Friday, December 26, 2008
John 1:14-17 The Glorious Fullness of Christ is Available Always to All
14 And the Word was made 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 bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
ESV John 1:16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος·
The event of history was that God came amongst us.
We have seen His glory. We perceived it. And having seen His glory we saw something wonderful.
We have seen more than just His flesh a man, we have seen His glory as the Son of the Father.
Not just a son but The unique Son, not just a father but THE Father.
The Glory of Moses. The Glory of the giving of the Law. But there was an emptiness there.
An Emptiness in Regulations
Could just this bear 10 laws really regulate life? What about the hypocritical heart?
It was fulfilled in Him who was the Truth.
An emptiness in Ritual
Could the blood of bulls and sheep take away our sins?
Could there really be forgiveness?
An Emptiness in Religion
Could there be something more.. something fulfilling like love?
I tried the broken cisterns Lord
Eccles. 3:11 says “God has set eternity in the hearts of men”. St Augustine famously said “You have made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it rest in Thee”. David in Psalm 27:8 has this “My heart says of you, Seek his face. Your face O Lord I will seek.” Our innermost being longs for a relationship with our maker. Do we hear that heartbeat, do we respond to it – many today suppress that longing and they are missing out on the fullness of what God intended for us.
There is a longing for something real in every human heart.
Moses expressed that longing.
Exodus 33:13 Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. Now consider that this nation is Your people.” 14 Then He replied, “My presence will go [with you], and I will give you rest.” 15 “If Your presence does not go,” Moses responded to Him, “don’t make us go up from here. 16 How will it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight unless You go with us? I and Your people will be distinguished [by this]from all the other people on the face of the earth.” 17 The Lord answered Moses, “I will do this very thing you have asked, for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.” 19 He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name • Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
But Exodus 34 5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. 8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. 9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.
But for you and i? could we expect God to reveal Himself tyo us like He revealed Himself to Moses? Are we all to be stunted spiritually because we have not had what Moses had?
John Piper says this in Desiring God – “In the end the heart longs not for any of God’s good gifts, but for God himself. To see him and know him and be in his presence is the soul’s final feast. Beyond this there is no quest. Words fail. We call it pleasure, joy, delight. But these are weak pointers to the unspeakable experience.” This is what we are going to look at in these Sunday mornings together. We want to be in a position where we can echo the Psalmist who said: “As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, my soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps.42:1-2), or who can say “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” (Ps.27:4)
Christmas.. yes it is about giving and receiving. And there is a tremendous gift to be received.
‘And of His fulness have all we received.’ The ‘fulness’ here seems to mean that of which the Incarnate Word was full, the ‘grace and truth’ which dwelt without measure in Him;
‘In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in Him.’
We beheld His glory.’ To behold is much, but to possess is more. It is much to say that Christ comes to manifest God, but that is a poor, starved account of the purpose of His coming, if that is all you have to say. He comes to manifest Him. Yes! but He comes to communicate Him, not merely to dazzle us with a vision, not merely to show us Him as from afar, not merely to make Him known to understanding or to heart; but to bestow — in no mere metaphor, but in simple, literal fact — the absolute possession of the divine nature. ‘We beheld His glory’ is a reminiscence that thrills the Evangelist, though half a century has passed since the vision gleamed upon his eyes; but ‘of His fulness have all we received’ is infinitely and unspeakably more. This is the very centre and heart of Christianity, that in Him who is Christianity God is not merely made known, but given; not merely beheld, but possessed.
I tried the broken cisterns Lord but ah the waters failed, and as I stooped to drink they fled and mocked me as I wailed – now none but Christ can satisfy, none other is for me, there’s love and life and lasting joy Lord Jesus found in thee.
Our supreme need is of something or of someone, that can satisfy our deepest longings. Nature never creates instincts it cannot satisfy, and God never awakens spiritual aspirations in us that He cannot and will not fulfil. ' He satisfieth the desire of every living thing.' Carlyle once said to Professor Tyndall, 'There is something in man that your science cannot satisfy.' That 'something' is the hunger and thirst of the soul. Science is good; art is good; culture is good; money is good; health is good; but none of these, nor all of these can satisfy our deepest nature. '
1. The Glorious Fullness of Christ is Available It is Grace and truth!
When Czar Nicholas I reigned in Russia, a good friend asked the Czar to provide a job for his son. The czar appointed his friend’s son as the paymaster for a section of the Russian Army. But the young man gambled away all the money entrusted to him. The word came that auditors were going to examine his
accounts and he was terrified. He calculated the amount he owed and realized it was a far greater debt than he could ever pay. He decided to take his weapon and commit suicide at midnight.
Before going to bed, he wrote out a full confession, listing all he had stolen, with these words underneath: “A great debt. Who can pay?”
But, because he was exhausted, he fell asleep. Late that night, the czar made a surprise visit to the barracks of this young man. He found him asleep, and the letter of confession next to him. He instantly understood what had happened. He paused for just a moment, and then wrote one word on the suicide note of the young man, and left.
Eventually, the young man woke up and realized it was past midnight. He took the gun in his hand and prepared to kill himself when he noticed that someone had written on his suicide note.
Under the words, “A great debt. Who can pay?” he saw just one word: “Nicholas.” Only Nicholas could pay, and only Nicholas did pay.
My friend, only Jesus could pay my debt to God. That alone explains why the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. He pitched His tent with us for 33 years so He might pay the debt every one of us owes God.
On his fullness we all have drawn. The word that John uses for fullness is a great word; it is pleroma and it means the sum total of all that is in God. It is a word which Paul uses often. In Col 1:19 he says that all pleroma dwelt in Christ. In Col 2:9 he says in Christ there dwelt the pleroma of deity in a bodily form. He meant that in Jesus there dwelt the totality of the wisdom, the power, the love of God. Just because of that Jesus is inexhaustible. A man can go to Jesus with any need and find that need supplied. A man can go to Jesus with any ideal and find that ideal realized. In Jesus the man in love with beauty will find the supreme beauty. In Jesus the man to whom life is the search for knowledge will find the supreme revelation. In Jesus the man who needs courage will find the pattern and the secret of being brave. In Jesus the man who feels that he cannot cope with life will find the Master of life and the power to live. In Jesus the man who is conscious of his sin will find the forgiveness for his sin and the strength to be good. In Jesus the pleroma the fullness of God, all that is in God, what Westcott called "the spring of divine life," becomes available to men.
What do we receive? Christ is more than all His gifts. All His gifts are treasured up in Him and inseparable from Him. We get Jesus Christ Himself. The blessings that we receive may be stated in many different ways. You may say we get pardon, purity, hope, joy, the prospect of Heaven, power for service; all these and a hundred more designations by which we might describe the one gift. All these are but the consequences of our having got the Christ within our hearts. He does not give pardon and the rest, as a king might give pardon and honours, a thousand miles off, bestowing it by a mere word, upon some criminal, but He gives all that He gives because He gives Himself. The real possession that we receive is ‘neither more nor less than a loving Saviour, to enter our spirits and abide there, and be the spirit of our spirits, and the life of our living.
Every Christian man, the weakest, the lowliest, the most uncultured, rude, ignorant, foolish, the most besotted in the past, who has wandered furthest away from the Master; whose spirit has been most destitute of all sparks of goodness and of God — receives from out of His fulness. ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.’ And every one of us, if we will, may have dwelling in our hearts, in .the greatness of His strength, in the sweetness of His love, in the clearness of His illuminating wisdom, the Incarnate Word, the Comforter, the All-inall whom ‘we all receive.’
And from Him there pours out a stream copious enough to supply all the necessities of every human soul that lives to-day, of every human soul that has lived in the past, of every one that shall live in the future. There is no limit to the universality except only the limit of the human will: ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’
He is able to replenish all their emptiness with His fulness, and to satisfy all their thirst with His sufficiency. Dear brother! you have a great gaping void in your heart — an aching emptiness there, which you know better than I can tell you. Look to Him who can fill it and it shall be filled. He can supply all your wants as He can supply all the wants of every soul of man. And after generations have drawn from Him, the water will not have sunk one hairsbreadth in the great fountain, but there will be enough for all coming eternities as there has been enough for all past times. He is like His own miracle — the thousands are gathered on the grass, they do ‘all eat and are filled.’ So ‘of His fulness have all we received’; and after a universe has drawn from it, for an Eternity, the fulness is not turned into scantiness or emptiness.
2. The Glorious Fullness of Christ is Available Always
From him we have received grace upon grace. Literally the Greek means grace instead of grace. What does that strange phrase mean?
It may mean that in Christ we have found one wonder leading to another. One of the old missionaries came to one of the ancient Pictish kings. The king asked him what he might expect if he became a Christian. The missionary answered: "You will find wonder upon wonder and every one of them true." Sometimes when we travel a very lovely road, vista after vista opens to us. At every view we think that nothing could be lovelier, and then we turn another corner and an even greater loveliness opens before us. When a man enters on the study of some great subject, like music or poetry or art, he never gets to the end of it. Always there are fresh experiences of beauty waiting for him. It is so with Christ. The more we know of him, the more wonderful he becomes. The longer we live with him, the more loveliness we discover. The more we think about him and with him, the wider the horizon of truth becomes. This phrase may be John's way of expressing the limitlessness of Christ. It may be his way of saying that the man who companies with Christ will find new wonders dawning upon his soul and enlightening his mind and enchaining his heart every day.
The following is a little-known Christmas hymn of Charles Wesley.
Let earth and heaven combine, Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man.
He laid his glory by, He wrapped him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye, The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days he here became, And bore the mild Immanuel’s name.
Unsearchable the love That has the Savior brought;
The grace is far above Or men or angels’ thought:
Suffice for us that God, we know, Our God, is manifest below.
He deigns in flesh to appear, Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know, For God is manifest below.
Made perfect first in love, And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove, And see his glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed, And we shall all be lost in God.
‘Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.’ The word ‘for’ is a little singular. Of course it means instead of, in exchange for; and the Evangelist’s idea seems to be that as one supply of grace is given and used, it is, as it were, given back to the Bestower, who substitutes for it a fresh and unused vessel, filled with new grace. He might have said, grace upon grace; one supply being piled upon the other. But his notion is, rather, one supply given in substitution for the other,
We have here the continuous communication of grace. God is always pouring Himself out upon us in Christ. How many Christian men there are whose Christian lives at the best are like some of those Australian rivers; in the dry season, a pond here, a stretch of sand, waterless and barren there, then another place with a drop of muddy water in some hollow, and then another stretch of sand, and so on. Why should not the ponds be linked together by a flashing stream? God is always pouring Himself out; why do we not always take Him in?
A fullness of Grace has been given to you.
There is but one answer, and the answer is, that we do not fulfil the condition, which condition is simple faith. ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God; even to them that believed on His name.’ Faith is the condition of receiving, and wherever there is a continuous trust there will be an unbroken grace; and wherever there are interrupted gifts it is because there has been an intermitted trust in Him.
Make your faith continuous, and God will make His grace incessant, and out of His fulness you will draw continual supplies of needed strength. But not only have we here the notion of continuous, but also, as it seems to me, of progressive gifts. Each measure of Christ received, if we use it aright, makes us capable of possessing more of Christ.
Each measure and stage of grace utilised and honestly employed will make us capable and desirous, and, therefore, possessors, of more and more of the grace that He gives. So the ideal of the Christian life, and God’s intention concerning us, is not only that we should have an uninterrupted, but a growing possession, of Christ and of His grace.
Is that the case with you, my friend? Can you hold more of God than you could twenty years ago? Is there any more capacity in your soul for more of Christ than there was long, long ago?
Only remember the condition of having Him is trusting to His name and longing for His presence. ‘If any man open the door I will come in.’ We have Him if we trust Him. That trust is no mere passive reception,
3. The Glorious Fullness of Christ is Available To All
But the ‘receive’ of our text might be as truly rendered ‘take.’ Faith is an active taking, not a passive receiving. We must ‘lay hold on eternal life.’ Faith is the hand that grasps the offered gift, the mouth that feeds upon the bread of God, the voice that says to Christ, ‘Come in, Thou blessed of the Lord; why standest Thou without?’ Such a faith alone brings us into vital connection with Jesus.
In every human heart there is a cry for God, a sigh for that which will satisfy. During a serious illness which Rudyard Kipling passed through some years ago, his nurse noticed at the critical period of his sickness that the great author's lips were moving. Bending over him, thinking that he wanted to say something, she heard him pray—
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And, if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Realizing that he did not just then require her services, she apologized, saying, 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Kipling, I thought you wanted something.' 'So I do,' he faintly answered, 'I want my heavenly Father.' This is the need that Jesus supplies.
If I am hungry for love, a house will not satisfy my longing, however luxuriously it may be furnished. And, if my soul panteth for God as the hart panteth for the water brook, success in life will not satisfy me, whatever that success may be. ' Christ in you' is the only experience that can satisfy fully and permanently the hunger of the soul. The hymn writer has voiced the life history of millions, when he writes— I tried the broken cisterns. Lord, But, ah ! the waters failed, E'en as I stooped to drink they fled, And mocked me as I wailed.
Art thou satisfied ? Shortly before Shelley the poet died, he had a curious dream. He dreamt he saw his spectral self coming towards his conscious self. As the gruesome figure drew near, it raised the hood from its head and inquired of him 'Art thou satisfied?' At some time or other that vision will come to us all, and ask, ' Art thou satisfied?' There are men and women here among us who have been highly and legitimately successful in their respective spheres of life—' Art thou satisfied?' There are others on whose life, habit has riveted itself, and held them in an awful bondage—. Art thou satisfied?' There are others, a great host, whose domestic conditions provide all the earthly love and comfort that heart could desire—but 'Art thou satisfied?'
Whether the conditions of our life are favourable or unfavourable, we shall all come at one time or other to feel as Kipling felt, 'I want my heavenly Father.' To such Jesus says, 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,' and 'he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.'
A. When You Receive Jesus You Receive His Fulness
B. When You Receive Jesus You Receive Grace
C. When You Receive Jesus You Receive Truth