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Jesus: The Hope of Glory

The Mystery of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:21
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For many, Jesus is a mystery. Who is He? Is He God? Is He man? If He is both, and we believe He is, what did it mean for God's Son to become a man? This is the real meaning of Christmas.

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THE QUESTION WE NEED TO ASK.

If you have your Bibles, and I hope that you do, I want to invite you to open with me to Philippians 2. That’s where we are going to camp out over the next four weeks as we think about the mammoth realities that are represented in The Mystery of Christmas. The “incarnation” is a thick word, and I want us to begin to see it unfold this morning, I hope and pray, in a powerful and a fresh way.
We all know that Christmas is a pretty confusing time. It just doesn’t seem to add up, to make sense. We read about the humility and poverty of a stable and a baby that was born amidst that humility and poverty, and yet we surround ourselves with the wealth and indulgence of gift giving. We read about a star in Bethlehem, and everywhere we go we are surrounded by blinking lights of all kinds of colors and shapes and sizes. We see the story of a room in the Inn, obscure and dirty. But when we think about Christmas, we think about warm houses and fireplaces and family feasts around the table. We sing about shepherds, and then we see a lot of salesmen. We read about angels, and then we talk about reindeer, one that even has a big, bright red nose.
And somewhere along the way there’s a disconnect. I’m not trying to be Scrooge here, but there’s a disconnect between what we see revealed in the Christmas story and what we see around us. And I’m not even trying to be cliché by saying to us that we need to keep Christ in Christmas. We’ve heard that enough before.
What I’m saying is that even in the church, those of us who are focused on Christ have a tendency to miss the whole point, even those of us who are in the church and who know the story and who focus on the story, Mary and Joseph and the angels. We focus on the wise men and the shepherds and we focus on all the circumstances surrounding this story. Even then we have the possibility of completely missing the point of Christmas.

The mystery of Christmas is not found primarily in the circumstances of the birth of Jesus, but in the identity of the baby in the manger.

That is the mystery of what Christmas is all about. It’s not in all the circumstances and all the trappings, but in the identity of the fact that God—what a huge reality—would become a baby, a crying, screaming, diaper-soiling baby that needed to be taught and changed and fed, that was dependent upon His own creation to nurture Him, sitting there with nothing to do but lie and stare like little children do often in the distance and wiggle around and make all kinds of noises that you have no clue what they are saying. This is the mammoth reality of a God who became like that. That is the mystery of what Christmas is all about.

We must dare ask the question, "Who is Jesus?"

So, what I want us to do is dive into that mystery and dare to ask the question: who is Jesus? Who is the baby that was in this manger? This is a huge question. It’s a huge question on a number of different levels. It’s a huge question because, number one, it’s a historic question.

A historic question

Even in early church history and ever since then, you have people debating the identity of this baby that was in the manger. You’ve got guys like Apollos, Athanasius and Arius; all these guys in church history who having major debates about who Christ is. Is He God? Is He man? Is He both together? Is He fully God, fully man, part God and part man? How does that work?
And you’ve got obviously the historic divide, the wedge that is driven between Judaism and Christianity. It’s grounded in the identity of who Christ is. And not just Judaism and Christianity, but across the board, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, even Muslims. I remember numerous conversations that I had on the streets of India with Muslims talking about the identity of who Christ is. This is a historic question.

An important question

It’s a very important question. In fact, I think it may be the most important question in Christianity. Because if Jesus is God, if this baby really is God, then that makes sense of everything else in the New Testament and it answers all the rest of our questions about Jesus.
Think about it. It’s the most staggering claim. If Jesus is God, then it makes complete sense that He would walk on water, don’t you think? He made the water. I think He could walk on it. If Jesus is God, is it really that surprising to see Him take five loaves and two fish and feed over 5,000 people? Is that a shock to us? No. He made the loaves and the fish, and He made even the stomachs that are partaking of this food.
Is it really that surprising even when you come to the resurrection? Think about it. When we realize Jesus is God, then the staggering thought is not that He rose from the grave. The staggering thought is that He died. It makes complete sense that He rose from the grave. What astounds us is the fact that God in the flesh actually died. This truth changes everything. It turns everything upside down.
I’ll share with you a quote from C.S. Lewis. Just to give you a heads up, C.S. Lewis is going to help preach this sermon with me today. I’ll refer to him a couple of different times. He said this: “The doctrine of Christ’s divinity seems to me not something stuck on which you can unstick, but something that peeks out at every point so that you would have to unravel the whole web to get rid of it.” It’s foundational. So, it’s historic and it’s important.

An awesome question

It’s an awesome question that I believe we far too often take for granted in the church today. May we never cease to be amazed by the fact that God became man. This is a mammoth reality that cannot become commonplace and it cannot get drowned out in all the tinsel and commercialism that surround us over the next few weeks. This is a huge reality. It is awesome to think about. It’s historic, it’s important, it’s awesome.

A personal question

And what I want you to hear today is that the truth we are about to look at has ramifications for every single one of our lives. Every single one of our lives hinges on the answer to this question: Who is Jesus?
So, you’ve got Philippians 2 opened up. I will go ahead and let you know this is going to be the passage from which we are going to be studying for the next four weeks, Philippians 2:5–11. It is an incredible passage of Scripture. I think it is the greatest picture of the Christmas story in all Scripture. The only thing is, you are not going do see shepherds anywhere and you are not going to see Mary, and Joseph is not going to be here and angels aren’t going to be here. There’s not going to be a star and there’s not going to be wise men. That’s not what it’s going to focus on.
I want us to read this passage and then begin to unpack it. Look at Verse 5 in Philippians 2. Paul writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5)—I want to let you know this is what is called by many people a Christ hymn. This is a hymn to Christ that exalts Christ for who He is.
Philippians 2:5–11 NKJV
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
All of that was said about a little baby in a stable. I want us to see four truths over the next four weeks that come out of this, four pictures of who Christ is. Today we are looking at Jesus as God. The very start of this passage I’m calling The Hope of Glory, and we’ll see how that unfolds in just a second.
Look at verse 6, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). This obviously sets Jesus apart from everybody else in all of history. This is not just your normal guy. This is not your normal baby. This is someone who, being in very nature God. The words in the original language of the New Testament right there really are talking about His essence, the essential, His being, what He exists as. He exists in the nature, in the form. The word in the original language of the New Testament is “morphe” from which we get the word “form.” He is the form of God. That doesn’t mean He’s like God or he’s similar to God. It means He is in His essence, He exists as God.
He being in the very nature of God, in fact, you see later on it talks about taking the very nature of a servant. That word “nature” is a little bit different than the one we just looked at. This is His very form. He is God now. That’s what the text is saying. This text is saying very clearly that Jesus is God.
What does that mean? What does it mean for Jesus, a little baby boy, to be God in the flesh? Well, what I want to do is I want to use another passage that’s going to help us understand the first part of Philippians 2. I want you to go to John 1. I want you to see how John starts his Gospel, how John tells the Christmas story. I want us to read through the first part of John 1, and I want you to see some verses that set the stage for everything else that we see about Jesus throughout the rest of the book of John. And it really revolves around the identity of who He is, on the fact that He is in very nature God. Look at John 1:1. We are going to read down about halfway through this chapter. I want you to see who He is,
John 1:1–18 NKJV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
These verses right here help unpack what Philippians 2:6 has just told us.
The Baby We Need to See...

He is the Word of God

What does it mean for Jesus to be God? I want you to see what John is telling us about the fact that Jesus is God. First of all, number one, the baby we need to see, He is the Word of God. He is the word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1–2). Now, what’s that all about? What’s all this “Word” talk? Who is the “Word”? We see later in verse 14 that the Word became flesh. We know that’s referring to Jesus.
But why is John calling Jesus the Word? That seems kind of like a contemporary, hip kind of name today for Jesus. Of all the names to introduce Jesus why does John refer to Him as the Word? Why would he say that? Think about it. “In the beginning” he starts off. Does that phrase remind you of anything? Undoubtedly it reminds you of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning”—who? In the beginning “God”. Before anything else was, “God”. In the beginning, the Word.
If in the beginning, God was there, and in the beginning the Word was there, then we’ve got the Word being equated with God. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We see from the very beginning, “And God said let there be light.” God said this, and creation happened according to God’s what?—according to God’s Word. All of creation. In Genesis 1, 2 and 3, over and over again we see the word of God mentioned. God spoke and it came to be. God’s power, God’s might in creation is revealed through His Word. So, God reveals Himself through His word. Later on Psalm 107:20 talks about how God brought salvation to His people and healing and rescued His people by His Word.
Over and over again throughout the Old Testament the Word is the picture of how God reveals Himself, how God reveals His power. It literally means His self-expression. I want you to think about that for a second. The Word of God is His revelation, His self-expression, the expression of Himself.
So, as we begin to think about the identity of Christ, what we are seeing unfold from the start in the book of John is the fact that He is the self-expression of who?—of God. He is the self-expression of God. He is the revelation of God. He is God revealed in the flesh, in a baby. This is God, His self-expression right here in the manger. “The Word was with God.” So obviously Jesus had a relationship with God. “And the Word was God.” And Jesus was God. So, Jesus had a relationship with God and He was God.
Now, how do you figure that out? It’s the whole mystery of the Trinity. What we are seeing is that we see Jesus and the Father in cooperation, in relationship. At the same time, in essence one person being in very nature God.
On multiple occasions while He was on the earth Jesus claimed to be God. And the Jews knew full well what He was implying. They tried to kill Him for it.
Because Jesus claimed to be God, then we've got four options for the question of who Jesus is. Four options. The first option is... Is He just a legend?

Is he a legend?

Yeah, Jesus claimed to be God, but it’s just a story. It’s fictional. It’s mythological. Some people might say that. We don’t have time to look into the veracity and authenticity and reliability of Scripture, but I can stand on solid ground and say to you that there is no ancient document that has anywhere near the historical reliability of this document, the archeological, even secular backing of this book. Over and over again throughout history for 2,000 years people have said this book is going to go out. But it hasn’t because it is true. Over and over again. This is more than just a legend, more than just a story that was made up. So, we’ve got that one option that it’s a legend, it’s all just a legend.

Is he a liar?

Now, it’s at this point that we think about the most common view of Jesus in our culture today. As expressed by Thomas Jefferson, “Jesus is the highest, the greatest of human teachers. He is a great teacher, a great man who had powerful things to say, things that His people need to listen to more. He had great teachings. He wasn’t God. He was a great teacher, a great man.”
Now, at this point, because we’ve established the fact that Jesus claimed to be God that was obviously at the core of His teaching. This wasn’t just a side thing, a tangent over here. Oh, by the way, I’m God. This is at the core. His teaching revolved around Himself. And so if at the core of His teaching He’s saying He is God, and He’s not God, then that might make Him a liar. And if He’s a liar, then the last thing we would stand and say is He is a great teacher. Do you call a great teacher a person who at the core is lying and deceiving everyone that he teaches? Do you call a great man somebody who goes about deceiving people intentionally his entire ministry? Obviously, that would not be a great man. But that’s one option. A legend, a liar.

Is he a lunatic?

Has He just plain lost it? Because if this is true that He said these things, it’s not a legend. And if He believed they were true, He wasn’t trying to lie. He believed they were true. But if they are not true, then He was just kind of crazy. Here is a guy who thought He was God. He really thought He was God, but He was pretty out there on that.
Now, if I start claiming to be God, then you know that it’s time for me to step down from leadership and it’s time for me to get some help in certain areas. You know that. But if I claim to be God and then start walking on water and feeding 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish and raising people from the grave and healing people with diseases and sickness, you might stand up and say, “Well, I’ll at least hear you out on this thing.”
But that’s one option. Jesus thought He was God, was trying to be as truthful as possible, but He had just lost it. So, maybe He’s a legend, maybe He’s a liar, maybe He’s a lunatic. The thing is that hardly anybody in our culture would say that Jesus was a crazy guy who had completely lost it. Even lost people have much respect for Jesus as a person. They wouldn’t say He’s a lunatic and wouldn’t say He’s a liar.
Well, if we cross those out and He’s not a lunatic and He’s not a liar and He’s not a legend, then the only possibility is the fact that He is Lord.

He is Lord

I refer again to C.S. Lewis, who said this:
“You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us, and He did not intend to.”
All of us must come down and say Jesus is one of these things. It’s not an option to call Jesus a great man or a great human teacher. He is either just a legend from the past, He is a liar, He is a lunatic, or He is the Lord of all creation. That’s the identity of this baby. That’s what it means for Him to be the Word, the self-expression of God.
I wish we had time to dive into Hebrews 1:3. It says that He is the radiance of God’s glory. Verse 8 calls the Son, God. It’s incredible all throughout Hebrews, especially those first few chapters dealing with the picture of Jesus as God. Colossians 2:9 says the fullness of God, the fullness of deity dwells in Jesus. Over and over again, in the very beginning of Revelation God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning at the end.” At the very end of Revelation, guess who said the exact same words?—Jesus does. Jesus rises up and says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is God. Over and over again we see that He’s the Word of God.

He is the Author of Life

Three more truths I want you to see about the identity of this baby. Second, He is the Author of Life. I want you to look at a passage with me. Turn to the right and go past Philippians to Colossians. I want you to look at Colossians 1 with me. These are some amazing verses that give us a picture. Now, John 1 had said, “In Him was life and that life was the light of men.” All life summed up in Him. Colossians 1 unpacks that one for us.
Look at Colossians 1:15. These are amazing verses. I want you to think about all of the universe, everything in all creation, including every single one of us. Colossians 1:15 says,
Colossians 1:15–17 NKJV
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Do you realize the mammoth truth we just read? That all of the universe, with its billions and billions of miles and planets and stars and the sun, everything is held together by Jesus, everything. All of our lives, the way life works, our bodies, everything is held together by Jesus. The identity of this baby. He is the author of life. Do you catch this? The author of life is now a baby in a manger dependent on the creation that He has made to sustain His life. You wrestle with that and you will get a headache real quick. This baby is the author of all life, and He holds it all together. In Him was life and that life was the light of men. He is the author of life.

He is the Light of the World

Third, He is the Light of the World. If you go back to John, it is talking about John the Baptist: “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:8–9). If you do a study of light throughout the book of John, you will see riches unfold, this idea that Jesus is the light of the world. In a world that is dark, in a world that is filled with pain and suffering and trial and sorrow; in a world that is dark, when Jesus comes on the scene, light comes on the scene. You know what it does to the darkness? It penetrates and drowns out the darkness. It completely overwhelms it, and all attention is not drawn to darkness anymore. Even in the darkest room, one little candle lights up and all the attention is drawn to that light. He is the Light of the world amidst the darkness. He is the author of life and He is the light of the world.

He is the Hope of Glory

John 1:14 says, “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.” In John 1:14 where it says the Word made His dwelling among us, it literally means He “tabernacled” among us. It’s the same word that we see used in the Old Testament to refer to the tabernacle or the temple or the tent of meeting, which was basically the place where the glory of God dwelled among His people.
The temple was the place where God dwelled among His people, where they would come to encounter the glory of God. They would come to the temple, same thing they would come to the tabernacle, where God’s presence dwelled, and that’s how they would encounter His glory. And so when we see the picture of this baby coming to earth, John tells us the Word became flesh and He “tabernacle” among us. You used to go to the temple to see the glory of God. Now come to this baby and see the glory of God. We have beheld His glory.
The glory of the one and only literally means the unique son—the “monogenous”. The unique son is in the manger, the unique Son of God. If you want to see the glory of God, you don’t go to the tent of meeting and you don’t go to the tabernacle anymore and you don’t go to the temple. You go to Jesus. He has revealed the glory of God.

THE DECISION WE NEED TO MAKE

Now, with that truth, with that picture, all of us have a decision to make. I told you from the beginning the ramifications of this truth would penetrate each one of our lives and hearts. We have a decision to make, and there are only two options. They are spelled out here in John 1.

Reject Him...

Option number one is to reject Him. John 1:10, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” That’s one option, to reject Him. It’s an option that many took in that day, and it’s an option that many may take today. And basically rejecting Him is saying I do not recognize Him according to John 1:10–11

I do not recognize Him, and I do not receive Him

I want you to realize that it is a frightening thing, in light of the truths that we’ve seen, to say to this God, “I do not recognize you as the Word of God, as the light of the world, I do not recognize you as the hope of glory, I do not recognize you as the author of my life and, therefore, I do not receive you.” That is standing in the face of Jesus and rejecting Him.
And the only options there are for you to be saying that, “Jesus, you are just a legend, it’s just a myth, it’s just fiction.” That’s one thing you might be saying. The second thing you might be saying is that, “You are a liar. At the core you have lied. Therefore, I don’t believe you and I don’t receive you because you are a liar.” Or, number three, “You are crazy. You are a lunatic.” That is what it means to reject Christ, and it’s one option we have according to John 1.

Revere Him...

The second option is to revere Him. John 1:12, “Yet to all who received 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.”

I believe in Him and I belong to Him

That’s the second option, to revere Him, which is basically saying I believe in Him and I belong to Him. That’s the second option.
Here is why this truth is so important. Please don’t miss this. If Jesus is not fully God, then He is completely unable to take the payment of our sins upon himself. Who can bear the infinite wrath and justice of God the Father? A mere man who did good things and taught good things? Absolutely not. If we don’t have the divinity of Christ, if Jesus is not God, we don’t have salvation and we don’t have Christianity. And it all hinges on this.
However, when we believe in this truth, when we see this truth, we recognize it and we receive it and we believe in it, the result is we have the right to become children of God, His sons and His daughters, His people. The only way to do that is through believing in Him, believing these truths, saying in your lives, “I see that you are the Word of God, you are the light of the world, you are the author of my life, you are the hope of all glory, and I embrace you.”
And, therefore, worship of Christ is equated with worship of God. When we sing, “Holy, holy, holy, praise the Lord, hallelujah”, we sing to Christ, because He deserves our praise and honor and glory. The mammoth reality of Christmas is that this baby is worthy of all of our worship. Reject Him or revere Him.
In the next few minutes, those are the two options I want to put before all of us. I want to challenge every man, woman, boy and girl to deal personally with those two options. Today if you know Him, if you are His sons and daughters, if you have believed in Him and you belong to Him, then this is a time where we revere Him.
If you are here and you’ve never come to the point where you have believed in His truths and revered God in the flesh in the form of Jesus, then I want to invite you for the first time to say, “God, I believe that what you said is true. Jesus, you are not a liar and not a legend and not a lunatic. You are the Lord of my life, and I trust you to be my hope of glory.”
I want to invite you if you have never trusted in Him to do that today. If you choose to reject Him, then just observe as we revere Christ.
Dear God, we pray that you would give us a fresh glimpse of your glory even in these moments; God, that the mammoth realities of what we’ve seen in your Word would sink into our hearts as we reflect on how your Son died, how you in the flesh died so that we can be forgiven of our sins and we can have the hope of glory. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
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