Aston Presbyterian Church

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Rev. Christine Callaway

 

Isaiah 9:2-7  2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined.  3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.  4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.  5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.  6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

 

We Believe in Jesus Christ, His Only Son Our Lord

There is a book written by Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham.  The title is, “Just Give Me Jesus”.  This morning in the sermon there aren’t any jokes and there aren’t any funny stories.  I am simply going to just give you Jesus.

For those of you who weren’t here last week, we have started a seven week series on the Apostles Creed.  The word creed comes from the Latin credo which means I believe. The Apostles Creed contains a summary of our Christian beliefs. This Sunday is the second week.

Last week we covered, “We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”.  This week we are considering the statement, “we believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord.” This statement is of great importance because without belief in Jesus we would not be Christian. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Why is it important to believe?  Paul tells us in Romans 10, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”  We believe.  Only through belief in the Son of God can we be saved.

When we believe in Jesus, we receive the greatest gift of all—the salvation of our soul. And this gift is free. We can’t do anything to earn it. We don’t deserve it, but He gives it to us anyway: Ephesians 2 in the New Living Translation says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”.

Last week we read the beginning of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Our reading this morning from John echoes this statement.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Genesis tells us God spoke and the world came into being.  John tells us that Jesus is the very Word of God.  God has always been and therefore Jesus has always been.  John continues, “He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” John is telling us that Jesus was present and active at the creation of the world.  When we say this we are talking about the pre-incarnate Jesus, before the incarnation, before He was born.

Our statement today begins, We believe in Jesus Christ.  Where did His name come from?  In Matthew 1:21 Joseph is told in a dream to name Mary’s son Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.  In Hebrew Jesus would be Joshua or Yeshua which literally means ‘God saves.”  Jesus is our Savior.

Our first reading from Isaiah 9 is considered a messianic prophecy.  For a child has been born to us, a son given to us.  Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born.  He was born to us and He was given to us.  Born to reconcile us back to God.  Given to us for our salvation.

Jesus isn’t just Jesus in our creed. He is called Jesus Christ. It really should be Jesus, the Christ because Christ is not Jesus’ last name, it is a title.  Christ is Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah which means “anointed one”.  In ancient Israel priests and kings were anointed.  To be anointed this person was regarded as having been consecrated by God for a special purpose. Moses was instructed to anoint Aaron and his sons as priests.  Samuel, a priest of Israel was instructed by God to anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.  Later Samuel anointed David as king.  At His baptism Jesus was anointed, not with oil but with the Holy Spirit. All four of the gospels tell us this.  The Holy Spirit descended as a dove and rested on Jesus.  This was His anointing by God.

The Jewish people longed for a messiah.  There are numerous Messianic predictions found among the prophets.  At the time of Jesus’ birth the Jewish people lived under Roman rule.  Before that, they were under Greek rule.  They had suffered through years of persecution.  They longed for the Messiah.  They expected a powerful leader who would free them from tyranny.  They saw the messiah as a warrior king such as David had been.

That was not what they got. We continue in the gospel of John, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”

One of the reasons Jesus was rejected by many in His own time is because He was not the messiah they were expecting.  They looked for someone who would defeat the Romans so they could have political and religious freedom.  Jesus came to set us free but that freedom was not from physical rulers.  He came to free us from our slavery to sin and death; a far greater and longer lasting freedom.  The freedom we experience under Jesus is something that can never be taken from us.

Jesus also came to proclaim the kingdom of God.  Not a physical kingdom but an everlasting kingdom.  Listen again to our reading from Isaiah.  “Authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.”  To call Jesus the Christ is a claim that Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, and was the One appointed by God as our prophet, priest, and king.

Back to this morning’s statement from the Apostles’ Creed. Now we add His Son.  I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son.  We will now look at the unique, divine Sonship of Jesus. The words His only Son refers back to God the Father Almighty.  What does it mean when we say Jesus Christ is the Son of God?  This means we believe Jesus is divine, He is God.  Jesus is the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, He is the Son of the Father. Jesus Christ is fully divine.

Now there are many who believe that Jesus was a prophet; this is what Muslims believe because their Koran calls Him a prophet. Others believe that he was a great moral teacher; we should follow His teachings because they are ethical. C. S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus is not just a good man, He is not just a wise man, He is the only Son of God.  Jesus is unique because He and He alone is both divine and human.  Not half divine and half human but fully human and fully divine.

When we say that Jesus is the Son of God it shows us the intimate relationship that exists between Jesus and God the Father.  We remember John 3:16; For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Jesus is the Only Son of God. (pause) Now how can I say that?  How many times have I told you that we are all children of God?  The difference is that we are adopted children.  Jesus is the only true Son of God.  Paul tells us that God destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ.  It is only through the Son of God that we can become children of God.

Again we turn to our reading from John, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”  Jesus is the one who allows us to become the adopted children of God.  If we receive Jesus into our hearts, if we believe in Him then we can become the children of God.

The final phrase we come to is “our Lord”.  Jesus Christ is our Lord.  Modern-day American Christians cannot relate to this in the same way the first Christians did.  We have a democratic form of government.  There are no nobles in our society, no kings or queens, no lords or ladies.  The idea of Lord is lost on us in many ways.  Philippians 2 tells us, “He is given the name above every name, and every knee in heaven and earth and under the earth shall bow to him.” That’s a powerful statement of Christ’s lordship.

To believe that Jesus is Lord involves more than believing that he has authority over us, it makes a direct and powerful claim about the divinity of Jesus Christ. To confess that Jesus Christ is Lord is to proclaim his identity as God.

When we confess that Jesus is Lord we are saying that we are giving over control of our lives to Him.  We are taking ourselves off the throne of our lives and putting Him on it.  Jesus and Jesus alone is Lord of our lives.  Not money, not power, not ourselves but Jesus.

We must not surrender our life to a government, pressure from our culture, or even the pursuit of success, but to a Lord that came not to be served, but TO SERVE and SAVE! What God is doing in Christ is entering into our alienation, separation, death, and darkness in order to restore us to a right relationship with him. Trends, success, wealth, and governments come and go. Only Jesus remains and reigns supreme as our Lord.

Our reading from John ends with, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”  Jesus left His throne in heaven, laid aside His power and His glory and became one of us.  He confined Himself in a human body.  Why?  He did this out of love.  We are all invited into His love and the love of His Father.

Karl Barth was perhaps the most important theologian of the 20th century. In our Book of Confessions is the Barmen Declaration, a statement of German evangelical churches against Hitler. This was primarily written by Karl Barth. His most important work is the 14 volume Church Dogmatics. I’ve read a few parts of it and it is not easy. He was from Switzerland and he visited the United States in 1962. On April 23rd of that year, he spoke at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. Many have reported that, during the Q & A time, a student asked Karl Barth, if he could summarize his theology in a single sentence. As the story goes, Barth responded by saying, “In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'”

May all of us experience the fullness of God’s love in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

Let us pray.