Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Passage- John 12:44-50
David Finn, an acclaimed professional photographer and lifelong New Yorker, wrote a fascinating book, How to Look at Everything. Finn recounts how he was affected by a single photograph he took while amassing a portfolio of shots for use in a book documenting life in New York City. This particular photo was taken out a car window and captured a man walking down the street while reading a book. Only after Finn had developed the photograph, did he notice a second man seated on a stoop as the reader-walker went by. The juxtaposition of the two men made for a most arresting image, one that prompted inner refection.
Finn concluded: “Why did I consider it such a revelation? Why did so many familiar sights now look so different? It was because I had never looked so intently at the scenes of daily life before. And as I looked through my viewfinder, my mind gave new meaning to what I was seeing. I saw more than what was there because I was paying such close attention to what I was photographing.” Finn no longer saw himself as just a photographer, but rather a “walker in the city.” This different look at himself transformed his ability to look outside himself.
Want to be more skilled at looking? Look intently at the scenes of your daily life. Pay closer attention to where you are and what you are doing. See yourself as an observer, a walker in your city. Stop. Look. Listen. James Gilmore, Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills, (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016), page 11
In this passage of Scripture, we gain insight into the importance of seeing things spiritually, through believing.
V44 Then Jesus cried out. . ..
When the Scripture indicates “Jesus cried out” it is a call to attention. Don’t miss the message!
What does it mean to believe, so we can see??
To believe in Jesus the Son, is to believe in God the Father.
V44 The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. v45 And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.
The relationship of Jesus the Son with God the Father is a theme that builds in John’s Gospel.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 8:19 Then they asked Him, Where is Your Father? You know neither Me nor My Father, Jesus answered. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father.
John 10:30 I and my Father are one.
What is in view here is the relationship of God the Father to God the Son specifically, and how this relates to the Doctrine of the Trinity. The word Trinity is not found in the Bible. It is a term that is used to describe the nature of God.
Michael Reeves wrote the book, Delighting In The Trinity, and communicates that the Trinity is “seen not as a solution and a delight, but as an oddity and a problem.” In fact, some of the ways people talk about the Trinity only seem to reinforce the idea. Think, for example, of all those desperate sounding illustrations. The Trinity some helpful soul explains “is a bit like an egg, where there is the shell, the yolk, and the white, and yet it is all one egg!” “No, says another the Trinity is more like a shamrock leaf- that’s one leaf, but it’s got three bits sticking out. Just like the Father, Son and Spirit.” And one wonders why the world laughs. For whether the Trinity is compared to shrubbery, streaky bacon, the three states of H20, or a three-headed giant, it begins to sound, well, bizarre, like some pointless and unsightly growth on our understanding of God, one that could surely be lopped off with no consequence other than a universal sigh of relief.
So when you think of a human illustration to explain the Trinity, just forget it, because it won’t work. This is a Divine mystery, that is clearly presented in the Bible. So where do we start in our understanding of this truth?
God is One in Essence
There is one God- (From our Statement of Faith the BFM 2000)- “He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the Universe.”
Deuteronomy 6:4 Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
1 Corinthians 8:4 . . .there is no God but one.
God is Three in Person
The eternal God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being. God the Father is God. God the Son is God. God the Holy Spirit is God.
Genesis 1:26 God said, Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. . .
Two illustrations give us further insight into this:
At the baptism of Jesus, God the Father expresses His pleasure in God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit descends like a dove.
Matthew 3:16-17 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down for Him. And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!
In my devotion time this week, I was reading in Romans 8. This is not a passage of Scripture that is classically referred to as Trinitarian, yet the doctrine comes through clearly. God the Father is spoken of in what He has done in giving us salvation. God the Son’s work of redemption is presented. God the Holy Spirit is spoken of as indwelling believers. We are adopted by the Father, coheirs with the Son, and led by the Spirit.
To believe in Jesus is to come into the light.
V46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness.
The contrast of light and darkness are common in the Bible. Light is a symbol of goodness, and righteousness. Darkness is a symbol of evil, sin, and ignorance. God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all. Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation.
God is the Creator of Light. The creation account tells us of a time when there was darkness hovering over the face of the deep. God spoke and light came into being. God saw that the light was good. So light is the first of God’s creative work, manifesting the presence of God in a world that is dark and chaotic without it. Light points to the Word of God, life, salvation, and the presence of God.
There is a small town on the Inn River in Austria called Rattenberg. It is the smallest town in the country, with less than a thousand residents. The town is in the Tyrol region of the Alps, and receives very little to no sunlight during the winter. It is one of the few places at a significant distance from the Arctic Circle that has a time of permanent darkness during the winter. The city was built in the literal shadow of Rat Mountain in the 14th century to protect itself from enemies. In 2005, they announced they were building 30 specialized rotating mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight into parts of the town during the winter months. The problem is, the project was never implemented!!
Think about what this world would be like, had God not spoken physical light into being, and then sent spiritual light in Jesus.
Jesus came as the Light of the World.
This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes into the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God. John 3:19-21
Jesus came, and broke through the darkness of sin by His life, and death on the cross. Jesus has the power to deliver those who believe in Him from darkness. Life without Christ means to be in spiritual darkness.
The worldviews that people have are very reflective of this.
There was an article in the Atlantic magazine entitled “How The Ultrasound Pushed the Idea That a Fetus Is A Person.” Everything about the article is biased and just wrong, but the subheading tells the story- “The technology has been used to create an ‘imaginary’ heartbeat and sped-up videos that falsely depict a response to stimulus.” Absurd! Yet it is just symbolic of the darkness of sin that blinds people to the truth.
Vice-President Mike Pence, a professing believer, spoke at the 44th Annual March for Life this week. “I have long believed that a society can be judged by how we care for our most vulnerable- the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn . . . Life is winning . . . compassion is overcoming convenience.” Ben Watson the NFL Player, who is also a bold Christian, said, “The reason why I stand for life is because I believe God created all life.”
Light informs your thinking, and thinking informs your actions.
Disciples of Jesus are light and light bearers.
Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
To believe in Jesus is to hear His words and keep them.
V47 If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. v48 The one who rejects Me and doesn’t accept My sayings has this as his judge: The word I have spoken will judge him on the last day. v49 For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak.
Jesus says clearly in John 12 there will be a last day. There is a contrast between those who receive Him by faith and accept His sayings, and those who reject Him and do not accept His sayings. Jesus describes the person who will eventually come into judgment as the one who rejects Him and doesn’t accept His sayings.
There are two interesting related and parallel passages-
John 3:17-18 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged, he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 5:22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.
We can be certain judgment is coming because Jesus proved there would be a Judgment by His own resurrection from the dead. Acts 17:30-31 God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.
There is a certain way of deliverance from judgment.
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
For those who receive Him by faith, and accept His sayings, for every believer, our sins are covered by the blood of the Cross.
For all who reject Him and do not accept His sayings, they will give an account for themselves.
The climax of the judgment scene is recorded by John in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.
This week, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that on their Doomsday Clock, it is two-and-a-half minutes to midnight. The organization’s 70-year-old Doomsday Clock — one of the world’s most recognizable warnings of nuclear weapons — is now prophesizing the end of the world with more alarm than it has been at any time since the 1950s’ invention of the hydrogen bomb.
Matthew 24:36 Now concerning that day and hour no one knows- neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, except the Father only.
What is certain is, the last day is coming, and it is closer than it has ever been.
The commandment of God is eternal life! V50
Jesus twice emphasizes that the Father gave Him a commandment as to what to say and that this commandment is eternal life. Jesus is giving a strong appeal to believe, and also giving a commandment to believe.
On August 17, 2008, Dave Freeman, co-author of the book 100 Things to Do Before You Die, died at age 47 from a head injury incurred in a fall at his home. His book inspired the movie The Bucket List and similar imitation lists. Freeman’s own list included things like attending the Academy Awards, running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and taking a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti.
The story drips with irony. According to his family, Freeman had actually gotten to do only about 50 of the things on his list before he died, reminding us that we may never accomplish all the things we hope to do. He took a knock on the head and died at a relatively young age, reminding us that none of us knows how long we have to live.
And tragically perhaps for Freeman, among the 100 things Freeman and his co-author suggested that others do before they die, he did not include preparing for the Day of Judgment by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com; source: Associated Press, “‘100 Things’ co-author Dave Freeman dies in LA,” (8-26-08)
Believing, really is seeing! It is receiving the truth of God in faith.