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In the Beginning Was the Word - Arrival Series [8-2-20]

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Every interaction is marked by communication. That communication is usually through spoken or written language. Sometimes by other means, either by necessity or a temporary choice. But for most people, most of the time, we communicate with words. Some of you talk more than average. Some of you talk less. We all communicate. Women and men are about the same when it comes to talking. The real differences aren't gender-related, but rooted in personality type. Extroverts talk more than introverts. Here's your chance, introverts. Only the introverts say, "Amen!"

Language expresses reality. Language gives form and shape to reality. Centuries ago, a Scottish king conducted his own experiment on language development. He sent two newborns; a boy and a girl; to be raised by a woman who couldn't speak. He claimed that, when he followed up a few years later, they were speaking Hebrew. Perhaps one of the first examples of fake news. In reality, it messed them up. Other equally cruel and unethical attempts have been made on language deprivation experiments, all ending the same. Language is essential to understanding how we experience ourselves, our world, and our place in the world.

When John opens his gospel with, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," he's talking about Jesus, what he did, and the powerful way in which he used language.

As we've explored through our summer sermon series, "Arrival," Jesus has given us a new way to understand ourselves, our world, and how we are called to live in our world. We know that we are different. Devoted followers of Jesus Christ are like strangers living in a strange land. Jesus calls us to attitudes and actions that are different from our unsaved culture. Paul describes such attitudes as patience and kindness and joy {are you content in all things?} and peace and goodness and gentleness and self-control. Did you see the video of that woman throwing a fit at a Trader Joe's? They expected her to wear a mask; she disagreed, so she started throwing what was in her cart out of her cart. Not a pretty thing, all caught on camera. One way or another, that woman needs Jesus. Amen? As I like to say, it costs us nothing to be kind.

So, through his life, death, and resurrection, we've learned from Jesus this unique way to understand life. It makes us different. His arrival in a one room peasant dwelling in Bethlehem marked the birth of a new way to understand ourselves, our world, and our place in the world. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word changed everything.

Jesus changed the way we talk about life and relationships.

Consider his encounter with Zacchaeus:

  • Jesus was passing through Jericho. He healed a blind man along the way, so there was probably some sense that the people would have been happy for Jesus to stop there, at least for the night.

  • Zacchaeus was rich and a tax collector.

  • Zacchaeus wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus, but he couldn't. For two reasons. He was shorter than the average Jerichoian, and since he didn't have his bodyguards with him, if the crowd would have spotted him, they would have set on him like a buzzard on road kill. Mobs are always going to do what mobs do.

  • Then comes the most profound moment. Jesus sees Zacchaeus and invites himself over for dinner. What a quick change-of-mind. And not for any of the decent, upstanding citizens of Jericho but for a disgusting tax collector. Listen to the fallout from verse 7, "And when they saw it, they all grumbled, 'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.'"

  • Two huge things happen. Jesus offers Zacchaeus a vision of sin and redemption that no one has ever given him before. And it changes his life. Verse 8 tells us, "And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.'"

  • Here's the second big thing that happens. Jesus then says, in verses 9 and 10, "Today, salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Who do you think the crowd is now mad at? Jesus. Jesus takes upon himself the anger they had toward Zacchaeus. It's an amazing thing. In a foreshadowing of the cross {another angry mob} Jesus puts his life on the line in order to transform the life of Zacchaeus. And in response to this, Zacchaeus gives his life to Christ in service and devotion. Changed lives matter.

  • Words spoken in a nuanced encounter are remembered 2,000 years later. And every time that story is retold, lives continue to be changed.

The arrival of Jesus Christ changes everything.

Here's something you might want to write down:

The language you speak influences how you think.

In the beginning was the Word. Jesus Christ is the language God speaks to us. Remember when Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me"? What Jesus says to us influences how we think about God, ourselves, others, and our place in the world. Jesus changed the way we talk about life and relationships. Jesus changed the way we talk about sin and forgiveness. Jesus changed the way we talk about eternity.

The Sermon on the Mount is a good example of this. In Matthew, it's the

Sermon on the Mount. In Luke, it's the Sermon on the Plain. This message was so important, Jesus clearly shared it on more than one occasion in

different places. Jesus helps us see life in a new way.

Here are some highlights from Matthew 5:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is

the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be

thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[ they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have

not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’  But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,  or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Jesus continues for two more chapters with this sometimes contrarian, always counter-cultural teaching. Bottom line, Matthew 5, 6, and 7 present a revolutionary way for speaking about God, ourselves, our relationships with others, and our place in the world. We could easily do a 10-12 week series on chapter 5 alone and still not exhaust its application and impact.

Here's where we're going to stop. Next week, we're going to pick things up with a look at how too many churches engage in a red-hot pursuit of cultural relevance rather than speaking the gospel into a culture that desperately needs it. Until then, I'll leave you with this:

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

- Psalm 135:6

This is what it means for God to be God. And He means to be worshiped as God.

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