MISTLETOE IN A MINUTE

MISTLETOE IN A MINUTE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

What does kissing under a mistletoe have to do with Christmas? In ancient times mistletoe was considered a miracle plant. When everything was dead in the harsh winter, this rootless parasitic plant was still flourishing. It symbolized life, hope, and fertility. mistletoe-sprig1
Mistletoe OldMistletoe - Norman Rockwell

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Druids and Vikings thought this plant was so sacred that they would marry under it. When they became Christians, the mistletoe took on a deeper meaning. It reminded them of God’s power to bring life where there was death. Later on in England, when a couple passed under the plant, they had to stop and kiss and if they did, God would bless them with an everlasting love. So next time someone points out “Hey! You’re under a mistletoe,” think about the undying love of God in Jesus Christ and oh yes, pucker up! Merry Christmas!

office christmas party, Churchill pub, Kensington Church St

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Two Gifts Worth Opening

 This morning in our series on the Life of Christ we come to John 1 for our message titled – “TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS.” All of us at some point have received a gift from a loved one that has been a let down and a disappointment. We were hoping for this but we got this.

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read John tells us twice about two gifts that were given in Jesus. Listen again to verse 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now listen also to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Twice the two gifts that came in Jesus are mentioned – Grace and Truth.

But now here’s an important question: When John says in verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,” is he just talking about himself and the first disciples and the early church? Were the gifts of grace and truth just for those among whom He dwelt physically? Too bad for us who were not born in the first century. Wish you could’ve seen Jesus. You would’ve received grace and truth. The answer to that is earlier in verse 12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Meaning: In the context, the gifts are for everyone who has ever received Jesus as Savior and has become a child of God. If that wasn’t clear, John makes it clear in verse 16“of his fullness we have all received.” “All” even includes some who will receive Jesus this Sunday morning. Your gifts are waiting for you to open!

Application: Question to those who claim to be Christians – “Have you opened your gifts?” Of course, I’m not talking about what’s sitting under the tree. I’m talking about the gifts of grace and truth. “Are you helping others open their gifts?” Question to those who’ve never received Jesus – “Do you realize the wonderful gifts God has wrapped for you in Jesus?” My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will make these gifts so appealing that you will not wait even a single moment but tear into them!

Let’s open these gifts –

 1. PREPARATION FOR THE GIFTS

Listen to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

What was the Law of Moses? The Law (nomoj) in this context refers to all the rules and regulations in the Pentateuch that God had given to his people Israel through Moses.

Why did God give the Law? Initially, he gave the law to temporarily protect his people from the Canaanites. In Genesis 15, it talks about the Moses by Gustave Dore“iniquity of the Amorites.” He gave His Law so that Israel would not become like its neighbors (Galatians 3:19). If you want to know what the Canaanites were like, just read the Old Testament law backwards. But there was another reason why God gave the law. It was to help them realize that they could never live up to God’s standards. The law was a measuring stick. The people were to stand against the measuring stick of the law and every time they did they realized they were still far from God’s standard of holiness. They needed help. The law was never the final destination. It was only a reminder of how sinful they really were and how much they needed a mediator. That’s why every law came with some sacrifice when broken. Some animal had to pay the price because the people couldn’t keep the law.

Paul says the same things but he takes it a step further – Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. Romans 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. I Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” What is Paul saying in these verses? Not only is the law a temporary protector and a measuring stick but it’s also an instigator to sin.

For e.g. Put up a sign that says “Fresh Paint Do Not Touch.” What do people do?

For e.g. Imagine a glass filled with dirty water. If that water has been sitting still for some time, it appears clean until you stir it. Now what happens? It shows all the dirt.

Don’t misunderstand – Laws are good for society. They keep people in check. But they cannot change people.

In other words, the law was a good thing but also a house arrest, a nice prison. It was also a constant reminder of our inability to reach God. It was a Pot stirrer. In all, the law only brought a constant feeling of inadequacy, guilt, burden, and frustration.

What did the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, do? They failed to understand the real intent of the law – temporary protection, measuring stick, and stirring of more sin. Instead, they pretended to keep the law with integrity. They compared their righteousness with each other and became self-righteous. They made many more laws of their own with plenty of exceptions and exclusions. This only brought hypocrisy.

Someone might say – okay, the Law for the Jewish people. How about the non-Jewish people? Even though we’re not Jewish, we have the law of our conscience. Romans 2:12 says, “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This has the same effect as a Law of Moses. It also brings condemnation, guilt, burden, frustration, and hypocrisy.

Application: Are you trusting in the Old Testament Law (10 Commandments) or in the law of your conscience or in the law of society to justify you before God? It will only result in guilt, burden, and frustration. It will never save you nor set you free.

2. PRESENTATION OF THE GIFTS 

17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Background: John shows a contrast between the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ. Grace and Truth came with Jesus.

woman-caught-in-adulteryWhat is Grace? In Greek the word is carij. It is found 155 times in the New Testament of which hundred are in Paul’s writings, some in Peter’s writings, and just 30 in the Gospels, mostly in Luke’s writings but never in Matthew or Mark. In fact, grace in John is used only four times and just in these four verses. Why is grace not mentioned more than that? Listen carefully – the reason the idea of grace did not have to be mentioned is because Jesus is Grace. Listen to verse 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” To see Jesus in his glory is to see Grace. We try to define grace with trite phrases like “unmerited favor” and “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” All those are fine but if you want to define grace, define Jesus. He was perfect and yet he received imperfect sinners. He was God’s Son and yet He became like us. He committed no sin and he laid down his life for our sins. That’s grace.

What is Truth? The word alhqeia for truth is used 100 times in the New Testament and, in contrast to grace, more than half of them are found in John’s writings. While Grace has to be lived out, truth has to be spoken. Jesus told the truth – about God, about sin, about righteousness, about the cross, about heaven and hell, and so on.

PhariseesHow did the Jewish people respond to Jesus being the truth? They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath and other laws. He told them the truth about their hypocrisy in keeping the law. Listen to John 5 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” He told them the truth about the real condition of their hearts. Listen to John 8 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Then He declared without hesitation, qualifications, or apology in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Then they said – “Let’s kill Him.”

Application: Do you want to be set free? Come to Jesus. Only he has the grace to forgive you unconditionally and only he has to truth to set you free completely. Grace is not just an idea and truth is not just a fact. Grace and truth are one person and His name is Jesus.

3. POURING OVER OF THE GIFTS

So far we have seen that the law prepared us for the gifts of grace and truth and Jesus presented Himself as the gifts of grace and truth but that’s not the end. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Background: I went to look up the meaning of that phrase “grace for grace” carin anti carin and this is what a key reference book said – “the precise sense of the phrase is uncertain.” I want to say, “Thanks a lot!” So what does it mean? Let’s look again to verse 14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. As the Son of God, Jesus is full of everything the father is. To receive of his fullness is to be connected to everything that God is.

Some of you are thinking – “Yep, that’s interesting. What does that have to do with me.” Don’t miss this. It has profound significance to our Christian life. Some people think that once you are saved by the grace and truth of Jesus that now you need to go back and keep the law, maybe not the Old Testament law but just have a list of rules as a Christian. What would Paul say to that? Galatians 2:21 “…if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” In fact, if you do that, it will actually produce the opposite effect! Listen to Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

What is the solution? Verse 16 “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Here’s what it means – in Jesus Christ you have everything given to you. You have God Himself. Stay connected to Him. Keep looking to Him. Keep obeying Him. Keep trusting Him. And He will make Grace abound in your life. Grace upon grace for your daily Christian life. It’s not a list you need. It’s Jesus you need. And who helps you – the Holy Spirit.

Listen again to Paul in Romans 5:21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Meaning: Where sin once controlled us, now grace controls us.

Application: Are you ready to open your gifts this morning? Grace and Truth in Jesus

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