He Has Promised to Be With Us

Series: Preacher: Date: November 28, 1999 Scripture Reference: John 1:1-5, 9-14 ;

1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 – He was with God in the beginning.

3 – Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

4 – In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

5 – The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

9 – The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 – He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.

11 – He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

12 – Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God-

13 – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 – The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In his new book, Love Found A Way, Ron Mehl shares the story of Judy Rogers, who’s father was laid off work for an entire year. Due to his loss of employment, family finances-which were already lean-became even leaner. Months passed and still there were no job openings. Unemployment checks barely kept food on the table. Christmas was quickly approaching, and it looked like there would be few if any gifts under the tree this year. There just wasn’t any money for things like that. Now-prior to his lay off Judy’s father had promised to buy his wife a dishwasher for Christmas.

You see….she was recuperating from breast cancer surgery, which made it painful for her to do many of her usual household chores. And he wanted to help-so he made this promise and kept making it-even after he lost his job. Judy wondered, where the money for this expensive gift would come from. They were barely able to make payments on their medical bills and still make the mortgage as it was. In addition, the house had old wiring and plumbing. Even if they were somehow able to scrape together the money to buy a dishwasher, it could never be installed without major remodeling.

Now,many men would have given up when confronted with such barriers. But Judy’s dad had made a promise, and he was a man who took his promises seriously. He was determined that somehow, he would find a way to fulfill his vow. This loving husband had heard his wife sigh in agony. He had seen those times when a stab of pain made her catch her breath. He saw the shadows of weariness under her eyes. He just HAD to find a way to get that dishwasher. Judy remembered her father brooding in the days leading up to Christmas-staring out the window at the gray winter skies with his hands in his pockets. He was always a capable, resourceful man, but this “mountain” seemed too large for even him to climb. In her account of this experience Judy shared another thing about her father-he hated the thought of even touching dirty dishes. He was a man’s man-he had grown up in a world where men stayed out of the kitchen (except to occasionally raid the refrigerator).

Over the years he had often commented that he would rather tackle almost any outdoor chore — rather than face a sink full of dirty dinnerware.

Well, Christmas Day finally dawned…and there were no mysterious deliveries.

No large box appeared next to the tree. There were no visits from the plumber or the electrician. There was nothing but a few carefully wrapped gifts under the tree….and….a small envelope addressed to Judy’s mother. Inside the envelope was a note-a handwritten letter from her Dad. It said: For one year, I will wash all of the dirty dishes in this household….every one. And he did.

Now, I love this simple story because it reminds me of what God did for us that first Christmas. Our Heavenly Father knew mankind’s weaknesses and failings. Over the millennia He had heard our sighs of pain. He had seen our tears. He knew how much we needed His presence in our lives….His compassion…His guidance. But how could the Holy God lower Himself to interact with sinful mankind? To the angels in heaven looking on, it must have seemed impossible. But then again, angels know, better than most, that God takes His promises very, very seriously.

Psalm 100:4 says, “Gracious is the Lord, everlasting His mercy; age after age, He is faithful to His promises still.”

For several Sundays this Christmas season, I want us to study four of God’s promises together….specifically: His promise to be with us… His promise to guide us…His promise to redeem us…And…His promise to return someday. William Barclay once said, “Jesus is the ‘YES!’ to every promise of God.” and this Christmas I want us to see just how true this is for, all God’s promises DO find their fruition in the Messiah.

Today we begin this sermon series by focusing on a promise God made long ago through the prophet Isaiah, do you remember His words? He said, “….The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him EMMANUEL.. ….which means, ‘GOD WITH US.'” (Isaiah 7:14 ) And God has kept this promise — as He does ALL His promises–but not in a way any man or angel might have expected. He kept this promise by giving Himself. He rolled up His sleeves and stepped personally into His own fallen creation. As John said, “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling AMONG US.” And Christmas proclaims this wonderful truth….God came to earth to live here on the same terms as you and I have to live. In Jesus, God came to us…..He became what we are…a flesh and blood human being.

Now, the main question that comes into my mind at this point is: WHY? I mean….what purposes would be served in God’s becoming one of us? Why would God lower Himself to our level of existence?

1. Well, one reason God did this was to communicate to us WHAT HE IS LIKE.

When He was born in that stable God revealed Himself to us in terms of our understanding. In that little manger, He became tangible. He became more understandable to human beings like you and me. You see, prior to that first Christmas night mankind could not even begin to grasp an understanding of God. Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness NO ONE CAN FATHOM.” And do you remember Job’s commentary on this subject?

In Job 11:7-8 he asked, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens-what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave-what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.” No one could fathom-or understand-God or His ways, until Jesus came…..and God became one of us. I used to have a fish tank in my office where I kept pet goldfish by the way, fish make lousy pets….basically all they do is eat and die. They were very difficult to take care of. I had to feed them the right food specially blended for their species and I had to be sure to give them the correct amount of food because too little or too much could be fatal. I had to keep the water pure and set at the right temperature. I was constantly having to clean the filtration system so that it would function properly — otherwise pollutant levels in the tank would rise and make my fish sick.

There was a LOT OF LABOR involved in keeping this little “water world” clean and safe for my scaly friends. But you know, my goldfish never knew how hard I worked for their benefit. In fact, they were terrified of me. Their behavior when I came around told me that they looked at me as if I were some huge monster that threatened their existence. Whenever my shadow crossed the tank they would flee in terror…as if doom were imminent. Whenever I picked up food with my hand and brought my hand over the surface of the water ready to drop it in so they could eat…they would hide behind the plants until I was gone. When I would insert the net in the tank to remove them to another container so I could clean the tank they would swim frantically trying to avoid capture…which was for their own good.

They simply could not understand my ways. They were incapable of grasping my thoughts. I was too large for them…too far above them. In fact the only way I could have communicated clearly with them would be if I were to somehow become a fish. Only then could I explain all the things I did for their benefit. And in an INFINITELY greater sense that is what God has done for us. In becoming the man Jesus God literally became one of us so that He could communicate with us in ways we would understand and tell us what He is really like.

So the best way to understand God….the best way to know what He is truly like and how He feels about us…..is to look at Jesus. As Hebrews 1:3 says, Jesus Christ, “…..is the radiance of God’s glory and the EXACT representation of His being…”

You know at this moment about six or seven different television stations are broadcasting their signals through this space where I stand….channels 4, 5, 7, 9, 20, & 26…maybe more. These invisible signals carry sound and picture but they are in such a form that our eyes and ears cannot perceive them. However, if I brought a television set in here and set in up on a table, and plugged it in and set the antennae properly-right before our eyes and ears a miracle would take place. You see….that TV set has the power to take all these invisible and inaudible television signals out of the atmosphere around us…and change them into images that our eyes can see, and sounds that our ears can hear. And what a television does to these invisible, inaudible television signals, the man Jesus does for God. He takes that which is beyond our capacities to see and hear and understand and transmutes it into images we can see and sounds that we can hear.

So you see, one reason God became flesh….one reason that He “dwelt among us”….is so that we can better understand what HE IS TRULY LIKE. But another reason He did this was so that He could…

2. show us that He knows what WE ARE LIKE…

God has always loved us and wanted a relationship with us. He used the prophet Jeremiah to say to all humanity, “I have loved you with an everlasting love…” God wants to lovingly walk through life with each of us as He walked through the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. He wants a friendship with us — and nothing establishes a friendship between two beings quite as effectively as a sense of commonality. When another person has walked where I am having to walk and has experienced what I am experiencing…a bond of rapport is created between us. I feel closer to Mary Patrick because we have both been hospitalized due to intestinal blockages. We are better friends because of that common experience of pain. We all feel closer to those whom we believe understand from within what we are going through and God was fully aware of this fact — so He came to live among us that first Christmas. Understand…..it was not that He needed to learn anything about our needs that He did not already know. Remember, He is God….omniscient…ALL-knowing. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus said, “Your Heavenly Father KNOWS what you need before you ask Him.” So God didn’t come to earth that first Christmas to do research and learn what it was like to be a human being.

No,He came FOR OUR SAKES….so that WE might be convinced that He really does understand us….that He really does know what it is like to live on this planet. Soren Keirkegaard tells of a young king who truly cared for his subjects, but was not sure they realized this because of the remoteness of the palace from their daily life.

So, to the dismay of his court, one day he laid aside his royal garments and put on the garb of a peasant and went out for a whole year to live among his subjects as one of them. This action revolutionized the spirit of that whole kingdom, not because of what it did for the king, but because of what it did for the people. The sovereign already knew what conditions were like in the kingdom and was concerned about them, but until this act of identifying with the people, THEY were not aware of his concern.

They could not believe that he really did understand from within what life was like for them. he same thing could be said of God when He was only known as “Jehovah” and people only thought of Him in terms of remoteness. ut when He became “Emmanuel” that first Christmas night, everything changed. whole new way or relating to God opened up and it amounts to this: Wherever you are in life…whatever you are up against you can believe God when He says to you, “I KNOW….I UNDERSTAND fully…I have been there Myself and walked the very road you are walking…I really do know from within what it feels like. I understand. Therefore, let me help you. Let me share the load with you.” Remember those wonderful words found in Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

This means that if you are a child….God understands…He was born into the helplessness of infancy and went through all that is involved in trying to grow up. Philip Yancey writes, “The God Who roared, Who could order armies and empires about like pawns on a chessboard,

…this God emerged in Palestine as a BABY who could not speak or eat solid food or control His bladder, Who depended on a teenage couple for shelter, food, and love.” God understands what it is like to be a child.

If you are a teen wondering where you fit in this world……there is One Who understands and Who can help you. As a human being Jesus wrestled with some of the same questions all teens wrestle with: “What shall I do with My life? Should I devote all my energies to material concerns?” “Should I set out to be famous and spectacular?” “Should I seek to cover myself with glory…to rule and dominate?” “What will I bow down to? What will I stand up to?”

You’ll remember Scripture records that in the wilderness, Jesus dealt with all these temptations..so He understands what every adolescent goes through and He stands ready to help.

If you are an adult with all the responsibilities that go with this particular stage in life, God understands. Do you feel sometimes that you have more on you than you can bear? Family…career…home…all pulling at you and expecting something of you? One man said, “They tell me I’m in the prime of life. But what I feel like is a piece of prime RIB and everybody wants a part of me and there is simply not enough to go around.” If this is where you find yourself this morning, then please know…..there is One Who experienced this very pressure and knows what it is like. All through His ministry Jesus was besieged by MORE DEMANDS than He could possibly meet in the flesh. He knew what it was like to give His all and it not be enough for people. Remember when received news of Lazarus’ illness and traveled all the way to Bethany — only to hear Martha condemningly say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died?” Jesus was no stranger to the crushing loads of life — and if that is what you find yourself under this morning then take heart…He understands…and He can help you if you will let Him. You see Christmas proclaims the wonderful truth that God understands everything about our lives because, as Jesus Christ, He lived it….and this knowledge makes it easier for us to turn to Him as the Friend and Helper and Companion He wants to be. Let’s review….why did God become flesh and dwell among us? Well He did this so that. He could communicate with us…what He is like and so He could convince us that He knows what our lives are like…

3. Now…let’s stop here so we can absorb the implication of this wonderful truth…..

By nature we are relational beings. God created us to thrive on companionship. Kids as young as three years of age start asking their parents, “Can Johnny spend the night?” Teens are often obsessed with finding “the one” person who will make them feel complete. Most middle-aged adults love to go out to dinner together. And few things put a smile on an elderly person’s face like the appearance of grandchildren or a lifelong friend. We are relational beings…We hate to be alone….we are made such that we need to be with people….this is why we consider solitary confinement to be a punishment. We can stand almost anything in life if we know we are not alone….for we are relational beings. We need friendships in life. But you know even the best of friends cannot meet our yearning for the ULTIMATE friendship. Even people with whom we share a kindred spirit can’t be around all the time. Lifelong friends still move away or die.

The most understanding of friends can’t always comprehend what we’re going through. And even the most trusted of friends don’t always prove dependable. We might ask God, “Why would You make us yearn for significant relationships but then deprive us of that very thing?” To which God would smile and reply, “I know you have that yearning and I have supplied a way to satisfy your need. I offer you Me. I am the ultimate Companion. I understand you….everything about you….I have lived life as a human being….and unlike other friends….I can and will be with you WHEREVER YOU GO in life.” Remember Jesus’ promise? He said, “I will be with you ALWAYS!”

In his book, The God You’re Looking For Bill Hybels shares a story from the life of Deion Sanders……who, made NFL history back in1996 by doing something that has rarely been done since the early days of football. He started playing BOTH defense (cornerback) and offense (wide receiver), frequently logging over one hundred plays in the same game. It was amazing to watch.

On one play, during the third game of the season, Deion even blitzed a run and stopped the running back behind the line of scrimmage. When Dallas got the ball back, he suddenly became a deep threat for a long pass from quarterback Troy Aikman. Referring to Sanders, the announcer said, “He’s EVERYWHERE, friends! He’s all over the field!” Now, Deion wasn’t REALLY everywhere. I mean, if you left your seat to buy a hot dog, Deion wouldn’t have been working the concession stand. If you had to go out of the stadium early, Deion wouldn’t have been out in the parking lot directing traffic. Sportscasters that day were of course just exaggerating. They were saying that Deion was covering an amazing amount of territory-something football fans hadn’t seen in years.

But, when we talk about the omnipresence of God….we’re not using the hyperbolic language of a sportscaster. God really is EVERYWHERE….He is EMMANUEL-GOD WITH US — wherever we are…whatever we are going through in life…God is right there with us. I have drawn great comfort from this amazing truth which is so clearly communicated in the words of Psalm 139 . “Oh Lord…You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise….You discern my going out and my lying down….You hem me in behind and before….If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

You see…..unlike any other friend I have had or now have or ever will have in this life, God is ALWAYS WITH ME. It would be impossible for me to ever be sentenced to solitary confinement for wherever they locked me up God would be there at my side.

And you know all humans have a need to experience God’s presence in their lives. All of us hunger for friendship with our Creator and Redeemer. We are incomplete without His friendship and guidance. You see…it is scary living in a sinful, fallen world…during our years here we deal with fear in many forms. There are the everyday “pestering fears”….will the Thanksgiving dinner turn out all right? Will the client re-sign for another year? Will the car need major repairs this year? Then there are the “pressing” fears….those fears that are not so easily managed or shelved. Rumors spread that there are massive layoffs coming in our company. One of our children begins to demonstrate bizarre behavior at school. We wonder what is causing this…could it be drugs? Our doctor tells us he wants to take a few more tests…he sees something that worries him. A spouse begins making lame excuses for increasing absences and you start to wonder why. Pressing fears like this cause a mild sort of panic and often they turn into the third type of fear……Paralyzing fear….that gut-wrenching, panic-producing “I’m-going-to-die” kind of fear….the fear that makes you feel like you are about to lose it. We all deal with fear every day of our lives….and any form of fear is much easier to handle if we don’t have to deal with it ALONE.

You know when I was a little kid and I would wake up in the middle of the night due to terrible nightmare, I would get out of bed. I’d walk down the dark hall way to my parents’ room. I’d wake them up and tell them about my dream and they would encourage me to crawl in bed in between them. I’d snuggle in between those two big loving people who I knew loved me more than anything in the world and were more than capable of protecting me from anything I could dream of and I would draw courage and comfort from their presence. I slept soundly from then on.

Now nightmarish fears don’t end when we grow up. If anything fear becomes more real to us.

So I know that there is a good chance that each of you are dealing with fears this morning and if you are then please listen…No matter what nightmare you are going through in life-whether it be a crisis in your marriage or family or financial fears or health problems.

Whatever nightmare you are facing….your heavenly Father is with you. You still have a big loving Parent to walk with you through the fears and tribulations of life. He is more than capable to deal with any thing that causes you fear and you don’t have to walk down a hallway to His room! He is always WITH YOU! The Bible teaches that God is an “everywhere-present” God. He’s better than that “NORTHSTAR” system Cadillac dealers are advertising. You don’t even have to push a button to get God’s attention…He is always with us! Remember those words from Psalm 46 ? “God is our refuge and strength, an EVER-PRESENT help in trouble…therefore we will NOT FEAR, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” And how about Isaiah 43 where God says, “Fear not….when you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you….for I am the Lord your God. God is WITH us! We don’t have to live life alone….ever! He doesn’t just exist as other religions teach…if we let Him, He will be with us! And He desires nothing more! He passionately wants to share the moments and days and years of our lives with us.

The same thing will happen this Christmas. He will be coming to His own…those whom He loves and claims. There will be those who reject Him, turning to ways of darkness and death. There will be those who receive Him, turning into ways of light and life. Be sure this morning that you are among those who receive Christ. Invite Him into your life today. And make that commitment public….walk the aisle this morning and share this decision with us all. If you have other decisions to make public-maybe you feel a need to renew your relationship with God…..or perhaps you feel God is leading you to join this church…

Whatever decision you wish to make….we invite you to do so as we sing.

The same thing will happen this Christmas. He will be coming to His own…those whom He loves and claims. There will be those who reject Him, turning to ways of darkness and death. There will be those who receive Him, turning into ways of light and life. Be sure this morning that you are among those who receive Christ. Invite Him into your life today. And make that commitment public….walk the aisle this morning and share this decision with us all. If you have other decisions to make public-maybe you feel a need to renew your relationship with God…..or perhaps you feel God is leading you to join this church…

Whatever decision you wish to make….we invite you to do so as we sing.

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