1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NIV)
We’ve barely begun our study of John’s Gospel and yet we’ve learned so much. We learned in our last study that Jesus is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity and He is God. Not a great teacher, although He was that, but He is God. Not a compassionate healer, although He was that, but He is God. Not one of the “ways to God,” but He is God. Those are powerful lessons for us to learn in a day like ours when so many in our society, and even in the Body of Christ, see Jesus as little more than one of the religious leaders of history.
In our lesson today we are going to learn even more astounding truths about Jesus that I pray will have a profound effect upon each and every one of us. Some of us who are here this morning have never surrendered our lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life. I’ve been praying this week that the Lord would use this lesson to open our eyes to the glory and power of our Savior, and as a result, draw us to Himself. There are others of us here this morning who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we go to church occasionally, or even frequently, but there’s really not much evidence of His life in ours throughout the week. I’ve been praying that the Lord would use this lesson to transform us from what we are into what He desires for us to be—passionate followers, modern-day missionaries of the Savior in our community.
We’ve taken a look at John 1:1-2 so we are going to begin our study this morning in John 1:3. Let’s read that verse together. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3 NIV) John’s statement sums up all that we learn in Genesis 1. Over and over again in Genesis 1 we read, “And God said…” Nine times in Genesis 1 we read, “God said…” and when God spoke it was so. Our God is creative and in John 1:3 we learn that His Agent of creation is the Word, Jesus. John isn’t the only biblical author who taught that everything in all of creation was made by Jesus. Paul wrote to the people of Colosse and shared the same truth with them when he wrote,
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)
“In him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” The author of Hebrews echoes the same truth when he wrote,
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)
Scientists continue to search and try to find out how this vast universe came into being. Just recently they’ve discovered what they call the “God particle,” the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that they think explains why all matter has mass. Some scientists even believe that the Higgs boson could have been the spark to the Big Bang of Creation. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and professor at City College of New York. He wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal in July of 2012 in which he said,
In quantum physics, it was a Higgs-like particle that sparked the cosmic explosion [the Big Bang]. In other words, everything we see around us, including galaxies, stars, planets and us, owes its existence to the Higgs boson. (Kaku, M. The Spark That Caused the Big Bang. The Wall Street Journal. Posted on online.wsj.com July 5, 2012, accessed July 9, 2012.)
We owe our existence to the Higgs boson? Really? That’s not what Scripture teaches. We, who believe Scripture, know that we owe our existence to the One through whom the entire universe was made. How we got here, and how all of creation came to be, is one of the consuming questions that people have been seeking answers to throughout human history. How you answer these questions will profoundly impact how you view all of life. Let me give you a couple of examples. Dr. William Provine is an evolutionary biologist and taught at Cornell University for many years. He said,
Let me summarize my views on modern evolutionary theory. Let me summarize my theory on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. There are no gods, there are no purposes, there are no goal directed purposes of any kind. There’s no life after death. When I die, I’m absolutely certain that I’ll be dead. That’s the end of me. There’s no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and there’s no free will for human beings either. (William Provine)
No purpose. No ultimate foundation for ethics. No ultimate meaning in life. I would say that all of these statements about the emptiness and meaninglessness of life made by Dr. Provine have come about because he has embraced evolutionary biology as his ultimate truth in life.
Dr. Richard Dawkins is also an evolutionary biologist and prolific author. He has taught at the University of California, Berkeley and at Oxford University. He is part of a very evangelistic group of folks called the “New Athiests.” Dr. Dawkins wrote in his book, River Out of Eden,
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. (Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden.)
So many of those who probe the depths of space, who observe the worlds that can only be seen under super high powered microscopes, and who seek to understand other aspects of the natural world have come to the conclusion that there’s no order, no meaning, and nothing more than “blind pitiless indifference.” And yet, we read in God’s Word,
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2 NIV)
Paul tells us, in his letter to the church in Rome, that we can’t say, “I didn’t know there was a God. If I had known then I would have responded.” We don’t have an excuse because God has revealed Himself to us through His creation. Paul writes,
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 1:20 NIV)
We can see God’s mighty power and His divine nature through what He has made. Seeing God’s glory and power in creation use to serve as a great source of inspiration for people in ages gone by. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Robert Boyle lived in the 1600’s and was a chemist, physicist, inventor, and a passionate student of God’s Word. He devoted much of his efforts to proving that it was possible for a committed Christian to be a respected scientist. He was adamant that the world revealed by scientific study testified unequivocally to divine wisdom. In 1681 he wrote, A Discourse of Things Above Reason, in which he sought to show that the attributes of God can be seen by studying nature scientifically and that God’s wisdom is observed in creation. He wrote,
When with bold telescopes I survey the old and newly discovered stars and planets when with excellent microscopes I discern the unimitable subtility of nature’s curious workmanship; and when, in a word, by the help of anatomical knives, and the light of chymical furnaces, I study the book of nature I find myself oftentimes reduced to exclaim with the Psalmist, How manifold are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all! (Boyle, Robert. A Discourse of Things Above Reason.)
Another great example is one of the greatest scientific minds of the twentieth century, George Washington Carver. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the agricultural economy of the South was hit hard because boll weevils were destroying cotton crops. Cotton was depleting the soil of its nutrients so Dr. Carver introduced crop rotation to the farmers. He suggested farmers plant peanuts. The farmer’s peanut harvest was huge, but there was no market for peanuts. The farmers complained to Dr. Carver and so he prayed and asked God for answers. Dr. Carver use to get up about 4 am and take a walk in the woods where he would pray for God to reveal to him the secrets of nature. These are Dr. Carver’s own words about a conversation he had with the Lord.
I said, “Lord, why did you make the universe?” The Lord replied, “Ask for something more in proportion to that little mind of yours.” “Then why did you make the earth, Lord?” I asked. “Your little mind still wants to know far too much,” replied God. “Why did you make man, Lord?” I asked. “Far too much. Far too much. Ask again,” replied God. “Explain to me why you made plants, Lord,” I asked. “Your little mind still wants to know far too much.” So I meekly asked, “Lord, why did you make the peanut?” And the Lord said, “For the modest proportions of your mind, I will grant you the mystery of the peanut. Take it inside your laboratory and separate it into water, fats, oils, gums, resins, sugars, starches and amino acids. Then recombine these under my three laws of compatibility, temperature and pressure. Then you will know why I made the peanut.” (George Washington Carver)
On January 20, 1921, Dr. Carver testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the United Peanut Association of America. The chairman, Joseph Fordney of Michigan, told him he had ten minutes. An hour and forty minutes later, the committee told George Washington Carver he could come back anytime he wanted. Carver mesmerized the committee by demonstrating dozens of uses for the peanut. In the end Dr. Carver discovered more than three hundred uses for the peanut. Or maybe I should say, the Lord revealed more than three hundred uses.
The reason I’ve taken the time to share these stories with you is this: There is a reason why Dr. Provine and Dr. Dawkins find no meaning and no purpose in the cosmos or in life in general—they have denied the existence of the Creator. There is a reason why scientists like Robert Boyle and Dr. Carver found such meaning and purpose in creation and in life—they went to the Creator for answers. Like Dr. Carver and Robert Boyle, if we want answers about purpose and meaning then we must go to the Creator. John tells us,
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NIV)
Here, in verse 4, we run into the one of the key words in John’s Gospel, the word “life.” The Greek word that is translated, “life,” is the word, “???” (dzo-ay’), and it means, “life, full of vitality and animate.” The word appears 36 times in John’s Gospel and from it we learn that Jesus Christ, the Creator, provides physical life for all. Jesus Christ the Redeemer provides spiritual life. Jesus Christ the Savior provides eternal life. He is the Life-Giver. All that moves and breathes and is alive draws their life from Him, but the Life-Giver does far more than give physical life. Those who will trust in Him, surrender their lives to Him, will draw from Him life that those who are merely living can’t know.
Life is far more than possessing a pulse my friends. The Bible teaches that when we are born, we are born spiritually dead. At birth there is no spiritual life in us whatsoever because of our sin nature. We can see this in Ephesians 2:1-5. Read along with me.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV)
Did you see that? God “made us alive.” And how did He do this? How did He bring life to spiritually lifeless beings? He “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Jesus is the source of life, He is the source of spiritual life as He reconciles us to God and animates us towards the ways and will of God, and Jesus is the source of eternal life. In John 11:25-26 Jesus was speaking to Martha about her brother Lazarus who had died. We read,
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV)
John goes on to tell us that Jesus’ “life was the light of all mankind.” Jesus’ life is the light that enables us to see in this spiritually darkened world. The first sign of God’s creative work in the Book of Genesis is light. God created the heavens and the earth, but it was formless and void, it was chaotic, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. Then God said, “Let there be light.” From that time on God’s creative activity could be seen. I would suggest that the first sign of the second, or new creation, is light. For those who find life in Jesus, His life is the light of life. Stop and think with me for a minute. Just because the rods and cones in your eyes are functioning properly doesn’t mean that you can see. I learned this powerful lesson one summer when I was a counselor at Kanakuk Kamp. We took a group of kids to the “100 yard cave.” To get to the cave we had to crawl on our stomachs for what seemed like forever. It was a tiny opening. I’d never been in that situation before, but we had flashlights to illuminate the tiny passageway. Once we got to the 100 yard cave one-by-one we stood up and looked around. We were told to turn off all of the flashlights. You literally couldn’t see your hand right in front of your face. It wasn’t that we had lost the ability to see, we could still see, but the darkness was so was thick, and there was a total absence of light, so we were in utter darkness. Then Joe told us to turn our flashlights on. The entire cave was lit up and we could see everything and everyone in the cave. And so it is with life. In a darkened world it is impossible to see as God desires for us to see unless Jesus, the light of life, enables us to see.
Just as light dispels the physical darkness, the light of Jesus dispels the darkness of sin, falsehood, and evil in our lives. Before Jesus opens our eyes and enables us to see the waywardness of our understanding and life we are stumbling around in the dark. You may be brilliant intellectually, you might make great grades in school, but you will fail miserably in your understanding of God’s ways apart from the light of Jesus that will enable you to see as God desires for you to see. We read in Ephesians 4:17-18,
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephesians 4:17-18 NIV)
Last of all, John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5 NIV) Oftentimes in Scripture “light” is equated with Jesus, all that is good, and holiness. “Darkness” is equated with Satan, evil, and ungodliness. It is interesting to me that even those who refuse to acknowledge God and submit to His ways, have their own sense of what “darkness” is in this world. This past week, when the bombing at the Boston Marathon took place, I heard commentator after commentator remark about the senseless evil of the event. On Tuesday, April 16, a headline in the LA Times read, “Boston Marathon Bombing Proves Evil Never Leaves Us in Peace.” They struggle to define the source of the evil. They equate it with all kinds of deficiencies they say contribute to psychotic behavior, but we know that apart from God there is no limit to the depths to which humanity will sink.
On the night of the bombing I told Connie, “Whenever an event like this happens there are always people who want to draw God into the conversation. They say, ‘Where was God when the bomb went off? If God cares about us then why do these things happen?’” I said, “The truth is that for those who have truly surrendered their lives to Jesus, God is a restraining force on the evil that resides in every human heart.” It’s not that I no longer think about doing or saying ungodly things like I did before I came to know Jesus, before He opened my eyes and brought me to life, but now His Word and His Spirit are present to restrain me when I heed their warning.
Before we go this morning let me tell you that Jesus changes everything. He brings life, meaning, and purpose to every heart that He enters. He opens the blind eyes of those who see with 20/20 vision so they might see as God desires for them to see. He changes everything. Before we come to know Jesus we are doing the best we can, but the truth of the matter is that we make a mess of life because we don’t know who we are or where we are going, but once we come to know Jesus, He gives our lives purpose and direction—we know whose we are and we know where we are going. I’m reminded of a story I heard about Billy Graham a few years ago.
Several years ago, some of the community leaders of Charlotte, North Carolina, invited Billy to come and let them honor him at a luncheon. Billy’s Parkinson’s was really progressing so he was hesitant to go, but finally agreed. There were several speakers who stood and spoke of how Dr. Graham had impacted their lives and then Dr. Graham was helped to the podium. He looked at the crowd and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time Magazine as the Man of the Century.” He followed with a story about Einstein: Billy said, “As the wild-haired astrophysicist was once traveling by train from Princeton, New Jersey, the conductor came down the aisle, punching passengers’ tickets. When he came to Einstein, the great man reached into his vest and trouser pockets, but he pulled out no ticket. He then looked in his briefcase – still, no ticket. It wasn’t in the seat beside him, either. The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.” Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued punching tickets down the aisle, and as he was about to move to the next car, he noticed Einstein down on his hands and knees, searching under his seat. The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry, I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.” The crowd laughed and Billy paused before he continued. He said, “See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand-new suit. My children and grandchildren tell me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear the news that I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.”
Dr. Graham knows the answers to two of the most important questions facing us as people—“Who am I? Where am I going?” If you will surrender your life to Jesus this morning then He will provide the answers for you and you, like Dr. Graham, will know who you are—you are a child of the King; and you will know where you are going—you will have direction and purpose in this life and live with the assurance of eternal life with the Father. Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart this morning?
Britton Christian Church
April 21, 2013