God is great and therefore will be sought; He is good and therefore will be found.
I want to talk to you today about finding God. You see, we were created in the image of God and a void was placed within us that will never be filled until we find Him. It causes us to search for Him. Even when we don’t realize who it is we are seeking. The good news is, at the end of this sermon, several of you who have been searching will be able to walk out of this auditorium saying, "I found God."
We're going to talk this morning, about John the Baptist. He was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the guy who prepared the way. 700 years before the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, Zechariah said one would come who would prepare the way for the people to see the light. Before we look at John the Baptist this morning, let me tell you about a fellow by the name of John in our church. He told me, “Pastor, I went to the hospital to see a friend I hadn't seen for 15 years. I always keep a cross in my pocket that reminds me of what Jesus did for me, so during our visit, I reached in and gave him the cross, encouraging him to trust Jesus as his Savior. Then I prayed with him. It was good to see my friend and be a witness to the light, just like John the Baptist was with Jesus. When I finished the prayer, the fellow in the next bed, who had heard the conversation, asked me to come over to his bedside and asked, ‘Could you pray with me?’” John was able to share Jesus Christ with him.
We have a tremendous opportunity to be a witness to the light. And for you who don't know the light, this a marvelous opportunity for you to receive it. Today’s message is kind of twofold. We who know him, let's get busy pointing to the light. Remember, we aren't the light. Sometimes I hear Christians who talk about witnessing as if they've got an incredible responsibility on their shoulders to get people saved. You don't save anybody. I don't save anybody. We just point people to the only one who can answer all those questions. Amen?
Let's jump in here. In John, Chapter 1. This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
John 1 tells us who Jesus is...
Eternally - who He is.
Effectively - what He can do.
"In the beginning was the one who is called The Word." Every time you see "the Word" capitalized here, you can, literally, put the name “Jesus” there. “The Word was with God and was truly God, and from the very beginning The Word was with God. And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made without The Word. Everything that was created, received its life from Him. And the life of Jesus gave light to everyone. The light keeps shining in the dark and darkness has never put it out.”
That last phrase in verse 5, “The light keeps shining in the dark and darkness has never put it out,” in the original language can be better translated: “The darkness cannot get ahold of the light and possess it.” It's more than a picture of darkness trying to smother out light. It's really a picture of darkness trying to grasp light. It's a picture of darkness frantic because it has no answer.
John the Baptist wasn't the light, we're going to find that out in a moment, but he was the one to point all the people to Jesus, who was the light. Basically, he was saying we live in a sinful, dark society, and humanity is finding out they have no answers for problems, so they're searching and saying, "Is there an answer somewhere?"
Well, I was able to watch a little of the Republican convention recently. Sounded to me like we’ve got a lot of problems. The Republican convention sounds like the Democratic convention. If you didn't know better you'd think if you elected either one of those guys, we'd get all those fixed. Now, I'm not trying to be a pessimist, but they're talking about the same problems that they were four years ago. Isn't it amazing how darkness constantly does two things: one, looks to itself for answers; and two, never solves the problems because the problems are bigger.
I read this cartoon this week. This is a neat one, out of the Colorado Springs Sun. It's really a reenactment of the good Samaritan. It shows a man laying in a ditch, with this guy in priestly robes looking down saying, "Oh my goodness, we've got to do something. First, we need to organize a political action group to get rid of the current tightwads who guard the social program purse strings. Next, we need to pass another tax bill. Cut defense spending, balance the budget, and organize a world relief fund." And while he's doing all this talking, it shows the good Samaritan reaching down, picking the guy up, putting him on the donkey and taking him off.
Isn't it amazing that we think we can solve all the world's problems through all of our pet programs, only to find out we never get to it. Do you remember the Simon and Garfunkel song in the 70's, "The Sounds of Silence"? Now, my wife Margaret says, "John, don't ever bring music into your preaching; you date yourself." Some of you think Simon and Garfunkel was a law firm. A phrase in there said, "Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk to you again." We go to this darkness, because it's all we know, and look for answers. We can apply that spiritually. We have an integrity crisis. We have an identity crisis. We have a family crisis. We have a moral crisis.
Boy, I'm telling you, don't you love everybody saying, "It's not my fault that we're in this mess." And it is their fault. You know, we don't want to take responsibility for anything, do we? Another cartoon out of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph: "If Drug Education Were Taught Like Sex Education in the Public Schools." Here it is. Here's a teacher talking to the class -- now, this is how ridiculous we get when we're in darkness -- “I would like to encourage all of you not to use drugs at all. But since this is a public school and I'm not allowed to inflict my own puritan beliefs on you, and since I know that many of you will be active with drugs from time to time, today's class will be on ‘How to Practice Safe Drug Use.’ This is a hypodermic syringe. You should use this if you want to inject drugs directly into your veins. Now, notice how it is sealed so the user can tell that the needle is clean. It is important to use clean needles when you inject drugs into your body. If you don't have clean needles, check with the school nurse, and she will give you some.”
Isn't it interesting? Darkness always has an answer. The problem is, it never has the right answer. As John says, darkness is always trying to get ahold of the light. How can we find an answer? How can we find something that will satisfy? Verse 6, “God sent a man named John, who came to tell about the light, to lead all people to have faith. Now John wasn't that light. He came only to tell about the light.” The name "John" means “God is gracious.” God was very gracious, before giving us his Son, to give us John the Baptist, who would point to the light and help us understand. If you study in the gospels, John the Baptist’s message was three-fold, a very simple message. In fact, I call it the ABC's of John's teaching.
John the Baptist’s ABC’s of finding God:
A. Admit your need.
He said that the quickest way to get out of darkness is to admit that you're in darkness. The quickest way to find answers is to admit that you don't have any. The quickest way to find direction is to say, "I'm confused." The number one word in John the Baptist's ministry was "repent." And people who repent are sorry for where they are. There's a sense of recognition that I am on the wrong path, that I am seeking the wrong answers.
B. Believe in Jesus.
John pointed Jesus out to his own disciples one day, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." John was always saying to believe in Jesus. He's the answer.
C. Correct behavior.
Show your belief in Him by changing your lifestyle.
Now, John the Baptist was the identifier, the one who focused on the light to come. Isn't it interesting that after our Lord's ministry, in the first chapter of the book of Acts, when Jesus is about to go, He says, "Stay in Jerusalem and pray. The Holy Spirit will come and fill you and give you spiritual energy and wisdom and power. And I want you to be witnesses unto me." Jesus, when he left said, “Just as I had someone go before me to point to the light, now that I'm leaving, you've only got one job. Like John the Baptist, point to the light.”
Now, let's look and see what that light will do to you. Verse 9, "The true light that shines on everyone was coming in the world. The Word was in the world but no one knew Him. Though God had made the world with His Word, He came into his own world, but His own nation did not welcome Him."
Two important truths:
1. Everyone gets to see the light. v. 9
Verse 9 says, “the true light that shines on everyone.” Now, the light that everyone gets to see will be in different proportions. You and I have seen a lot of light. Every Sunday, we've got the Word of God, praise, music, I mean, it never stops. We see light all the time. There are many around the world who have not been fortunate to see the light to that degree. But everyone gets to see the light.
2. Not everyone accepts the light. v. 11
Just because you know about the light and have seen the light, doesn't mean that you possess it. It's one thing to know about God; it's another thing to know God. In the creation of the world, and of man and the void within us, God’s light shines brightly. Yet not everyone accepts the light. Says in verse 11, “His own nation...” speaking of the Jewish people here, “did not welcome him.” I heard a story told by a rabbi, “You know, when the Messiah comes, we believe the Jews are going to say, ‘Welcome.’ The Christians are going to say, ‘Welcome back.’ And Jesus is going to say, ‘No comment.’” It's a cute story. But it’s not exactly what's going to happen. When Jesus comes back, the Jewish people are not going to say, “Welcome.” The Jewish people, Zechariah says, are going to look at his hands and ask him, “What are those wounds in your hands?” And he's going to say to them, "Those are the wounds that I received from my friends." All of a sudden, they'll understand that he is the Messiah.
Now, here's where the partnership comes in. For the last two months we've been talking about partnering with God. Today we're talking about partnering with God to receive eternal life, salvation, forgiveness of sins. Watch this partnership. Are you ready?
Verse 12, "Yet some people accepted Him and put their faith in Him, so He gave them the right to be the children of God." The way I learned it in the New American Standard, "But as many received Him, to them He gave the power, to become God's children."
People mistakenly think they can find God by...
Look at verse 13, "They were not God's children by nature or because of any human desires. God himself was the one who made them his children."
They say, "Well, I inherited it culturally. I grew up in America, a Christian nation. We have on our coins, ‘In God we trust.’” And somehow they think that because they're an American, they're a Christian. Or people say, "My parents are good parents. I've been in church with them." It's amazing the people in church that have no clue that you cannot become a child of God by inheritance, not because of who your parents are or what country you live in.
When I was born, my father was a pastor, my mother was a Sunday school teacher and you're going to find this hard to believe, but back in 1947 when I was born, little Johnny Maxwell was not an angel. You don't find that hard to believe, do you? All of us are born in sin. Since the beginning when Adam and Eve fell and willfully disobeyed God, every one of us are not born Christians. We're not born with a Christlike nature. We're born with a sinful nature and a desire to do wrong. It doesn't take very long for that little baby to prove he’s got some devil in him, does it?
They hold their breath and kick and clench their feet and demand their own way. You say to your wife, "Sweetheart, what have you been teaching this child?" That's why when parents dedicate children, we make very clear to them that this doesn't put your child in heaven. It is the dedication of the parent, saying, “I'm going to bring up my child in the ways of God.” It has no grace or saving nature to that child itself. So we're not going to receive Christ by inheritance.
2. Personal effort.
A lot of them think, "Boy, if I just really worked hard, I could receive Christ." Look at what he said in verse 13, “Not by nature or because of any human desire.” In other words, you can't study Christians and be a Christian. You can't come to church and be a Christian. You could be sitting on the front row of this church and have come for 25-30 years, but that has nothing to do with your salvation or heaven. You can't pay your way or work your way. If you plan to help in the relocation campaign, that has nothing to do with your salvation. When you give your tithe check, that has nothing to do with your salvation.
If you and I could work for our salvation today, then when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass from me," then God would have said, “Well, it is possible if everybody works real hard.” No, he had to die on the cross because there was no way that you and I could ever be saved without him. He has done everything. Can you imagine what kind of a people we'd be if we could work for our salvation? You talk about an arrogant group of people. We'd be walking around saying, "How many notches have you got on your belt?" You heard the story about the guy who got to heaven and Saint Peter said, "Okay. Tell me, what have you done?" "Well, I taught Sunday school, joined the church, paid my tithe,..." Saint Peter said, "But you've got to have a thousand points to get in. I give you a point for church attendance, a point for tithe, and a point for Sunday school." The guy only had seven points. He said, "But Pete, I'm 993 points away. I suppose the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God." Pete says, ‘That’s it. Come on in.’”
Of yourself or others. You know what, you can't even be saved by God's desires, because the Bible tells us that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son to come into this world so that we all could be saved, that none would ever perish. You see God's desire is for you to be a Christian. Even God's desires can't give you your salvation and forgiveness.
Well, I keep everything real simple. You know that. That's why you come to this church. Somebody said to me last week, "I cannot believe how simple you preach. It's such a gift. You just preach and I understand everything you say. How did you get that gift?" I said, "It's very simple. I'm not very smart." If you're not very smart, you can't get too complex. I'm a communicator. And let me just help you, as I wrap this sermon up this morning, on how you can find God.
Salvation is like...
1. Receiving a gift.
In fact, Paul says, "The wages of sin is death. And the gift of God is eternal life." He also said in Ephesians that we are saved by faith, not works, lest any of us would ever go around boasting about it. In other words, you have to understand that it is a gift. There's nothing you have ever done that would give you any kind of salvation.
2. Going through a door.
Every one of you walked through a door to come and sit in this auditorium this morning. Jesus said, in John 10, “I am the door and if any person shall enter by me, he shall be saved.” It's as simple as walking through a door.
3. Coming home.
He gives us the story of the prodigal son who finally said one day, “I've got to get back to Dad's house. I've been away long enough.” And you know what coming home does for you? Coming home means, at last I'm where I should be, where I'm comfortable. And when my friend John went to the hospital and prayed with that stranger, that guy could have said, “I just came home. I was created to know God and for years I haven't known him.” In a few moments, some of you are going to find him. And this is what excites me. The moment you find him, it's like you've never been away. It's home. You're comfortable. It feels right.
4. Opening a door.
Jesus said, "Behold I stand at your heart's door and knock, and if any person hears this knock and opens the door, I'll come in."
A couple weeks ago, when I was working on this sermon, there were about 15 points, but I knew by this time my time would be up, so I only gave you four.
I want to tell you how simple and beautiful salvation is. Remember, it's got to be simple folks. If it's complicated, only smart people can be saved. If you've got to do something, only healthy people can be saved. If it's how much money you give to God, only rich people could be saved. God had to make the ground level. That's why John said that as many as received Him, to them He gave the power or the right to become God's children. You see, many of you today, believe Jesus Christ died for your sins. You believe he's the safe door. You believe he's the light. But you've never reached out personally and received him. I'm going to give you that opportunity.
Would you bow your head? Some of you are saying, "Wow! It's that simple. John has shown me this morning that I can get hold of light. I can get answers for questions. I can get security for tough times. I can get salvation. I can have forgiveness of sins. It's already done for me. Jesus has already paid that price. All I've got to do is receive him."
With every head bowed and every eye closed I wonder this morning how many of you, just raise your hand and say, "Hey, pastor, as you pray this morning, I want to accept Jesus Christ and walk out of this auditorium knowing that my sins are forgiven." With every head bowed and every eye closed I wonder how many of you right now would say, "I want to pray, to receive that gift of eternal life." Put up your hands. God bless you. You that raised your hands, look up at me, please. Only those who raised their hands. In a moment, when we stand, we're going to sing a song. The moment we stand, you that raised your hands, I want you to slip out of your seat. Come down to me, and I'm going to have prayer with you, and counselors are going to pray with you, and you can receive Christ into your heart.
"Together...I Can Find God"
God is great and therefore will be sought; He is good, and therefore will be found.
John 1 tells us who Jesus is
- Who He is.
- What He can do.
John the Baptist’s ABC's of finding God:
A. __________ your need.
B. __________ in Jesus.
C. __________ behavior.
Truth about the light:
1. Everyone gets to __________ the light. v. 9
2. Not everyone __________ the light. v. 11
People mistakenly think they can find God by... v. 13
Salvation is like...
1. ______________ a gift.
2. ______________ a door.
3. ______________ home.
4. ______________ a door.