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The Witness to the Light

Advent 2020: The Light Breaks Through  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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<<READ John 1:6-8>>
Last week: The Shining Word - He has never been silent; he has never been distant; he has never been defeated
This morning, we move from the eternal Word to the man He created and sent into the world as a witness to the Shining Word.
John shows up at the beginning of each of the four Gospels, in each case as a forerunner to Jesus, fulfilling the Old Testament promise that before the Messiah came, the LORD would send His messenger to prepare the way.
Malachi 3:1 ESV
1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
John the Baptist fulfilled a unique role in the history of salvation. He is the final prophet of the Old Covenant, and the first prophet of the New Covenant. He is Christ’s herald.
John 1:6-8 teaches us not only about John, but about our own identity in Christ.
Just as verses 1-5 tell us about who the Word is, verses 6-8 tell us about who we are:

Q. Why has God set us where we are? What is our calling as individuals and as a church?

I. Our IDENTITY: Made, sent, and named by Jesus (v6)

Before John the Gospel writer tells us John the Baptist’s mission, he tells us the man’s identity. The ESV says “There was a man,” but put a little note in your Bible next to verse 6 that says “John was made - see v3”.
John 1 uses two different verbs that end up looking the same in English. One of them points to the Word’s identity as the eternal Son with the Father, the Creator. John 1 uses the other word to refer to something that the Word created.
You could say it like this: verse 1 - In the beginning was the Word… v3 - all things were caused to exist through Him. v6 - A man came to exist, sent from God, named John”. The New American Standard Bible comes the closest when it says “There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John.”
The first thing we find out about John is that he is one of the many things that the Word created. No matter how exalted John the Baptist appears on the pages of Scripture, like every other creature, he exists because of the intention and creative action of the Word. This man was made.
The second truth we learn about this man is that he was sent from God.
The word “sent” here comes from the same root that we get the word “apostle.” This man was made by the Word, and apostled from God.
To be sent in this way means to be given a solemn and divine commission to deliver God’s own message of repentance and faith in the Messiah.
So here’s a man who was made by the Word, and sent by God. The third thing we learn here is that his name was John. At first, this seems like the least important piece of the verse. Would it have changed things if his name had been Manfred, or Tyrone?
What’s unique in this name is that it was not given by his parents, but by God Himself. Last week, our first Advent reading told how John’s birth was foretold by an angel, who appeared before his father Zechariah and told him:
Luke 1:13 ESV
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
The name John in Hebrew is Yochannan, which means YHWH is gracious. His name is a reminder of how God described Himself in
Exodus 34:6 ESV
6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
From the womb, he was a man whose identity, mission, and name were all given to him, and all were intended to point to the Word who made him.
Like John the Baptist, you and I were made by the Word. All things were made through him, verse 3 told us. You are as much the product of the Triune God’s creative intent and action as John.
ILLUST: Not everyone has a Zechariah and Elizabeth for parents. In fact, maybe you grew up wondering who your parents were, or even wishing you didn’t know. If your identity has been shaped by heartbreak, look back to verse three with me, and remember this:
You were made by the Word, on purpose. Those two words should be taken with the fullest force possible. On purpose. He made you to be the you that you are. You have purpose and meaning because God designed and formed you on purpose.
He made you for HIS purpose, just as He made John. As Paul says in:
1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
And in Colossians 1:16 - “All things were created through him and for him.”
This is true of all humanity, but it is true in an even more wonderful sense for those who have been redeemed by Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Your salvation does not proclaim to the world how important you are, or how great you must be. It proclaims how merciful, and gracious GOD is, that He would rescue sinners. As Paul says in Ephesians 3,
Ephesians 3:8–11 ESV
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
God rescued the chief of sinners on purpose, because He delights to rescue sinners. He delights to turn rebels into sons and daughters.
And like John the Baptist, you and I have been sent from God to the world.
Right after saying “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” Paul says
2 Corinthians 5:18–21 ESV
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
And like John the Baptist, you and I have been named by God. Everyone who has been redeemed by Jesus has received new names, just as He promised in Isaiah 62.
In verse 12, next week, we will hear that everyone who believed in Jesus’s name are given the authority to be children of God.
The apostle Peter says
1 Peter 2:9–10 ESV
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Colossians 1:12 calls us the saints in light. The saints - that means the holy ones. We have been named holy because of Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Romans 8 calls us “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” Ephesians 1:4 gives us the name “holy and blameless" because of what Christ has done.
Even John’s own name points us to this fact. I said before that it means “YHWH is gracious.” It can also mean “Accepted by YHWH.” This is your name, too, Christian: Accepted by YHWH.
We all bring baggage with us to the Cross of Jesus Christ, but hear the identity of John and find your own identity: You have been MADE, SENT, and NAMED by God Himself. In Jesus Christ, you are accepted by the LORD.

II. Our MISSION: To bear witness to Jesus (vv7, 8)

Look back at John 1 with me, at verses 7 and 8. Here we see that important word “witness” pop up three times.
John’s purpose was to proclaim the truth about the Light.
John called people to repent - to turn away from sin and return to God - and he testified that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Paul summarized John the Baptist’s ministry in
Acts 19:4 ESV
4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
John’s mission has something to tell us, too. We have a mission to bear witness to Jesus.
John the Baptist stands in a category of his own as the link between the OT prophets and the New Covenant apostles, but he is not the only witness who bears testimony to Jesus in the Gospel of John. The Samaritan woman in John 4 is said to bear witness to Jesus; the Father and Jesus Himself bear witness to His identity in chapter 5 and chapter 8 -
The Holy Spirit:
John 15:26 ESV
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.
The Scriptures:
John 5:39 ESV
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
And Jesus says this at the end of Luke 24:
Luke 24:46–49 ESV
46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus says it this way in Acts 1:8 :
Acts 1:8 ESV
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The common mission of the Church throughout every age is to bear witness to Jesus Christ.
No Christian gets to change the mission or tweak the message. No witness gets to alter the truth. The central calling of every Christian and every Church must be: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”
And this testimony is the heartbeat and bedrock of every Christian’s testimony.
Just as John testified concerning the light, that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, you and I and our church collectively have been called by Jesus to declare that the Word became flesh and was born on Christmas, and died on the cross in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to reconcile us to God. He rose the third day for our justification, and He is returning to judge the living and the dead. There is salvation in no other name. There is no other way to God. And my testimony is that He has rescued me from sin and death and darkness. He has given me the life and light that I did not deserve. I am not the man I was, because He has made me a new creature.
And He calls everyone, everywhere to repent and believe.
And just as our identity and mission are like John’s, the PURPOSE of our testimony is like his. Look again at verse 7 and our third and final point: <<READ v7>>

III. Our PURPOSE: To prompt belief in Jesus (v7)

Once again, we can see the uniqueness of John’s purpose - every single believer who has ever trusted in Christ has an indirect connection to John’s testimony. The angel who foretold John’s birth said:
Luke 1:16–17 ESV
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
In this way, John was absolutely unique. No one else was sent in the prophetic spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.
John’s testimony was the starting point for the Sadducees and Pharisees’ rejection of Jesus. His testimony was the starting point for the apostles Andrew and Simon Peter, and possibly James and John the sons of Zebedee.
The purpose of his testimony was to call people to repent and believe in Jesus.
That historical truth means that every Christian in this room today can say that God used the ministry of John the Baptist in their salvation story, even if they didn’t know it before today.
But as unique as he was, we have a very similar purpose.
Just like John, our identity is that we were made, sent, and named by Jesus
Just like John, our mission is to bear witness to Jesus
And just like John, our purpose is to prompt belief in Jesus.
Think back over the course of your life. Whose testimony was like John the Baptist’s in your life?
I can name several people who bore witness to Jesus in my life, people that God used to draw me to Himself.
I had a faithful pastor who preached Jesus from the pulpit. A mother who prayed for us kids and shared the Gospel with me.
I know that some of you were saved because your children bore witness to Christ and the Holy Spirit used that. Some of you were saved because your spouse did the same.
John the Baptist was the first, but by no means the last.
And this is the purpose for which we have been saved and placed in the specific places God sends us. John was made, and sent from God to a specific place to bear witness so that all might believe through him.
We have been sent to a specific place to bear witness so that others might believe through God’s work through our testimony.
This is true of us each individually, and as a local church.
Think back again to the people Jesus used in your own salvation story. How many of them were extraordinary people doing extraordinary things? Probably not many. Most of us, if we made a list of the people God used to bring us to Himself, would list ordinary people who God used through ordinary life.
But the result was anything but ordinary. And this yet again is proof that God is the glorious One who rescues sinners. Even the heroic stories of pioneer missionaries who take the Gospel to new lands are really just stories of God doing extraordinary things through normal people who have been made new creations, sent as witnesses, and named “sons” and “daughters” of the King of kings by grace.
So as we walk together through Advent and Christmas, and you know that there are going to be more opportunities than most of the year to talk about things like religion, and spirituality, and God’s love in Christ, here’s a bit of encouragement:
Every single Christian has no idea how to save a sinner. In fact, it’s impossible for us to do it. When you get afraid to bear witness to Christ, afraid you’ll get it wrong, afraid you won’t say the right thing and the other person will just get mad or something, you’re in good company - no Christian can quote-unquote “say the right thing” to save someone. Your testimony can’t save anybody.
Your testimony is meant to point someone to the only one who can save.
“I was far from God, and now I’ve been brought near through the death and resurrection of Jesus.”
And remember that when John bore witness to Christ, he wasn’t on his own. The angel said that John was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. And this is another way that you and I are like him: From our new birth in Christ, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, too.
You don’t have to have it all together - you can’t. You don’t have to have all the words figured out - you can’t. But Jesus has promised that by the Spirit’s power, you will be his witnesses.
I heard from a sister in Christ recently who spent three weeks in the hospital. Some of you will know who this is. I asked her how her faith was, and she said it was rock-solid. Even when the pain was unbearable, God kept her. And she told me that she was able to share of God’s protection numerous times. She did not produce her testimony. Christ produced it in her.
And one final bit of encouragement:
Everywhere you go, whether you’re at work, or at home, or on Zoom, or at the hospital, or with friends, or family, everywhere you go, God has you there on purpose. As His witness. Consider all the names He has given you.
In your home, He says you are His beloved, and His love is what put you there. You are His royal priesthood.
At your job, He says that you are His ambassadors, sent to bring the message of reconciliation to God.
And everywhere you go, like the name John, your name is always:
Accepted by the LORD.
No matter what.
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