part does the Holy Spirit have in this renewal?

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18    But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord

Because Jesus renewed human nature, the Holy Spirit is able to minister to us as individuals on the basis of Christ’s finished work, uniting us to Jesus with his perfected human nature in a spiritual union.  Through this union, the Holy Spirit imparts to us a continuous sharing in Jesus’ love and life so that we are transformed, little by little, into the image of God found in Jesus.

 

11.8 How can anyone resist the Holy Spirit’s bringing about this transformation?

  • Mark 3:29    but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 
  • Romans 14:11    For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  
      • Question:  Will they bow/confess willingly?
      • Answer:     Bow? … not sure.    Confess? … Yes, willingly.
              • 1 Corinthians 12:3    Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that “Jesus is the Lord“, but by the Holy Ghost.

No one can entirely resist the Holy SpiritIn the end the Holy Spirit will make clear and evident to all the truth and reality that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all.  In the end, all will either willingly or unwillingly admit the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

However, Scripture warns of the real danger of willfully rejecting, and thus blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Apparently, some will do this, even after being convicted of the Holy Spirit’s undeniable witness that Jesus is Lord and Savior and there is no other.  Exactly how this rejection is possible we are not toldWe are simply warned of its possibility, which we are to take seriously lest we resist the Holy Spirit, presume upon God’s grace and minimize the many directives in Scripture to accept, receive and respond positively, in repentance and faith, to the proclamation of the grace of God in Jesus Christ that comes to us by his Word and Spirit.

 

TEACHING NOTES

From The GCI Statement of Beliefs:

  • The gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God and salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • It is the message that Christ died for our sins and has made us his own before and apart from our believing in him and has bound us to himself by his love in such a way that he will never let us go.
  • Therefore, he calls on all humans to repent and believe in him as Lord and Savior

There are multiple ways to summarize the essential message and meaning of the gospel. The one in We Believe is based on The GCI Statement of Beliefs quoted above.  Here is another similar statement:

The gospel is the message concerning the rule and reign of God’s incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, to bring clear judgement upon all evil, condemning it forever and atoning for the sins of all humanity through his life of faithful obedience culminating in his death on the cross.   The gospel is the declaration of the victory of God in Jesus Christ to undo all sinful alienation between God and humanity and to reconcile the world to himself.  

Key to understanding the gospel is understanding the Person and work of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, and the nature of the kingdom of God that he inaugurated and will bring to fullness — so refer back to those sections for the details.

Here are GCI articles on the topic of the gospel:

 


SALVATION

14.5 What is salvation? 

      • 2 Corinthians 5:17-19   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not [a]imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
      • Colossians 1:13-14   He has delivered us from the power of darkness and [a]conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption [b]through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 
      • Galatians 4:4-7  But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.   And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  
      • Ephesians 2:19-21   Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,    
      • Romans 6:3-5   Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,  
      • Titus 3:4-5    But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,  
      • John 3:16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  
  • It is the restoration of human communion with God and the deliverance of the entire creation from the bondage of sin and death.
  • In saving us, God grants us reconciliation with him, forgiveness of sins, adoption into his family, citizenship in his kingdom, union with him in Christ, new life in the Spirit and the promise of eternal life.
    • Re: “restoration” … Acts 3:19-21 (NKJV)    Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  
      • “restoration of all things” – from the Gk, apokatastaseōs,
      • Transliteration: apokatastasis
        Phonetic Spelling: (ap-ok-at-as’-tas-is) … pronounced apo-kata-stasis
        Definition: restoration
        Usage: restitution, reestablishment, restoration.

 

14.6 Why is salvation needed?

  • Ever since the first human beings, the human race has rebelled and distrusted the perfect goodness and holy love of the triune God and therefore alienated themselves from their Creator and rejected the fellowship they were created to have with him as their God.  As a result, the human race has:
      • cut itself off from the source of its life and existence, resulting in physical death and subjecting itself to eternal spiritual death.
      • promoted a lie about the nature and character of the triune God their maker, bearing false witness to God’s name and reputation by rejecting his faithfulness, goodness, grace and holiness.
      • undermined and at times even attempted to destroy the faith, hope and love for God and so stop the good, right and life-giving worship of the triune God by others, thereby incurring spiritual guilt and shame before God, which only God himself can remedy and has done so in the atoning work of Christ.
      • exposed itself to being manipulated by and enslaved to the power of sin from which it cannot free itself, leading to the corruption, warping and twisting of human nature itself, which it cannot undo.
      • experienced disharmony between the human soul, mind and body, leading to broken and even destructive and evil relationships between parents and children, between men and women, between nations and ethnic groups, and between human beings and the natural environment.

14.7 How are people saved?

      • Romans 8:21-23   because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  
      • Romans 6:18  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.   
      • Romans 6:22-23  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   
      • 1 Corinthians 1:9   God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   
      • 1 Timothy 2:3-6  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truthFor there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesuswho gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,  
      • Matthew 3:17    And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”   
      • Colossians 3:1  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.   
      • Ephesians 2:4-10  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesusthat in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  
  • Salvation is accomplished for us through the life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
  • Salvation is freely given to us by the grace our triune God.
  • It is personally received and experienced through faith in Jesus enabled by the ministry of the Spirit.
  • It is not earned by good works or through personal merit.

 

14.8 Is there any way of salvation other than through Jesus Christ?

      • 1 Timothy 2:5   For there is one God and one Mediator between God and menthe Man Christ Jesus,
  • No.  The apostle Peter said of Jesus that “salvation is found in no one else” (Acts 4:12).
  • Jesus is the only one who can save us from our damaged and twisted nature and reconcile us to God so that we can live according to God’s ultimate purposes for human beings.
  • He is the only one who can enable us to share in God’s eternal life, free from the power of evil and its consequence, which is death.

 

14.9 Will all people be saved?

      • Hebrews 10:31    It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  
      • Romans 11:32  For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.  
      • Matthew 18:12-14    “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.   
      • Ephesians 2:8    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  
      • 1 Timothy 2:3-4  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.   
      • John 3:17-18  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  
      • Ezekiel 18:32  For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”  
      • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15    For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  
  • All who call upon the Lord will be saved.  No one who seeks after God will be turned away.
  • God’s work of atonement was accomplished for the benefit of all.
  • Jesus is Lord and Savior over all persons, though Scripture does not say that all people will necessarily receive the salvation that is theirs in Christ, or that none will irreversibly reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit to unite them to Christ.
  • Salvation is the fruit of a relationship with the triune God — a gift that is complete in Jesus and that must, through the work of the Spirit, be personally received in order for its benefits, especially eternal life in eternal communion with God, to be fully enjoyed.

 

14.10 Through salvation, do humans eventually become God?

  • No.
  • Though ultimate salvation does not make us God (or parts of God), it does give us a full sharing in the sanctified and glorified humanity of Jesus Christ.
  • We remain human, becoming fully and truly human as Jesus was and still is.
  • Through the incarnate Son of God, we enjoy union and communion with the whole of God, while remaining fully human.

 

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