Sunday, January 30, 2011

God Is Light

God is Light

Intro.: I am not one for art – I know very little about it.

  1. Occasionally, an artist stands out.

  2. One of my favorite is known as “The Artist of Light”

  3. His real name is Thomas Kinkade

  4. Here are some examples

  5. Notice that light plays an important part of many of his pictures

  6. Listen to the words of John

Read: I John 1:1:5


Trans: I never liked physics – it was the science that I felt least comfortable studying

  1. But I liked studying the properties of light

  2. I liked setting up mirrors and lenses and filters to see how they would change and alter the image that was being displayed

  3. Sandra will tell you that one of the ticks that I still have is trying to see and understand light – she sees me cocking my head, closing one eye, and she'll say “What are you doing? Playing with light again” And nine times out of ten, she will be right.

  4. John is going to spend some time in the next few verses telling us about light. He begins by discussing how he got his message.

  1. The Message: How it was sent?

    1. Have you ever said anything twice?

    2. Every so often I read a book where a character is in the midst of retelling the same story for the umteenth time – and you can just hear those sitting within earshot saying, “Oh no! Not again”

    3. But you know sometimes it is necessary to re-say something. It may be a different audience, it may be so important that it has to be reheard. For example, E. Stanley Jones, a famous missionary to India, maintained a list of about 20 key ideas that he used to define his ministry. After hearing his list, I built my own list of important topics – and it should not surprise you that those 20 ideas regularly pop up in my preaching. They are important and I think they bear repeating.

    4. Paul did the same thing – he would repeat himself. In fact he did this in I John 1:5 – in the same verse in which he sets up the remainder of the chapter, he also summarizes what he has said in the first part of the chapter.

    5. The first part of I John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you ...”

(Ill.) David Jeremiah, a relative well-known TV and Radio preacher once said that someone told him, “Pastor Jeremiah, you will learn in your ministry that if you communicate from your head you may change somebody’s mind. If you communicate from your heart you might change their attitudes. But if you communicate from your life you have the potential of changing their lives.”i

(Appl.) I mentioned it last week, but, like John, I want to say it again. What we say to another about our faith needs to come from our life, not from our head, not even from our heart, but after our faith becomes integrated into our lives, we are ready to share. Only after our lives have been transformed – and they will be when we meet Jesus.

    1. And that is exactly what John is doing. As we said last week, John had spent three years with Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry to Jesus' death. He had also spent 40 days with Jesus after His resurrection. As he shares in the letter, he is sharing from his own life.

(Ill.) The Amish has a long standing tradition that the greatest sin is speaking for God. It is only when we speak from our lives that we are speaking for ourselves. We are speaking about what we have experienced – not what others have told us.

    1. And so John closes the first part of his letter – and immediately begins the second part of his letter ...

  1. The Message: What did it say?

    1. It is a simple statement, “God is light.”

    2. Light plays an important part in God interaction with His people:

      1. It was the first thing he created in Genesis – and then the stars, sun, and moon, on day 4.

      2. It was by a pillar of light that he led His people from Egypt as they fled Pharaoh’s slavery.

      3. Jesus called himself “The Light of the World.”

      4. Our world needs light; but, but interestingly, heaven does not (see “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”)

(Ill.) Light can tell us a lot about something. I was a chemistry major in college – that was before I began preparing for seminary. But once in seminary, I used that chemistry background to get employment in a medical laboratory that did exams for drugs – both legal and illegal. Now the test for salicylic acid was interesting. Now, I know you have no idea what salicylic acid is – but most of us use it regularly for one thing or another. It is the scientific name for aspirin.

But to test for salicylic acid, aspirin, you add a bit of iron cloride into the sample. It turns purple in the presence of aspirin. The darker the purple, the more aspirin. And you can measure the amount light that goes through the purple and get a good estimate of the quanity of aspirin present. By looking at the light, you can tell something about the sample.

In a similar way, when people see us living in the light of God's love, they can tell something about us.

    1. “God is Light” - but there is more. Look at the very end of today's passage - “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

(Ill.) Have you ever thought about it – there is no way to paint a picture of the dark. The minute we begin to see something in the picture, there has to be light. Darkness can have no light, but light can have darkness – except that God makes it clear that where God is concerned, the reverse is also true. When God is present, there can be no darkness in the light.

(Appl.) Yet we feel the dark, all the time. We know its uncertainty, we know the unknown that comes from being in the dark. I've talked about the times that I have walked into our bedroom with the light out – I have this fear of tripping over blankets at the end of the bed, or of a pair of shoes that did not get moved out of the way, or finding the leg of the bed and stubbing my toe. Fear is something we all have experienced at some point – but when I am living close to God, there it does not need to be there.

You might look at it like this – when I am driving and I see flashing red lights and an arm of flashing lights coming down, I know that a train is coming – I know that I need to do something – stop. We can let that feeling of fear that we experience at times act like those flashing lights. Remind us that we need to do something – and that something is “Trust God”.

It is not always easy - but then we can believe God, “God is light and in Hm there is no darkness at all.” And when God is there, there is nothing to fear. Let the very fear we feel, be the flashing red lights that can remind us that God is there.

Conclusion: Let me finish by saying this – I do not know what your dark space may be --

  • Maybe it is the dark.

  • Maybe it is your health

  • Maybe it is your age

  • For some it may even be your family

But remember that whatever your dark space is, God will be there to give you light.


iMorgan, Robert J. Nelson's annual preacher's sourcebook : 2008 Edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Letter: A First Read

A Letter's First Read

Intro. Mail is part of the 21st century.

  1. Maybe you saw the movie “Letters To God” last year – they even came out with a Bible with some of the notes that were in the Bible discussed in the movie.
  2. And here is a pile of my mail from this past week.
  3. Maybe one of you would like to pay my phone bill.
  4. If you lived in the 1st century AD, you may have been handed a letter. You would have been told it was from John the Apostle.
  5. It started this way:
Read: I John 1:1-4 Pray

Trans:What would you do if you were alone on an island?

  1. All your food was provided
  2. Great views of Mediterranean
  3. People around all the time
  4. So what do you do?
  5. John wrote letters – three letters. We call them I, II, and III John
  6. Over the next several weeks we will spend time in I John.
  7. We will will look at what makes I John unique
  8. And what John wanted to the church to know as he waited out his final years.
T.S. As we look at I John 1:1-4, we will discover more about the author, more about the message, and more about his purpose for writing.
  1. The Author
    1. It is late in the first century – and a letter begins to be circulated among the church. But in that letter, no where does John claim to be the author.
    2. But that has been the church's claim from early in its history.

(Ill.) John was unique – he was the last of the disciples to die. Rather than being killed – he had been exiled to Patmos. Patmos was traditionally a Greek Island, but by the time of Jesus, had become essentially a Roman site to exile its prisoners – that is why we find John there.

    1. John was not only speaking for himself. Notice that uses the word “we” - the letter was not just his. He is speaking not only for himself, he was the final voice of the original twelve apostles. He is the last of the men that had spent three years living, watching, listening to Jesus. He was there when Jesus died. And, perhaps most importantly, John was there when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to return home to His father.
    2. Thus John's voice was his own and that of all the twelve. But as he wrote, John also spoke for someone else – he spoke for God.
    3. What John wrote came from his heart, it represented the teachings of the twelve disciples, but it also reflected the work of God in his heart.
(Appl.) I am a firm believer in the “inerrancy” of scripture. Inerrancy is the conviction that God has so prepared the writers of scripture, that when they write, that what is put onto paper is what God intended to write. It is true for Genesis, it true of the Gospel writers, it is true of John as he writes his last letter. Inerrancy means that we can trust the scriptures. They give us what God wanted us to have. And from them we are lead to live lives modeled after his plan for His world.

  1. The Message
    1. I am not going to discuss everything that John discusses in the five chapters of I John.
    2. But in these four verses before us this morning, there is very important point to remember.
    3. Here it is – John is not here to teach us theology, but he is here to help us understand what he has experience of Jesus Christ.
    4. In these four verses, John tells us that what follows comes from what he has seen, from what he has touched, and what from he has heard.
    5. This is no fiction book. It comes from his life.

(Appl.) I have to admit that sometimes it is hard to talk about the lives we have lived. Privacy is something that the modern American strive to maintain. We all carry a load that can hurt to share – But there are two times when sharing our past can be of help:

    1. The first is when we share with God. I mean he already knows our past – and only as we let him take that load that we carry can we begin to experience the healing that he offers. There is no hiding from Jesus – but when we are honest with Him, we begin to let go of that baggage, we begin to let go of that load that we have been carrying. And the second reason for sharing our past makes no sense till the first has occurred.
    2. The second takes a bit of courage and great deal of sensitivity. When God has dealt with our past, when we have experienced God's healing, when we have lived with the freedom that God has given us, sometimes our past can be of help to another. We don't tell our story to tell it – but we might choose to tell it when it will let another know that same freedom.
    1. So, John opens up his life in this letter – sharing what he has seen, heard, and touched, what he has experienced, as he has walked with God.
    2. Though the book will introduce us to some theology, it was not written to be a theology book.
    3. The message of I John is rooted in the life of John the apostle. As we study and read over the next few weeks, I hope that we never forget this.
  1. The Purpose
    1. So we have John, writing from his own heart as well as from that of the other apostles and from God's heart. He writes about the things that he has seen, touched, and heard. But we have said nothing, yet, about why he is writing.
    2. John suggests three answers:
    3. The first we have already hinted at – he is writing to introduce us to Jesus – what he has seen, heard, and touched. Sometimes, I think, there are those who use the phrase “meet Jesus” too loosely, but John really wants you to know the Jesus he knows. Nothing hid, no surprises – just the Jesus he spent three wonderful years with. The Jesus who he will spend eternity with – John wants you to know him.
    4. But there is another purpose – look at verse 3, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” John is writing so that you can join the family – the family of God.
    5. Or, if you are already a member of God's family, so that you can be more faithful member of that family. He wants to prepare us to live as believers in a world that does not believe in God.
    6. Finally, he writes in verse 4 that he writes because he wants his own joy to be “complete.”
    7. When we serve another, when we help another, it is satifying – it is joyful. What more joy could there be but in helping lead others to eternity in Christ's presence.

(Ill.) Joy does not come from what we do – it comes from living close to Jesus. Here is John, exiled to an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, but he finds joy. If you find yourself lacking joy, ask yourself where God is? What role is He playing in your life right at that point in time?