Sermon series: Hello, My Name Is Jesus
I Said It - John 1:1-2, 6
I Made It - John 1:3
I Show It - John 1:4-5
I'm Here - John 1:9-11
I Am Here - John 1:12
I Give It - John 1:13
I Have Come - John 1:14
In a few short verses as John introduces Jesus, he has takes us from eternity past to the beginning of time and creation and now to the present. He turns the corner in his grand introduction of Jesus from telling us about Jesus to our personal response to him. John states, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12 NIV). The two key words in this verse are believe and become-two great words of the Christian faith. Tied up in these words are the response that Jesus wants and the result that we desire. If we believe in him we will become all that we were intended to become.
John 1:12 has been rightly seen as one of the greatest verses in all of the New Testament for it tells us how to find the life we all desire. Charles Spurgeon begins his sermon on John 1:12 with these words: "Everything here is simple; everything is sublime. Here is that simple gospel, by which the most ignorant may be saved." John spells it out that Jesus knows how to get to God. Let's take a closer look at this verse.
I. The Gospel spelled out
A. A simple step: Receive him
John writes, "Yet to all who received him." The word yet sets the people referred in verse twelve apart from those who are mentioned in verses ten and eleven. Verses ten and eleven speaks of the supreme tragedy-those who did not receive Jesus but ignored him. Verse twelve speaks of the supreme triumph-those who received him and were granted a new life.
While it is true that the vast majority of the people in the world ignored Jesus and many of his own people rejected him-not everyone ignored him and not everyone rejected him. Some people recognized him and welcomed him for who he was-the God who came to save them. It is useful to recall that all the apostles and 100% of the earliest disciples were Jewish. Even in the midst of general rejection, many followed Jesus.
The way of salvation begins with a simple step: Receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Some people received him. The word received means to welcome a visitor into your home. It's what you do when you have planned a party and asked your guests to arrive at 6:30 p.m., but then you hear the doorbell ring at 5:50 p.m. and you're not ready yet. So you walk to the door, open it, smile and say, "Please come in." You receive your guests even though they have come early. To receive Christ means to welcome him as an honored guest and to have him make your heart his home.
It is more than just accepting a gift. Many people accept gifts, especially at Christmas. By the way, what did you get for Christmas last year or the year before? Hard to recall, isn't it? Accepting is not the same as receiving. When you receive something you take into your heart. You possess it and it possesses you.
B. A bold move: Believe him
First, we take a simple step: We receive him. Next, we must make a bold move: We believe him. John continues, "To those who believed in his name." John introduces one of the great words in his Gospel and in all of Christianity. The word is believe.
Jesus uses the word believe over and over again.
Jesus said: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV).
Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24 NIV).
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent" (John 6:29 NIV).
Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35 NIV).
Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life" (John 6:47 NIV).
Jesus said, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins" (John 8:24 NIV).
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NIV).
Jesus said, "No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God" (John 16:27 NIV).
Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29 NIV).
• John wrote: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31 NIV).
It seems pretty clear doesn't it? To be a Christian is to believe.
That raises a key question. If salvation is based on believing Christ, how do you know when you have truly believed? We all understand that the word believe has many different nuances. For instance, if I say, "I believe it is going to rain tomorrow," that's nothing more than a hunch. Or if I say, "I believe George Washington was the first president of the United States," that refers to a settled historical fact. But if I say, "I believe in Jesus with all my heart," I have made a different sort of statement altogether.
What does John mean by this word believe?
John is careful to use the verb for believing, not the noun. Believing, like knowing, is not so much a head-knowledge as it is a relational activity. In John's understanding, the core of the Gospel was focused not so much on what you know or what you believe, but rather on whom you know and in whom you believe.
Believing means trusting that Jesus is God in flesh that came to earth to die for your sins. It means resting on him so completely that he is your only hope of salvation. It means committing your all to Jesus knowing that he alone can save you. It means yielding yourself up to be possessed by the One in whom you believe. The New English Bible makes this thought clear, "To those who have yielded him their allegiance, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12 NEB).
And, notice that we are to believe "in his name." In antiquity, the name revealed the nature and character of a person. It stood for the whole of their personality. It expressed the whole person. To believe in his name means to trust the person of the Word. It is more than simple credence. It is not merely believing that what he says is true, but trusting him as a person as though you are falling into his arms. And, if he doesn't catch you, you fall, and even worse you die.
You remember that game where one person stands with his back to another person who falls backwards and the guy is suppose to catch him? That takes an act of faith. That is the faith that John is writing about, a faith that trusts in Jesus. We lean, we fall, knowing and believing that Jesus will catch us.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ to save you from your fall into hell?
I have been intrigued by a story regarding Clemson University's new head football coach, Dabo Sweeney. I understand that in the poker game, Texas Hold ‘Em, if you are betting everything, you slide all of your chips into the pot and stand up and say, "All in!" You are betting everything on this hand. If you lose you lose it all; if you win you win it all. Either way, you are all in. Coach Sweeney gave all of his players and coaches a poker chip before each game. He asked them to commit to the team, to the school, and to one another that they were all in. If so, they were to put their chip in the pile. They were all in. They were committing their all to winning the game.
That is what believing in Jesus is all about. It is saying to him, "I'm all in. I am committing my all to you. I am betting my eternal destiny on you. If you are not the way, the truth, and the life to God, then I am lost for eternity. But, I'm betting my all that you are, then I am saved for all eternity."
C. A wonderful result: Become like him
Once we take the simple step of receiving Jesus as Lord, then make the bold move of believing in him completely and solely for our salvation, then we are given the wonderful result of becoming like him. John finishes this verse, "He gave the right to become children of God." "He gave" is the expression of God's grace. "The right" means that God has given us an honor or a privilege or an authority." But for what? The answer is: "To become children of God."
While the words, gave, right, and children are important; the key word is become. This word says something about the status of believers. Because people have received Jesus and believed on his name, they now are raised to a new position. They become children of God. While all people are created by God, not everyone is a child of God. Sometimes people carelessly say, "We're all God's children," but the Bible says no such thing. We are not naturally children of God. God only gives the privilege of being his children to those who by personal faith receive Jesus as Lord and believe in who he is. They gain three huge benefits:
They become children through a faith-relationship with Jesus.
They become a member of God's family the moment they receive Christ into thier life.
They become like God, sharing his divine nature.
What an honor God gives when people become like him.
Let me summarize this point. People are Christians not because of who they are, but because of whose they are. People are Christians not because they are born into a Christian family, but because they are born again into God's family. People are not Christians because they are members of a church, but because they are servants in God's kingdom. People are not Christians because they follow a few rules, but because they have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
All this leads to some questions you ought to consider.
II. The questions to consider
A. Is everyone who believes in Jesus saved?
The King James Version of the Bible has done an injustice when it translated this verse, John 1:12. It reads, "But as many as received him, to them gave he gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12 KJV). Notice the word even is italicized. That means that word is not in the original text. The translators added that word. And, many people, including preachers and evangelists, have used that verse to imply a minimal requirement of what is necessary to become a Christian. Accordingly, it is not unknown for preachers to say, "All you have to do to become a Christian is just believe in Jesus." The New Testament is quite clear that not everyone who believes truly possesses saving faith. Believing is not merely acknowledging the existence of Jesus and the facts of his life. In reality, the church has created an easy believism and cheapened grace that the New Testament knows nothing about. The answer to the question: Is everyone who believes saved? is NO. That leads to another question.
B. If I have once been saved am I always saved?
This is the doctrine of eternal security. It is most commonly expressed "once saved, always saved." The Bible teaches eternal security for those who have are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. In response to the "once saved, always saved" statement, the emphasis must be on the word saved and not on the word once. Many people are abusing and misusing the statement, "once saved, always saved."A number of people once walked an aisle or once said a prayer or once filled out a card, but were not truly saved. If they were truly saved it would be reflected in their lifestyle. The answer to the question: "If I have once been saved am I always saved?" if the emphasis is on the word once then the answer is NO. This leads me to a third question.
C. Can a person be a Christian and not act like a Christian?
In other words, can one go to heaven if they are not following Jesus Christ in their daily lives, not living their lives according to biblical standards? By the way, while John and Jesus use the word believe a lot, Jesus never said, "Believe me." He always said, instead, "Follow me." A true Christian follows Jesus Christ. With Jesus it is all about relationship-a relationship where he takes the lead, not us. Our status in the family of God is one of submission to Jesus. He is the Lord; we are the servants. The answer to the question, "Can a person be a Christian and not act like a Christian?" is NO. This leads to the next question.
D. Can one accept Jesus as Savior and not receive him as Lord and be a Christian?
The modern church, unfortunately, has emphasized the Saviorhood of Jesus at the expense of the Lordship of Jesus. Such a teaching cheapens the gospel, makes a mockery out of Jesus' death and resurrection, and minimizes the bloodshed and martyrdom of early believers. People would be better served and the truth of the Gospel better communicated if we simply stated, "All you have to do is take Jesus as Lord." The fact of the matter is that you can't say, "No, Lord," and be saved. "No, Lord," is an oxymoron of tragic consequences and damning proportions. The Bible knows of no salvation that excludes the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no such thing as a cafeteria Christianity, where you take what you want and leave what you don't want. To be a Christian means receiving Christ into your heart where he controls your heart. The answer to the question, "Can one accept Jesus as Savior and not receive him as Lord and be a Christian?" is NO. This leads to another question.
E. Are all church members Christians?
A lot of emphasis is placed on church membership. Church membership, which is important and needed, is not a badge of salvation. Most every conversation I have with people, especially when they learn I am a pastor, gets around to church membership. It often goes like this: "Oh, you're the pastor at First Baptist Church; I am a church member at (fill in the blank.)" "That's great," I say, "Who's the pastor there?" "Oh, well," they stammer and reluctantly say, "I'm not sure, I haven't been to church in thirty-five years." Billy Graham has said that the largest mission field in North America is the local church. Many people, who claim membership, have never truly been converted. The answer to the question, "Are all church members believers?" is NO. Here's the next question.
F. Does going to church make you a Christian?
While some people think that because they joined a church they are believers, on the flip side, some people think that because they merely attend a church they are Christians. While going to church is needed and important and should be a priority of any believer, it is not the "Get out of Jail Free" card to avoiding hell. Again, a lot of good, decent, moral, church going people will be surprised on the Day of Judgment. Their faith has been placed in what they "DO" and not what Jesus has already "DONE" for them. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car. Charles Spurgeon said, "You will never go to heaven in a crowd." It's true there will be crowds in heaven, but we only go there one at a time. God saves individuals, not churches. The answer to the question, "Does going to church make you a Christian?" is NO. And, the final question-
G. What does it take to be a Christian?
You and I must
Receive Jesus as Lord. Have you?
Believe in Jesus alone for your salvation. Do you?
Become like him as his child. Are you?
When it comes to great spiritual issues there is no neutrality. Each person must decide for himself. No one "drifts" into Christianity by accident. At some point you must consciously receive Jesus as Lord and Savior; believe in Jesus alone for your salvation; and become like him as his child.