9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13 NIV)
Herbert George Wells died in 1946 at the age of 79. He was a prolific author who wrote over 100 books during his lifetime. Some of H.G. Wells books, like The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau, have been read by millions and even turned into Hollywood movies.
H. G. Wells was an outspoken critic of Christianity, but what most don’t know is that he was raised by a Christian mother. Wells said that suddenly he awoke to the fact that “God himself was a lie.” At first he couldn’t totally accept an atheistic worldview so he tried for years to replace the God of the Bible with a god of his own making—a god that allowed him to violate Christian morals, yet still give meaning to his life. It just wasn’t possible so eventually H. G. Wells declared himself an honest atheist. The truth of the matter is that H. G. Wells’ passion for promiscuity blinded him to the truth of Scripture.
The irony in all of this is that H.G. Wells wrote a very insightful short story called, The Country of the Blind, that graphically illustrated his problem, as well as the problem of all of humanity, even though he was blind to it. In the story, some hikers in the Andes Mountains are down for the night when one of the hikers left his tent and began to follow a small trail. He suddenly slipped and began the long slide down the mountain. After his fall, when he finally regained consciousness, he noticed houses, but what he saw was strange because they were painted in mixed colors and had no windows. He saw people, but when he called out to them they looked in all directions as if they were trying to determine where the sounds were coming from. It slowly dawned on him: the people were blind!
A strange disease had struck their children generations ago. Those who could see eventually died and their children’s children were born sightless. Through the years all of the people had lost any memory of every having been able to see. Then the climber remembered a rule he had heard: “In the country of the blind, a one eyed man is king!” He thought to himself, “I have the advantage of sight. I can control these people, and rule over them.” What he discovered was that the people were not inferior to him at all; their other senses were sharper than his. They could hear any move he made; in fact, they could hear his heart beating and the blood flowing in his body from a distance. The people in the country of the blind thought the man was eccentric and peculiar, and especially when he talked foolishly about “sight.” They said that he had an “unformed mind” and he “had no senses yet,” but he believed that he would rule over them if only he could make them “see.”
In the course of time, he fell in love with a beautiful young woman in the country of the blind, and decided to marry her and remain in the community. But the elders of the community insisted that he would never be “normal” unless he had those strange things he called “eyes” removed from his head. So he agreed to have his eyes surgically removed so he could meet their standard of normalcy and marry the love of his life.
As the day approached for the man to have his surgery, he became more and more distressed over the prospect of being blind. When the day of the surgery arrived, the man went outside and saw the early morning sun on the mountains and shining brightly on the flowers of the community—and he realized that he couldn’t go through with it. He searched for an opening in the mountains, found a path, and returned to the civilization of sighted people.
In a country full of blind people, those who can see are classified as abnormal and foolish. The disease that brought blindness to the children of the citizens of the country of the blind was long forgotten. As a result, blindness was accepted as the norm for all of its citizens. Spiritually, you and I live in the country of the blind. The Bible says that it is sin that has rendered us sightless, oblivious to God, the most real of all realities. In our study for today we will learn that Jesus has come into our valley, sent from the Father, to restore our sight, but we have rejected Him. Let’s see what we can learn from our Scripture for today. Go back with me to John 1:9 and let’s read together.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9 NIV)
Jesus is the true light. One of the most rewarding times I’ve spent in ministry was working with Dr. David Darnell. He taught me so much about God’s Word. I’ve never known anyone who had as much of God’s Word tucked away in their heart as Dr. Darnell. He taught me the Hebrew and Greek languages, the two greatest tools I’ve ever been given to study God’s Word, and he taught me the importance of learning from those outside of our faith.
In my first year of seminary I decided I couldn’t do it any longer so I called my pastor and said, “I quit. I can coach football and share Jesus with kids, but I can’t do this seminary stuff.” He drove to Ft. Worth and then took me to Plano, TX. where I met Dr. Darnell. By the end of our conversation Dr. Darnell had convinced me to go back to seminary and to come to work with him in Plano. It wasn’t that he agreed with everything they were teaching at the seminary I attended, but he told me, “Mike, when you get out in the real world you are going to be around all kinds of people who believe everything under the sun. You need to know not only ‘what’ you believe, but ‘why’ you believe it. So, you go read their books and then when you come to Plano to work with me, I will give you other books to read.” I received the best education I could have ever received.
I can remember having conversations with Dr. Darnell about other religions, philosophers, and popular teachers. I was very critical of them. I tried to dismiss any wisdom or truth which was outside of the Bible, but Dr. Darnell challenged me. I will never forget one thing he said to me. Dr. Darnell said, “If you walked into a dark movie theater and someone said, ‘give me some light.’ The people would pull out matches, lighters, and flashlights and the place wouldn’t be dark any more. Then, suddenly someone flips the light switch…all of the other lights would fade away. Jesus is the light switch, the true light, and any other ‘light’ that we experience is still “light,” but it’s not THE Light.” That made perfect sense to me and I hope it speaks to you. Let me give you an example of what Dr. Darnell was trying to teach me.
Mahatma Gandhi was a great liberator of the Indian people and a lifelong practitioner of Hinduism. Hinduism has more gods and goddesses than the sands on the seashore. There is no way possible to reconcile Christianity and Hinduism. Anyone who says that all religions are basically the same has never studied Christianity and Hinduism side-by-side. Does this mean that there is no truth in anything that Mahatma Ghandi ever said? No, it doesn’t mean that all. Let me show you what I’m talking about.
Mahatma Ghandi often spoke about compassion and serving those around us. He said, “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.” Now, we know that Ghandi wasn’t the Messiah, he wasn’t THE light, but is there truth in the quote I just shared with you? What Ghandi said reminds me of another bit of wisdom I heard.
Jesus was talking to His disciples one day about the way the rulers of the Gentiles exerted their authority in ruling their people. It was strictly power and intimidation. Jesus turned to His disciples and said,
26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV)
Jesus said, “If you want to become great then you need to become a servant.” By living a life of selfless service we are reflecting the true Light who came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
My point is this: Any truth or light that you and I experience in this world, no matter from whom we hear it or where we experience it, it is merely a “little light” that finds its fulfillment in THE Light. James Montgomery Boice says,
The world’s lights are not necessarily false lights. But they are imperfect lights. They are partial. They do not provide that which men most need for the satisfaction of the inner hunger of their souls. John is saying that the place where men and women can find adequate illumination about themselves and about life under the eye of an almighty and righteous God is Jesus. We are to look to him. Those who will do that will find that He is the One able to guide them through the darkest night, who will enable them to distinguish between the lights that are better and the lights that are worse, and who will cause them to grow spiritually and in every other way. (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John. Vol. 1. pg. 59)
John tells us that Jesus is the true light that gives light to everyone. This doesn’t mean that everyone receives the light, but it does tell us that God has made Himself known to all people. Paul told the folks in Rome,
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20 NIV)
We are without excuse. God has made Himself known through what He has made. What we are talking about this morning, with the coming of the Light into the world, is the culmination of the self-revelation of God through Jesus, the Light of the world. And how did humanity respond? John tells us in John 1:10-11.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)
What a tragic reality. God incarnate not recognized for who He was? How could it be? The Creator of the Universe, the One who fashioned every living being, mistaken for someone else? How could it happen? God not only designed His creation to point us beyond ourselves, but He also sent His prophets to foretell of the Coming One. The whole sacrificial system of the Temple paved the way for the Perfect Sacrifice who would once and for all time take away the sins of God’s people. How could they have missed Him? I believe there are at least two answers to the question.
The Unwanted Light
Both of the answers as to how we could miss the Light are tied to Scripture. The first Scripture I want to share with you is found in John 3:19. Jesus is teaching His followers when He says,
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20 NIV)
The Light came into the world, but He exposed, and continues to expose, our ungodly ways so we turn away. We want our way of life and not His way of life so we try to ignore Him, we deny that there is any Light, and we rebel against that which we know deep in our hearts to be true.
What is tragically fascinating about this reality is this: When we turn away from the Light and live in the darkness of our own design it gets ugly. That’s not new news. We’ve heard of stories, we’ve seen the effects in our life, but we continue to turn away from the light in order that we might do that which we want to do. The Bible teaches that there is pleasure in sin for a season, but the seasons change. A life without God will inevitably take us places we really don’t want to go.
There is an ongoing discussion in our society about the relationship of God and evil. Where is God when evil strikes? How can you say that God cares about us when innocents die as a gunmen barges into a school and kills kids and their teachers? Is God powerless to stop the atrocities that take place every day around the world?
There’s an old story about some Jewish concentration camp prisoners who put God on trial as they were awaiting their execution. They wanted to determine if God was guilty of the suffering of the world. The story has been turned into a movie called, God On Trial. In the movie the accusers are from all walks of life and they are to executed the next day. There’s a rabbi, a professor, doctor, glove maker, criminal, and others. The accusers chronicle the long history of suffering by the Jewish people and the current suffering of European Jews in Hitler’s extermination camps. Some witnesses say that God is working out a purifying mystery in the Jewish people. Some say that God has broken His covenant and no longer cares for His Chosen People. When the verdict is read, God is found guilty of all charges. As they enter the gas chambers one of them asks another “What do we do now that we found God guilty?” His friend answers: “Now we pray.”
It is a powerful ending that shows us that even when our understandings of God fail us we still need something, Someone, to hold onto. The bigger issue for me is this: What do you expect? What can you expect when you excuse God from society and write your own rules? People have been, continue to be, and will always be sinners who have an innate propensity to seek what they want rather than to be a blessing, even if it means the humiliation, subjugation, oppression, or annihilation of others. What do you expect? We think we would rather live in the dark so we turn away from the Light…and eventually the darkness overwhelms and crushes us.
The Deception of the Enemy
There is a second reason why we fail to recognize, or know, the One who is the Light and it is found in Scripture as well. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIV)
We are easily misled and deceived are we not? Just as Eve was misled by Satan in the Garden of Eden so are we misled and deceived. The enemy can take what God said and put a twist on it, shade the truth, bend the truth, take something God created for good and make it into something God never intended for it to become so that it becomes destructive, and before you know it we find ourselves in places we never dreamed we would be. When Christ comes into our lives He delivers from this kind of deception. Paul wrote,
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:3-5 NIV)
Because of the Fall we are totally incapable of discerning spiritual truth. There are lots of folks who are on television and make a good living defending the premise that we are victims…and they are partly right. We are defenseless, apart from Christ, against the deceptive tactics of Satan, who the Bible tells us, “masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
John also tells us, in John 1:11, that Jesus came to His own, but His own didn’t receive Him either. The God who came to rescue us–His alienated, enslaved people was rejected. The Roman authorities turned their back on Him. The Jews rejected Him. The crowd that gathered before Pilate jeered Him and called for the release of Barabbas over the One who gave them life. Those who had followed Him for three years, who had sat at His feet, and claimed that they would never desert Him, did. Only John followed Him to the cross. Before Jesus went to the cross He stood overlooking the city of Jerusalem and wept. As He wept, the rejected Savior spoke over the city and said,
42 … “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44 NIV)
Is there any more tragic picture in all of God’s Word? And yet, not all rejected Him. Some believed. They weren’t those who fit the profile. John tells us,
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV)
Becoming a “child of God” is not a matter of heredity, neither is it a will of the flesh, and neither does the new birth take place because of the powers of persuasion of some smooth-talking preacher—it is the work of God.
God is working on someone’s heart this very morning. Everything that has ever happened in your life, the good as well as the painful, have all taken place to bring you to this very place this morning. Now, the question is, will you receive Him? Will you continue to run from the Light? Will you continue to desire the darkness rather than the fellowship of the Light? You know that you’ve been running for far too long, you know that you’ve seen His Sovereign hand at work in your life in times past, and you know that He is calling you this very morning. Will you receive Him and experience the new birth that only He can bring about? Won’t you come?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 17, 2013