Called to witness about the light in the darkness – John 1:1-18
It is not about size
The great concern of the Bible is not about the size of the church, it is about the saved in the church. It is not about how many people are gathered in the church. But how many people are saved in and also through the witness of the church.
The apostle John writes at the end of his gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).
That means that there are two categories of people.
- People who are saved, who believe in Jesus, who trust Him with their lives, who obey His commandments, who live in His light.
- And there are people who are not saved, who do not believe in Jesus, who do not trust Him with their lives, who do not obey His commandments, who do not live in His light, but instead, lives in darkness.
That is also true of us in the church. It is not about how many of us are here. It is about how many are saved. That is something you have to be sure about. That Jesus Christ is your Saviour.
It is not about happiness
The problem we have today, however, is that we underestimate the reality of the darkness in the world. We underestimate it in our society, in politics, in the economy. And we underestimate it in church.
The reality is, we are not merely fighting against flesh and blood in this world, as Paul says in Ephesians 6. We are fighting against the powers of the spiritual realm. We are fighting against darkness.
One of the general strategies of the devil is for people to flee from this reality and avoid the “negative”. They just want to be happy. They want to enjoy themselves. And they do not like someone who brings misgivings and warnings about the way the world works. They do not like to hear about the darkness.
Maybe you have that need tonight. You want to hear, everything is fine. Everything will work out. Maybe that is why you come to church. So that you can escape. That you can avoid reality.
It is about the light that saves us from the darkness
But the reality is that Scripture is full of descriptions of the darkness. Even when it talks about the light it is always in the context of the darkness. The light saves us from the darkness.
So, we have to listen with wide open ears to the message God wants to give us, not only in the content of the message of the gospel, but also in the context that the gospel is given. We celebrate the light, but we also witness about the light in the darkness.
That is what bearers of the light do. They celebrate the light, so that they can witness about the light in the darkness.
Let us read from John 1:1-18 about the gospel of Jesus, the Word of God, who became flesh, so that we may be saved, that we can celebrate the light, but do so in the context of the darkness we live in, and to witness in it.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Celebrate the light
John says, in the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word itself was God. Everything came from the Word. Nothing came into being without Him. This whole world was spoken into existence by the Word. Time, space and matter came about through the Word.
That is the foundation of our belief. That is what gives us strength. That God is there. That God made everything. That God sustains everything.
In the Word, John says, there was life. This life served as the light of men. The light shines in the darkness. It is meant for the darkness. Therefore, God willed that the darkness cannot overcome the light!
That gives us hope. We celebrate that light. We revel in the clarity the light brings. The purity. The peace. The power. The perseverance. The confidence. The forgiveness. The life.
That life we find in Jesus. He is God from before time. He made time and space and matter … and in time took up flesh in this world so that He can save everyone that believes in Him.
That is why we can be sure that everything will turn out fine, because we believe in Him. Even if everything looks wrong, we can know by faith that everything will work out for good. That is God’s promise to us.
Jesus is the only Son of the Father, full of loving kindness and truth. He is our Lord.
To all who accept Him, those who believe in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God. That is the purpose of the light. To dispel the darkness and to make fallen human beings, children of God.
That is the amazing thing about Jesus, that He gives us the honour to be children of God, like Himself. To everyone that accepts Him, He gives the right to be children of God, those who believe in His name.
How does this happen?
- It does not come from the proper descent (blood). It is not who you are or who your parents were. It is for those who believe in Him.
- It does not come from the right desires (will of the flesh). It is not what you want or what you desire that qualifies you. It is for those who believe in Him.
- It does not come from the right decisions (will of a man). It is not what you will or what you decide. It is for those who believe in Him.
Thus, salvation comes from God. For: “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). That is God’s decree. That is God’s decision. That is what makes you a child of God. When you believe, you know, you are born of God.
How do you know you are a child of God?
You know it through faith in the witness of Scripture. God’s promise in Scripture is:
- “Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
- “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” (John 3:36).
- “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12).
And all children of God in turn are chosen by God to testify to the light. And in turn, those who accept the light, become bearers of the light themselves. And so on, and on.
That is the gospel, the good news, the content of our faith. That we celebrate.
Witness in the darkness
But we must understand, to celebrate the light always comes in the context of darkness. We are called not only to celebrate the light, but also to witness in the darkness.
For the light to shine everywhere, for the light to dispel the darkness, God chose to use men and women like us. From the beginning. Prophets, priests and kings. Psalmists and sages. And ordinary people. To witness in the darkness.
Thus, we read here about a man, John the Baptist, who was chosen by God to testify about the light. To preach the gospel of repentance and faith to the Jews.
And it is fascinating to read of his ministry, to immerse oneself into the way he formulated his message, how he preached fire and brimstone, and got the message through to his people. So much so, that tons of them came to be baptized in the Jordan.
He preached a message of repentance.
1. John the Baptist preached about the way society works. He challenged people with two tunics to share with him who has none. He challenged people with food to do likewise. (Luke 3:10-11). And they obeyed.
2. He preached about the economy. He challenged tax collectors to collect no more than they are authorized to do. (Luke 3:12-13). And they obeyed.
3. He preached about the state. He challenged soldiers to not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusations, and to be content with their wages. (Luke 3:14). And they obeyed.
And all this was the good news that he preached to the people. Because repenting from the darkness brought in the light of God, brought about peace and harmony living as children of the kingdom of God.
4. But John the Baptist also spoke about morals and politics. And that was the big darkness that he challenged. He witnessed to king Herod and reproved him for divorcing his wife and marrying the divorced wife of his brother, and some other evil things that he did … and was thrown into prison for shining the light onto the darkness of powerful people (Luke 3:19).
Herod did not obey. He loved darkness more than the light. And he threw John into prison. And later beheaded him.
You see, that is what happens to people who witness in the darkness. The darkness hates the light. Always tries to overpower it. To extinguish the light, so that deeds done in darkness can stay under cover of darkness.
And we can become frightened and decide to only preach where there already is light. But then we will not be faithful to the message that we received.
We need to take courage from the fact that the same happened to Jesus. He was the Light. He not only preached about the light. He shone His light into people’s lives and healed them from their sickness and forgave their sins.
But He shone into the darkness, the darkness of a social, religious, economic and political world that was hostile to the light, who loved darkness more than light.
Did that deter Him?
No, it did not. He witnessed unto the darkness on the cross, died for the sins of this world to eradicate the darkness through the resurrection.
Because He wanted to save you and me. He suffered the shame of the cross to reach those who could be saved. He suffered for those who would believe in Him. For those who would celebrate the light that He brings, the Light that He in fact is.
That is why He endured the pain, and suffered death, so that He could defeat the darkness to save you and me.
We are called to witness about the light in the darkness
The awkward reality, then, is that the world, which Jesus created, does not recognize Him. Even his own people, the Jews, did not accept Him. And still people love darkness more than the light.
Because they love to do their own thing. They use darkness to hide their dark deeds. They love to follow their own rules. They do not want to obey the Lord. They do not want to obey the Word.
But, nevertheless, we are called to witness about the light in the darkness, so that God in his infinite mercy can save those that believe in Him.
John the Baptist was an example to us. Jesus was the ultimate example to us. He calls us to witness about the light in the darkness.
- That includes witnessing to society about the gospel and the way of Jesus. To live for others more than for yourself. To give with compassion. To include others with hospitality.
- That includes witnessing to the truth in the context of the economy and politics. To live with honesty and integrity. To support those who live with honesty and integrity.
- That includes witnessing to God’s uncompromising demands for a moral and upright life. To keep God’s commandments through the Spirit that lives in us. To make no provision for the sins of the flesh, and to clothe yourself with deeds of righteousness.
That is what John the Baptist was instructed to do. To witness to the light that the Word brings to the world. John wasn’t the light, but he had to bear witness to the light, so that everyone would believe him. In this he was an example to all who received the light in their lives.
That is what Jesus did. He preached the good news of salvation to everyone who believes. So that they might have eternal life. And he received sinners in his company to heal and forgive them so that they can be holy and irreproachable.
That is what we are called to do. As bearers of the light, to celebrate the light, but also to witness in the darkness, so that all those who believe in Him, and come to the light, might be saved.
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