Summary: God in human flesh gives hope to human faith.
Last week an article in the Wall Street Journal reflected on our need for hope. The author attended a “new age” type church service in which participants wrote their regrets and failures on pieces of flash paper. (Flash paper is specially treated to ignite and burn instantly and brightly). Then they brought these “sins” to the front altar, set them to a candle, and watched them vanish in an instant as they put behind them last year’s failures. This was a new year, filled with possibility. The author explained that he expected to have the same struggles at the end of 2007, in spite of having burned them; nevertheless, he thoroughly enjoyed the exercise because it filled him with hope and optimism that this might be the year in which he actually changed.
Halford E. Luccock, in his book, Unfinished Business, describes a man who lived many years in Maine. At dinner one night, he fascinated his companions by telling his experiences in a little town named Flagstaff. The town was to be flooded, as a the government built a large dam. In the months and years during dam construction, all improvements and repairs in the town were stopped. Why paint your house if it is to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village is to be wiped out? Week by week, the town fell apart as if abandoned. “Where there is no hope for the future, there is no power in the present.”
We need hope to press on. Not surprisingly, the Bible connects hope and perseverance. Hope sustains when circumstances clamor for us to give up. But from where will we get hope? From burning our sins? Probably not. Instead, hope comes from knowing that God is powerfully working all things for our good and into his perfect plan.
Surely one of the most hope-giving verses in the Bible is Philippians 4.13: “I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me.” God works powerfully in us as we believe his promises and depend on his grace. As we begin our ministry together, I want us to be filled with hope. That requires faith that God is for us and that we can do all he is calling us to do, through Christ, who gives us strength. In these 18 verses, I see at least nine hope-giving truths to enjoy this morning.
[Before we begin, however, I want to note that one complaint I have heard often is when pastors try to probe deep theology without giving practical application. This prologue to the book of John is depth upon depth. So I have taken each point and phrased it as statement of applied theology. We will not cover all nine this morning. Hopefully the outline will direct your own continued meditation on the relationship between Christ, power, and hope.]
1. Because Christ is Eternal, We Hope in His Lasting Power (John 1.1a)
John intentionally draws our hearts and minds to the opening words of the Bible: Genesis 1.1: “In the beginning, God created….” According to Genesis, only one person existed before creation: God. John wants you to know that Jesus is God. God alone is without beginning and without end; and God includes God the Word, who came to earth. Notice how verses one and fourteen fit together: “In the beginning was the Word…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Jesus Christ – the one crucified, dead and buried, who rose again and ascended into heaven – this Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who is, and who was, and who is to come (Revelation 1.8). “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1.17). Heaven and earth will be destroyed; Christ lasts. Hebrews 1.11-12: “He is the same and his years have no end.” Thus John the Baptist notes in verse 15: “He who comes after me ranks above me, because he was before me.”
Christ is eternal! Thus his power, which strengthens you to do God’s will, is a lasting power – it never fades. His powerful working in and for you never fails!
Frederick Faber, a Calvinist Anglican pastor in the mid-1800s, wrote a poem which applies some of this splendid truth to our souls, “The Eternity of God.”
v. 2: Dear Lord! my heart is sick
Of this perpetual lapsing time,
So slow in grief, in joy so quick,
Yet ever casting shadows so sublime:
Time of all creatures is least like to Thee,
And yet it is our share of Thine eternity.
v.4: Weak, weak, for ever weak!
We cannot hold what we possess;
Youth cannot find, age will not seek,—
Oh weakness is the heart’s worst weariness:
But weakest hearts can lift their thoughts to Thee;