God's End Game - Part 16
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
March 03, 2019
In case you’re joining us for the first time, we are in a series called “God’s End Game” where we’re trying to tap into the mystery of what God is up to with us and the world, answering a question that gets more and more relevant every day, as well as more and more urgent, and it is: where is all this is headed?
We spent many weeks in Genesis looking at the origins of all that exists, and why things are the way they are now, why God needed an end game.
We discovered our world is a good world gone bad because of sin. Sin has corrupted every corner of the universe, but even worse, it’s given all humanity dark hearts, which caused a separation between us and our creator.
Even in Genesis, we learned the way God deals with his good world gone bad, the way sinful man is made right with him is not works or the keeping of the law (religion). It’s faith; it’s by believing in His promises.
All the promises of God are bound up in a person, Jesus Christ.
So ultimately the way God deals with his good world gone bad is not some moral code or belief system or philosophical pursuit; it’s with a person named Jesus.
Now we begin to see the arc of God’s End Game coming into view.
The apex of this arc is the coming of Jesus.
God’s end game plan revolves around Jesus and it has three telescoping parts, one flowing from the other.
It begins with the INCARNATION.
It climaxes with the CRUCIFIXION.
It carries on with the RESURRECTION.
Today we continue unpacking the first part:
INCARNATION - God taking on human flesh, becoming a man, and living a life in perfect fulfillment of God’s law.
Last week in Matthew’s gospel, we saw how he begins with what we commonly know as the Christmas story, which is good because almost everyone is familiar with it, but it’s also bad because we get so familiar with it we miss the revolutionary truth it declares. Matthew writes…
Matthew 1:22–23 (ESV) — 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
When he applies the OT prophecy made by Isaiah to Jesus, he is saying Jesus is God not in spirit, not by some manifestation, but in person. And he’s God showing up in a way we can handle. If we stood in God’s presence as He is, we’d die (something God revealed to Moses, who wanted to see him face to face).
The way God shows up to be with us, to fix his good world gone bad, is a way no one would have ever thought.
God shows up to set things to rights by actually becoming one of us! So…
The way you and I are made right with God is not works or the keeping of the law (religion). It’s faith; it’s by believing in His promises, promises bound up in Jesus, who is God come in the flesh.
Now let’s spend even more time here, by going to John’s gospel. Both John and Matthew were disciples of Jesus, and both, when they wrote their accounts of who Jesus was and what he did, felt it necessary to begin by making that “God with us” connection.
Matthew does it by referring to prophecy, John does it by making the boldest, most radical theological statements about Jesus one could ever make.
The first two verses pack a theological punch so fierce, debates over what they mean and if they are accurate rage to this day.
John 1:1–18 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The first question we must answer here is “Who is the Word?” We know it’s a person. We know it’s a man (he). His name as the “Word” is interesting and would have been familiar to both Jewish and Greek readers because “Word” here is translated from the Greek word logos which at its root means “to tell” to “speak something.”
Jews hear that and are immediately drawn into the OT. One scholar writes: “In the Old Testament, God regularly acts by means of his ‘word’. What he says, happens—in Genesis itself, and regularly thereafter. ‘By the word of the Lord’, says the psalm, ‘the heavens were made’ (33:6). God’s word is the one thing that will last, even though people and plants wither and die (Isaiah 40:6–8); God’s word will go out of his mouth and bring life, healing and hope to Israel and the whole creation (Isaiah 55:10–11).”
Greeks hear it and go straight to the teachings of their philosophers who taught that “the universe is … an ordered place, and what lies behind the universe and orders it is reason (logos).”
We know this guy’s name is the Word and we also know he existed “in the beginning.” That takes us straight back to where we started in this series.
Genesis 1:1–3 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said…
This was no accident on John’s part. He wanted everyone to make that connection. Whoever the Word is, he was there with God in the beginning, which means he existed before time, space, and matter came into being.
What’s fascinating here is John says he, the Word, was with God in the beginning and he was God. He was separate and distinct from God, yet he was God at the same time. Mind blown.
One Bible scholar says, “Here then are the beginnings of Christian reflection on the mind-stretching concept that became known as the doctrine of the Trinity.”
If you’re sitting there thinking, I’m just gonna be honest with you, Pastor Brad. How can that be? How can you be an individual distinct from another individual and be that individual at the same time?
I want you to know it’s okay. In fact, it’s awesome.
I love it when people ask the hard questions. Contrary to what you may have heard or what you’ve been taught, Christianity is a faith founded on fact and truth discovered by reason as much as it is believed by faith.
So, you are right. This isn’t possible when speaking in human terms. But we’re talking about God here, a deity able to speak reality into being. A God who exists outside of time, space, and matter.
Remember what I always tell you: when you come across something concerning God that troubles you or seems impossible to figure out or square with what you know, you’re getting very close to touching the hem of the garment of actual God of the universe.
We imagine God as we want him to be or we imagine him as a better, more powerful, wiser version of ourselves. We try to square who he is with who we are.
Doing that trips us up when we come across things in the Bible that really bother us (like how God allows evil and suffering in the world) or things that don’t make sense to us (like how God can be one and yet more than one in the Trinity).
Flip that around though. Wouldn’t the God of all creation by definition, by his very nature, be beyond our figuring out? Wouldn’t it make sense that in trying to understand who he is and how he works we’d come across things that are hard to believe and understand?
In the opposite vein, if we actually figured out God, if he fit into our understanding, if we were totally comfortable with him, would that God really be the God of the universe?
JD Greear says:
[It doesn’t matter how we “like to see God.” God is who he is.
I have a litmus test to help you determine whether or not you are doing this: How often does God contradict you, confuse you, or make you mad? Because if he’s not doing any of those things, chances are you are not really letting God be God—you are only re-imagining him as you want him to be…
God is not just a slightly bigger reflection of ourselves. As Karl Barth said, “If our God never contradicts us or makes us mad, then we are likely not worshipping him, but a reflection of ourselves.”]
That’s as deep as we’re going into that because we are looking at God’s End Game, remember? But just in case verse one wasn’t enough to convince us that this man called the Word is extraordinarily special, John makes it clear in verse 2 that…
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.
Conclusion: But we still haven’t answered the question of who is he? Let’s keep reading and see if John tells us…
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. 7 He 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.
The Word became flesh: incarnation. Dwelt with us. Immanuel. Getting an idea of who this is?
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.
The Word who was with God and was God, the Word through whom and by whom all things were made, is a man named Jesus. Jesus Christ is unequivocally God With Us in the flesh.
That’s all we have time for today. But even that little bit about Jesus is enough for us to know, you can’t just sit on this information. You must respond!
The truth of who Jesus is isn’t given to us for information but transformation. He wants to make you into God’s actual sons and daughters.
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