The Gospel of John was written to a second generation Christian. His audience was mainly Jewish Christians whose parents had lived during Jesus’ time but never experienced Jesus’ ministry themselves. When you read John keep in mind these contexts. John wrote his gospel to Christians who wanted to return to the old ways of Judaism: practicing Temple worship, cleansing ceremonies with pots, and emphasizing Moses over Jesus among other focus’. Maybe some of you have noticed that Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a lot in common with each other, they share many of the same stories and miracles. John is entirely new! Only 10% of what John shares is seen in the first three gospels. Whereas the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) speak with one voice as a biography. John uses a more literary approach to Jesus’ life and ministry. John emphasizes eternal life over the kingdom of God focusing on the results of the kingdom as opposed to the present kingdom.
Please turn with me to John 1:4-9
The contrast between light and darkness is one of John’s key themes throughout his gospel.
The word light is used 7 times in these 6 verses while darkness is only mentioned once. This passage shares with us one of the key purposes behind John writing his gospel: John the Baptist testified to the light that all might believe through him. The hope of testifying to the light is belief. When we share what God has done in our lives, when we testify, it produces one of two results: the person we’re speaking to either believes what we say about Jesus or they don’t. They either see the light or hide in the darkness.
The concept of witness in John might seem to offer the readers an open-minded choice, but not really.
A couple of months ago Tim Tebow, a famous Christian football player, was on the television with face paint under his eyes that said John 3:16. I thought to myself, “Wow regardless of if this guy is a good athlete, which is hotly debated by many sports enthusiasts, he just shared part of the gospel with at least half of the United States by painting that verse under his eyes!” I probably will never have the opportunity to share Jesus with that many people in my entire life.
John 3:16 is one of the most well-known bible passages in the world. I remember memorizing it when I was a boy, in fact I think it was the first sentence I ever memorized. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him, shall not parish but have everlasting life.” This is the King James version of the passage but I will probably always quote it that way because that’s how I memorized it. This is a powerful verse and definitely due the popularity it has acquired but I want us to focus on the following two verses because verses 16-18 are the center of John’s book!
John 3:16–18. Light coming into the world splitting the earth into those who believe and those who don’t are summarized in these 3 verses. John’s witness implies something about one’s response. What you decide about Jesus is absolutely crucial for it determines if you are in the light or the darkness, heaven or hell, truth or error, life or death!
The Apostle Paul put it this way 2 Cor. 2:15-16,
Paul is saying that we smell like death to those who have not accepted Jesus as Christ, the reason for this is found in John 3:19-21
Christ coming into the world brought salvation which we are all familiar with. In our minds Jesus=salvation but here the other side of the coin is revealed, Jesus coming into the world brought judgment! Will you choose the darkness or the light? Will you return to your old ways or remain in the light? God desires that we bring everything into the light! As embarrassing as that may seem it is much better to bring things into God’s light of your own will than to have deeds committed in darkness exposed against your will. I always question the motives of someone who has been found out compared with someone who has revealed it themselves. Would you rather have a family member or friend confess that they lied to you, or find out they lied to you from someone else, without them knowing it?
In John 8:12 Jesus states, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The connection between light and life is as old as the first fire created by man. Fire offers light in darkness, when we go on our hiking trip next week I will be very thankful for the light the fire provides us every night. Here Jesus himself is stating that he is not only the light but he is life! Jesus did not state that he is A light, or one of the lights, but THE LIGHT. Don’t ever muddy the waters by saying Jesus is A light or A way, he is THE LIGHT! There is no room for moral relativity with Christ he is not one of the ways he is the only way, the only light, the only life. Life, love, purpose, and truth can only be found in Jesus!
Consider the dark places in your life, perhaps places that you’ve left behind but long to return to, maybe the dark places you still return to. How are we to bring them to light? How are we to be freed from them?
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Often Christians will misinterpret this passage by emphasizing knowledge as the path to freedom. Knowing the truth can easily be understood to mean that the path to enlightenment is attained by understanding more, learning more, knowing more. I have a friend who helped me in my early walk with the Lord, he was a strong Christian who loved God. He read this passage to mean the more he knew the freer he would become, so he went to college and attained a degree. Unsatisfied with his level of knowledge he went back to college to learn more. He is still in college going for his second master’s degree and has since lost the faith he once had. He is one of the most arrogant people I have ever met to this day because he believed knowledge was the path to freedom and enlightenment. In Jesus’ day there were people just like him who thought the way to salvation was through the knowledge one attained. Knowledge, however, tends to puff up and make one arrogant. I see it in myself, I see it in others. If we know something others don’t, we have the tendency to hold that over them, telling ourselves we’re smarter, or wiser, or some other non-sense? I am convinced that God wants obedience over knowledge because those who know more are required to do more and if they aren’t acting on what they know they will be judged accordingly. I would much rather have someone helping me in ministry who puts what they know into action opposed to someone who knows a lot but doesn’t act upon it.
The truth will set you free.
Truth in John’s understanding was not truth as we understand it. It wasn’t a fact like gravity or a true statement made in a court of law. Truth is not an idea, it is not something you possess. No, truth is a person…and his name is Jesus Christ! You will know me and I will set you free! All other truths come from this one truth!
John 1:8- Jesus is referred to as the TRUE light, which gives light to everyone.
John 3:21- Jesus said, But whoever does what is TRUE comes to the light. In John doing what is true is bearing witness to Jesus.
John 3:22- Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is TRUTH.
John 5:33- You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the TRUTH. JESUS
How does this play out in our modern day lives? We search for the light, we search for truth in other places. We believe science has all the answers. We think logic and rational thought determine truth. If God is TRUTH then who determines what truth is? God does. But for some reason we are still left to choose who truth is. We look for ways of determining our future, we set up strange superstitions to help us make decisions, we make traditions in attempts of controlling our destiny. We are slaves to sin, slaves to uncertainty, slaves to self. Either we acknowledge God as truth or we determine that truth is ourselves. In one scenario God is God in the other I set myself up as god. Don’t give the Enemy more credit than he’s due, I hear people blaming stuff on the Devil often but in all truth… our worst Enemy is found in here (point to chest) consequently our greatest ally is also found in here (point to chest).
You will know Jesus and Jesus will set you free.
We are set free through a relationship with Jesus Christ! The closer we are to Jesus, the farther we are from ourselves and the selfishness that shifts the light of the world from him to us.
This little light of mine is a song about sharing the testimony of Jesus’ light with the world. Let us expose the darkness in our lives, in the lives around us, and let the light of Jesus shine brightly no matter what dark place we find ourselves in.