When light comes, the darkness scatters. We may think darkness covers our sins, but in the light of God, nothing can be hidden. When Jesus came, light blazed into a darkened culture, and truth began to triumph over lies. That's why many hate the Christ of Christmas.
Getting close to him exposes our darkness, and some people would rather keep their darkness. Today, coming clean before God and allowing him to reign supreme. Stay with us. From Chicago, this is The Moody Church Hour, a weekly service of worship and teaching with Pastor Erwin Lutzer. On this program, we continue a Christmas series on The Light Has Come. Later, we'll turn to John chapter three and learn how the light reveals us.
Dr. Lutzer comes now to open our service. Here at The Moody Church, we do celebrate Advent. That word Advent means arrival. We think of it in terms of those who were living during the period when they were looking forward to the coming of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
But that word also has a future meaning. It means that we also now are looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ, the great and glorious return. And in celebrating that, we have five candles over the period of December. Today is the Candle of Love, eventually Christmas Eve, a white candle, the candle of purity and holiness representing Jesus Christ.
And in this way, we're reminded that Christ is indeed the light of the world and brings us all the gifts that we can possibly imagine with him. We're glad that you are here. Let us bow together in prayer, and let us invite God's special blessing upon us today. Bow with me. Now, Father, we are here not for ourselves, but to bring honor to you. And we pray that you will transform our worship, that it might honor you. May we be blessed. May we be brought together because of the glorious gospel and the coming of Jesus. In whose name we pray, amen. In which love we bless, that our Lord has sung. His name on fire and bright, amid the fall of winter, heaven passes, let us unite.
I say, let us march forward with the roles I have in mind. With Mary, we behold, with comfort and love and kind. To show God's love for night, she bore to men a Savior. Let us, let us unite. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, fire and sin, it's magnified. Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies. With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Christ by Christ and the Lord, Christ the everlasting Lord, linked in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Failed in flesh by God and sea, God and deity. Jesus, men with men to dwell, Jesus, army and new well. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Hail the heaven prince of peace, hail the Son of righteousness.
Light and light to all he brings, praise with me in his dreams. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King.
O little child, how still we see thee cry. Above thy feet and we bless thee, the silent skies go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all thy years are met in need to rise. Christ is born of Mary, and gathered on the spot. Abort the sea, the angels sing their watch of what we love. All morning stars together, proclaim the Holy Word, and praises sing to God the King, at peace to men on earth. Holy child of Bethlehem, please send not us we pray. Pest thou our sin and journey be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior's birth. O may the world be sick and ever-thrilling, till he appeared and the soul hath his birth. God will love home, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks the dew and torus fall on her knees. O hear the angel voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born. O night divine, O night divine.
physiologically a place we d minimus with glowing hearts by his cradle he sang. So let thy mind The King of kings, save us in glowing danger In all our trials, born to be our kind. In all our trials, born to be our friend. He loves our King, to our weakness is no stranger. Behold, your King! Behold, your King!
Behold, your King! To lead he taught us to love one another. His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Change shall be great, for a slave is our brother, And in his name all the precious shall sleep. Sweet hymns of joy, in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise his holy name. Christ is the Lord, O praise his name forever. His love and glory evermore proclaim. His love and glory evermore proclaim.
Christ is the Lord, O praise his name forever. His love and glory evermore proclaim. His love and glory evermore proclaim. His love and glory evermore proclaim. Father, we thank you that we are here to proclaim your love and your glory. We stand here desiring only to bring you honor. We worship you and we love you, and we thank you, Father, for this season that reminds us of your goodness. In Jesus' name, amen.
You may be seated. You are the light we see. You are the truth we know. You are the light we live. You are the hope.
You are the joy. You are the song we sing. Living God, loving God, we glorify your name. High and holy one, come, come. We lift our hearts in praise. Lift our praise, Emmanuel. Jesus, Lord of love. Within our hearts your light. Within our minds your truth.
Within our minds your love. Living your hope, spreading your joy. Singing your beautiful song. Singing your beautiful song. Your song.
Singing your beautiful song. One small child in the land of a thousand. One small dream of a Savior tonight.
One small man reaching out to the starlight. One small city of light. One king bringing his gold and riches. One king proving that I am fine. One king dealing with incense and candlelight.
One king bringing the sky. Singing in light in the cradle beneath him. Singing, smiling in the storm. Singing his mother, praising his Father.
Singing his mighty highest song. One small light from the flame of a candle. One small light from a city of light. One small light from the stars in the endless night. One small light from a faith. See the shepherds living before him.
See the heat from underneath. Sing his mother, praising his Father. See the blessed infant sleep. One small child in the land of a thousand. One small dream in a people of light. One small hand reaching out to the starlight.
One small Savior of light. Do you remember back in 2012, when on the news there was that story about a TSA agent who stole a computer? And the news media, in order to catch him, set up a sting.
It was a trap. They took various computers and put it through at the airport screening, and on those computers there was a tracking device, and there also was a buzzer. So they tracked it to this man who was 30 miles from the Orlando airport.
And they entered his house and they said, you know, we're looking for a computer that was taken from the airport. Did you take it? Oh, no, no. You're sure you don't have it?
Oh, no, no. Never said anything. And they said, well, why don't you check your house again? We're going to set off a buzzer so you can find it very easily.
So the thing buzzes. He shows up at the door, gives them the iPad, and they said, well, you said that you didn't take this from the airport. He said, my wife, he said she took it from somewhere. I don't know where she got it, but she said that she did it.
Genesis 3 all over again. First of all, you deny it as long as you possibly can. And when you can deny it no longer, you blame someone else.
And in context, what you do is you begin to minimize it and say, well, it wasn't really that big a deal. Human nature. We think, for example, of the police video.
The police said one thing in their reports, and then when the video was seen, it was quite different, actually. Have you ever thought of the number of lies, of thefts, of deceits, of maids who are unfaithful to one another, all of which is done that nobody ever knows about, it is never reported, it is never referred to, it just lies in darkness? You may be wondering what the thesis of my message is today.
I'll give it to you up front. Truth hurts, but lies hurt even more. Would you join me today in the third chapter of the book of John, John chapter 3, and that's the book of John, which has 21 chapters. The passage I'm going to be looking at is actually on page 888. I think that that corresponds to the Bible that might be before you.
Or open your iPad, hope that it's yours, or your telephone, and follow along with me. A man by the name of Nicodemus comes to Jesus, and he comes at night, very significant. And he comes at night because he doesn't want to be shamed, and he does not want to know that the Jews know that he is coming, because Jesus was despised, and so he was filled with fear.
Fear and shame made him come in the dark. Jesus didn't chide him for that. Jesus didn't say, hey, come to me at broad daylight when everybody sees you. It's all right to investigate Jesus in the dark. Now, eventually he is going to come to the light, by the way. But that'll take a little while, and so Jesus dialogues with him, just like some of you may be investigating Christianity.
And you are perhaps even anonymous. You don't want to know anybody or anybody to know the fact that you're investigating the possibility of what Jesus is all about, and that's fine. But what Jesus tells them is some incredible truth. It is an unbelievable discourse in John's gospel.
For example, it leads us to John 3.16, the passage of scripture that most assuredly is known to all of us. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That was said to Nicodemus that night.
I'm sure glad that Nicodemus did come to Jesus. And by the way, speaking about the love of God, we must understand something, and that is that it has nothing to do with our ability to deserve it, to earn it. It is simply God's sovereign choice to love independently of our performance or our worthiness. God says, why did I choose Israel? Is it because you were bigger than all the other tribes and all the other countries? No, he said, is it because you are more loving?
No, you're a stiff-necked people. But I simply chose to love you, period. And that's the love that God has for us. And once we get past John 3.16, you'll notice that it is not Jesus who came into the world to condemn the world. Now, eventually, he is going to judge the world. But for the time being, he is not coming in order to condemn the world at that particular point.
Why? Because the world was condemned already. That's what the text says. This is the fact that whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he did not believe in the name of the only Son of God. So Jesus came to a world of condemnation. We were already condemned because of our sin.
So it certainly wasn't because we were lovable that he loved us. Well, and we must keep that in mind as we think about the love of God. Now, having said that, what I want us to do is to look what Jesus Christ has to say about light, because after all, this is a series of messages entitled The Light Has Come. You'll notice in verse 19, and this is the judgment, this is the verdict, that light has come into the world and people love the darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come into the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God. Let's look at this passage now very particularly.
First of all, we see it there in verse 19. Light has come into the world. Let's count the number of words. Light has come into the world. Six words, and that's a summary of what Christmas is all about. Light has come. That means, of course, truth has come into the world.
Jesus is the truth. It means that purity has come into the world. It means that there's a way out of the darkness because he's the way, the truth, and the life. A young artist was painting a picture and it was very dark. And perhaps you've seen this back in the days when people would do chalk talks or chalk paintings. They would paint very, very dark clouds. Then suddenly with a stroke, they paint light and a road.
One artist said to a young man, never paint a dark picture unless there's a road leading out. Jesus is the way to hope and to help. So the light has come. We no longer have to work in darkness and light tests us because the text says that it is both loved and hated. Let's talk for a moment about the fact that it says that people love the darkness and that's you and me. Today as I speak, I'm not pointing my finger at anyone particularly because we're all part of the folks who love darkness rather than light.
And you'll notice it says those who do wicked things and now it becomes a little stronger. They actually hate the light. Now, you may argue with me. You may say, I don't hate the light.
I don't know Christ as savior. I don't receive him, but I love the light. I'd rather have peace than violence. I'd rather have justice than injustice. I'd rather have love than hate.
I get that. But what Jesus does is his light shines farther all the way to the Gentiles, by the way. It says in the Old Testament that he is also a light to the Gentiles. It shines farther, it shines brighter, and it shines deeper into our souls. Jesus asks the question, why is there any injustice? Why is there this lack of peace?
Why is there hate instead of love? And so he begins to probe the human heart, and what he finds is not encouraging, though eventually, in this message, there's going to be massive amounts of grace. But for now, let's look into the human heart. You think, for example, of Jesus as he stands there and gives the Sermon on the Mount. And what he says is that you think that you have to go out and kill somebody to be a murderer, but if you hate your brother, you're already a murderer. And you think that you have to go out and commit an act of adultery.
Listen, if you lust for a woman within your heart, you've already committed adultery. And if you give your gift in church in such a way that you want to be seen and admired, you're actually a hypocrite, because all that you're doing is managing your image. And so what Jesus did is he probed into the human heart in such a way, and we don't like that kind of light, do we? Now, if you talk about people who actually walk in darkness, and we oftentimes, all of us, have retreated into the darkness, because darkness can be a safe place. It can be a place sometimes where we get out of a jam, like the boys sit in Sunday school. The lie is an abomination unto the Lord, but a very present help in time of trouble. Darkness sometimes is comforting to us. But if you persist in your darkness, what will happen is you will not even recognize it as darkness anymore.
You'll think that you're walking in the light. You know, Rebecca and I have a friend who works in Bloomingdale's, who sends us beautiful perfume, and oftentimes sends me some cologne, with fancy names that I can't pronounce. I was looking at one this morning. It seemed to be Dallas Cabana.
Probably flown in from Paris. Now, I'm a farm boy. That's at least where I grew up. And some of you who were brought up in the city, you never really smelled a skunk in your life. I'm serious. You've driven along a road, and it smelled, and you said, oh, that's a skunk, but you're beyond it. Listen, I know what it's like to be close to a skunk that considers me to be an enemy.
Now, it is so debilitating, you almost choke. Now, do you think that the skunk is having a problem with what he's emitting? I don't think so.
He says, I'm just opening my bottle of Dallas Cabana. Have you met people like that? You see, what happens is we do not notice our own darkness, but we notice the darkness of others with clarity and with deep conviction. How can you tell if someone's walking in darkness? First of all, they have a very critical spirit, because the reason for that, you see, is if they can cut other people down, if they can show other people's faults, what they're really saying is this person is more at fault than I am.
I would never do that. It's covering their darkness and making up for their own emptiness. And then they become very defensive. You know, they're the kind of people, boy, you'd better think through how you're going to approach them, because they will dig in their heels, they will defend themselves until the facts are so strong that they may have to give in.
But meanwhile, they protect their darkness. You know, why is it that we do that? Yesterday at the church here, we had a marvelous lecture by a man by the name of Jerry Root, who's an expert in C.S. Lewis, and his topic was humility. Well, you know, I sometimes jokingly say, I have a great message on humility.
Problem is, I haven't found a crowd big enough to preach it to. But what he said is this, that at root, the reason that we like our darkness and want to defend it is because we do not believe that we are radically loved and radically known at the same time. He said, if we really believe that he who knows us fully loves us completely, then it wouldn't really matter. You know, we wouldn't be threatened when our darkness is exposed, because we'd say, here I am, if I'm loved by God, and you think of John 17, where Jesus is speaking about the elect. And he says regarding them, thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me, and thou lovest me from before the foundation of the world. If that could actually sink into our souls, then we would not be threatened when our darkness is exposed. And so Jesus said, people love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
And he goes on to say that those who do wicked things actually hate the light. You parents who sent a kid to college, you sent that child to university, and the child writes back and says, Mom and Dad, I'm no longer going to church, no longer going to Bible studies, because I'm an atheist now. I don't believe in God. Well, isn't that interesting? And then the child will probably go on to give you reasons why.
I can't believe in the miracles. The Bible has contradictions. It is an ancient book that has all of its roots in culture, that doesn't apply today, and on and on it goes. Isn't it interesting that Jesus gives an entirely different explanation for why they have left the light, and that is because their deeds are evil. It is a moral explanation. I don't at all discount the intellectual problems that some people have with Christianity, because there are problems, and working through that is something that we as a church are committed to help you to do. But at the same time, at root, oftentimes it is a moral issue. We hate the light.
That's why Huxley made the statement, the reason that we accepted Darwinism with practically no proof is, and I'm quoting now, we did not want a God to interfere with our sexual mores. So Jesus said that's the reason that people love darkness rather than light. Now let's go on for a moment and notice that the positive aspect is this. There are people who really are the light lovers. Verse 21, but whoever does what is true comes to the light so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.
Please don't read this and think, well, this is where all the goody saints are. They are always under the light because all of their deeds are so wonderful. You see, the way in which you get into verse 21 is, what you do is you have to leave the darkness, and you have to come into the light. And when you come into the light, there's cleansing, there's forgiveness. There's the acknowledgement of darkness. There's the recognition that within us there may be certain closets that we have closed. And sometimes that darkness is not because of what we have done, but because of what others have done to us. Either way, Jesus is saying, become a light lover. And if you do, be exposed in my presence for all that you are, and I will give you light. What a gift that God has given to us at Christmas time. Now, how do we nail all of this down for us?
First of all, could I say as a couple of bottom lines here? First of all, we have to understand that Jesus experienced darkness so that we could walk in light. He experienced darkness.
You know, the Bible says that when Jesus was crucified, and when he cried out and said, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? It says that darkness came across the whole earth. And there are several reasons for that darkness. God says in effect what is happening here.
No man can understand. No man can see as our sin was placed on Jesus and he paid our debt. But Jesus is saying, because I experienced darkness and fellowship with the Father was even broken, not ontologically, but in terms of the fellowship with the Father, you now can be exposed to the light. You don't have to walk in darkness. And I am willing to go into your life in the various closets of your existence, the things that you have been hiding, the cisterns that have been closed and walled off. Just know that when you walk in there, I come with you.
And in the process, your darkness will disappear. When I was out on the farm growing up, I did not have electricity for many years. In November of 1952, electricity came to our farm.
And I know that not because I review that date every once in a while. I just know how significant it was. I remember the days when we were able to take our lanterns and hang them up in the barn and say, we don't need these lanterns anymore. We as kids used to flip the light switch just to remind ourselves that we didn't have to light a lamp in the old kitchen anymore. And electricity was a tremendous miracle. But one of the things it did is on the farm, here's the house, here's the barn, right in between the two, we had a huge yard light.
I remember I think the bulb was 200 watts, something like that. But we as kids used to play tag at night under the yard light. What we noticed was that the farther we were from the yard light, the longer our shadows. In fact, there were times when our shadows just went off into space.
We couldn't even trace them anymore. Darkness. But the closer we came to the light, the closer we stood under that bulb, the shadows became shorter and shorter and shorter until standing there, we'd stand there and try to look down and see if there's any shadow at all.
And there would be, but it would be very small. To those of you today who are in your darkness, come to the light. Jesus will take the shadows of your life. He will give you hope. Because what he said is because I endured darkness, you can enjoy walking in light. And if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we and God have fellowship one with another. God has fellowship with us.
We have fellowship with God. I urge you today, come to the light. Second, I think what we must do is to realize that we must see light. We must see the light.
But for most of us, we also have to feel the heat. You see, that man that I began this message with who lied to the investigators regarding stealing the iPad, lied, lied, lied, lied until he couldn't take it anymore. Once they set off the buzzer on the iPad, he had to produce it. Today, as I preach this message, there may be a buzzer that is going off in your heart.
And that buzzer is reminding you of issues that have never been brought to the light. And you see, it is when we so begin to hate our darkness that we come to Jesus. And you know what the Bible says? Jesus will do for us what he did for Nicodemus.
And we know he did it for Nicodemus. Paul says that we are translated from the kingdom of darkness. And there is a kingdom of darkness that is huge. Into the kingdom of his blessed Son. And you see, it only happens when we experience the conviction of sin.
And there are some of you here whom God brought to this church today that you might respond to Jesus. That you might say, I just cannot manage my darkness any longer. I want to come to the light. So we must keep in mind that that is true.
Truth hurts, but lies hurt even more. Finally, what we must understand is, and I've already hinted at it, only God can bring us from darkness to light. This is not something that you can do. It's not a matter of saying to yourself, well, I'm going to walk in the light today and I'm going to make some New Year's resolutions that I'm going to keep. And thanks to behavior modification, I am going to change and I'm going to be different. No, you won't. With enough time, you'll revert back to form.
You'll be the same person you always were. The Bible puts it very starkly and asks the question, can a leopard change his spots? And the answer is no. And nor can you and I pull ourselves out of darkness, unless God does. When Jesus was discussing this with Nicodemus, you remember what he said?
He said, and I didn't take the time to read it, but it's there, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This new birth is a birth from above. It isn't produced because of human effort.
It isn't a matter of human willpower. It is a gift of God. And if God is speaking to you today, you can respond to that Holy Spirit that is convicting you of your darkness. And you can come to light and Jesus will transform you and bring you from one kingdom to another. I told you at the beginning that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Now let's turn to a passage of scripture and you need not turn to it, but you might like to write it down. This is what we read now in the 19th chapter of John, regarding Nicodemus. After these things, Jesus has been crucified, by the way. After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, and you know what? I have the wrong passage here. I was talking about Nicodemus and this is about Joseph of Arimathea.
I'm so glad that this is the first mistake I remember making in all the years I've been preaching. Praise God for his forgiveness. I don't know what I was thinking of, but I do know that Nicodemus at the end, this is true, I just don't have the right passage, at the end identified himself with Jesus. He now came into the light publicly. The beginning of chapter three, he is actually one who, what shall we say? He is in the midnight of conviction. And later on, he comes to the midday of confession. He does come to Jesus, even if I have the wrong passage. I promise, it's there.
It is. Where does this leave you? Once again, to refer to the lecture that was given here yesterday, Jerry Root asked the question, what sound does rain make? And the answer is really no sound until it hits something. Maybe an umbrella, maybe you're going outside, maybe the roof of the car.
Rain makes no sound until it hits something. In the very same way, grace, we don't see grace until it's received. It can only be received by an open, willing heart.
Do you have that today? Are you tired of darkness? Jesus said, I am the light of the world. He who comes to me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. In a few moments, our leadership council is going to come. We're going to have the privilege of having communion together and reminding ourselves of this, that Jesus gave his body and his blood to reconcile us to God so that we could be his forever. We need not walk in darkness. Would you pray with me?
Father, we want to thank you today so much for these words of Jesus, and we ask, Lord God, for those who are struggling today to come to the light. They have so many issues. They are so overwhelmed. They may be saying to themselves, there's no way that I can come to the light.
It costs too much. Help them to know that whatever they pay will be worth it because truth hurts, lies hurt even more, and they eventually lead to destruction. But we need help, Lord, because we're locked into our darkness. Unless you rescue us, come to us, we pray, even as we give you thanks. In Jesus' name, amen. On today's Moody Church Hour, Pastor Lutzer spoke about how the light reveals us, the second in a four-part Christmas series on The Light Has Come.
Next week, join us for part three as we learn how the light leads us. It's great to begin every single day with God. To help us do that, we'd like to send you a beautiful hardback devotional book by Lloyd John Ogilvie.
Called God's Best for My Life, this volume provides daily inspirations for a deeper walk with God. It's yours as our thank you for your gift of any amount to The Moody Church Hour. Just call 1-800-215-5001. Let us know you'd like to support Moody Church's ministry. The number again is 1-800-215-5001, or write to us at The Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Online, go to moodyoffer.com. That's moodyoffer.com. Join us next week for another Moody Church Hour with Pastor Erwin Lutzer and the Congregation of Historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church.
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