The Light of God

Text: John 1:1-18

Christmas is a story of enlightenment. This concept presupposes a situation of darkness, a need for new light. The secular world is familiar with this idea, but its take on the story tends to be all about education. Much like Prometheus bringing down fire from the gods, they say that human race is slowly being elevated through the accumulation of knowledge. The darkness was ignorance, and the light is progress. There are some parallels with this and the Christian gospel, but on the basic level Christianity is something very different. It tells a story of an original light— righteousness and communion with God— which was lost through man’s sin, the misuse of his will. This original light is brought back, not by man or some intermediary between God and man, but by God himself, through the person of His divine Son, Jesus. We find out that Jesus’ light is not a new light at all, but rather the old light, the original light of God which made all things. And it is because Jesus is the light of creation that he can also be the light of recreation, which is what He has come to do. Salvation means that Jesus came to make us new.

Jesus is God Come into the World

John’s prologue is clear that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Continue reading

Christ the King and Our Heavenly Citizenship

Text: Philippians 3:17-4:1

This Sunday is sometimes called “Christ the King Sunday.” It commemorates especially the kingdom of God and the kingship of Christ. Originally it was meant to emphasize the unique nature of Christ’s kingdom. That kingdom is not of this world, and thus it transcends racial, ethnic, and national boundaries. All Christians have a shared citizenship, the citizenship which is in heaven. But this can be and has been misunderstood over the years. What does it mean for Christ to be our king? Does it mean that we cannot have any other earthly kings? What does it mean for our citizenship to be in heaven? We will turn our attention to this question with our text this morning, and we will see that the apostle Paul connects our heavenly citizenship with the future resurrection of the body and glorification of all things.

Our Citizenship is in Heaven

The Apostle Paul says that the Christian has an alternative citizenship to that of this world. This alternative citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). Earlier in Philippians he had also said, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). The English expression “let your conduct be” is a translation of a Greek variation of the term πολιτευμα which means citizenship. He is thus telling us to live like a citizen of the gospel, like a citizen of heaven. Continue reading

The Antichrist

Text: 1 John 2:18-23

Today we come to one of those passages which all respectable pastors try their best to avoid. The biblical teachings on matters relating to the end times are tricky enough on their own, but these days bible teachers have to overcome the sensationalism of Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and, believe it or not, Nicholas Cage. It would be so much easier (and better for my ego) to just not talk about this kind of thing.

But alas, if one commits to preaching through the Bible and not simply skipping the verses he doesn’t like, then he is going to have to talk about these sorts of things from time to time. Now, contrary to many folks’ assumptions today, the Bible does not say all that much about “the antichrist.” The word itself only appears 4 times, always in John’s writings, and while the concept is a little broader, it only occurs a handful of times. It is certainly not a major theme. Still, it does appear, and our sermon text happens to bring us to one such instance. John says that he is writing in “the last hour,” and just as his audience has heard that the Antichrist will come, he is telling them that many antichrists have already come. Continue reading

Loving the Lovely

Text: 1 John 2:3-17

Earlier we mentioned that John’s epistle is characterized by its steady critique of false teachers. These false teachers denied that Jesus was God incarnate and they denied that Christians needed to live holy lives and to put away sin. If these false teachers were indeed gnostics, then they also would have taught that only those especially enlightened Christians, possessing secret knowledge, could be saved. In the second chapter, John seems to critique this notion as well, saying that the only true knowledge of God is that which brings obedient love and the only people who should have assurance of their salvation are those who love God by obeying His commandments.

How do you have assurance?

John begins this section with the topic of assurance. He calls this “knowing God.” To know God is to both know about God and to experience Him in your personal spiritual life. And John tells us how we can know that we know God (vs. 3). We can have assurance if we keep His commandments: Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (vs. 3). Continue reading

The Fellowship of Light

Text: 1 John 1-2:2

1 John is written by John the beloved disciple, one of the original 12 Apostles and the same author as that of the Gospel of John and Revelation. His writings are some of the most theological in the New Testament, by which we mean they have direct statements concerning the deity of Christ, his incarnation, and the implications of that for Christian living. Some even believe that 1 John was written with the primary goal of rebutting an early church heretic, one of the first Gnostics. Whether or not this is the case, it is clear that the Church was confronted with heresy and false teachers from very early on and that John is attempting to rebut them in his letter. We will see him write about “antichrists” in chapter 2. These antichrists “went out from” the apostles, but were never truly apostles. John does not want Christians to listen to the false message of these antichrists nor to be led astray into sin or idolatry. Throughout 1John, the Apostle directly criticizes the views of these antichrists and explains the true Christian gospel and its implications for righteous living.

Incarnation and Fellowship

To begin, John reminds his audience about the incarnation. This is an essential part of his gospel. “That which was from the beginning… the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (vs. 1-2). On this point there can be no innovation. Any denial of the person of Christ will necessarily involve a denial of his work. Continue reading

Pure and Undefiled

This sermon was preached for Pro-Life Mississippi, outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, MS.

Text: James 1:19-27

I know that you are all believers who aspire to be doers of the word. You wouldn’t be out here if you didn’t. This isn’t a glamorous calling. There’s little earthly reward. You are practicing your religion by being here.

But some of the people who run this clinic also profess to be Christians. They believe that they are acting out fundamental values and deeply-held convictions with what they do. And they are right. That is what they are doing. They are passionately and spiritually devoted to their cause, and they are certainly doers of the words they speak. It’s just their words are very different. Their religion is very different.

This clinic exists to practice abortions. It may conduct other services in addition, but everyone is clear about its raison d’être: it is the last abortion clinic in the state. The other services are accidental to the main thing. Other places carry out mammograms, distribute birth control, counsel expecting mothers, and offer various tests and screenings. The one thing that makes this clinic unique is abortion. And everyone who supports the clinic is self-conscious about this. They are passionately committed to providing abortions.

We should ask why people, many of whom profess to also be Christians, support abortion and support it so strongly. There is always the easy spiritual answer. People support abortion because of sin. Their wills have been bent because of sin, and thus they make choices and engage in activity that is wrong. But this answer is true of every kind of sin. With abortion there is a very specific rationale which explains why people support it, and I think it is important that we know this rationale and understand it. This is important for diagnosing the problem, but it is just as important for offering a solution. We cannot walk halfway down the same road, holding many of the same values, only to stop arbitrarily. We need an entirely different perspective. We need a different religion. Continue reading

Do Not Grow Weary

The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:9-10, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Why do you think he felt this advice was necessary? Do not grow weary while doing good…  Continue reading

Mastering the Flesh Apart from the Law

The Apostle Paul writes in the Epistle to the Colossians:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”  which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body,but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

~Col. 2:20-23

The way in which Christians are “not under the law” is one of those famous disputes in New Testament studies, but this passage seems to make at least one thing clear, you do not gain mastery over the flesh by adherence to regulations and restrictions concerning temporal things. Neither eating, nor not eating in itself has any bearing on your spirit.

Continue reading

Following Christ Often Makes Life More Difficult

In Peter we have a striking mirror of our ordinary condition. Many have an easy and agreeable life before Christ calls them; but as soon as they have made profession of his name, and have been received as his disciples, or, at least, some time afterwards, they are led to distressing struggles, to a troublesome life, to great dangers, and sometimes to death itself. This condition, though hard, must be patiently endured. Yet the Lord moderates the cross by which he is pleased to try his servants, so that he spares them a little while, until their strength has come to maturity; for he knows well their weakness, and beyond the measure of it he does not press them. Thus he forbore with Peter, so long as he saw him to be as yet tender and weak. Let us therefore learn to devote ourselves to him to the latest breath, provided that he supply us with strength.

In this respect, we behold in many persons base ingratitude; for the more gently the Lord deals with us, the more thoroughly do we habituate ourselves to softness and effeminacy. Thus we scarcely find one person in a hundred who does not murmur if, after having experienced long forbearance, he be treated with some measure of severity. But we ought rather to consider the goodness of God in sparing us for a time. Thus Christ says that, so long as he dwelt on earth, he conversed cheerfully with his disciples, as if he had been present at a marriage, but that fasting and tears afterwards awaited them, (Matthew 9:15.).

~John Calvin, comment. on John 21:18

He is not here but is risen

320px-Matthias_Grünewald_-_The_Resurrection_(detail)_-_WGA10756Luke’s account of the resurrection is unique in several ways. He emphasizes the role of the women at the empty tomb more than any of the other gospels. He also tells us that there were a great many women, more than just a few. Luke’s gospel is the only gospel that doesn’t mention Jesus appearing to the women before they relayed the story to the disciples. In fact, Luke’s gospel seems to emphasize doubt, on the part of the disciples but even on the part of the women.

And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. (Luke 24:55-56)

Who were these women? Continue reading