- 1 John 4:7-16
- John 14:15-31
Dear friends in the Lord,
One of the pleasures in our advanced digital society is to talk to robots when you ring enquiries of some more significant enterprises. It sometimes takes many minutes, and many entries into the keypad to get to the right department— if you are fortunate. But it’s only about then when the testing of your civility is really put to the test. Here’s the problem: many companies outsource their support departments to outfits overseas. The issue quickly explodes when the person who is supposed to help you speaks in an accent you really can’t understand. It takes multiple times of asking, and numerous times of explaining before you finally realise life is better living with the problem, rather than trying to fix it.
It is undoubtedly exceedingly difficult to explain something if you don’t really know the technical terms to describe your problem, and the situation is compounded if the person you asked don’t understand your question, and you, then, in exchange have no idea what he meant.
Let’s keep this in mind as we approach the sermon today. The question is, “Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?”
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Darkness, unbelief, no knowledge
John begins his Gospel and sketches the picture for us. God created the world in the beginning. Christ was the agent through which God created the universe. He is called the Word.
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. (John 1:3–4, NIV)
Between creation and the Gospel of John, something terrible happened: The world was plunged in spiritual darkness. Although the world was made through Christ, the people of the world did not know it. Although it belonged to Him, they, in unbelief, did not receive Him.
There were darkness, unbelief and no knowledge. Sin caused mankind to be spiritually blind. They did not speak the language of God, and they could not understand God. What they understood well, was darkness and the voice of the prince of darkness.
For them, and us, to hear God, to understand Him, see Him and receive Him, was not possible. We did not speak the same language, we did not have any communication. There is no option for us—we didn’t need to do anything to become sinners and be separated from God, we were born sinners. We had no choice between light and darkness, we were born into darkness. We are not born into a state of somewhere between darkness and light, so that by our choosing we slide one way or the other. We are born on the wrong side. Isaiah describes it in these terms:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2, 9–10, NIV)
How do we get out of this mess?
There is good news:
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. (John 1:14, NIV)
The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 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)
Jesus Christ is the One who communicates between the Father and us. He is God’s Word.
To become children of God, we need a few things to happen: we need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith.
Judas, not Iscariot, asked Jesus while they were still in the Upper Room with Christ in the night before Christ was arrested to be crucified the next morning,
“But, Lord, why do You intend to show Yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22, NIV)
This question follows the disclosure of Christ in the previous verse where He said:
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21, NIV)
The expression “has my commands” is synonymous with “receive”, and it takes us back to the statement in the beginning: those in darkness did not receive Him. Light did not receive Him. Jesus said:
The world cannot accept Him (the Holy Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17, NIV)
So, what happens between living in darkness and receiving light? Quite a lot. The eyes of our heart open when the Holy Spirit gives us a new life. The Bible calls it “the birth from above”, to be born again. Then alone can we see and understand. John the Baptist said,
“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27, NIV)
What was the mission of Christ? The woman at the well answers,
“I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, He will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25, NIV)
Indeed! He makes Himself known. He declares Himself.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24, NIV)
When our Lord answered Judas when he asked why He is going to reveal Himself to them and not to the world, He actually wanted them to know that without his revelation no sinner would not understand. Christ is the Word of God. Christ came into the world and became one of us. He speaks our language, and He understands our need.
But He has to stir our hearts out of death to understand who He really us, and to understand our need for salvation. When He does it, He plants faith, life, light and the ability to receive the grace of God.
What is very critical to understand is that not all people receive the grace of God. Jesus said: “The world hates Me”. (John 7:7) Further into the same chapter we read that some received Christ, and others were divided about Him. The leaders even insisted that He is devil-possessed. They wanted to kill Him. Why? Christ made it clear to them: they are born of darkness, born into darkness, and they served the prince of darkness.
Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43 47, NIV)
Does it take you back to the telephone conversation where it seems no one understands no one?
Some people can hear the Gospel of Christ a thousand times preached in simple language and still walk away untouched. See, not all people are going to heaven. Some inevitably will end up in hell. Jesus said:
“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39, NIV)
Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18–19, NIV)
So, my friend, you might sit next to Judas asking why and how is Christ is revealing Himself to you today? The answer to the “why” is this:
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23)
By this, you will know if you belong to Him. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV) That’s the test. Are you a child of God? You will know if you love Him. And you will love Him because He loved you first. Here’s the test:
Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24, NIV)
There is a simple, but glorious, answer to the “how”:
My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23, NIV)
Think about it: the Creator of the universe pours his love out on sinners, on me, on you. Both He and the Son make their home in us. Your life should be the throne of the eternal, loving, saving God who made a claim on your life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How does He live in us? By his Holy Spirit.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13, NIV)
The ministry of the Spirit is to teach us to understand who Christ is, and more about the love of the Father.
What is the result? We have peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)
Is there more? Sure! Joy.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)
But there’s more! Jesus declared:
I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me… (John 14:30, NIV)
That’s why our Lord can give us this assurance:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29, NIV)
We need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith. Where does it come from? It comes through the words of Jesus Christ:
These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. (John 14:24–25, NIV)
Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?
The Word answers:
- We are all born in darkness and need light. We are all in need of faith to see and receive Christ.
- Not all who hear the word will believe, but those whom the Father has given to his Son will listen to his voice and follow Him.
- Christ makes Himself known to us to enable us to receive Him as Lord and Saviour.
How does He do it?
- He lays down his life for the sheep.
- He gives us his Word
- He gives us his Holy Spirit.
Can you be sure that you are a child of God? Yes, listen to his voice, receive Him because
…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12, NIV)
Do you want to go home today with peace and joy in your heart? Take this assurance with you: If Christ is your Saviour, no-one can snatch you out of his hand. Above all, if you know Christ as the truth, the truth will set you free, and if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 20 January 2019