PODCAST

God & Man (John 1:1-14)

December 24, 2023 | Brandon Cooper

Brandon Cooper preached a Christmas Eve sermon focusing on John 1:1-14. He explained that the passage reveals Jesus as the eternal God who became human. While people were expecting a military savior, Jesus came to save people from their deeper problem of sin and separation from God. All humanity is sinful and unable to earn salvation, but Jesus, as both fully God and man, died for sins so that through faith in him people can be restored to God. Cooper encouraged listeners to receive Jesus as their savior and trust in him rather than relying on their own works to be made right with God. His message was that God became human through Jesus so that humanity could be reunited with God through faith in Christ.

TRANSCRIPT_______________________________________________+

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Well, good evening and Merry Christmas to you all. You want to go ahead grab your Bibles, you can open up to John chapter one, John, chapter one will be in verses one to 14 this evening. If you are using the Pew Bible that’s on page 860. By the way, it is very important. If you don’t have Bible you do, grab that pew Bible in front of you and take a look at it important that you’re looking at the text as we go through this so that you see that these are not my ideas, but God’s word for you. If you don’t have a Bible at all that pew Bible in front of you, that is our gift to you, we would love if you would just take that home with you. And you can read through it. So that’s our gift to you. Merry Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, one of our most common Christmas traditions, I’m sure true of many of you here in the room is watching classic Christmas movies list might vary from family to family. But you know, you got a list that you know, you got to get through sometime in December one of those kind of became an instant classic when it came out a few years back now is elf. So we actually had our power go out this morning, we all woke up at about 530, which is not what we wanted to do. But that meant the girls got to watch elf as we were, you know, getting ready for church and things like that. So what happens in elf, you got Walter Hobbs, he’s kind of the bad guy in the movie, and he’s got a problem at work. Now his boss has given him a deadline of Christmas Eve, he’s got to come up with the next greatest, you know, children’s book idea or else he’s getting the axe, he will be fired. So he’s he’s desperate to find a solution actually spends quite a bit of money trying to hire one of the top authors out there to come and pitch these ideas so that you know they can, they can do what they need to do but but that’s not where the solution comes. It’s an unexpected solution that comes in the form of an unexpected son, buddy, the elf who reminds him of what matters most. And Walter certainly wasn’t looking for relational or spiritual salvation or anything like that. But he he got that, at least in part, much more important than the financial solution that he needed. Although, of course, he got that one as well just didn’t look how he was expecting it to. I mentioned this, because it’s remarkably similar to the Christmas story itself. That is there’s a group of people with a problem. And that’s the nation of Israel in the first century. And their problem is Rome, this foreign power that is oppressing this people. And so they are desperate for a solution. And they’re pretty sure they know what it will look like that it will look like a military King who is going to come and you know, defeat Rome and and Israel will be restored to its former glory. But instead, we have an unexpected solution comes in the form of an unexpected son, who brings not a solution to the surface problem, the military or political problem, but a much deeper solution to a much deeper issue that they weren’t even aware of. And because the solution didn’t look the way they were expecting they a little bit like Walter with Buddy, they rejected him. Because he wasn’t what they wanted, what they thought they needed. Of course, all of this is still true for us today, too. Like we got problems here. And I don’t know what problems you’ve got. But you know, we just kind of cycle through them, don’t we? So you know, maybe you’re facing a financial problem, or it’s a health problem, or it’s a relational problem or a mental health issue. But we can be so desperate to find a solution to that surface problem that we miss the deeper solution that Jesus has come to bring. And so this Christmas Eve, I want us to lean into the unexpectedness of it all, and unexpected Savior who’s bringing an unexpected salvation, we will see it in the prologue to John’s gospel, what we’ll read here in a moment. Now, if you haven’t read John’s Gospel before, it doesn’t start with the manger, and the wise man and kind of some of the traditional nativity elements here, John takes a cosmic view of things. And that’s what we’re going to see. But he also draws out the most unexpected part of this story, which is that this baby born in a manger is actually God. And so what I want us to do as we go through this, tonight, we’re gonna unpack this main idea and so I’m gonna give it to you now. So you got it in your brain and then we’re going to work on packet as we go, God became a human, so that humanity could come back to God. That’s what we’re going to unpack. So we’re gonna see it here in John chapter one verses one to 14. Let me read it for us now. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made. Without him. Nothing was made that has been made in him was lost. Life in 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 and though 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, 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 made his 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 our main idea, right, God became humans so that humanity could come back to God, we’re gonna kind of pick this apart, we’re gonna start with that first word for now, what does it mean? God is where we’re starting, is where John starts. Also, you notice he starts his gospel with the words in the beginning, which takes us all the way back to the moment of creation. It’s how the Bible itself starts Genesis one, verse one, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. John’s taken us back there on purpose, he wants to talk about creation. And of course, at creation, only God was present. There was nothing else there at the time, he creates everything from nothing, only God is there, except now John tells us the word was present to which is interesting. We know the word is Jesus, because of everything else we read in this passage. Why does John call them the word a Greek word, there is logos, it’s God’s message for the world. What explains it all? And it’s interesting that the Greeks of this time they, they talked a lot about logos, and it was meant to be this theory that explains everything, but it was impersonal. And yet here, John’s saying, no, no. If you want to know what explains everything, it is a person. It is Jesus. But look at who he is. We look closely at verses one to five, we’re gonna see some some clear implications. What do we learn about Jesus here, we learn that he’s God. He’s God, He was with God, but he is also himself, God. And He is God alone. It’s interesting, right? Because we know there’s one God, and yet, now the word is with God. So there’s one God, and yet the word is also God. And that’s very unexpected. Of course, that’s the doctrine of the Trinity. But we’re not gonna go into that tonight. So you’ll just have to come back if you want to learn about that one. He’s God. Jesus is God. And Jesus is therefore eternal, as well. He is there in the beginning, before the beginning, even because he’s the agent of creation. In fact, he’s timeless, you know, we read in Psalm 90, that from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. It’s this eternal present, that he lives in. And He is Creator, then as well creates everything from nothing, nothing was made that has been made without him. So everything that exists is here, because of Jesus didn’t require elemental materials or anything like that, by implication, then, he is also our King and sovereign. But you get hinted at in verses 10 and 11. The world was made through him, but it didn’t recognize him, it came to that which was his own, even though they didn’t acknowledge it. So we belong to Him, because He made us that’s how it works. If you make something, it’s yours, you own it, perhaps some of you have done some, you know, Christmas cookie decorating recently. And you ever do that, where you got the frosting and all the different goodies you can put on you make the perfect cookie and it’s there, and then you turn your back and it’s gone. And you know that that is a crime against humanity. Right? Why? Because you made it so it’s yours. And Jesus made us so we are his he is able to rule the world he created. He’s also called the light in verse five, the light that conquers the darkness, in fact, and so we see there his his power, and that he overcomes the darkness, we see His purity. Light is often a symbol of God’s holiness. We see His revelation as well though the light comes so that we can see so that we can know things as they truly are. Jesus is God. He is the eternal Creator. He is our king, however unexpected he might be. He is in those famous words from Isaiah chapter nine, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace. Now, if we stopped there, we would have abundant reason to praise Jesus because all that we’ve seen about him been a reason to praise Jesus but not To celebrate Christmas, and maybe not to celebrate at all, as we’ll see in a moment, but it doesn’t stop there. It goes on in fact, our main idea goes on he right God became human. So let’s look at that next God became a human. It’s right there in verse 14, the word the word that is God, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He who always was, just became, this is absolutely shocking and wholly unexpected. The eternal enters time, the Infinite is bound by space. The all powerful comes as a frail infant, and the old knowing has to learn how to walk and talk. The Holy One of Israel is placed in a common feeding trough, which is about as profane a place as you could imagine. The glorious is born into obscurity and the king into humble poverty subject to a pretender to his throne. Here’s the way the church father Jerome put it centuries ago. He says to save us God’s son becomes the Son of Man. He awaits his birth for nine months in the womb, where he experienced his most degrading conditions and then comes out to spattered with blood to be wrapped in rags and smothered in human caresses. He who contains the world in his fist, is contained in the constricted confines of a feeding trough. This just defies expectation, doesn’t it? That God would become man. We almost don’t have categories for this. GK Chesterton helps us through this he was a British wit and kind of amateur theologian he reminds us of who Jesus is exactly. He says, It Christ is not a being apart from God and man, like an elf or something. Nor yet a being half human and half not like a centaur. But both things at once in both things very thoroughly very man, and very God. This defies expectation. No one was ever expecting this, although perhaps we should have been in the passage that the Schuster’s read for us a moment ago and microfibers to we have this prophecy of the coming Savior, the coming Messiah reads, But you, Bethlehem at Bertha, 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. Think about what we just read. So somebody is going to come out of Bethlehem, presumably, I mean, it’s gonna be born in Bethlehem, whose origins are from ancient times? How does that make any sense? How somebody will be born who was there from ages ago? Well, it only makes sense. If you know John one. Basically, we know that this is the Eternal One who is now born into time somebody born in Bethlehem.
Now, no doubt, Micah’s audience reading this or hearing this prophecy, maybe even Micah himself, pictured a military leader. After all, David was born in Bethlehem and look what he did. And we’re gonna get another David here. That’s the the messianic expectation of this time. Of course, it is because they’re feeling like Walter Hobbs, they’ve got an urgent problem, and they need somebody to fix that. Because they’re not paying attention to the deeper issues. Because think about it, if all Israel needed was a military victory, the word didn’t need to become flesh. Right? God didn’t need to become man. Because we’ve seen it before. You could look at Moses with the Exodus or Gideon with the Midianites. Or when Isaiah as a prophet and the Assyrian army as a wiped out in an evening by the Lord, he could easily send a military victory in an expected way. Sure, it would be miraculous, but still expected because we’ve seen miracles like this before, but he doesn’t he comes in the flesh. Why? True for us as well, right? If all we need his help with our superficial problems, if all we need is some money, or you know, some counseling to help with the relationship or some internal peace, and God doesn’t need to come as a man. So why, why did God become human? We have an unexpected Savior, He must be bringing an unexpected salvation. And that’s where we’ll go next. God became human so that humanity could come back to God. That’s why it’s the soul that so that humanity could come back to God. Salvation runs like a golden thread throughout this passage. You see it in the abrupt transition from verse five to verse six, where we’ve got the light shining in the darkness and the darkness can’t Oh, We’re commit, and you know, we’re in heaven. And again, we’ve got this cosmic view. And then there’s just some guy named John, who’s born. And he’s there as a witness. So why this shift from heaven to earth, because God is sending a witness to testify to the light of the world, that somebody’s John the Baptist, by the way, you want to hear more about him, that’s where we’re going next weeks, you can come on back for that. But the key piece for us here is God’s sending a witness to testify about him because he He wants us to know Him. And that, despite our rebellion, with the Bible calls sin. When we saw it in verse 11, already, he came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. He came to those who belong to him, and yet they wanted nothing to do with him. But if this is true, as it certainly is, and that means entering into relationship with God is like a coming home, it’s returning to where we should have been all along. I like this, because I think it clears away some of the confusion for us. And as we think that religion is something for certain types of people, you know, like spiritual people, and that’s good for you, but maybe not as much for me, Eugene Peterson, a pastor who died just a few years back, he helps us with this. He writes, a Biblical faith has always insisted that there are no special aptitudes for life with God, and 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 of us created for a relationship with God, that’s personal, and eternal. Of course, it is because our God is personal and eternal. So if this is true, then what should we expect to see inside of ourselves, it would be a a restlessness, until we’re in relationship with God who made us to know Him. If we were made for Jesus, and yet, don’t know him personally, we will be left with this aching, we’re all going to feel it at some point, probably at multiple points throughout our lives. It’s like being very thirsty. And you know, you’re trying to quench that thirst with a cold glass of saltwater. It might feel good going down, but it is not going to quench your thirst, not in the end. Or maybe drawing an analogy from the season itself. It’s like what many, many kids have experienced, including those of us who are grownups now, where you open all your presents under the Christmas tree. And it’s just pure elation. Until the next day, when you’re bored again, right. And that’s kind of how we are with our lives, right? As soon as I get to this next stage, then at last, I’ll have all I ever wanted. And you know, that’s getting out of the house. It’s getting your degree, it’s getting your jobs, getting married, it’s having kids, it’s a new house, whatever it is, and yet, the next day, there’s always that letdown, because we were made to know Jesus, and he’s the only one who can satisfy. But here’s the stumbling block. Right? This is the part that we hate, hate to hear. Because there’s this sense in us that if God exists, especially the God of the Bible, Jesus, we think he should just love us as we are. Like, we’re pretty good, right? And just kind of like pinch our cheeks and you know, welcome us home. But that’s not what we read here. We didn’t receive him. We didn’t even recognize him. It says, Those who do receive him, says in verse 12, God will give them the right to become children of God. And that’s important because there’s a clear implication in that verse. If we need to become children of God, it means that you and I are not born as children of God. To become children of God, we need to be born again. To use Jesus’s words we need to be born a new, why is this we got to head back to the garden to understand this the Garden of Eden and Genesis, chapters one, two and three, Adam and Eve are at first experiencing perfect intimacy with God. They’re taking afternoon walks with him. So they’ve got this perfect intimacy until they decide they want to be their own gods. They want to set their own rules. And we’re Adam and Eve’s children, many generations removed, but that means we come into this world with that same desire baked into us like we’re a hard wired for this God Complex. Our root issue is godlessness that we just don’t acknowledge that He is God because we want to be our own gods. That’s what sin is right? Sin is not a a list of, you know, maybe we might even think transgressive a regressive or outdated laws that we transgress or, or pleasures that we’re denied. No, that’s not it at all. The root of sin is a desire for autonomy, again, to make our own rules, which makes us creatures who are rejecting our Creator, just not smart, by the way, we create things occasionally not out of nothing. But you know, we do this. So imagine this is not my skill set. But some of you have this skill set. Imagine you write a computer program to do something, and it doesn’t do it. What do you do with that program? Delete it. That puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? That’s what God ought to do with us, delete us, maybe write a new program. Instead, we are creatures rebelling against our Creator and subjects rebelling against our King, which is known as treason, by the way, and it’s frowned upon in most monarchies. It’s not that we’ve broken a law or two in the kingdom, that would merit you know, maybe a fine or some jail time or something like that. No, it’s that we want the king dead because we want to rule in his place. And that’s really, really different than just breaking a law, like that kind of issue usually ends up with a gallows involved, or a dude with a black mask and a very large axe. So we got to acknowledge our guilt, or shame. God is right to condemn us for our sin. This is not great news. Merry Christmas, everyone. But then John doubles down on it. Like he makes it a little worse before it gets better. Because he says we’re not only morally corrupt, but spiritually impotent, as well. It’s the clear implication of the passage, especially in verse 13. So we’re gonna get this right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. So it’s not our decision, the way our first birth worked, like when children are born, a decision was made at some point, right? Like people decide him. Husband and wife did oh, yes, let’s, you know, try for kids. And even if that’s not how the story went, again, there still was some sort of decision to made somewhere along the line there. And so we think, well, that must be how it’s going to work spiritually as well. But it’s not like that at all. This is not something we do something we accomplished, but it’s something we receive and believe. This can be even harder than acknowledging our sin. I think most of us if we’re honest with ourselves will go. Sure. I’ve messed up, I get that.
But harder than acknowledging our sin is acknowledging that we can’t fix the mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into. We really like to be in control. We don’t like asking for help. But how many people have languished in a problem? Because they’ve just been unwilling to ask for help. I see this all the time at church, by the way, where people like email me like, Hey, by the way, just you know, surgery went well. And you know, we’re recovering nicely. I’m like, surgery went, I’m sorry, what? Yeah, we don’t want to bother you guys. You can bother us. Okay, like we’re here. We would love to pray for you bring your meals? Well, no, we don’t like to ask for help. We got this, you know, pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality. And we bring that then into our views of salvation. Tim Keller puts it like this. 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 it’s that last part, not only impossible, but so dangerous to trying to make it so that God owes us why is that so dangerous? Our root problem is wanting to be God. So fixing that problem only exacerbates the problem, doesn’t it? Because now I’m not only pretending to be God, but I’m pretending to be my own savior, too. So what am I gonna do? I’m gonna atone for my sins on my terms. I’m still playing God. And if I’m the problem, well, I can’t very well be the solution. Least not like that. But we’ve got this, this moral effort to obligate God to us, so that he owes me like, I deserve that you have to welcome me. That moral obligation keeps me on the throne. And in succeeding actually fails me. Like if I succeed, I’m a really good person. Now I’m keeping all the rules. I’ve actually gotten farther away from God, because I’m even less dependent on him and more certain that I’m in control of my life. So this is all like being 10 pulled up in something, the more you struggle, the more tangled you get. I once was fishing and a duck swam into my line and got itself very tangled up. And so I had to reel the duck in and try to untangle it. And this duck was none too pleased with me. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to reason with an irrational creature. Parenting is what that is. But you know, like, if you would just hold still, I could get you out of this mess. But the duck was having none of it finally got it loose. The Ducks survived. No animals are harmed in the making of this sermon, you know, kind of thing. But that’s like a picture of us when it comes to our salvation. The point is, we need to hold still and let someone else with a capital S, someone untangle us. So where do we go from here, Mack Stiles, in his book, The Truth About lies, tells a few stories about his father who’s an orthopedic surgeon, and was a good doctor with a good bedside manner. And so he would have conversations like this regular we’d have to sit the patient down, you know, look the patient in the eye and kind of go look, your hip is in very bad shape. And left to itself, you will not be able to walk much longer. And kind of pause right like there’s a beat there. Take a moment, let the person you know, receive that news, let it sink in the bad news. But then he’d follow up. But with surgery, we can replace the joint, you’ll be better than new. To see he gives the bad news because you almost got to reckon with the bad news first in order to receive the good news as good news because otherwise being told Yeah, you need surgery is not necessarily great. That’s what John’s done for us to write like he’s given us the bad news first. But at long last, we get the blessedly good news, right God became humanity. God became human, so that humanity really can get back to God it is possible when we believe and we have that posture of faith, which is one of a humble, receiving and believing we become children at that moment. adopted children. Just a good analogy again, because adopted children, they don’t earn their adoption. It’s granted by loving parents, that’s our father, when we believe in him, so what precisely do we need to believe? We’re really everything that we’ve covered so far. We have to believe that we were made to know God, but chose not to. That’s the bad news. But then also this glorious truth that Jesus made away so that we can come back to God. The Word became flesh and made his 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. Why did God become man? We know some of it from the Christmas story itself. You know, Joseph has a dream and angel appears to him in the dream and says you’re going to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. What do the angels come announcing to the shepherds glory in the highest? Why? Why does he get this glory because he’s bringing peace to those on whom God’s favor rests. Or we could look ahead and John chapter one, verse 29. The next day, John, that one who was sent in the world to testify about the light, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus came to die, a sacrificial death on our behalf. This is why he had to be God and man in order to pay humanity’s penalty. He had to be human. But in order to pay an infinite penalty, he had to be infinite. He had to be God. That means that Christmas is about Good Friday and Easter two. Like tonight we celebrate a full manger and an empty tomb at the same time, because he has conquered sin and death on our behalf what we couldn’t do he did for us. Kind of takes us back to max Stiles dad ironically, as he got older he needed hip replacement surgery too. And so you know, they have him on the gurney, they wheeled him into the operating room they got all the instruments set out and stuff you know what they didn’t do at that moment. Was say good luck. Let us know how it goes. Even a guy who knew how to do this surgery, they didn’t make him operate on himself. They certainly don’t make us operate on ourselves. Like don’t worry, we got a YouTube tutorial video up you know, you should be fine. Like, no, you don’t have to operate on yourself. And yet, so many of us think that’s what Christianity asks of us. Like, we’ve told you the problem now go fix it, go fix it, go take care of yourselves. But that’s not it at all. We simply receive what he has done. It is more than just a passive reception. It is an active trust, like an ongoing belief, I’m not going to pretend to be God anymore, I’m going to depend on him, I’m going to trust that what he says is true, and best that his commands are for my good. And that true joy and satisfaction are found in Him and Him alone. To 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 forgiveness and grace to be received in a relationship, he’s to be trusted. This is where it all comes to a head. Because there’s a choice between each and every one of us, even now, or the question is not can I come back to God? We’ve answered that question. Yes, you can because of Jesus question not, can I come back to God, but will I come back to God by receiving Jesus? It is very simple. There’s no prep needed no time, no probation period. Easy doesn’t mean it’s not also a hard at the same time can be very hard. And when we lived on the mission field in South America, we were friends with some white South Africans. And they were young enough that they hadn’t really grown up with apartheid. They, in fact, the first election they voted in was for Mandela. But they would tell stories about their parents who, you know, grew up believing that the apartheid regime was good, that it was best for this society. And all of a sudden realize that what you’ve thought your whole life, you’ve really given yourself to that it was a lie. That’s a very hard admission. I mentioned it because that might be where you are tonight. Well, you’re coming into this going. It’s a cute story. But I don’t really need Jesus. And I’m not sure it’s true. Anyone that is a lie. And it is very hard to give that up. But hard doesn’t mean bad. It is the very best news you can turn from sin and godlessness and turn to Jesus. To say I will not trust in myself any longer, but I will trust in God through Christ. To any who would take that step today Truly, God gives the right to become his children dearly loved,
or the cross lays us bear, there is bad news here. You and I we are wretches worse than that were impotent wretches. But it comforts us in that place. We are impotent wretches, so dearly loved by the one true God that He sent His only Son, to become flesh and dwelt among us, and ultimately die, so that we might have life in him, where you take that step where you know, Jesus personally, will you be known and loved by God Almighty. This Christmas, let’s celebrate the unexpectedness of our King, by believing in him. Would you join me in prayer now? Lord, in light of what we’ve just seen, in your word, the truth about who we are rebellious creatures, the truth about who you are a loving Father, the Holy God. Would you help us to prepare room in our hearts for you to enter in? There might be an internal struggle going on and some of us because we like being in charge, would you help us to see by your Spirit working in us, that it is better to surrender to rest in you, and to find the joy that we have been seeking all along? Lord, even now with the light of the world, Jesus Christ who has come into the world overcome the darkness in us, as you open our eyes to see you and us and the world and salvation, for what it is. We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.

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