Monday, December 18, 2017

Grace and Truth

Part 3 of God Incarnate

Text: John 1:17

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). 

God in Human Flesh

What’s the big deal about the birth of Jesus? It’s a big deal because Jesus was none other than God in human flesh! “The Word [i.e., Jesus] was God” (John 1:1). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). The firstborn son of Mary was none other than God in human flesh! The baby that the shepherds found lying in a manger was none other than God in human flesh!

Who God Is

In Exodus 33, Moses wants assurance from God that his presence will remain with him and the Israelites. So he says to God, “Please show me your glory” (v. 18). God replies, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, ‘The LORD’” (v. 19). The next day on Mount Sinai,
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 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” (Exod. 34:5-6). 
In the original Hebrew, “LORD” is Yahweh. Yahweh is God’s name. (God’s name isn’t God, just like my name isn’t man.) When God proclaims to Moses his name, he tells Moses who he is—not what he is, but who he is (i.e., his “goodness”). Yahweh is a God who abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. “Steadfast love” is unwavering or loyal love. “Faithfulness” means to be true to one’s word, reliable.

God Isn't Like Jonah

When God told the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah refused. Why? Because he knew the character of God (i.e., who God is). He knew that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would spare them. And Jonah didn’t want that to happen. But that’s what did happen, and Jonah wasn’t happy about it. “It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1). So he complained to God:
“O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (v. 2). 
Jonah hoped that God would change his mind about sparing Nineveh, so he went outside the city and sat down and waited. Where he was sitting there, God caused a plant to grow up beside him. The plant provided shade for Jonah, and Jonah was happy. But then a worm came along and destroyed the plant, and Jonah was angry. God rebuked Jonah for not caring more about the plant than the people of Nineveh:
“You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120,000 persons…” (vv. 10-11). 
Thankfully God isn’t like Jonah! Thankfully he abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness! He cares about people. Do we?

What God Did

What did John mean when he said that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v. 17)? “Grace and truth” are John’s way of saying “steadfast love and faithfulness.” D. A. Carson writes, “This pair of expressions [‘steadfast love and faithfulness’] recurs again and again in the Old Testament. The two words that John uses, ‘full of grace and truth,’ are his ways of summing up the same ideas” (The Gospel According to John, 129).

Through the Word (i.e., Jesus) God spoke to Israel (and to us). He proclaimed to us that he is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness, grace and truth. Israel’s Messiah had been born! God still loved them! He kept his promise!

Who you are (i.e., your character) affects what you do. God did what he did because he is who he is. Jesus came to us because God is a God who has a heart full of steadfast love and faithfulness. Jesus is the Father’s “only [i.e., beloved] Son” (v. 14). We have broken the law that was given through Moses (v. 17), but “God so loved the world [i.e., us], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). In the cross we see mankind’s hatred for God and God’s love for mankind.

Don't Forget Who God Is

Whenever we start to doubt God—his love for us or his promises to us—we should hear him say, “This is me, Yahweh…Yahweh. You know you can trust me. I abound is steadfast love and faithfulness. I am full of grace and truth. Don’t doubt.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Glory of God

Part 2 of God Incarnate

Text: John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 

What's the Big Deal?

What’s the big deal about the birth of Jesus? It’s a big deal because Jesus was none other than God in human flesh! The baby lying in the manger was none other than God in human flesh!
Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies. 
In John 1:1-18, Jesus is called “the Word.” Why? As we can tell others who we are by our words, God has told us who he is by the Word, Jesus—God in human flesh.

We Have Seen His Glory

John writes, “We have seen his glory.” “Glory” in this context means brightness, splendour, or greatness. “Glory” is used this way when it’s said, “Let’s plug the lights in and see the Christmas tree in all its glory.” John wants us to think of the experiences of the Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness (found in the book of Exodus). On Mount Sinai, Moses said to God, “Please show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18).

It was God’s plan for his glorious presence to dwell with his people. God told Moses, “Let them make me a sanctuary [i.e., the tabernacle], that I may dwell in their midst” (Exod. 25:8).” After the tabernacle was made, “The glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34). As God dwelt with the Israelites in the wilderness, John says that the Word “dwelt (skenoo) among us.” A more literal translation skenoo is “pitched his tent” or “tabernacled.” As the Israelites saw the glory of God when God dwelt among them, John and the other apostles saw the glory of God when Jesus dwelt among them. “We have seen his glory.” How did they see the glory of God?

The Glory of the Cross

Jesus once said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). How would he be glorified? Jesus also said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people [i.e., all kinds of people] to myself” (John 12:32). John adds, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (v. 33).

When Jesus was crucified, he was literally “lifted up.” Another meaning of “lifted up” is “glorified.” Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah foretold that the servant of the Lord (i.e., Jesus) would be “lifted up”: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Isa. 52:13). The next verse says, “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (v. 14).

The cross displays for us the glory of God. How? When you go to a funeral for a person who was greatly admired, do you hear much talk about the dead person’s beauty? No. Usually the characteristics that are most praised are the person’s humility, generosity, kindness, and sacrificial love. Those are the characteristics that we see when we look at the cross (if we believe that Jesus is God in human flesh). That’s how we see the glory of God in the cross. That’s how John saw the glory of God in Jesus.

Do They See the Glory of God in Us?

Do our lives bring glory to God? “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor. 6:19). “So glorify God in your body” (v. 20) How can our lives bring glory to God? Be like Jesus.

Monday, December 4, 2017

God With Us

Part 1 of God Incarnate

Text: John 1:1, 14a

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14a). 

Who Was Jesus?

Most people know that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. But who was Jesus? There isn’t a more important question than this one. How often do we stop to think about the identity of the baby in the manger? The Gospel of John begins with an amazing claim about Jesus: Jesus was none other than God in human flesh! The baby in the manger was none other than God in human flesh!

The Word Became Flesh

“The Word” is Jesus. In verses 1 and 14, John says five things about Jesus.
  1. Jesus “was in the beginning.” The Gospel of John begins at the beginning. Before the uni-verse existed, Jesus existed. 
  2. Jesus “was with God.” This means that Jesus enjoyed a relationship with God. 
  3. Jesus “was God.” He is not a god; he is God. How can Jesus be with God and also be God? Though there is only one God, God exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is God (the Son), and was “with” the Father and the Spirit. 
  4. Jesus “became flesh.” Jesus was not always human. He became human when we was miraculously conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. Jesus in God incarnate (i.e., God in human flesh). 
  5. Jesus “dwelt among us.” Joseph was told that Mary’s baby boy would be called Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). 
Why is Jesus called the Word? Think about why we use words. We use words to express ourselves (i.e., reveal to people who were are). When someone says to us, “Tell me about yourself,” we use words to reveal who we are. We also use words to get things done. If we’re eating at a table with others, and we can’t reach the pepper, we use words to get the pepper: “Please pass me the pepper.” When Jesus, the Word, lived among us, he revealed to us who God is and accomplished for us what we most needed. In the words of Linus van Pelt, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”