Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 months ago

Jesus is the Focus of Our Hearts

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

John 1:1-23

And here God's word. Then from John Chapter One. I understand the pastor this morning that preached preached from the same text, John Chapter One, versus one through eighteen. I'm going to go a little bit beyond verse eighteen. I'm going to go to verse twenty three, and then at the end of the service you get to vote on the best sermon from this passage. After I leave John Chapter One, beginning at verse one. 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 in him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light, the true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world was made through him. Yet the world did not know him. He came to his own and his own peace. People did not receive him, but to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 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. 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 and from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace, for the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the father's side. He has made him known, and this is the testimony of John. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who are you, he confessed and did not deny, but confessed I am not the Christ, and they asked him what then, are you Elijah? He said, I am not. Are you the Prophet? And he answered no. So they said to him, who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the Wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord, as the Prophet Isaiah said, the word of the Lord, you may be seated. Some time ago, I believe back in the S, there was a world series, baseball series going on between the Milwaukee Braves, which gives you a little bit of an idea of how old this story is. Back to the S, the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees, and during the time that this took place, that this world series was going on, the The New York Yankees had a player on their teamed named Yogi Bearra and Yogie bear is a hall of Famer, but he is most famous for his constant chatter. He was just a he was a chatterbox, both on the field...

...and off the field. He's famous for several sayings, but he he he would chatter the whole time and he played catcher, so he his job, he thought, was to encourage the players on his team but, more importantly, to distract the batters when they came up to bat. Now the other team that was play a the Milwaukee Braves, had a player on their team named Hank Aaron. Now, Hank Karon was for many years the home run leader for the for baseball in the United States, and so when Hank Aaron came up to bat, yogie bear I just kept up his chatter. He kept chattering to his fellow teammates, but then he started chattering at at Hank Aaron, trying to distract him and he said to him, Hey, hey, you're holding the bat wrong. You need to you need to rotate it so that you can read the trademark. Well, well, Hank Aaron, being the consummate batter that he was, didn't pay any attention to Yogi Bearra and just just waited, waited for the pitch and he got the the pitch about three pitches later that he sent out over the left field wall, trotted around the bases and as he came back to home he said he looked at yogie baron. He said to him, I didn't come up here to read. He showed him what he came up there to do. He came up there to hit the ball out of the park. Well, Yogie Barrett, the consummate distractor, Hank Aaron not distracted totally focused. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had that kind of focus, particularly when it comes to Jesus? We started with that call to worship this evening. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. So we just ask you, what did you what distractions did you come in with tonight? What distractions do you are you dealing with right now, as the sermon is being preached, as the service is going on, or what? What distractions are at are tugging at your heart right now? There may be a number of things going on in your lives. Even with a small group like this, we could we could have that prayer time and have a number of things that we would offer up to each other and to the Lord that we would want to pray for. There's a number of things that are are plaguing us. That's the nature of the world in which we live right the world in which we live this this life. Suffering is not an interruption. Suffering is life. And so when we come to thinking about the distractions of life and what keeps our focus off of Christ or takes our focus of Christ, it can be a number of things that are going on in our lives. Or perhaps well, or perhaps for some of us they are. They are distractions of our own making. Sometimes, sometimes the the trials that were walking through, the hardships that we're dealing with, are so, so heavy upon us, carry so much weight that we will do most anything to be free of them. So we create our own distractions. Some might call it escapism, escaping life for a time. And perhaps perhaps it's...

...perhaps it's alcohol, or perhaps it's it's illicit drugs, or maybe it's their prescription drugs, but but taking more than what's prescribed, keeping old medication, using extra medication, seeking medication in order to medicate, in order to Numb, in order to keep from feeling the pain. We create those kinds of distractions, those kinds of ways of escape. It doesn't have to be something like that. It could be something as simple as binge television watching right so, what's your favorite show on Netflix right now? What do you bend watching on prime how do you how do you escape? How do you escape life? What do you what do you create as a distraction? What I what I'm hoping we will find as we look through this passage tonight. We're going to we're going to focus. I Know Dan Smith, Pastor Dan Smith, this morning focused more on on the light and the darkness and how Christ comes and he he he is the light of the world and he pushes back the darkness. But I want to focus a bit tonight on John the Baptist and his purpose and being sent and how John the Baptist came as one to prepare the way for the Lord, to get the distractions out of the way, to remove the obstacles, to prepare the way in the desert for the Lord, for the coming of the Lord. He came as one to prepare the way and how he did that was in his witness. He did that through his witness to Christ, keeping Christ as the the center point, the focus point. Then that happens most and best as we witness to Christ. Then there's a there's a couple of ways that we understand witness. So there's the actual witness seeing of an event. Right. So perhaps this last fall you witnessed Arizona football and shed a few tears that every game except for their one win. Or perhaps you've witnessed, you've gotten to witness some of Arizona Basketball and you've cheered at every single win that they've had. Eleven wins in a row, never done before by a first time coach in the PAC twelve. That's witnessing something right. Or you witness an accident, you see something take place. Now we we keep our eyes on Jesus as that kind of witness, as we as we witness what Jesus has done and and we don't. We do have the advantage of God's word and the spirit who who takes us back to what Christ did when he walked this earth, as he came as as and took on flesh. Write. The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son who came from the father full of grace and truth. We can, we can witness to that, but we weren't eyewitnesses. We know of John's other let, his letter, his first letter to the church, where he gives that witness right from the beginning. He starts out as letter, that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life, the life was made manifest, and we've seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the...

...father and was made manifest to us. That which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you, so that you two may have fellowship with us. So John, John was one of those witnesses. We weren't witnesses. None of us were there. And yet aren't we? Aren't we the those who bear witness, who have seen, who have actually witnessed the work of Christ in our own lives and the lives of people around us? If you, if you think back. So my testimony is not it's not what what some might call super exciting, the testimony of me coming to faith in Christ. I think it's I think it's really, really super exciting personally because it's my testimony and but it's kind of just you know, I grew up in the church and my parents, my dad, was a missionary to the Novajo Indians up on the novel reservation. I grew up hearing my dad preach all the time, time and and hearing him witness two people all the time. He He loved the Gospel, he loved the novel people. He'd pick up hitchhikers just so he had a captive audience and he could witness to them. You can share the Gospel with them. And that's the setting I grew up in and I was I was, I was taught the Gospel. We were catechized in the Heidelberg Catechism from from our youth and and so in late high school, I made a public profession of my faith as one who now what my parents had taught me and what my church had taught me was my faith. It became mine. I trusted in Christ, I understood the Gospel, I believed the Gospel and that Christ died to save me. Some would say that's not so exciting. You Right. You want to hear the the testimony about the gutter, the gutter to the gutter most, to the uttermost is how some people say. At the gutter, you know, the person whose life was amazingly transformed. Well, my life didn't change a whole lot, and yet God, a Christ, took hold of my heart. And so perhaps perhaps the same as true for you. Perhaps you've been you've been in the church, you've grown up in the church, you've grown up in a Christian home and you've heard the Gospel and you have seen even as maybe as milk toast or you can't really call it boring because it's totally exciting. But you, you might say it's just not that great of a story. And yet it is the story of Christ taking hold of your heart and transform your heart. No matter how it happens, is always exciting. It's always exciting, and so you can bear Whitney. You have witnessed, you have seen what Christ has done, how he's changed the affections in your heart, how he's changed your your desires. Your desires are are maybe not all gone, certainly not all gone for toward fleshly things. That's not that's not ever going to end right. Our struggle with the flesh will not ever end in this life. It will end when we go home, when we get home, when we get to be with the Lord. Then there will be no more sin, there will be no more struggle. But now we will struggle. We tend to struggle. We have different desires that that come at US and tempt us. But but we're better equip now, we're better able because the spirit lives in us. The spirit is always after us to say no. He gives us the word, he gives us that way out right. That's what Paul says. There's always a way out whenever those temptations come.

And I've I've witnessed that. I've seen my desires for fleshly things diminish. Not Complete victory, not complete absence of those desires. Some some desires, yes, some desires totally gone, but others that are diminishing and in an increasing work of holiness in my heart by the spirit. And and if you're a follower of Jesus, if you're a one who you would say Jesus is my Lord, Jesus is is my savior, then you you have seen it. You have seen it in your own life and you've probably seen it if you have any deep friendships, relationships, if you're married, you get to watch it in your spouse. You get to see God chip off the edges, you get to see the Holy Spirit sand down those little rough spots. You get to see that happen. You get wow, isn't she? Isn't she more beautiful today than she was on our wedding day? Yes, she is. She is season because I get to see it. I get to watch, I get to I get to see what God's doing. So there's that kind of witness right. You see it in your own heart, you see it in the lives of people around you, in the body of Christ. So one of my great privileges. I find it hard to believe sometimes, but I've been able to to be the pastor at Rincon Mountain now for twenty one years, and so there are people that I've that I've gotten to see their lives change over time. You know, change doesn't happen just like that. Sometimes it does some areas of our lives, but it's generally gradual and you see the spirit work and to be able to look at people and say, man, she's really grown or he's really changed. I have witnessed that. I and I I have seen that, and so have you. If you, if you've been in the church at all, if you've been in the church for a while, or maybe you're new, maybe you're new to Christianity and you're still exploring it, watch for that. Look for that, because you will see it. When Jesus has your heart, your heart will change. And that's what John the Baptist came to do, to be a witness of what Jesus is doing and so there's that kind of witness. The other kind of witness is actually, like saying it, when you bear witness, when you proclaimed what you've seen. So you witness. You might witness an accident and then you're called into court to witness to the accident, to be a witness, to say what it is that you saw, to describe it. And we have that kind of experience, don't we? Also, as as believers, as those who follow Jesus, not only do we see what Jesus is doing in our hearts and in our lives and how he's changing us, but we have opportunity then to proclaim that. We have opportunity to give testimony to that, to testify to it, like in a court of law or the Court of public opinion or the Court of my neighbor's opinion, right, and you have an opportunity to testify. And isn't isn't that where where our witness has the most effect, is in the lives of the people that that get to see us, get to know us in and then we and then we can enter into their lives and talk with them about the changes we've seen Jesus making our lives and how he can do that in their lives. Isn't that probably the most effective kind of evangelism we can do, the best witnessinging we can do, being involved in other lives, sharing life...

...together? And that's again, that's what that's what John came to do. He came to be a witness, not not to himself but to Jesus, but to the light. So verse seven it says he came as a witness, to bear witness about the light that all might believe through him. So he's a he's a witness to another, he's a witness to the to Jesus. He's pointing to Jesus. He was sent from God right he verse six says there was a man sent from God whose name was John. And if you haven't had a sermon on it recently, oftentimes it's an advent sermon. But it's the birth of John The baptist. or how that how that pregnancy came about, and the Angel Gabriel going to Zachariah and the temple and Zachariah loses his voice because he he won't, he, he won't say John's name and when he does finally say his name will be John. His voice comes back, but that whole miraculous thing, right. They're both they're both old and she's bearn and God still gives them this child. It's a it's an amazing account told for us in Luke Chapter One. He was this man, was sent from God. He was sent to be a witness, sent to be one who would point to Jesus. So in that respect, John is like us, John Is, John is one of us. John, John is just like you or I, who's born and then he's a toddler and he's a teenager and he's an adult and he just goes through the life cycle and and his whole purpose is to point to Jesus, to point to his his his younger cousin or relative, we're not sure exactly the relationship, but to point to Jesus, the one who is not, is not like us, and yet became like us, right, the one who is the eternal God, the one who is has always been, and then he takes on flesh. He's born in that little that little manger in in Bethlehem, just outside of Jerusalem. So John Comes to bear witness to him, to this one who took on flesh, the one who is God. And John is really clear about who he is. And so a few years ago I found a book in my sister in Law's House that had the title and it was by a guy named, I think it was, Louis Giglio, more popular evangelical author, but the title of the book. I didn't read the book other than the title, but the title caught my attention. The title was this. It was I am not but I know I am. I am not, but I know I am. And what he was saying in the book as I perused it is that that he was saying. I know that I'm not God and I know he is God and I I need to get out of being the God being God. I need to get out of the business of being God. I need to stop trying to run my own life, stop trying to think I'm sovereign, stop trying to think I know what's best for me, stop trying to think about what's next for me in my life and submit to God and know that God is the one who is sovereign over all things and he's the one that makes things possible for us. So...

John the Baptist is really clear. I'm not the Christ. In fact, that last section we read down at Verse Twenty, verse Nineteen, and this is the testimony of John. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem ask him, who are you, and he says I'm not the Christ, and they asked him, well, what then? Are You Elijah? And he says no, I'm not. Are you the Prophet? And he answered no. They said to him, who are you? We need to give an answer. What do you say about yourself? I am the voice of one crying in the desert. Make straight the way of the Lord, as the Prophet Isaiah said. So I'm not. I know I'm not the Christ. In fact, you guys won't believe this, but but he's he's so great I can't even untie his shoes right. That was the lowest form of servanthood was to touch someone's feet. I'm not even I'm not even good enough to touch his feet. I'm not even good enough to untie his shoes. The one who's coming is greater than I am. I must decrease, he must increase. That was John's whole point. His whole purpose was to keep pointing to Jesus and to say no, I'm not, I'm not the Christ. I'm the one who comes to prepare the way and and the way I think about that is there's three little three little images I get about John Preparing the way for Christ. One is he's the bulldozer. He's like a bulldozer. He's clearing the big rocks, the boulders, he's clearing the ways, clearing the road, removing the obstacles. The second is like is like a lead tackle, a tailback or maybe a fullback. That's probably the better position. The the full back on a football team. He doesn't get the ball to run through the gap. He runs through the gap ahead of the guy that's got the football. So he runs through and he takes out. So he just comes through that whole looking for someone to hit, someone to take and clear out of the way, so the so that the tailback can actually run and get some yardage. So John the Baptist is the lead tackle. He's running ahead of Christ, he's ahead of them remove moving the obstacles. Or there's this image. John the Baptist is the pre release trailer for the for the full for the full show that will come right. So I don't know if you've been back to theaters yet since the pandemic. It's one of the things I love about the pandemic being over ish. But I love going to movies and I love getting there in time for the trailers, for the previews. I want to see the previews. Let's not get let's not be late. I want to be there for the previews. So I want to see what's coming. And that's what John the Baptist was. He was there to tell about the one who is coming. He was the pre released trailer. He was to tell everybody. And don't you hate it when the previews give away the whole movie? But that was his job, was to give away the whole movie. This guy is going to come and he's going to be so great I can't even touch his feet, I can't even carry his shoes. I he's just he's so perfect, so beautiful. In fact, when John the Baptist saw him a little bit later on in this chapter, behold, what does he say? Behold, look, look, everybody, behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He bears witness. That was his whole us and that was that was how. That was how John, in the midst of the world in which he lived, in the midst of so much, so much political, so much religious...

...intrigue, kept his focus on Christ, kept his focus on Jesus, I mentioned earlier. We have these we have distractions in our world, the pain we're dealing with, the hardships were walking through, or perhaps the distractions we've created ourselves to deal with that pain so that pain is numbed. But now, right now, in this season where we have additional distractions, don't we all kinds of distractions around us during Christmas time, and I like to believe that that God providentially uses these things in our lives to point us back to him. So like, so like, when we see Christmas trees, we look at we look at the fact that they're evergreen. We're reminded that God's love for us is is eternal, it never dies, it never ends. His love has no beginning and no end. For us, or the lights that we see right you'll drive around with your families, perhaps this week or next, or you'll go to winter haven this week, which we're planning on doing Wednesday, so you'll go and look at all the lights. Well, the lights are beautiful, the lights are amazing, but but they're nothing the best thing at winter haven, all of winter haven put together, is nothing compared to the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness, the light that pushes away the darkness. And so when we when we when we get around the the different symbols of the year or the symbols of the season, the the things that might be a distraction to us, you use them to point, to point your heart back to Christ, to get your focus back on Christ, not to not to be distracted, not not that you can enjoy those things, but there's a purpose behind them. They are temporary. Their temporal. They will they will die. Right every year you get out the lights, you got to replace the bulbs. That burned out. Word get a whole new strand if the whole thing's burnt out. Jesus Christ never burns out. His light, his light is eternal. Is Light goes on and on and on. So witness a witness, John The baptist, witnesses to another buddy also, he's also sent. He's sent by God, and it's the same word that we have. We get the Word Apostle from. It's he's actually these post it right, he's is like it's like Jerusalem or a Bethleem or that whole area, that the Jordan, is his post. That's where he's sent to serve. Right. He's posted there. Now, if you're a if you're a witness to a crime and and the police have your information, it's likely they will summon you. They'll ask you to come and to be a witness to the crime. Right, at some point they want your statement, or maybe you'll even have to give testimony in a trial. But when it comes to spiritual matters, witnesses are sent, witnesses are posted, witnesses are are called to be the ones who proclaim. You know, at the end of Matthew, Jesus did not tell his disciples. All Authority and Heaven and earth has been given to me. So just sit tight, just sit tight, and and everybody will come to you, Christ our centers, from all around, from all the nations, they're going to come to you and all you have to do is tell them everything I've taught you and then baptize them, and that's good, we're good to go. Just sit tight, they're going to come to you, right. That's not that's not what Matthew says. It's not what Jesus says. He...

...says go. He says go, and there's a lot made of the fact that that's not the imperative, that's not the command in that passage, and that's true. The command is make disciples, but you do that as you're going. It's a participle. It's as you're going make disciples and as you're going you're witnessing, you're telling your testifying to others. So you're sent by God and if you're a if you're a witness, it may be it may be a life or death calling the the actual word in the Greek is Marturion, from which we get the word martyr. So if you're a witness, wait. Basically what you're doing is what basically what this says in verse seven is he came as a martyr to Martio about the light that all might believe through him. He came as a martyr, and I I don't think it's I don't think it's soon that this will happen in the United States, that we as Christians will be persecuted. I think it's getting closer. I think things are showing us that perhaps that kind of thing might, might happen for the Christians in America, but we know we have brothers and sisters around the world who, for their faith, for their witness, for their testimony, are facing death daily. And that is that is the call, that is the calling of us. And and so while we may not face that kind of persecution here in the states, we will and we already are called to die, to die to ourselves, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow Jesus, to follow the one that we proclaim to follow, the one of whom we bear witness. It's a life and death commitment. This is what Jesus says. Crawling calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it. For what is it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? We know that martyrs were common after Christ ascended, those first couple of centuries. A lot of persecution against the Christians, a lot of martyrs for their witness. We've known, we know of Martyrs Throughout Church history, some of the the men who were burned at the stake or executed because of their faith, men like Yan Yan who's or John Huss the the check reformer, the missionaries that went to the alka Indians in the S. you've probably heard those stories of Elliott and his friends and how they they were martyred. They died because of their witness, their desire to tell people about Jesus. But for us it is that ongoing daily self denial, dying to self. Am I going to go out today, and is filled going to be first, or is Jesus going to be first? That's the question that who am I going to whose needs, whose desires are I'm am I going to fulfill today? Is it all about me or is it about Jesus? And if I fulfill Jesus is calling on my life. Everything else works out just fine, even though there may be trials,...

...even though there will be trials, we're called to this life of self denial and to take up our cross and to follow Jesus. I just want to close with this. This evening, as we think about what it means to be a witness and to witness for Christ, to keep our focus on Christ. Here's what it really comes down to, and that is this, that is that Jesus, Christ took the focus on himself so that the focus would be taken off of us. So when we when we talk about the the deep, using some big theological words like propitiation or atonement, those are just they're they're wonderful words. They have such depth to them and they tell us about the fact that Christ paid for our sin, he had toned for our sin by taking it on himself. All of our sin, all of our are missing the mark, in our purposefully missing the mark, missing it by accident, trying to hit the mark right. That's that's the Hebrew word for sin is missing the mark. I can try to hit the mark, I can try to be as good as I can and I'll miss. There's other times I'm just not even going to try. I just want to do my own thing. and Jesus took all of that, all of my rebellion, all of my wanting to be my own ruler, my own God. Jesus took all of that so that the focus of God's wrath would not no longer be on me because of my sin, which is what I deserve. It's what you deserve because of your sin. You deserve of God's full attention, his full focus on you with his wrath. But Jesus provides for us by taking the sin upon himself. He provides for us a freedom from that. He averts God's wrath by his covering us with his righteousness. So what he earned by being perfect, we get, and our utter lack of perfection he gets. And the focus of God's wrath comes on him on the cross, so that you and I are set free from our sin. We're set free from that burden of our sin. We're set free from the taint of our sin, the damage of our sin, the habit of our sin, the guilt of our sin, all taken away by Christ by taking upon himself our sin. He does this for us. He takes the focus so that we can give him our focus. He is our he is our focus. He's the one to whom we owe all everything and and he's the one that we proclaim. He is the one that we we tell others about what a joy it is to know Jesus. Joy to the world, right, joy to the world, the Lord has come. We saying it every Christmas season but it's true joy, it's it's it's for Real, because he changes us. Witness Jesus. Jesus is the focus of our hearts as we bear witnessed him, as we keep our eyes on him. Keep your eyes on him during this Christmas season, the people that you encounter. After we leave here this evening, Shelly and I get to go to a gathering of our neighbors and...

...not one of them are believers, and I can't wait. It just can't wait. We've developed a relationship and, praise God, in many ways because of Covid we've grown to love each other, rely on each other. When lockdowns were taken place, one would shop for all of it was just it was an amazing thing that God did to allow us entry into their lives and they into our lives. And I can't wait to go celebrate the birth of Christ with my pagan neighbors because I get to tell him, I get to tell him about Jesus. So keep keep Jesus the focus, make him the focus of your heart. He took the focus off you when it when, when when it would be really bad, so that you could have the focus on him. Let's pray. Father.

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