Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2014
Once again, I want to welcome everyone here tonight who has chosen to spend Christmas Eve with us here at Cornerstone Church. I do not think you will regret it. I don’t say that because of me, or because this building, or even the company or cookies, but because of God and what he has for us tonight in His Word. The only reason we have this Holiday is because of this book and what it says. It only makes sense for us tonight to sit at the foot of God’s throne and soak in His Word.
With that said, I want to encourage each one of you to start a new Christmas tradition this year, that is, if you don’t do this already. Before you open presents, I encourage you to open up the Bible. Spend time reading about the love God as is displayed in Jesus Christ. My suggestion for this year is to read Romans 8. It is not the Christmas story, but it is why we celebrate the Christmas story. After you read this passage, pray and tell God thank you for all He has done through Christ. I cannot think of a more important Christmas tradition than this.
Now let us turn our attention to tonight’s message. Open your Bibles to Matthew 4:12-17. Here at Cornerstone we have camped out in this text for a little over three weeks. Let’s read it pray, and then see what God has to say to us this Christmas Eve.
Darkness is simply the absence of light. Where there is light there is no darkness. Where there is darkness there is no light. The darkness as mentioned in this text, however, is not material darkness it is a spiritual darkness. The light is God, the darkness is the absence of God. Therefore this darkness is a reference to a people who live separated from God. The darkness mentioned in verse 16 is not exclusive to the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. The dominion of darkness covers the entire planet. All you have to do is watch the news to figure this out. The darkness encompasses all humanity, because we are all sinners. We all run from the light into the domain of darkness. As it says in John 3, people love the darkness.
This darkness, that we love, is not a good thing. Living in darkness results in fear, anxiety, lostness, futility, dysfunction, suffering, and anguish. The sin in your life may feel good in the moment, but it produces a wake of disaster in your life. This is the world we live in, broken, rebellious, living as if God is dead to us. However, this is not the worst of it, for this darkness is just a taste of the ultimate and eternal spiritual darkness, Hell. Jesus calls Hell the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and this is the guaranteed destiny for everyone absent a Solution.
Which leads me to point number two, the answer to the darkness is singular. Remember, darkness is just the absence of light; therefore to remove darkness you must have light. Nothing else resolves the problem of darkness, other than light. And what is the answer to the spiritual darkness? What is the solution to the highway to Hell that every man walks upon? Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus stands up and proclaims in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
The answer to the darkness, the answer to the dysfunction, the answer to the suffering is Jesus Christ. No matter where the darkness lies, the answer is the same. Jesus, the Light of the World. This is why the angels proclaim in Luke 2:10 to the Shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Jesus is not the answer for some, he is the answer for everyone!
The question I ask everyone tonight is are you following the Light? Do you follow Christ? And I am not asking do you go to Church from time to time, or are you a good person. I am asking do you love Jesus? Have you laid your life down at the foot of the cross and said, “I am yours.” If you have not yet chosen to follow Christ, then you are still are a citizen of the domain of darkness? This means that the suffering you are experiencing now is nothing what is waiting for you in Hell.
Kingdom of Heaven
The question is how does this occur? How does one go from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of Heaven? What does Jesus do?
It is the Word of God and the power of God that pierces the hearts of man and awakens them to their need for Jesus. The Gospel message opens their eyes to the depravity of darkness and the treasure of the Light of Christ.
Having said that, we still live in this darkened world, not of it, but in it. We still live in a world that is full of sin, dysfunction, perversion, brokenness, rebellion, suffering and anguish. We still feel the weight of this, to an extent. This is a reality for all Christians. We are Citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, however, for a moment; we live in the domain of darkness.
And despite the love, peace and joy that we have in Christ, and is an undercurrent to our lives, we still mourn, weep, and suffer. We still get cancer. We still struggle with our flesh. The road for a believers is not easy street, it is hard, it is narrow, but it is good. Because we know where our journey ends. It ends with God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 21, 2014
Today we are in the third part of a four part sermon entitled, “A Light has Dawned.” This tile comes from Matthew 4:12-17, the text that is behind me. Today's title, however is , “I Am the Light of the World.” Before we get started with today's message, I would like to briefly review.
Two weeks ago started our sermon series by examining the darkness we see referred to in Matthew 4. This darkness is the rebellious, broken world that lies in the hands of Satan. A world that exists in the shadow of death. The reason this world is dark is because of one thing, sin. What is sin? It is the rejection of God’s authority in your life. This sin began in the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve rejected God and instead chose to live there life independent of him. This is called the fall. Because of the fall, all humanity is born into darkness. This is all we know. This is why the world is the way it is. This is why 140 kids were slaughtered in Pakistan on Tuesday, and why racial tension has existed sense the tower of Babel. This is why we have divorces. This is why we have a meth problem. Because we chose to live independent of God, separated from His light. To put it simply, we love the darkness.
Last week, we saw that God, because He is loving, provided a glimmer of hope to Adam and Eve in the midst of his punishment. Specifically, the seed of Eve that God speaks of in Genesis 3, would bruise, crush, gape the head of the serpent, otherwise known as the devil. As we saw last week this was the first explicit prophecy of the suffering Savior, Jesus Christ. And from that point on, God continued to reveal to the world, through His chosen people, Israel, the solution to the darkness being Jesus Christ alone. For 4000 years God would repeatedly provide little glimmers of Hope for His chosen people. As the day of Jesus' birth came closer and closer the light started to shine brighter and brighter, just like the Sun when it approaches the horizon. This testimony of the light of the world continued all the way up to John the Baptist.
From that point on the light of Christ was no longer a distant glimmer of hope, but Christ had broken dawn and the darkened world would never be the same. With that I ask you to turn to John 8:12-30. We will spend the rest of our morning in this passage.
Jesus Is the Light
The events of John 8 took place during what is called the Feast of the Booths. This was one of the bigger celebrations of the Jews, for this feast celebrated the 40 years that God led the Israelites through the Wilderness after they were delivered from the Egyptians. This celebration was one of the three celebrations each year that every Jewish male was required to attend. Not only that, but each time when the Jewish males presented themselves to the Lord at the temple, they were expected to bring an offering.
And it is in this environment that Jesus stands up and says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." This is actually the second statement that Jesus made along these lines during the feast. Earlier in John 7:37, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Now we see Jesus stand up amongst the mob of people and says, “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Think about what is going on here. This carpenter's son from the Podunk town of Nazareth stands up on one of the holiest nights in Jerusalem and says He is the Light of the world. Jesus is saying that He is the solution to the darkness, not a solution, but the exclusive solution.
It was CS Lewis who famously argued that no one could be logically neutral concerning Jesus. Lewis was commonly frustrated by people who said that Jesus was a good teacher, or great leader, or had charisma, but they would not accept that He was the Son of God. Lewis said that Jesus had to be one of three things: A Liar, and Lunatic, or the Lord. What does Lewis mean by this?
In John 8, Jesus is not dancing around the bush. He is making a substantial and self centered, claim about himself. Jesus is proclaiming to the masses that He alone is the solution to the darkness. This is not just some moral teacher, or some charismatic leader. Either Jesus is lying, that and therefore he is not the light of the World; He is delusional, which is what we would say today if someone stood up and claimed this, or he is in fact who He says He is, the Light of the World. Logically, those are the only options.
The Pharisees, picked door number two, liar. Verse 13, “So the Pharisees said to him, "You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true." They are saying, you are lying. You are not the Light of the World. So the Pharisees were at least logical in their understanding of who Jesus is.
The question, I pose to each one of you today, is who do you say that Jesus is? Is He a liar, is He a lunatic, or is He your Lord. You have to pick one of the three, Jesus spoke in such a way that you cannot sit the fence. This question is the most important question you will every answer. Your eternity hangs on it.
You Must Follow the Light to Have the Light
Let’s assume that you have decided that Jesus is Lord. Intellectually you understand that Jesus is not a liar and know He was not crazy, so in your mind you have determined that He is in fact the Light of the World. Does this mean you have the light of life? Does your intellectual acceptance of Jesus as Lord mean you are in the clear? I want to read to you two verses.
Earlier I mentioned that Jesus said these words during the Feast of the Booths. According to Josephus, a Jewish historian, during the Feast of the Booths they would light giant lamps in the Court of the Women. These blazing lamps were representations of the pillar of fire that lead Israel by night through the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness.
It was while these giant lamps were blazing and shouting up into dark sky that Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus is saying that He is the pillar of fire that leads us out of our slavery to sin and into the Promise land of God’s Forever Kingdom. So if having the Light means following the Light, what does it mean to follow Jesus? Let me read to you the Words of Jesus regarding what it looks like to follow Christ.
This is the difference between the belief of Satan and the belief of a saint. Satan believes and continues to rebel. Saints believe and follow Christ. The question is, what belief do you have? This, I believe is the issue of today. We have millions of people who claim to have the light of Christ in their heart, yet continue to live their life independent of God. There lives look no different than unbelievers. They have “faith” but no evidence of following Jesus.
Lastly, what if you chose not to follow Jesus? What if instead of laying everything down at his feet you instead, continue to live like the rest of the world? Jesus tells us very clearly in Luke 14:33
So today, I want you to hear the cry of Christ, “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." And I want you to let go of everything and grab hold of Jesus Christ. Follow him out of the darkness and into the eternal promise land.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 14, 2014.
Open your Bibles to Matthew 4:12-17. Let us begin by jumping right into our text. As I stated last Sunday, during this Advent season we will be using Matthew 4 to launch each sermon. So let us read it, pray and then see what God desires to show us in His Word this morning.
My intent last week was for each of you to feel the weight of the darkness of this sinful world, and to recognize that the present darkness that surrounds us is not some childish game of hide and seek, but that it is a foretaste of what is waiting for every man that does not have the light of Christ dawn upon their heart, Hell.
We briefly discussed how this darkness originated in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s authority over them, and to instead listen to Satan, the Prince of Darkness. Because of their rejection of God’s Lordship over their life, God withdrew from humanity, and it was plunged into spiritual darkness and live in the shadow of death. Therefore every person that has been born on this planet has been born with a darkened heart into a darkened world. If the Bible was broken into a four part play, the fall man would be Part 1, the domain of darkness.
Today I would like to begin with Part two of this play. If I were to name part 2, I would name it, “A Glimmer of Hope.” I have asked you to do this before here at Cornerstone, but I want you to imagine for a moment the first night that Adam and Eve spent outside the Garden of Eden. This experience would have a completely new for them. They would have no home, no food, no protection. Prior to the fall their sleep would have been easy and peaceful, but those days for Adam and Eve were now over. After they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were cast out of the Garden and separated from the presence of God and were living independent of Him in the midst of the darkness.
We don't know the details of what night one was like, but I want to use your imagination. What would that night look like if it were you? For me it would be a night of shame, brokenness, fear, anxiety, lostness, and tears. Perhaps the first several hours after being cast out of the Garden Adam and Eve just walked in silence. Too devastated to talk. Perhaps due to physical and emotional exhaustion they picked a place so as to try to get some sleep. I can almost picture Adam and Eve clinging to each other, surrounded by the darkness of their new reality; perhaps cold, hungry, worried, and staring off into the pitch black night, and running over in their minds the last 24 hours of their life. For the first time they felt the weight of the darkness, the weight of their sin.
Let me ask you something? Have you had those nights? Have you laid in bed with the world pushing down on you? Broken, lost, afraid, ashamed? I am guessing you have. I know I have. Your mind races with worry and fear and sadness. You try to forget the day, weeks, or months, but you can't. It is like the darkness of the world is pursuing you, crouching at your bed, ready to pounce. For me, some of those dark days are best described as spiritually suffocation. It was as if the darkness was pushing into my chest. In that moment you feel as if there is no hope.
If I were to guess, night one for Adam and Eve was not an easy one. Now imagine, Adam turning to Eve in the middle of the night and saying, “Eve, are you still awake?” Eve says, “Yes, I can't stop thinking about what God said. It keeps ringing in my ears.” Adam responds, “Me too. Eve, did you hear what God said to the Serpent? 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.' Who do you think God was talking about?”
The words I just referred to, in that fictional dialogue, are actually found in Genesis 3 when God was pronouncing judgment against the Serpent, Adam and Eve. This seed of Eve, that God declared would crush the head of Satan, was the only glimmer of hope spoken of that day. All other words by God after the fall were words of judgment, except this promise of a future and mysterious seed of Eve, that would be a He, would strike, bruise, crush, gape (Depending on what version you have) the head of the serpent. And likewise in the process of striking the head of the snake would have his heal bruised by the snake. Who is this man? It is none other than Jesus Christ, and this is the first explicit prophecy of a suffering savior who would be victorious over sin and death.
Think about this for a moment. God created Adam and Eve and gave them everything. They rebelled against him and chose to listen to the Devil instead of the Potter. God had every right to banish them to Hell, but he didn't. He punished them, clothed them by the shedding of blood, and gave them hope in Christ. What an amazing God, and what amazing Grace! Despite the world being plunged into a dominion of darkness due to Adam and Eve's rebellion, God still provided a glimmer of Hope.
On Fridays, I meet with Freddie Jones at McDonald’s. We usually get done around 7:00, and sometimes I head into work right away, but sometimes I drive up to the Rotary Lodge in Wapsipinicon State Park to pray and read the Bible. This Friday, I decided to drive up there and spend some time with the Lord, and I walked out into the grass and I looked out upon the River and Trees, and I could barely see them because of a gloomy, gray, ominous fog that had descended upon the country side near Anamosa. It was one of those mornings, when you look out the window, you would rather just go back to bed, for it was just an ugly morning. But off in the distance, through the fog, I could see a light piercing through the gloom, just like what I would imagine a lighthouse would be like, a beacon of Hope. And I thought to myself, what a great picture of night one in the dominion of darkness. God had pronounced judgment and cast them out of his presence due to their sin, and gloom and anguish descended, but off in the distance God places a light. The light of His Son, Jesus Christ.
When Adam and Eve stepped into the darkness of their sin, Jesus was there. Why? Because Jesus has always been there. He is eternal. He was in the beginning with God and he was God. It was through Christ that Adam and Eve were made. It was through Christ that the Garden was made. It was through Christ that Satan was made. After he made Adam and Eve, He watched them reject God's authority over them. He watched them choose to follow the lies of Satan instead of the truth of God. He watched them chose darkness over light. And this was not surprise to Christ. For nothing surprises God. He is all knowing, all powerful, all present. He is Sovereign God.
From the beginning of time, Jesus knew his role within the Trinity, to be Hope for the helpless. For in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men. Before the darkness of this world had its beginning the eternal light of Christ was already burning brightly, and in the fullness of time, His light will shine brighter than the sun. However, for Adam and Eve it was merely a glimmer of Hope.
As Redemptive History progresses, this glimmer of hope, the light of Christ comes closer and closer and brighter and brighter as the ages pass. With each passing generation, more rays of His light pierce through the fog and give Hope to those who have faith in God, to those who have faith in the seed of Eve.
This foreshadowing of the Light of Christ is found throughout the Old Testament. I would argue that the light of Christ is seen in the rainbow, whereby light shines through the water of God's wrath. The Light of Christ is seen in Exodus 13 as the pillar of fire that leads Israel by night out of the slavery of Egypt and into the land of milk and honey. The Light of Christ is seen in the God designed tabernacle and the temple in the seven lamps that illumined the Holy Place, the transition between the Courtyard and the Most Holy Place of God. We see the light of Christ more personally in specific prophecies.
As the years pass, and the darkness of this world continued to reign, God in his goodness, continued to provide glimmers of Hope. In the midst of gloom, anguish, and shadow of death that loomed over all creation, the light of Christ would stand forth as the beacon of man's hope. As the morning dawn of Christ approached so did his light. Listen to the words of the Father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, when John was born. At this time Jesus would be about three months conceived.
Then of course there was the star that camped out over Jesus that lead three random gentiles across the desert so as to worship this young boy. And listen to these words of Simeon, when Jesus was eight days old and presented at the Temple so that he could be circumcised:
What is the Bible about, you could answer this many ways, but one way is that this book is a testimony of the Light of Christ. This book is a single story bout the Light of Christ conquering darkness. From the first glimmer of Hope that was given by God to Adam and Eve to John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, it was all about Jesus Christ, the only answer to the darkness. There is no other light.
The first Christmas was about the dawning of light. A light that would lead humanity out of darkness and into the presence of God. All of history, all of creation, had been waiting for this moment, when Jesus wold burst forth upon the scene. It was a reality that made angels sing, Shepherds rejoice, and wise men to travel from afar.
And it was this glimmer of hope that God had given Adam and Eve on their first night in the domain of darkness. So what does this have to do with you? Everything.
In a way, our life story is very similar to the story of the Bible. We were all born into this domain of darkness. Like Adam and Eve we rebelled against God, and deserve God's judgment because we love the darkness, we love to make our own rules, we love to live independent of God. However, this darkness has only produced pain, anxiety, loneliness, lust, brokenness, greed, and lostness.
However, somewhere along the way, God put before you a glimmer of Hope. God proclaimed to you the Light of His Son. Maybe it was your parents reading the Bible to you, or a family in the community bringing you to Church, or someone at work sharing their testimony, or a gideon Bible in some random hotel. Whatever it was, the light of Christ was put before you, and like a moth to the flame, for some unexplainable reason, you were drawn to it, until the light of Christ broke dawn and shown in your heart.
If you do, if you chose to stand in the light of Christ, then everything is different.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 7, 2014.
Turn with me to Matthew 4:12-17. Today we are beginning a new sermon series at Cornerstone Church, so for those who are visiting today, you picked a perfect opportunity to come. It is my hope that what you hear today will draw you back next week to find out more about what God has to say to you this Christmas season.
The title of this sermon series is “The Weight of Darkness.” The purpose of this series is to help you feel the magnitude of what we are celebrating in Christmas. I worry that December, for many of us, becomes white noise, in that we have so much going on and so much familiarity when it comes to the Christmas season, that we fail to feel the eternal weight of the reality that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. The text that we will use for the next four messages is Matthew 4:12-17. So let us read out text, pray, and unpack what it says.
Because most people do not believe this child is relevant to their life. They do not see how a man that was born 2000 years ago on the other side of the planet changes anything for them. This is why Christ is no longer in Christmas. People are rational creatures, they make decisions based on pros and cons. When looking to Christ they see no benefit, but only cost. God made us reasonable, therefore we pursue what we believe to be the highest reward. And for the world, Jesus is not the highest reward, therefore he gets tossed to the curb. The reason people do not see Jesus to have value is that they do not feel the weight of darkness.
God uses this the theme of darkness throughout scripture, from beginning to end. It is like a thread that weaves its way through each book of the Bible. If you have time, do a word study on darkness, it is very interesting.
In general we all know what darkness is, it is merely the absence of light. If there is light, then there is no darkness. The more light that shines the less darkness there is. Perhaps some of you have been in a cave before and you or your guide turns out all the lights so that you can experience the darkness. Deep in the earth with no street lights, headlights, building lights, stars or moon, you experience full darkness and it is dark. You can almost feel the weight of the darkness. It is immediately uncomfortable.
It is this contrast between darkness and light that God uses to help us understand the relationship that exists, or does not exist, between God and man. The analogy of darkness and light is easy to understand. For God is light and the absence of Him is darkness.
The reason for this darkness is sin. Because of man's sin, God has withdrawn from the world and therefore darkness reigns. This domain of darkness began when the in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God. To continue with my cave illustration, they followed the Prince of Darkness, Satan, into the mouth of the cave. And ever sense that moment, humanity has been stuck in that cave. Every child that has been born sense that time has been born in that cave, in the darkness.
Here is the problem. You would think that we would want to come out of the cave and get out of the darkness and live in the light, but that is not the case. We love the darkness. Jesus says this plainly in John 3:19.
Darkness Produces Futility
One consequence of this darkness is futility. The word in the greek is mataioō, which means vanity, empty, foolish, useless, no purpose. A person who lives in darkness is all of these things.
I want you to go back and think about standing in that cave again, with absolutely no light. Then I want you to imagine me asking you to bake me a cake. Could you do it? Absolutely not. You would wander around for hours looking for flour, eggs, milk, a bowl, a spoon, the oven. Measuring when be near impossible. You could spend weeks and weeks trying to make this cake and and you would fail every time. Why? Because you are in darkness.
This is the reality of you if you live independent of Christ, the light. Jesus says that “apart from me you can do nothing.” Absolutely nothing. I don't care how much money you make, what mountains you have climbed, what degrees you hang on your wall, it is all worthless, apart from Christ. On judgment day all those things you have done independent of Christ will be burnt to ashes.
Without the light of Jesus Christ, you are wandering around aimlessly, everything in your life is meaningless. Your marriage, your job, your home, your hobbies, your existence is empty, it is void. You are wasting your life.
What is interesting is that everyone can feel it. We can all feel the longing for purpose. We want our life to have meaning. We don't want to be some random event in the cosmos. We want our lives to count for something.
This can only happen if you walk out of the darkness and to the light of Jesus Christ. For it is only in laying down your life at the foot of the cross that you will have life, and have it abundant. It is only Jesus who can give you purpose. It is only Jesus who can lay out the plans He has for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, and to give you a future and a hope.
As long as you live in the domain of darkness, as long as your foolish heart is darkened, everything you do, is eternally pointless.
Not only that but this darkness is oppressive. It is like a weight pushing down on our chest, suffocating us. This darkness produces in us, anxiety, fear, depression, and anger. We try to numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, food, jobs, sex, entertainment, money, and stuff. But these things are merely treating the symptom, not curing the disease. The pursuit of earthly pleasures just intensifies the darkness.
The only thing that pushes back the darkness is the light of Jesus Christ. Darkness flees from his presence. If you are tired of carrying the weight of darkness in your life, cry out to God that he would shine the light of Jesus into your heart today.
I want you to walk down memory lane and think about the worst you have ever felt. A time when you cried yourself to sleep, maybe even a time where you desired to die. Now imagine that pain magnified by thousands and experiencing it for all eternity. Meaning in a million years, you are not any closer to that pain ending. That is Hell. That is the outer darkness, and that is waiting for each and every person who chooses to love the darkness, instead of the light of Christ.
There are two ways out of this present darkness of this world. One way leads you deeper and deeper into the cave until you reach the dungeons Satan, the lake of fire. When you arrive, you are there forever. I wish this on no man.
The second way out of the cave is through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is what his coming to this earth achieved for us. Emmanuel came to free us from the chains that imprison us to the domain of darkness, and place us instead in the Kingdom of the Beloved Son. A kingdom that is exploding with light and truth and joy and life, and this is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why the coming of this child is good news of great joy. This is why Jesus is relevant to your life.
If you believe that you are currently living in darkness, seperate from God, do not wait for tomorrow, cry out to God and beg him to shine the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ into you heart right now. Beg him to open up your eyes to the reality of the darkness that surrounds you and the beauty that is Jesus. Plead with him to open up your heart to receive the Gospel seed so that you can bear fruit to His Glory and your good. Do not wait for tomorrow, for tomorrow you may wake up in Hell, and in Hell there is no hope.