A Witness to the Light

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A Witness to the Light

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2011 · 4 December 2011

“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 enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Why this gospel was written? John 20:31, "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.” So my aim this evening is that you would believe in Jesus as Son of God and that you would experience newness of life.

The reason I say newness of life is because in John 10:10 Jesus said that the reason he came into the world was that his sheep might have overflowing life: "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."

This word “overflowing” speaks of excess, overflow and surplus. The idea is that Jesus gives life that is more than ordinary life. The life of a Christian is life upon life, spiritual life added to physical life.

And the way to have this life from Jesus is to believe in Him. John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Notice: Not just will have eternal life some day beyond the grave; BUT you have passed now (by believing) from death to life. You can have new life this evening: life that is more than the life you have known before, life that is so wonderful it is like passing from death to life.

And even Christians who have weakened in faith and lost the full power of new life can find stronger faith and fuller life in these words this evening. That's our goal: these things are written (in John) and this message is preached that you might believe in Jesus (like you have never believed before) and believing have life (like you've never had before).

1. God Sent a Human Witness named John. John 1:6, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." Why introduce John the Baptist here? It seems abrupt. Verse 5 is talking about the light shining in the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it, and verse 9 goes on to talk about the light coming into the world. So verses 6–8 seem like an interruption.

It didn't have to be this way. God could have caused the light of Christ to spread in some other way. He could have done it with angels. He could have written the gospel in the sky with big puffy white letters made out of clouds. He could have caused the wind to talk.

But instead as soon as the light was in the world—as soon as Jesus came—God prepared and sent a human being right alongside the light to bear witness to the light. Jesus did not need John the Baptist to make Himself known. He could have managed that by himself because He is the light of the world.

But God specifically used a person then and uses many people now. You too should be alert to the possible call of God in your life. All Christians as followers of Jesus, are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:16). All are called to witness to the light (Acts 1:8, 1 Peter 2:9). And God still calls some in a special way and for special tasks, such as:

"Pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:38). "How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14–15). "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has set you as overseers" (Acts 20:28).

The second reason in the text is that the way God uses people to promote the light is by their testimony. John was a witness. A witness is a person with personal experience and knowledge that can help establish the truth of some fact that is in dispute.

God had spoken to John in the wilderness about the coming Messiah, and his meeting with Jesus at the baptism gave him the experience he needed. John 1: 33–34: "I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

Consider some things of John that would make our testimony to Christ more credible too. John's humility. In a sense John's role was tragic—the last prophet before the Lord, and killed for it while the Christian movement he served was just getting started (like Moses dying without entering the promised land, only John had done no wrong like Moses).

But John took his role without resentment. He said in 1:27, "I am not worthy to untie Jesus sandals." And when his disciples complained that Jesus was stealing the show ("all are going to him," 3:26), John said in 3: 30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

John's courage. John held to his message of righteousness to the end, and it cost him his life. How many reasons would we think of to ignore Herod's sin of taking his brother's wife! John is a great example of one who acted on principle not on prudence or fear.

And Jesus said there wasn't a greater man who ever lived (Luke 7:28). His testimony was all reality because he was a man of tremendous courage. The way God uses people to spread the light is by their testimony. John was a shining lamp to Jesus. He was burning with zeal and shining with the light of truth.

But not all who saw the witness and saw Jesus believed. John 1:10-11 says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”"But," verse 12 says, "to all who received him, who believe in his name, he gave authority to become children of God."

This means that those who reject the light are not the children of God. God is not everybody's Father. He created everybody, and they are his. But Jesus says in John 8:42, "If God were your Father you would love me." God is not everyone's Father. And the test of who your Father is, is whether you love his Son.

Are we children of God? Verses 12 and 13 are so important because they teach us how we may become children of God. Jesus said in John 8:34–36, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."

Paul says in Romans 8:16–17, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

In other words, if you become a child of God, you become an heir of all that God owns. All that belongs to God is your inheritance. In the resurrection everything that exists will be yours. And God will care for you forever and make you infinitely happy in his presence.

But if you do not become a child of God, then there will be only judgment. There will be no slaves in the age to come, only children. The slaves do not remain in the house forever (8:35). They experience what Jesus calls "the resurrection of judgment" (5:29), and it will be too late for any adoption proceedings.

So how do you become a child of God? What would have to happen this evening to make you a child of God? And if you are a child of God, do you understand how you became one? Can you lead another person into the Father's family?

Verse 12 sets two conditions: receiving Jesus and believing Jesus: "But to all who received him, who believe in his name, he gave authority to become children of God." Receiving Jesus means taking Jesus into your life for what he is. It does not mean a kind of peaceful coexistence with a Christ who makes no claims—as though he can stay in your house as long as he doesn't play his music too loud.

When Jesus preached in Nazareth, the people received him gladly. It says in Luke 4:22, "All spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." But a few verses later it says in Luke 4:28 they were "filled with wrath" and tried to throw him down from a cliff.

They were happy to receive Him while his words were pleasing. But when their pride was touched, they rejected him. Receiving Jesus means taking him into your life (your home, your school, your work, your marriage, your dreams) for who He really is.

That's the first condition in verse 12: receiving Jesus, the light of the world. The second condition is believing in his name: "But all who received him, who believe [present tense!] in his name, he gave authority to become children of God."

What does believing in the name of Jesus mean? John 3:18 says that believing in the name of Jesus is the same as believing in Jesus. "He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

John 5:43–44 says, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?"

Verse 44 implies that you can't believe in Jesus if you love the praise of men. This means that believing is so contrary to pride and self-exaltation that it involves a deep humbling. It means abandoning the craving for human praise, and caring more about the praise of God.

John 6:35 says, "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." This verse teaches that believing in Jesus means being satisfied with Jesus. It means that Jesus is the food that feeds the hunger of your soul.

So I would paraphrase verse 12 like this: "But all who received Jesus into their lives for who he really is, and for whom He becomes the all-satisfying bread of life, to them he gave authority to become the children of God."

Now notice two very important differences between verses 12 and 13. Verse 13 says of the children of God, "they were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God." Notice in verse 12 Jesus is the person acting—"To all who received him, HE [Jesus] gave authority." But in verse 13 God is the person acting— "Who were born of God."

The other difference is that in verse 13 God brings into being children, and so they are his children by virtue of Him being the Father. But in verse 12 John speaks of people needing to get authority to become children of God. Why do they need this authority from Jesus?

Before God causes any of us to be born again, all of us are mere flesh. There is no spiritual life in us. John 3:6 says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." In other words we are spiritually dead before new birth. And that means that we need two things if we are to inherit eternal life as the children of God.

We need to be born again to have spiritual life. That is what God does according to John 1:13 without any help from us—"not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God." We are born of God by a free act of sovereign grace. He chooses us before we choose him.

But when God does that, what we now have is a newborn sinner. The spiritual life is present, but so is sin, and a whole history of sin! In this condition we would have no right to take our place in the house of God, except for one thing. God also provides the authorization by which we can claim our inheritance as children, even though we are sinners.

And that is precisely where Jesus comes in. The moment you believe in Jesus, the moment you receive him fully as the sovereign God, in that moment he gives you not only new birth, but the right and authority, as a sinner, to lay claim to your inheritance as a child of God—to become legally what you are by virtue of new birth—because you were "born of God."

Between us and eternal life there are two great obstacles. One is that we are spiritually lifeless and dead. The other is that we are sinfully corrupt and guilty. We cannot inherit life as children of God if we are dead and if we are guilty. But God so loved us that he did two things.

He sent his Spirit to cause us to be born again, to make us pass from death to life. And so he overcomes the first obstacle. But in perfect harmony with the work of his Spirit God sent his Son to die for our sin (John 1:29) and remove the guilt of all who believe in him.

This is a great salvation for sinners like you and me. It is full and free and corresponds to our exact need and condition. I offer it to you this evening in the name of Jesus. Receive him as he really is. Believe in him as the all-satisfying end of your search for peace. Amen?


© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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