Sunday, December 24, 2023

John 14:1-14 "Jesus helps me to know God personally"


Today is the 4th Advent. 

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or "arrival".  We speak of the four Advent Sundays which come to a climax with the arrival or birth or advent of our Lord Jesus on Christmas day.  This reminds us on a yearly basis also that there is also another advent in view – namely the second coming of Christ. Don’t forget that!

We have taken as our general text 2 Corinthians 5:19 for this advent season: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 

And in this season  we are thinking of at least 5 reasons why we ought to be thankful for God’s indescribable gospel gift:

1. Jesus, the indescribable gift from God makes us have peace with a righteous, holy, just God. We need peace, for through we have become enemies of God.  By trusting in Jesus I may have my sins truly forgiven and His judgment taken away. In Christ, I am truly free! “If the Son set you free, you will be free indeed!” (Jn.8:36)

2. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus assures me that beyond the grave I will possess life and joy and not a fearful prospect of judgment.

3. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus also satisfies the deepest, ultimate longings of my heart, and not just the superficial desires for personal comfort and prosperity.

4. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus helps me to know God personally. We shall consider this fact today.

5. And then lastly, this indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus can really change people. The testimony of the characters of the Bible, and the history of the influence of the gospel of Jesus in the world is an eloquent testimony to this fact. This will be the subject of Christmas morning.

Our anchor text for this message is John 14:9.  

Jesus said to Philip, ‘If you have seen me you have seen the Father’".  

And our main point is this: When we see Jesus as He is, then we also see and understand God as He is - in His essential Nature and Being. Therefore get to know Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible, and you will get to know who God is and what He is like.  This means that you and I will have to be in the daily presence of Jesus and it means  that you and I  must be engaged in a lifelong study, prayerful meditation of the Bible, both in engaging in it for ourselves and also by listening to sound preachers of the Word. Always remember that God has given us an inspired Word[1] – a Testament in two parts about Himself.  And if you want to hear God speaking, read His Word aloud. Hear it spoken aloud. That is the safest way to get to know God.  

The great church father Augustine, before his conversion, was in a bad state. His life was falling to pieces, but the prayers of his godly mother Monica were being answered. Sitting in a garden, he heard children playing and singing, “Tolle lege, tolle lege” … take up and read. He  grabbed the Bible next to him and  read aloud  the first text that opened – Romans 13:13,14. The rest is history. He was a changed man.

We now consider the 4th aspect:  God’s indescribable Gift, the Lord Jesus helps us to know God personally. It is this personal knowledge of God which we must now consider. Personal means, ‘near us’ and ‘in us’. We were made for intimacy with God.

7 Reflections: We were made for a Personal Relationship with God 

1. Consider the fact that we were originally made for this purpose

        i.            In the act of Creation we (mankind) were made for intimate fellowship with God. We alone of all creatures were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).  We alone, of all creatures were made to have a capacity for a relationship with the Creator.  

      ii.            BUT we also must recognise the fact that we no longer possess that special relationship. We are a fallen people.  The Bible teaches that sin has destroyed that personal fellowship (Genesis 3). This sin has alienated every descendant of Adam and Eve. No-one is righteous – not even one (Rom. 3:9-12; cf. Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3).  We are far from God – each one of us. And Jesus, God’s indescribable gift alone can deal with this problem of our alienation from God.

    iii.            AND SO CHRIST CAME AT CHRISTMAS! In grace and mercy and unfathomable love, God has created a way to save those who look to Christ the Saviour (John 1:29). Those who look to Christ are freed from the bondage of sin, and they are led back into a personal relationship with God via the road of progressive sanctification. Those who look to Him are radiant, says Psalm 34:5. Why so?  

They have rediscovered their sense of identity, purpose and destiny. They are able to answer life’s three most important questions with confidence: Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going?

2. Immanuel is personal! Consider the fact that the holy God has made Himself known to fallen sinners once again in the person of His Son, who is Jesus Immanuel – which translates as ‘God with us’. (Matt. 1:22;  cf. Isa. 7:14).  ‘With us’ means that He is near, and if He is near  then He is also personal. In Christ, God has become once again accessible to us: Ephesians 2:13-22, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God ...”.  If we are born again and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with the household of God  where we are fed through  sound expository preaching we learn to get to know the  God from whom we became alienated. 

3. God the Son: Consider again who Jesus is, and what qualifies Him to make the Father known to us: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father". (John 1:1-4,14).  Jesus is here declared to be One who is from God and not only that. He Himself  is God. More than that, He as God took on flesh – our nature – minus sin (Philip. 2:1ff). If then He is  from God, but also One who became flesh, then He  is qualified to make God known, and that is exactly what the Bible says in John 1:18, ”No one has ever God; the only God  (note the deity of Jesus) who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.”

4. Jesus’ own promises of a continued personal relationship through the Holy Spirit:  Remember that Jesus, at His ascension told His disciples that He would not leave them as orphans (Jn. 14:18), but that He would send one like Himself (Jn.16:7), the Holy Spirit who would “dwell with you and in you (Jn. 14:17). The Holy Spirit was given by God to bring Himself near to His people, and to maintain the closeness of God with His people. He is the indwelling Spirit. He is with us and in us. That is very personal, but people often forget that the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit is not primarily related to power manifestations, but to the leading of people into the knowledge of God through His Word, so that they might become what He is. It is a tragedy that the intimate Spirit has been abused by carnal men and women who are only after His effects - signs, wonders and miracles, but not after Himself, and not after  the defining virtues of holiness, godliness and Christlikeness.  The Holy Spirit’s main work is to make the person and work of Christ known (Jn. 14:26), and if Christ, then also the Father. Again I must remind you   what this is ultimately all about. We were created for God Himself. We have all fallen into sin. In that state we do not know God. We possess only the remnants of a far and distant and corrupted memory,  and that is why there are so many religions. They are all corruptions and false notions of God. Our greatest need is to get to know God. Jesus,  and the outpoured Holy Spirit ALONE  can  help  us  to find the way back to the one true God.  

5.  Jesus personal prayer for His people: Consider John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, and particularly 17:26, the great conclusion of that prayer: “I made  known to them your Name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love  with which you have loved me  may be in them, and I in them”.  In this prayer Jesus   reveals His primary reason for coming: To make the God  whom the world has lost known, and to reignite a personal relationship  between  those who believe and the Father and the Son.  I remind you from Romans 8:34 that Jesus continues to pray for His people –  and essentially that they may remain intimate with their Father in heaven.

6. In Christ! Now consider one of Paul’s favourite phrases, applied to believers -”in Christ” – illustratively applied to Ephesians 1:1- 14: cf. verses 1b,3,4,6,7,9,11,13. In Christ or ’into Christ’ expresses our nearness to Jesus, the  Mediator between God and men. When we are ‘in Christ’ then we are also ‘in God’.  

7.  Our Future Destiny: The Father’s House – our future personal place. Finally we consider John 14:1-14, the text with which we began as we see how Jesus, in a most touching way leads us back in to the Father’s house and into the Father’s presence. This beautifully connects the parable of the lost Son (Lk. 15:11-32) with our own story. Consider that each  one of us is a lost son and daughter,  and by our conversion we are returning to the Father’s house, where we  are so well received  and where we shall finally see Him for who He is!   

Consider  from that text:

(i)        The necessity of believing in God and in Christ  in order to gain personal knowledge of God  (14:1,10,12)

(ii)       The certainty of being received into  a real place - eternal dwellings - the Father’s house (14:2)

(iii)       The assurance of  being in the personal presence of the Saviour (14:3)

(iv)    God’s patience with our uncertainties in the meantime: He bears with Thomas and Philip,  and in both cases  He reminds them that the way to heaven is  rooted in a firm  attachment (14:6) and a firm look at Christ. Jesus said to Philip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). 

We end where we began. Our grand purpose, the meaning of life and our destiny is rooted in what we were made to be. We were made for God. We were made for intimacy, fellowship. 

Sadly we have gone in search of many things, other gods, other ways (idolatry).

But God who is rich in mercy gave us the very best, His Son. Those who look to Him  will  know the Father!   God wants to be known. He wants to be loved. He wants to be our Father and our Friend in the profoundest way imaginable. Although He is great beyond all imagination, He came near in Jesus so that we could know him. "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him" (John 14:7). And if you have received this personal friend, who is also at the same time  the Mighty God  then you can truly say this Christmas,

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift."  Amen!


[1] 2 Tim 3:16. We therefore depend on the Holy Spirit to be  the proper Interpreter

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