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"A Witness to The Light": John 1:6-9

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“A Witness to The Light” John 1:6-9 Last week we began to look at John’s Gospel, and we saw that we don’t have to guess at John’s purpose in writing this book. He tells us in John 20:31: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” And so, as we go through this book, we could start every week by reminding ourselves that what the passage we are focusing on is designed to lead us to believe in Jesus and that we have life. And so last week, we considered the first 5 verses of John’s Gospel and we saw that it’s sort of a weighty, philosophical, theological dense text. John places Jesus’ origins in eternity past. In fact, he doesn’t have an origin, in the sense of a beginning, because when the beginning happended, Jesus already “was”. And Jesus was instrumental in creation. And He was incarnated. The Life-Giving Word came into the world as a light shining in the darkness. And so with all this philosophical, grandiose, majestic language about Christ, why does John pivot here to introduce John the Baptist to us. It seems a little scattered or abrupt. But John has a purpose in this. And we get a clue to that purpose in verse 5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome (or comprehended/understood) it. There is debate over how to translate the Greek word katalambano. It can mean “overcome” in the sense that for all the ways our sinful world had tried to reject and thwart and push out God and His light, it cannot extinguish or snuff out the light of God’s plans & purposes. It can also mean comprehend or understand, and so the sense would be that though God has revealed Himself in history, sinners have not recognized or perceived His will and purpose and followed Him. Now, both those things are true and I think it’s likely that both meanings are in play here. But if we take verse 5 to mean that we have failed to understand or comprehend the ways that God has been shining His light into our darkness, then it’s entirely clear why John the apostle pivots to discussing the role of John the Baptist in verse 5. He came as a witness to the Light. What does a witness do? A witness gives credibility and authenticity to the truthfulness of an event. We use the testimony of credible witnesses to establish factual truths. Reporters interview eyewitnesses for their stories. The testimony of witnesses are key to establish the guilt or innocence of a person in a court of law. And so one thing John is going to do in this book is to present to us a series of eyewitnesses who will help us to see that the eternal Son of God, the Second person of the Trinity, is not just some distant concept that is abstract to us, but is a person who bound Himself by space & time and stepped into our world and took on flesh in order to give us life. John knows that what he’s claiming seems crazy. How could God become a man? And why on earth would God ever allow Himself to be tortured and killed by mere mortals? It’s seems hard to believe. It’s too good to be true. But John wants us to believe, and so to overcome our unbelief, He is going to present us witness after witness in this book to help us place saving faith in Jesus and believing, to find life in His name. Richard Philips lists 8 witnesses to the deity of Jesus in John’s Gospel. We’ll consider each of these in more detail as we study this book, but I want to give them all to you here very briefly, because I think the cumulative effect of seeing them all at once is such a powerful case for belief: 1. Jesus Bears Witness to Himself. Jesus claimed to be God: In John 8:58, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” I am was the literal meaning of the Yahweh, the personal name for God. And the Jewish leaders understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, and they got so mad that they wanted to kill Him. But Jesus had already said earlier in that chapter, “If I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going.” Jesus claimed to be God. 2. The Witness of God the Father: John 8:17-18“17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 3. Jesus’ Works are a Witness: John 10:25 “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” John is going to list one miraculous work after another that demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God. 4. People Who Encountered Jesus are Witnesses: John 9:25 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” You could argue many things with this man but the fact remains, he was blind before Jesus and after Jesus he could see. 5. Jesus Disciples are a Witness: John 15:27: “You will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” This includes, John, who was a disciple & close friend of Jesus. He would later write: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” (1 John 1:1-2) 6. The Holy Spirit is a Witness: In John 15:26, Jesus promised to send the HS after He ascended into heaven: 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” 7. The Witness of Scripture: In John 5:39, Jesus said, “39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Scripture does not give us eternal life. They tell us about the One who does. They are a witness to who Jesus is and what He has done and so, lead us to Him. The Old Testament is full of prophecies that point to Jesus and find their fulfillment in Him. One of those prophecies in Malachi 4:5 concerned a forerunner to the Messiah, whose ministry would resemble that of the prophet Elijah. In Matthew 11:13-14, Jesus said that John the Baptist was that Elijah who is to come. 8. The Witness of John the Baptist: This text tells us that John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus Christ. His ministry was unique in that most of His witness to Jesus was given BEFORE Jesus began His public ministry. In Isaiah 40:3-5, the Old Testament prophet spoke to Judah about one who would come with a message of preparation, which would introduce the coming of Yahweh or Jehovah. “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” Matthew 3 quotes this passage in describing John the Baptist as this person who’s ministry was to serve as a forerunner to Jesus. John was this voice with a message that was all about alerting people that God was about to reveal His salvation in a powerful way. The Light of the world was breaking into the darkness. John the Baptist understood that the coming Savior would bring life by taking away the sins of the world (1:29), and so his central message was one of repentance. He called people to turn away from their sins and be ready to receive the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus would accomplish. You see John understood that our greatest need to the life that only Jesus can give. There are terrible problems in our world. Starvation is a terrible problem. Diesease is a terrible problem. Racism & injustice & inequality are terrible problems. Corrupt governments & morally bankrupt societies are terrible problems. We could go on and on. But the worst problem of all (and the problem at the root of many of these others) is that our sins have separated and alienated us from God, and placed us under the threat of His wrath and eternal condemnation. And the solution to that problem is Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And our greatest need to is to believe in Jesus with saving faith: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”. D.A. Carson once said: “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.” And so John the Baptist came as a witness that God’s salvation was breaking into our world, like a bright light piercing the darkness. He was like that those blinking signs and bright orange barrels that are intended to alert you to road work ahead, to get you to slow down and pay attention to something important on your path. His ministry & preaching were designed to cause us to slow down and pay careful attention, and be on the lookout for the Savior. Jesus Christ is just some far off, abstract concept. He’s a person who’s stepped into our world and revealed Himself and come to do His work of salvation on our souls. Now, what can we learn from John’s witness? In what ways does his ministry serve as a model for you and I to follow? 1. God Sends Human Witnesses “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” God could have caused the light of Christ to be spread in some other way. He could’ve sent angels. He could’ve written it in the clouds. But instead God chose to call and send human beings to bear witness to His Son. Before Jesus, God used prophets like Elijah, and Isaiah, and John the Baptist. After Jesus resurrection, Jesus made it clear that He wants to use human beings like us to continue to spread His message. “Go into all the world and make disciples”…”You will be my witnesses”. We often think of the call of God as something for “professional” ministers and full-time missionaries. But in the Bible we see God raise up all kinds of “regular” people to be His messengers. He called fishermen like Peter and Andrew, tax collectors like Matthew & Zaccheus, & farmers like Abraham & Amos. And he didn’t always called those who felt polished or skilled either. And so just be willing and alert to how God wants to you to be His witness to others. There are dozens of people in our community who have come to faith in Christ because God called a dentist, and carpenter, and school-teacher, and court clerk to start a church. I pray that some day heaven will be filled with people who heard the saving message of Christ who will say: •”I’m here because there was a woman sent from God named Allison.” •”I’m here because there was a man sent from God name Mike.” •”I’m here because there was a kid who sat next to me at lunch named Beau-Hunter.” God spreads His word by human witnesses. How is he calling you to bear witness for him? If he can use John the Baptist, he can use you. 2. The Content of Our Witness John 1:7 says, “He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.” A Christian witness is first and foremost about Christ. Our primary message is not about why you should attend our church, or how you should vote, but about Jesus Christ. We tell people what the Jesus is God’s only Son & our Lord, that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit & born of the virgin Mary; that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried, but on the third day rose to life; that he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father; and One day soon he’s coming to judge the living & the dead. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “We are eager to talk about our doctors, and praise the one who cured us when others had failed. We recommend one business as better than another, or films and entertainers and athletes and politicians, and a thousand and one other things. We are always glorifying something, the world is full of it. The Christian is meant to be praising & glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.” John said, “I have seen & borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34) If people learn one thing from us, let them learn that! 3. The Manner of Our Witness John 1:8 says, “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” It’s important that we conduct our lives in such a way that it point others to Christ, but it’s important that we understand the focus is not on winning the praise of others, but on leading them to praise Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others in such a way that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Notice it’s not, “Let others see your good works and praise you, but shine your light in such a way that when others see your conduct, they are led to praise & honor God. John the Baptist was careful to do this. Later in John 1, the Jewish priests & Levites heard about what John was doing and came to question him. And John was careful to downplay His role and exalt Christ. He said, “I’m just a voice out here in the wilderness trying to get people ready for the Lord’s coming. And this One who’s coming after me, I’m not worthy to untie the straps of His sandals. It is easy once God begins to use us for His purpose to think that we are something. To think that we are adding to the prestige of God’s kingdom with our knowledge and gifts. That what we are doing is of ultimate importance. But 1 Cor. 1 reminds us that God chooses what is low and weak and foolish in the world’s eyes to be His greatest witnesses, that one would boast in the presence of God. As 1 Peter 5 says, God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. J.M. Boice said it well, “Whenever a Christian…gets to thinking that there is something important about him, he or she will always cease to be effective as Christ’s witness. So when people praise you, or notice you’ve a change for good in your life, be quick to praise God and careful to tell them it is Christ in you, the hope of glory, that has made the difference. In John 5:35, Jesus said that John the Baptist “was a burning and shining lamp”. A lamp does not shine with its own light. It has to be supplied with light from another source or it burns out. The same is true of us. We are called not to shine our own light, but Christ’s light. We are to fill our lamps with a fresh supply of His grace and mercy as we depend upon our fellowship with Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And fill our lamps as we meditate on Christ’s word and gather with other believers for worship, and encouragement, and prayer. And then we go out into the world, letting Christ’s light shine through us. But we must remember that we are like the moon reflecting the light of the sun. On our own we are in darkness, but because a great light has shined on us, the light of God’s Son, we are called to reflect that light into the world. 4. The Goal of Our Witness John 1:7 says, “He came as a witness…that all might believe through Him”. Our goal is for others to believe in Jesus through our witness. That people around us would be saved and find eternal life in Jesus. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our job as a witness is to win an argument, or to effect outward change, like getting people to behave differently or attend church more often or vote the way we want. But the goal of our witness isn’t to win arguments or elections, it’s to win hearts and souls to Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can forgive sin and give us the change we truly need. He is the one who gives life! And if we believe this our goal as a witness will be to be used by God for the salvation of others. Finally, verse 9 says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” There may be other lights in the world, other people & products & ideas that will satisfy you partially for a season, but they won’t lead you to what is of true eternal significance. Only Jesus is the real, genuine light. And our greatest need is to believe and find life in His name. Do you believe that this morning? Do you believe that your greatest and most urgent need is to believe on Jesus? Do you realize that unless you repent of your sin, you stand condemned before a holy God? Do not believe the lie that God will grade on the curve, and admit you into heaven on your own merits rather than through the blood of Christ. Instead, listen to the witnesses of this book and put your trust in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You might say, “Well, I’m happy without Jesus. There are plenty of other lights out there that are more to my liking.” I’d invite you to consider those so-called lights against the Light of the world, Jesus. No other light can give you true joy now or eternal life on the last day. Money and success, the pride of a moral life and the pleasure of an immoral one will be powerless little candles when we stand in the bright, burning light of God’s presence. That’s why John says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him.” (John 3:36) The good news is, the light of Jesus is for everyone. It’s sufficient to give eternal life to everyone who believes. No matter what you’ve done, it’s for you, if you will simply repent & believe. If you’re already a Christian, it’s for you, too. Because in every circumstance, we are called to put our hope in Christ, finding in Him all that we need. And when we do that, we too will be a faithful witness to the light.
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