This week marks the annual remembrance of two events that former President Ronald Reagan signed into law for national observance: 1) The 43rd anniversary since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. SOHLS is celebrated generally on the third Sunday of January, or on January 22 – the actual date of the court decision. 2) Dr.MLKJr. with his birthday on January 15, which the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of January.
Each of these annual remembrances reflect a sinful past and hope toward future. SOHL reflects the sin of slaughtering the millions of infants each year through abortion. Additionally, SOHL represents the apathetic and appalling way many view not just the unborn but the orphan, the homeless, impoverished communities, and refugees. As Christian, we are called to be an advocate for these disadvantaged and distressed segments of society, and seek justice and mercy on their behalf.
Yet, SOHL and the pro-life movement has made advances that the abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level since the practice was legalized in 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  The news comes from a study by the pro-abortion research group, the Guttmacher Institute. The pro-life movement hasn’t simply spoken with words of truth about abortion but has also followed up with compassionate deeds. Non-profits, churches, and crisis pregnancy centers have addressed needs from a holistic perspective relationally, psychologically, economically, and spiritually to care for individuals and families, and to save countless lives. And we continue working toward a day when the murder of unborn babies will be as unthinkable as slavery; where we will wonder how our nation even allowed such shocking behavior and shamefulness ever to happen.
MLK reflects the sin of our nation’s history of horrible treatment and hellish violence toward ethnic minorities. Unfortunately, racism is not just a feature of the past but still ongoing in the present.
Yet, MLK anniversary points us to the hope that some day people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We can put our hope in the purchase of a Savior, who died to reconcile a people in Christ (Gal 2:28; Eph 2:13-19; Col 1:20) who reflect “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). I believe we are seeing a grass-roots effort through the Christian church facilitating empathy, healing, and unity to be modeled for the nation at large. Let us at SPBC continue the effort to impact the racially divided through an ever-increasing hospitable church culture and multi-ethnic ministry and church partnerships.
So, as a Christian, I believe both of these days (SOHL & MLK) are important as they depict the vision and value for human dignity of every person. While our nation is in a very tense and troubled condition, there is hope of a transformation not driven by political power but spiritual power.
In today’s message I would like to accomplish two actions
1) Introduce our series on John’s Gospel by emphasizing our faith and life in Jesus. I have preached a several messages with the founding text in the various Gospels. Yet, it has been some time since I preached an extended series through one of the Gospels. Mark (2010), John (2011), Luke (2012), with segments of Matthew weaved in variously through the last several years. In fact, this summer (2017) we will study the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. My aim is to continue to confront us face to face with Jesus. Who was He? How did He live? What did He accomplish? How is Jesus relevant to us today?
2) Identify the dignity and worth of every person in contrast to human stereotypes and in comparison to Jesus’ identity and mission.
In the opening chapter of John’s Gospel are 17 identities & titles for Jesus
- The Word (John 1:1) John echoes the book of Genesis with his introductory phrase “In the beginning”. The idea John communicates is that Jesus is re-creating life and will restore the original design to creation with light, life, love, grace, truth, and all that is glorious and beautiful. Jesus as the Word (λόγος=logos) is profound with meaning to at least imply origins and authority with God. The Word was with God (lit. full fellowship; cf. 1John 1:2), and the Word was God. Notice, it doesn’t say God was the Word so as to negate the personhood of the Word; and it doesn’t say that the Word was like God as to negate the full divinity of the Word. The Word is in every way God.
è Illus. Each of my daughters are different in the way they receive discipline. Oldest is a little too stubborn like her father. There are about 2 of my children that I just have to give a look and they get it… If I speak a word, they melt with tears and guilt. Apply: This is just a faint glimpse of the power of Jesus’ Words that create life (John 1:4; 6:63, J68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”), access the presence of His Spirit (John 14:23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.”), and catalyze the power of prayer (John 15:7 “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”),
è Illus: If someone (not me) could pay you $1million to not read your Bible, would you host a book fire? If Yes, then that reveals your relationship to Jesus. If No, then why are you hiding treasure? – – – The Jews gathering in the synagogue would have the Rabbi unroll the Torah scroll and show the people the words on the paper. The congregants would reach up to touch the scroll and then touch their lips to say, “God your word is sweet to me”.
è Apply: The Word has become flesh… yet, we still have over 6K people groups unreached with the gospel and not Scriptures in their language. The reason is largely due to universal church’s lack of praying, giving, going.
- God (John 1:1 “the Word was God”; cf. 1:18)
2 Perspectives to Jesus being God 1) Jews perceived Jesus claiming divinity caused them to mock and murder Him (John 5:18; 7:30; 8:59; 10:19-20, 31; 11:48-57; 19:7, 21) 2) Thomas was finally convinced that Jesus was God and he bowed in worship (John 20:28) C.S. Lewis “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, & if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
- Creator (John 1:3 “All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.”; cf. John 1:10, 15; Colossians 1:16) In John 1:1, JW note the definite article (the) is missing from the word “God” (theos) to imply the translation should say, “and the Word was a God” rather than “and the Word was God”. The difference indicates our faith as monotheistic or polytheistic. The translation in the Christian Bible is correct based on context. If John had included the definite article he would have contradicted his previous statement. If he said “the Word was the God”, then the reader would conclude the Word is the sole being and basis for God and miss out on his previous statement that “the Word was with God”. In other words, the Word is not all there is to God, as there is also God the Father and the Spirit; with the Word being the Son. Moreover, for JW to indicate that Jesus was “a” God is contrary to other monotheistic verses (Isa 43:10; 44:6, 8; and not to mention the numerous times Jesus claims to be God (cf. John 1:14; 5:18; 8:58; 14:6-7; 20:28; Rev 1:8; etc.). Finally, John clarifies fully that the Word – Jesus – was not made, but made all other things. There was never a time when Jesus was not; He is Creator and completely God!
- Light of men (John 1:4, 7, 8, 9) Jesus overcomes the darkness. His light and life shine forth to grant us victory. That does not mean that life with Jesus will not experience temptations or trials (John 16:33). However, it means that Jesus’ presence in your life redeems your perspective on all of life’s problems. Psalm 139:11-12 “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” à When depression strikes, look at Jesus and listen to what He says about you. Spend time with Him through reading His word and praying to Him to remind yourself how loved you are and how great He is. Though your anxiety and fear may be big, God is bigger and His light is sufficient to awaken you to hope.
- Only Son from the Father God (John 1:14) John’s description of Jesus here should cause us to marvel at the mystery of the incarnation. The Triune God emptying self to be poured out in sacrificial love and take on human flesh. Jesus is the revelation of God (John 14:7).
- Full of Grace & Truth (John 1:14) The combination of grace and truth are incomparable. If Jesus were all grace without truth, then His teachings would be mere sentimentality. If Jesus were all truth without grace, then His teachings would be strict laws with severe consequences. However, Jesus is the perfect blend of grace and truth that forgiveness is possible, and so is a life lived with spiritual growth and integrity (Titus 2:11-14).
- Jesus Christ (John 1:17) The name Jesus was given to the Son by God through the angel announced to Joseph and Mary (Mat 1:21). The name “Jesus” would indicate His life purpose to save his people from their sins. Likewise, the name “Christ” is reflective of His purpose as the Anointed One, the fulfillment of God’s promises and prophecies. à In Jesus Christ we have God’s promises to give us assurance/confidence of His work in our life. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Christ” (2Cor 1:20). Jesus is consistent and trustworthy (cf. Heb 13:8).
- Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36) – see next Sunday Jan 29 with communion Know that Jesus the lamb of God takes away your sin, but also those of others. à Forgive others. (cf. Mat 6:14-15) à Witness to others as though Christ wants many to experience His grace.
- Spirit-filled, Spirit remains on Him (John 1:32) and will baptize others with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33) Once again John’s writing portrays the Trinity at work in the life and ministry of Jesus. Supremely, the role of the Spirit is vital and dynamically personal. Even Jesus promised His disciples that it was to their benefit that He return to heaven so that Holy Spirit could dwell in each of them (John 16:7). The Spirit-filled presence in us is better than the idea of Jesus beside us. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be assured of salvation (Jn 14:15-21; Rom 8:15), pray (Jn 15:7), understand Scripture (Jn 16:13), serve others (Jn 15:16, 1Cor 12).
Bono “Religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.”
à Don’t let faith turn into mere religion w/o meaningful relationship with God. That’s the point of the Spirit.
è How to walk in the Spirit (“feel God”): 1) Saturate life in spiritual disciplines, 2) Surrender and repent.
- Son of God (John 1:34, 49) John the Baptizer testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet another strong statement of Jesus’ divinity.
- Rabbi – teacher worthy to be followed (John 1:38-40, 43, 49) Jesus as teacher and His followers were disciples or apprentices. In the first century, a Jewish man who wanted to become a disciple was expected to be joined to his rabbi from sun up to sun down – walking from place to place, learning, studying, working, and following the footsteps of the rabbi. As Jesus’ followers, we are called to walk in His dust, getting dirty in the circumstances and people’s lives He engaged.
- Messiah/Christ (John 1:41)
- Fulfillment of Law and Prophets (John 1:45) Jesus as the Messiah/Christ and fulfillment of Law and Prophets may not communicate as clearly to us as to an early Jew. We can catch the passion in the way John communicates the relationships between Jesus’ first disciples: Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. Their excitement is evident that they cannot help but share with others. “We have found the Messiah… Come and see!” à Have you ever waited for something for longer than a month… a year… multiple years? How excited were you – or will you be – when it finally occurs? That’s the passion the followers of Jesus have when they identify Him as the Messiah and the fulfillment of the OT.
- Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:45) Identifying Jesus with the town He grew up in was interesting for many reasons. Nazareth was a dismissed and despised community by many, likely from some sort of local rivalry. Nonetheless, Nazareth roots Jesus in a setting for us to relate; yet, we also misunderstand since Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and as John also later shows the irony is not really the son of Joseph (Jn 6:42; 7:27). Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth” (Jn 1:46)? Nathanael’s mistake is one of stereotyping and making broad generalizations about a person’s character, and further also seems to be at least a hint of racism. Jesus responds to Nathanael by calling him an Israelite without deceit. In other words, Jesus realizes Nathanael does not have blind faith, but is seeking truth. Therefore, Jesus compels Nathanael by telling him that he was seen before in his actions of sitting under a fig tree. Whenever this occurred and whatever else Nathanael was doing is unknown, but Jesus’ knowledge of it convinces Nathanael enough to profess faith in Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel. à Jesus the Nazarene reminds us of His humanity to suffer and is able to sympathize with our afflictions (Hebrews 4:15).
- son of Joseph (John 1:45) Jesus was the son of Joseph only through adoption. Joseph obeyed God’s call upon his life in spite of earthly logic and comfort.
- King of Israel (John 1:49) Unlike all the other kings of Israel, Jesus was a fully righteous king yet was rejected (John 19:21).
- Son of Man (John 1:51)
Jesus is the Son of man upon whom the angels of God ascend and descend (cf. Gen 28:12-16). In this statement Jesus is identifying Himself as the greater Bethel (House of God). Heaven is opened through Jesus’ entry to earth and coming sacrificial death on the cross as the God-Man (cf. Jn 3:14-15).
– you can work your way to heaven and fail bc no one is perfect
– you can worship your way to heaven by embracing Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord
 Following paragraph adapted from Russel Moore, http://www.russellmoore.com/2017/01/17/celebrate-falling-abortion-rate/
 Ray Vander Laan, Faith Lessons Vol 6 “In The Dust Of The Rabbi”.
 See further http://www.equip.org/article/jehovahs-witnesses-john-11-new-evidence-advances-discussion/
 If depressed, here are some helpful links: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/9-ways-to-battle-depression-condemnation-and-anxiety/; and http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/too-depressed-to-believe-what-we-know
 J.D. Greear, statement from Jesus Continued: Why The Spirit In You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You.
 Andreas Kostenberger, The Pillar NT Commentary: John, p.160.