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Enlightenment

29th December 2012

John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God ó children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbandís will, but born of God. 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.

Who is Jesus? Perhaps the best person to ask would be John, the writer of this account of His life. John had probably been Jesus's closest friend on earth. He'd walked with Him for 3 1/2 years. He'd heard Jesus teach. He'd witnessed the miracles. He'd been there on the Mount of Transfiguration. He'd witnessed the crucifixion and had taken Jesus's mother into his home afterwards. He'd entered the empty tomb with Peter. He was among the first to witness the resurrection. He'd been there with 10 others in a locked room when Jesus appeared to them. He'd seen Jesus ascending to heaven on the cloud. And he'd spent the rest of his life risking persecution, imprisonment and death to tell others about Him. If anyone knew who Jesus was, John knew.

And in this short passage, John calls Jesus the Word. He calls Him God. He says Jesus is eternal. He says Jesus was the creator of the universe. He calls Jesus the true light that gives light to every man. He says Jesus became flesh and made His dwelling with us. He calls Him the one and only and says He is full of grace and truth. John is making it as clear as possible, right at the start of his history, that Jesus is not just a good man, not just a great teacher.

Jesus is the word (verse 1). The Greek word here, logos, doesn't mean just one word; it means "the utterance" or "the communication" or "the message" (when we say "Can I have a word with you?" we don't mean just one word). I think John meant that Jesus is the greatest communication that God has ever made. He's not just a communication, He's the communication. It you want to understand God, look at Jesus, the Son of God. If you want to understand Man, look at Jesus, the Son of Man. If you want to know how to live, look at how Jesus lived.

Verse 9 says:

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

Of course itís literally true that Jesus gives light to every man. Jesus, together with God the Father, invented light and gave it to us. As John has already said, Through Him all things were made, and Genesis tells us:

Genesis 1:3
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

But John's telling us much more than that. As the ESV translates this verse: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. Jesus is the true light. Heís the real deal, the genuine article, accept no substitute! And He enlightens everyone.

There's a great sense of need for enlightenment in the world. If you search the internet for enlightenment, youíll find a number of people and organizations offering enlightenment, including Buddhists, mediums, transcendental meditation, exponents of Consciousness Expansion, and a whole lot of cults and individuals that Iíd never heard of. I found one site that will sell you a book called ďthe Manifesting Manual Ė How To Raise Your Manifesting Vibration And Effortlessly Materialize Anything Your Heart DesiresĒ (I didn't buy it). These web sites wouldn't exist if nobody was buying. How sad it is that many people go to these people for enlightenment when, as John tells us, Jesus is the true light, which enlightens everyone.

But most of the web sites you'll find if you search for "enlightenment" on the internet are not about that kind of "enlightenment" at all. Theyíre about the philosophical movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, called The Enlightenment. This movement has had a huge effect on the world, especially in western Europe.

(Philosophy has much more effect than most people realise. In schools, especially in state schools, we teach children the prevailing philosophy, and those children usually assume that it's true, not even realising that itís a philosophy but rather thinking thatís just how things are, that itís the only reasonable way to look at things. Then they grow up and some of them become teachers and they, in turn, teach the prevailing philosophy, often without realizing they're doing it)

The principle behind The Enlightenment was defined by the philosopher Emmanuel Kant, who wrote ďEnlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance.Ē (Isn't "nonage" a great word?) I'm not an expert on philosophy but I think Kant means that the Enlightenment is based on the idea that we donít need God - or anyone - to tell us anything, because we can work it all out for ourselves. This seems to me to say that these philosophers, who have shaped western thinking ever since, believed that enlightenment is realizing that we donít need enlightenment. Itís a kind of double-speak, like the Marxist ďproperty is theftĒ. Itís nonsense. But the idea that we can work everything out for ourselves, indeed that we ought to work everything out for ourselves, is still with us. It's how most of us are trained to think.

But how do we work out right and wrong? And why do we disagree about it? And how do we work out what happens after death? (except by dying, of course, when it's a bit late) And how do we work out whether there is a God, and what Heís like? And how is the world getting on with the job of living without divine guidance?

And if God offers us revelation, isnít it a bit silly to refuse it?

Winston Churchill once said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened". Jesus is The Truth. Indeed, He's The Way, The Truth and The Life. He's the ultimate Message from God. Please, take the time to hear Him. The rest of your eternity depends on it. Don't hurry off. Receive the enlightenment God wants to give you.