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God -- in Person



God – In Person

Is God everywhere? Is he in every leaf of every tree? Does he permeate the cosmos with his being? Is he in every blade of grass?

Well, yes and no. God is in every blade of grass in the same way I am in a transceiver I built years ago and later sold. You might even find some of my DNA in that radio, because I got a little careless with my tools. But I am not there. I am here.

God is in every blade of grass in the same way my wife is in the little painting she did years ago when we were playing with oils. But if you think you can put your foot on God when you walk across the grass, you are badly mistaken.

I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know where it happened. It has probably happened over and over again in history, but somehow, we have been sold a bill of goods about what Andree Seu calls “A lower case, upper story god who was the ‘ground of being.’” Whatever in the world that means. God is not everywhere. He is where he wants to be when he wants to be there.

Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?" (Psalms 94:8-9).

We know that we can’t hide from God, but if he doesn’t want to see or to hear, no power in the universe can make him. God does not have to watch every sex crime, every foul murder of a child perpetrated on his world below. It is not a question of divine ability or presence, but of divine will.

Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).

Increasingly, even skeptics are being forced to admit that evolution simply can’t account for everything that is. But even admitting the irreducible complexity of the cell, many are still not ready to admit to the idea of God. So they are left with design without a designer.

It may be a new Deism, an idea that God created all this, but left immediately and has no further interest in what he made. It is a silly idea on its face, but what lies behind it? I think there is a simple fear of acknowledging the reality of a personal God, because a personal God will have ideas. He will have preferences. He may even have demands. He may expect things of us that we don’t want to do. He may have standards we don’t want to live up to.

But hiding your face from God won’t make him go away. God, knew what would happen when men were finally forced to admit that they can’t explain intelligent design without a designer. God knew that they would then invent a god for themselves who is an impersonal, cosmic force. A God who is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Because an impersonal god, would not make any demands on how we live our lives.

Knowing this would happen, God took steps to ensure that men could know that he is personal. He came in the flesh.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-15 KJV)

This strange construction is only an introduction to an idea. It is not the idea itself. It presents a paradox, a favored approach to an idea in Jewish thought. How can something be God and be with God at the same time. I know, in English we speak of a man being beside himself, but this is not English, it is Greek, and that is not what is going on.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Now we have a small problem. What is the antecedent of “him.” Is it God, or the one who was with God? But then, isn’t the one who was with God, also God?

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

I can’t help wondering if John doesn’t intend this as a kind of poetry. It certainly reads that way. To say, “In him was life,” is rather more than saying “he is alive.” I am alive, but I don’t have what this one has. In him was life, says John the poet. That life equals light. The light shines in darkness and the darkness just doesn’t get it.

It is a poetic way of saying that light penetrates darkness while darkness cannot penetrate light. Light and darkness are complete opposites. This is an important idea, called in philosophy, antithesis. Modern thought does not like antithesis. We prefer to think that nothing is really black or white, darkness or light. Nothing is either all good or all bad. John wants us to get this straight, right from the start.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

John wants to be sure we get this. There are three important things here. They are: The light, the light, and the light. But now John is ready to resolve his paradox, Like the resolution of the tension in a chord of music, he resolves the identity of the word, the life, and the light.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

Now the antecedent begins to emerge. It is no longer merely he and him. It is no longer abstract. He was in the world and unrecognized.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

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. 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.

For John, this is the most important thing about God that you will ever know. He was made flesh. He camped out among us. We actually saw his glory. He was the only begotten of the father. Later John will drive this point home in one of his letters.

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:2-3)

Once again, we have a paradox. This passage makes no sense at all at one level. Of course, Jesus was flesh. When they cut him, he bled. But the point is that Jesus was not merely the Jewish Messiah. The expected Jewish Messiah would be a man, not a god. He would be a son of David, anointed of God as David was.

But no one would attempt to deny that David was flesh. The problem here is not that Jesus was flesh, but that he came in the flesh. Men were already denying the personal nature of God. God is a spirit, God is everywhere, they said. But John says, “No. The word became flesh and lived with us.”

There were also those who denied that Jesus was flesh at all or that he really died. But all these attempts to deny that God came into the world as flesh and blood, as a person, amount to the spirit of antichrist. Thus says John.

But how did this happen? In the summer of the year, along about 4 BC on our calendar, an elderly priest was carrying out his duties in the Temple. We know it was in the Summer because his priestly course, his cohort, as it were, had two specific times of year when they served. We know that these were early summer and early winter. The sequence of events in the gospels will lead us to the conclusion that this occasion was early summer. The priest’s name was Zacharias.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. [this will be the John the Baptist]

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:11-17)

Now the strange thing about his passage is that clause, “He shall go before him.” There is no antecedent for the word “him,” yet Zacharias seems to know who he is talking about. So, his service being ended, he went home to his wife and John the Baptist was conceived. Six months later, in early winter, another important event occurred.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (See Luke 1:26-45 KJV)

Nearly everyone has heard this story.

And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Mary is a remarkable young woman in so many ways. Most men who had this kind of close encounter with a divine messenger were frightened half to death. Mary kept her wits about her, and she had a very pertinent question. She understood that this boy she was to name “Jesus” would be the Messiah, but the Messiah would be a man, conceived by a son of David. This angel was telling her that the boy to be born would be, not merely a son of David, but the Son of God, the son of “The Highest.” Instead of fainting dead away Mary responded sensibly.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

Nine months later, in early autumn, along about the time of the Jewish New Year and the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus was born of Mary. And the Word became flesh and “tabernacled,” camped out among us. It seems appropriate that this should happen at the time of the feast of Tabernacles, because it is a permanent reminder that we are all strangers and pilgrims here, that we are temporary. And yes, Jesus was almost certainly born in October, and it is utterly impossible for him to have been born on December25.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-16 KJV)

This being at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, there would have been no accommodations anywhere. Since they had to go to their birth city to register, they would naturally do this at a time when they had to go anyhow – at the feast. And this is important. Jesus birth was lowly, and it was not announced to the priestly establishment in Jerusalem. It was announced to ordinary people.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

It is fascinating that these men knew what all this meant. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. A sign of what? What might that have meant to them. I think he is saying that this will be significant to you. You will find this baby in a stable. In the feeding trough.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)

These were religious men, and they knew that one of the signs of the messiah was this:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Zechariah 9:9)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." (Luke 2:13-16)

Nothing could be more personal. A baby. Helpless. Vulnerable. Totally dependent upon his mother for everything. But this baby was the Son of God. The Word that became flesh and lived among us, as one of us. And that Word was God.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."(John 10:27-33)

Make no mistake about it. Jesus was the Word, the Word that was with God and was God. He revealed himself in those terms and the Jews understood exactly what he was saying. And thus he denies the idea that God is impersonal, a mere force in the universe. He came in the flesh. He was God – in person.

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