God & Man (John 1:1-14)

December 24, 2023 morning | Brandon Cooper
Brandon Cooper preached a Christmas Eve sermon focusing on John 1:1-14. God became human through Jesus Christ in order to bring humanity back to God. Humanity rejects God and tries to be autonomous instead of relying on our Creator, leading to spiritual corruption and impotence. We cannot save ourselves through moral or religious efforts but must receive salvation through faith in Jesus, who died for our sins. Believing in Jesus involves actively trusting in him as our Savior and physician rather than passively receiving him.


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Good morning church and Merry Christmas to you. You want to go ahead and grab your Bibles. We will be in John chapter one this morning, John chapter one. If you’re in the pew Bible that is on page 860, I would definitely encourage you to grab a bible of some sort, at least an open John one, it’s very important that you are looking at the text with me so that you see that what I’m saying this morning is not my words, but the words of God Himself for us. By the way, if you don’t have a Bible of any sort, that pew Bible in front of you, that’s our gift to you. So Merry Christmas, take it home with you, we would love for you to have that. Speaking of Christmas, though, I know that for a lot of us, one of our Christmas traditions is watching some classic Christmas movies. And we can talk about which ones later. That’s a different story. But one of them of course, more recent classic, but kind of an instant classic was elf. In fact, our power went out this morning at like 530. So we were all up bright and early. And so some of the kids got to watch elf actually, just this morning. What happens in L for Walter Hobbs? He’s kind of the bad guy, right. He’s buddy’s dad, and he’s got a problem at work, he needs to get a new book idea by Christmas Eve or that’s it like he’s getting axed at his publishing house. So he’s desperate to find a solution go so far as to spend quite a bit of money to hire a top author to come in and pitch some ideas. But that’s not what saves him. Of course, there is an unexpected solution to his problem in the form of an unexpected son, who reminds him of what matters most. He was not looking for spiritual or relational salvation, right. He was just looking for vocational salvation, but but he got all that deeper stuff. Instead, of course, he gets the book as well. Although it takes a different turn than he expected. I won’t spoil the whole movie for you. Why I mentioned this, though, of course, this is remarkably similar to the actual Christmas story as well. That is, there’s a group of people with a problem, the first century Jewish people, and their problem is Rome, the fact that Rome is oppressing them, they don’t have a nation of their own any longer. So there’s a group of people with a problem who are desperate for a solution. And they know what the solution should look like. It should be a military King, who is there to throw off the Roman yoke and restore Israel to its former glory, like what it had under King David, but they get an unexpected solution in the form of an unexpected son. And he doesn’t solve the surface problem for them. In fact, they stay under Roman oppression gets worse even. But he solves the deeper problem, the salvation they weren’t looking for is what he brings as a result a little bit like buddy, the elf, he’s rejected by the people he’s come to save, because he didn’t do what they wanted him to do. Of course, this is still true of us today to that we also have problems pick your problem. I don’t know where you are this morning, specifically, but everybody’s got some sort of problem right now might be financial, might be physical, might be relational, might be a mental health issue. But we could be in danger of missing the salvation that God is bringing, because we just want help with our problem. And so this Christmas Eve, I want us to lean into the unexpectedness of it all, that we have an unexpected Savior bringing an unexpected salvation. We see it in the prologue to John’s Gospel. Now, John’s Gospel begins not with the manger, and the wise men and all that so some of the you know nativity scene that’s not here, John’s giving us more of a cosmic view of what’s happening, but he’s gonna give us the most unexpected information of all which is that this baby, frail, helpless, lying in a manger is actually God Himself. And that’s me really key. So here’s the idea that we’re going to unpack as we go this morning. Main idea from the passage, God became human. That was the most unexpected part, right? God became a human so that humanity could come back to God, God became human so that humanity could come back to God. And as I said, we’ll unpack that as we go. But for now, let’s read the passage just as John chapter one, verses one to 14. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning of through him all things were made. without Him nothing was made that has been made in Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John, He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe he himself was not the light, he came only as a witness to the light, the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, another world was made through him, the world did not recognize him, he came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born out of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God, the Word became flesh, and they just dwelling among us, we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only Son who came from the Father full of grace and truth. So God became human so that humanity could come back to God. Let’s start with that first bit, God, God, because John’s Gospel begins with in the beginning, and that’s meant to take us back to the beginning of the Bible as a whole genesis one, verse one in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. So we are talking about that creation moment. And of course, at creation, only God is present, nothing else exists. There’s no elemental forces or anything like that. It’s just God, except here we learned in John’s Gospel that the word was present to in the beginning was the word word was with God, the Word was God. That word word by the logos in Greek, it’s God’s message for the world. It’s what explains it all. The Greeks talked a lot about this, but they assumed it was some kind of impersonal idea, whereas we learn now that it is a person, a person who is with God in the beginning, and who is God. If we look closely at verses one to five, we’re gonna see all sorts of implications to this. And what do we learn about this word, Jesus? Well, we learned that he is God, the Word was God. And He is God alone, which is interesting. It’s singular. It doesn’t say he was a god, you know, like God was there and the Word was with God. So now we got like two people, but the Word was God. And so there’s only one person that gets complicated. Talk about unexpected, that would be the doctrine of the Trinity. We’re not getting into that this morning, though. Okay, so he is God. And He alone is God, He is eternal, because he is there in the beginning. He is timeless. In fact, we read in Psalm 90, from everlasting to everlasting you are God, at every moment, you are God, and He is Creator. He creates all of this from nothing. We read that in verse three through Him, all things were made without him, nothing was made that has been made. So anything that exists apart from God, Jesus made. And then by implication, he is King and sovereign. You see it in verses 10 and 11. He was in the world, the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him, he came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. They belong to him, he’s able to rule that which he created, because if you make it, it’s yours. That’s how the rules work. So if you had a little cookie decorating party, and you decorate your cookie, you make it just right with the candies you want and all that stuff, and somebody else eats it. You know that this is a crime against humanity, because you made it and so it’s yours. Jesus made us and so we are his he is our king, and sovereign. Jesus has also called the light in verse five, the light that conquers the darkness. And so we see His power, and his purity, light, often a symbol of holiness. We see His revelation as well that we can now see as a result of his being with us, Jesus is God. He is the eternal Creator. He is our king, however unexpected. He is the famous words of Isaiah chapter nine, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace. If we stopped there, we would have abundant reason to praise Him. But not to celebrate Christmas, and maybe not to celebrate it all, actually, as we’ll see in a moment, but it doesn’t stop there. So let’s keep going in our sentence. So we got God one word so far, God became human, so that humanity could come back to God let’s look at that became human piece of it all God became human. It’s right there. In verse 14, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
So look at what just happened. He who always was became that’s shocking, wholly unexpected, the eternal enters time. The Infinite is bound by space, the all powerful is now in the form of a frail infant. The all knowing has to learn how to walk and talk. The holy of a holy ease is placed in a common feeding trough can’t think of many items more profane than that the glorious is born into obscurity and our King comes in abject poverty subject to another king. Here’s the way the church fathers Roma put it centuries ago to save us God’s son becomes the Son of Man. He awaits his birth for nine months in the womb where he experiences the most degrading conditions and then comes out to spattered with blood to be wrapped in rags and smothered and human caresses. He who contains the world in his fist, is contained in the constricted confines of a feeding trough. Talk about unexpected, and this defies expectation that God would become man. GK Chesterton, great British wit and kind of amateur theologian put it like this all these years ago the importance of this doctrine, he says, Christ is not a being apart from God and man, like an elf. He’s not like something different. He’s not yet being half human and half god, like a centaur half human and half not but both things at once and both things very thoroughly very man, and very God. This is the most unexpected truth of all, no one was ever expecting this. Although we should have been, we should have been expecting this. Is there even an passage that my daughter read for us this morning? Micah five verse two, but you Bethlehem the fact that you are small among the clans of Judah out of you will come from anyone who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. There’s the unexpectedness again, here, we’re gonna have somebody coming out of Bethlehem, someone who has not yet who’s going to come out of battle may be born in Bethlehem, and yet his origins are from ancient days. So someone who is going to be born and yet He is eternal. That only makes sense. By the way, with John chapter one, it only makes sense in light of Jesus. Otherwise, this prophecy makes no sense it all mature, this is how Micah’s audience would have heard this or what they would have been thinking maybe even Micah himself would have pictured a military leader like David like that was the expectation. That was the salvation that everyone was expecting. Because like Walter Hobbs, they’ve got this urgent problem, and they need somebody to fix that problem right there in front of them. So they weren’t paying attention to the deeper issues. Because you think about it if all Israel needed was military victory, the word didn’t need to become flesh. God has done this before. God didn’t need to become a man in order to throw off the Roman yoke. You think of Moses and Exodus, or Gideon with the Midianites. Or when Seneca rubs his Syrian armies wiped out in a night just by an act of God. God could easily send military victory in and expected even if miraculous, but unexpected, away. So why does God become man? It’s true for us to again if all we needed was help with a financial problem or a health problem, like if it’s just some money or some piece or some, you know, counseling in a relationship, and God doesn’t need to become man. So why why did God become human? Our unexpected Savior must be bringing an unexpected salvation. Let’s talk about that now. So God became human, so that humanity could come back to God, there’s the why so that humanity could come back to God. Salvation is the golden thread running through this passage. It’s right there in the abrupt transition from verse five to verse six, even we’ve got these you know, exalted terms for who Jesus is, and he’s the light of the world He’s shining in the darkness, the darkness is not overcome it, there was a man sent from God whose name was John. This cosmic story gets really provincial, all of a sudden, why? Why do we move from heaven to earth in the story, because God is sending a witness to testify to the light of the world. Witnesses, John the Baptist, by the way, we’ll talk about him next week when we’re in Matthew, chapter three is you can come back for that story. But you see the point God’s sending someone to testify because he wants us to know him. He’s making sure we understand who he is, and that, despite our rebellion, what the Bible calls sin. We already saw this in verse 11. He came to that which was his own but his or did not receive him. There’s the rebellion. We wanted nothing to do with him, even though we’re his because he made us. So this suggests that we should know God, we should recognize him. He made us were his we belong to Him. If that’s the case, then then entering into relationship with God would be a coming home, returning to where we should have been all along. I liked the way Eugene Peterson talks about this because he sometimes we kind of divide ourselves up into like spiritual types and not spiritual types. And if this passage is true, that doesn’t work. Here’s what Peterson says. He says, Biblical faith has always insisted that there are no special aptitudes for life with God, no required level of intelligence or degree of morality, no particular spiritual experience. The statement, I’m not the religious type is inadmissible. There are no religious types. There are only human beings, every one created for relationship with God. That’s personal, that eternal. Of course, it is, by the way, because our God is personal and eternal. But if this is true, what would we expect to see in us were made for God, and yet somehow don’t automatically receive Him, there would be a a restlessness in us, until we’re in relationship with him. We were made for Jesus. And if we don’t know him personally, we will be left with an aching, which we’re going to feel at some point, a thirst and we’re going to try and quench that thirst. But it’d be like taking a nice, cool glasses saltwater, it feels good going down, but leaves you thirstier at the end of it. It’s like opening up all of your Christmas presents. And very quickly discovering that that didn’t actually satisfy you. Which if you have kids, of course, you’ve seen it happens every year, right? Where it’s like three hours of bliss, and then it fades so very quickly. So it is with us, whether that’s a marriage or a career, or kids or whatnot, it never fully satisfies. But here’s the stumbling block. And this is the part we hate. Because there’s this sense in us that if God exists, and especially a God, like Jesus, who’s so kind and loving as he is, then we expect that this God should just love us as we are, like, just pinch our cheeks because we’re so cute. But that’s not what we read here. Because we didn’t receive him. We didn’t recognize him. And so what does it say? In verse 12, to those who would receive him to those who wouldn’t believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God. There’s a clear implication in that verse that isn’t fun to consider necessarily. But it means that you and I are not born children of God. Because we have to become children of God. And to do that we need to be born anew. We need to be born again to use Jesus’s words. Why is this? We got to head back to the garden to make sense of this the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve experienced perfect intimacy with God. They’re taking walks together in the cool of the afternoon, until the moment when Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be their own gods. They wanted to make the rules for themselves, and were Adam’s and Eve’s children. So we come into the world with that same desire baked into us like we are a hardwired for rebellion against God, the root issue is godlessness. I’m not going to acknowledge God because frankly, I think I could do this myself and maybe a little bit better. That means that sin when we talk about sin, it’s not a list of maybe what we would think of as regressive or outdated laws that we transgress or pleasures that we are denied. Sin is autonomy. Sin is making the rules for ourselves. Sin is creatures rejecting the Creator, which is a problem, by the way, if you’ve ever like made a gadget, you know, I don’t know, I’m not a gadget guy. But you know, like you write a computer program or something like that, and it doesn’t do what you want it to do. What do you do next? Delete the file. That’s what we rode. God should delete us because we’re creating creatures rejecting the Creator. We’re subjects rebelling against the king, which is treason.
Treason is not a good choice when kings are involved. Again, it’s not that we broke a law in the kingdom that would be trouble that might get us a fine or some jail time. No, it’s that we want the king dead so that we can rule in his place. We You do that in a kingdom, usually gallows are involved, right? Or large axes, and you can fill in the rest of yourself. So we got to acknowledge our guilt, or shame before this creator, this king. He is right to condemn us for our sin. That’s bad news. And then John just doubles down on it. Merry Christmas, the news gets worse before it gets better, because we are not only morally corrupt, but spiritually impotent. With the clear implication of the passage, especially verse 13, right, we’re going to become children of God, children born out of natural dissent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, if you want to have kids, right? Like usually parents kind of decide this. And even if you weren’t trying to decide that there was a decision that was made somewhere in that process still so that kids resolved. But that’s not how it works with spiritual birth. It’s not something we do, not something we choose. It’s something we receive and believe this might be even harder than acknowledging our sin, which is acknowledging that we can’t fix the mess that we’ve gotten into. We like to be in control. We don’t like asking for help. Like, how many times have you languished in a problem, because you just didn’t want to bother somebody. I see it all the time. Here’s a pastor, by the way, where people would be like, by the way, you know, the recovery from surgery went well. And I was like, what surgery? We don’t want to bother. We’re the church, we would love to pray for you in this process. You need help, we are willing to help you. But we don’t like to ask for help. We got this, you know, bootstrap mentality like good Americans. Here’s the way Tim Keller puts it. He says, We believe that with hard work, and our fastidious religious observance, we can repair our relationship with God, and even put him in a position where he can’t say no to us. And that’s the really dangerous part. Impossible, but dangerous, too. Because again, our root problem is wanting to be God. So trying to fix the problem on our own just exacerbates the problem, because now we’re not only playing God, but playing Savior to so I’m going to atone for my sins on my terms. That means I’m still God. So if I’m the problem, I can’t very well be the solution to not like that. Because there’s this moral effort that we put in to try to obligate God to us. So that he owes me this, I deserve it. I have earned it. That keeps me on the phone. And it fails. In its succeeding if you were to be really, really moral, really, really religious, you’ve actually gotten yourself farther away from God. Because you’re depending on yourself even more, it’s a little bit like being tangled up in something, the more you struggle, the more tangled you get, I saw this, uh, once I was fishing, and a duck swim into my line. And the duck got really tangled and I reeled the duck in. And I worked really hard to get the duck out of the line, the duck was none too pleased with me. The duck was fighting against me the whole time. And if you’ve ever tried to reason with an unreasonable creature, that’s parenting, first of all, but but that I would just wanted to tell the duck like if you hold still, I will get you out of this and the duck kept is squirming. That’s us. Of course, we need someone capital S to come and untangle us. So there’s some bad news there. Max Stiles in his book, The Truth About lies, he tells a couple stories about his father who’s an orthopedic surgeon. And he was he was a good one that he had a good bedside manner. In other words, so what he would do is he would sit someone down and say something like, Look, your hip is in very bad shape and left on its own. Pretty soon you will not be able to walk anymore. And just kind of let that truth sink in. And that’s that was hard to hear, of course. But then he’d interject, but but, you know, with surgery, we can replace the joint, you’re gonna be better than new at that point. So you moved from the bad news to the good news. You got to let the bad news sink in so that the good news is received for the good news. That is what long last we get to the blessedly good news. Right because God became human so that humanity really can come back to God. By faith, we can humbly receive what he is offering us and become his children. And in fact, adoption is such a beautiful picture of this because, you know, adopted kids, they don’t earn their adoption. It is the gift of the parents who love them our adoption is the gift of God when we believe. So what precisely do we need to believe? Well, everything we’ve covered so far, that we were made by Him and made to know him, but chose not to the bad news and then this glorious truth that Jesus made away so that we can come back that Jesus is the way again, verse 14, The Word became flesh made his dwelling among us, why did God become man? We see it all across the Christmas story. The angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, You’re gonna call him Jesus. Why? Because you’re gonna save His people from their sins at salvation. Why did the angels sing glory in the highest because he’s coming to bring peace, to those on whom God’s favor rests. And, of course, he spells it out in verse 29, a little bit later, where we are here where John, that witness to testify, says, look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus was born to die, a sacrificial death on the cross. In order to pay humanity’s penalty, he had to become human, in order to pay an infinite penalty, he had to be infinite. Now we understand that the unexpected savior that we have God and man, only the God man could die in our place for our sins. But that means Christmas is about Good Friday and Easter to today, tomorrow, we celebrate a full manger Yes, but an empty tomb. Also, because he has conquered sin, and death, what I couldn’t do, Christ did for me. So Max Stiles, he kind of goes on telling the story about his father. Ironically, as he got older, he needed hip surgery himself. And so he’s there, you know, on the gurney being wheeled into the operating room, all the tools are out and stuff, you know, what the doctors did not do? Wheel him in there and say, good luck. Let us know how it goes. And he could have actually done the surgery, I’m not sure he could have done it on himself probably gonna pass out. But he knew what to do, at least most of us would be like, I’m sorry, what? Like, don’t worry, there’s a YouTube video you can watch. But there’s no, like, I don’t want to have to do this. That’s how most of us assume Christianity works. That God goes, You’re the tools, you’re in the operating room. Now go fix yourself. That’s not it at all. We simply receive what Jesus has done for us, He is the physician, the surgeon. There is more than just passive reception, though, of course, we are talking about active belief, trust, like an ongoing trust, where I’m not going to play God anymore. But I’m going to lean on him trust that what he says is true, and best that his commands are for my good. The joy and true satisfaction are found in Him and Him alone. So this Christmas, remember, God made a way for you to know him, personally, to come back to him. He stands before you even now offering you forgiveness, and grace to be received in a relationship he has to be trusted. But this is where it all comes to a head then there’s a choice before each and every one of us even now, what the question is not, can I come back to God through Jesus? But will I come back to God through Jesus? It is simple. There’s no prep time needed, doesn’t mean it’s not hard. By the way, it could be very hard. When we were on the mission field, we were friends with some white South Africans. And they were young enough that they had not really grown up with apartheid. In fact, their first vote was to vote for Mandela. So they kind of knew this all along. But they talked about their parents, and how difficult it was for their parents to kind of realize that they’d been wrong this whole time. They’d grown up truly believing that Apartheid was the best thing was the best way to make this society work. And all of a sudden to have a dawn on you. I’ve been wrong. I’ve been living a lie. Like everything that I think was actually the opposite of what I should have thought that it’s very hard. But hard doesn’t mean bad. I mentioned this because there might be you right now. We’re going to Yeah, but I don’t want to think any of this. I have lived my whole life up to this point thinking I don’t need Jesus that I am good enough that I can do this on my own. It might be a really hard admission but hard doesn’t mean bad.
Turn from the sin of godlessness, and turn to Jesus, saying I will not trust myself any longer. But I will trust in God through Jesus Christ. And any who would take that step truly today He gives the right to become his very children dearly, dearly loved. The cross lays us bear. It is bad news, right? It tells us that we are a rich, we are worse because we are an impotent, rich, but it comforts us there. In that moment. We are impotent, wretched, so dearly loved by the one true God, that his son was willing to become flesh and dwelt among us to die that we might have life in him. Will you take that step? Will you know Jesus personally, will you be known and loved by Almighty God? This Christmas, celebrate the unexpectedness of our King, by believing in him. Let’s pray.
Father, we pray now, in light of all that we’ve just seen about who you are, who your son is, what he became, for our sakes and what he came to do, to make a way for us to return to you in light of all of that, Lord, would you help us to prepare room in our hearts for you? To enter in. Help us to overcome the internal struggle that we will feel because we want to be our own gods, because we have believed alive for so long and it’s so hard to put away, help us to overcome, to believe and to receive all that you have for us in Christ. We pray that You Jesus, the light of the world, would overcome the darkness in us as you bring us to salvation, and the fullness of joy that you prepared for us. We pray this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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