Those Who Received Him
Read – John 1:1-13
Key Verse – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12 NKJV).
Key Thought – Salvation is a free gift to all who believe and receive.
A few years before Beth passed into Heaven, we began collecting Nativity Scenes. One of my last memories of Beth was of her haggling over the price of one sch Nativity Scene in a little shop in the Poconos. It was the day before she died. Kathy and I continue to come up with our own traditions now that we are married, but we still set up a few of the Nativity Scenes each Christmas, and that particular one is always included.
Nativity Scenes are fascinating. This evening, Lord willing we will gather here at the church at 7:30for movie night, and we’ll view “The Nativity.” That movie is a very nice telling of the birth of Christ, and it ends with that birth in the manger, and all the expected characters are included – Mary and Joseph are there, with the newborn babe, the shepherds are gathered, along with various livestock, and even three wise men make an appearance. In the final scene of the movie, as the camera zooms out and the entire manger and cast of characters comes into frame, you notice that it is, indeed, a nativity scene… just as we have here at the front of the sanctuary, and just as many of us have in our homes.
There are many common elements in Nativity scenes. The characters we’ve mentioned, and the common manger setting we’ve mentioned. The wise men are almost always included, even though the Scripture indicates they didn’t appear until about 2 years later. And there is peace. The scene is always portrayed as quiet and idyllic and pastoral. The Babe always looks peaceful, and those looking on always do so with awe, adoration, and acceptance.
But John here, in the first 11 verses of his gospel, makes it clear that all that changed. That acceptance changed… in fact vanished for the most part… once that little baby grew into adulthood and spent 3 years ministering and preaching the gospel to a people who for the most part rejected Him.
Read on in the gospels and you learn that the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees for the most part rejected Him. The majority of the common people also rejected Him. Even His own brothers and sisters rejected Him for the most part.
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus told the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. “Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. “Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. “And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ “But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ “So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? “He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!” Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone’? “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people–for they knew He had spoken this parable against them (Luke 20:9-19 NKJV).
Notice what John said here – He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:10-11NKJV).
From these 2 verses, I see:
Two Terrible Truths
And the first is this – many do not receive Christ. It was true then, and it’s true today.
Jesus said, Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it (Matthew 7:13 NKJV). On another occasion, Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away” (John 6:67 NKJV)? Another day, He even wondered, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8 NKJV)?
It’s sad but true that many do not receive Christ, not then, and not now.
Now, the indictment in vs. 11 is primarily directed at the Jews… His own people… who rejected Him. But vs. 10 extends it to the whole world. Many did not accept Him, and many do not today.
Some just find the account of Jesus Christ unbelievable. Isaiah asked, “Who has believed our report” (Isaiah 53:1)? Just as in his day, many simply find the entire account of Jesus UNBELIEVABLE. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a friend across my kitchen table. We were talking about the gospel, and there came a point in the discussion where I asked him point blank, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, and that He rose from the dead?” My friend looked at me like I had two heads… like I was beyond deluded… like he couldn’t imagine anybody so naive and misguided. He responded with a smirk, “Of course not.” There are many like him, who just find the whole thing unbelievable.
Some are blinded by other religions and teachings. They have been taught that if you just do your best… if you do good works… those good deeds will somehow earn you a place in heaven. Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York city and one of those currently running for president of this country said, “I’m telling you that if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” Deluded. BLINDED by what he has been taught by other religions. And many are just like him. It’s just human nature to think that we need to DO something in order to be saved. And there are plenty of preachers and teachers who say that you do, even if they are wrong.
Jesus, in His parable of the sower, mentioned three things that often keep people from Christ: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful (Matthew 13:19-22 NKJV).
So Jesus said, some hear, and don’t understand, and Satan takes advantage of that, directing their thoughts away from the truth. Some hear and even seem to believe, but their response is only emotional, and they don’t last long. Some hear, and might even see the truth of the gospel, but can’t get past their love for this world and its riches, and so they remain lost.
Some never come to Christ, of course, because they love their sin, and don’t want to give it up.
Of course, I think the primary reason most reject Christ is pride. Pride that says, “I’m as good as the next guy.” Pride that looks at what God has said in His word and decides there is a better way… that says, “A loving God wouldn’t…” or “I can’t accept a God who…”. Pride that basically is saying, “I know better than God.”
I wonder if you fall into any of those categories?
- You sing “O come let us adore Him” but in your heart, do you really believe? Does your heart really sing, “I’d really rather just ignore Him.”
* You sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” but has He come into your heart? Do you have a personal understanding of the joy true believers have in their heart as they sing those words?
* You sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel” but have you ever said those words in a personal way to Jesus Christ. Have you asked Him to come to you, personally?
You see, if any or all of this is foreign to you… if you find it all weird or quaint or silly or backwards or nonsensical or unbelievable… if you must admit, way down in the depths of your heart, that you just don’t believe it, then consider the second terrible truth John mentioned:
Only those who receive Christ will be saved.
That’s the positive way of stating this terrible truth. Stated negatively it sounds like this – not everybody will be saved… many will die lost!
I was recently asked a question – “Where in the Bible does it say that Jesus is the only way to heaven?”
Well, here in vs. 12 would be one place – the ones who are in the family of God… the ones who are given the right to be children of God… are the ones who receive Christ. That’s the positive way of stating that only those in Christ are in at all!
But there are plenty of other references:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6 NKJV)
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36 NKJV)
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NKJV)
Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23 NKJV)
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12 NKJV)
Yes, the Bible is clear, that only those who receive Christ will be saved. There is no other way! So peel the Satanic CO-EXIST bumper sticker off your car if you have one, and hear the truth this Christmas:
- There are not many ways to heaven.
* All religions do not worship the same God.
* There is truly only one way to Heaven – the Lord Jesus Christ.
That would seem such an intolerant and arrogant truth, were it not for what comes next in the story.
Yes, John told us two terrible truths in vss. 10-11 – many do not recieve Christ, and only those who do receive Christ can be saved.
But then, however, he gave us vs. 12 – surely one of the most wonderful verses in all the Bible, and a glorious explanation of why we celebrate the birth of that Baby who we see depicted in so many nativity scenes. Notice the first word in vs. 12 – BUT.
- *He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him (vs. 10), BUT…
* *He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (vs. 11), BUT…
* Terrible truth # 1 – Many do not receive Christ, BUT…
* Terrible truth # 2 – All those who don’t receive Christ are lost, BUT…
You ought to circle that word BUT. What a brilliant word… what a wonderful word… what a happy word… what a needed word… for it turns our attention from Two Terrible Truths, to:
Two Totally Amazing Truths
Salvation is given to all who will BELIEVE, and to all who then RECEIVE. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12 NKJV).
I wonder… do you believe?
What if I were to point out some more of the story…
What if I were to tell you that that baby lying so peacefully in that manger, grew into adulthood and became a preacher? He went about preaching the gospel. He healed those who were sick – all of them. He fixed those who were broken, He made blind eyes see again. He made lame legs walk again. He made deaf ears hear again.
I wonder… do you believe it?
What if I were to tell you that when confronted with people who were out of their minds… possessed by demons… He tossed those demons out and restored sanity to the possessed? Mary Magdalene was one such. Both Mark and Luke tell of her – Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons (Mark 16:9 NKJV)…. and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities–Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons (Luke 8:2 NKJV). There was a man whom the Bible says was so filled with demons that when Jesus asked the demons their names, the answer was “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Jesus cast the demons out and the man was completely changed… from then on he was in his right mind (Luke 8:35).
I wonder… do you believe it?
What if I were to tell you that the religious leaders of the day didn’t much care for Him… that they actually tried to hinder His ministry and eventually became actively engaged in doing everything possible to destroy His ministry? Do you believe it?
What if I were to tell you that after 3 years of ministry, the people turned against Him? He was tried in a kangaroo court, even though He had committed no crime… He was sentenced to death by the Roman cross, even though He was innocent in every way… He was crucified and died there on that cross… He was taken down from the cross, pronounced dead, wrapped up in heavy burial clothes and put in a grave.
Do you believe it?
What if I were to tell you that three days later… three days later… on a wonderful Sunday morning, the first day of the week, He stepped out of that grave, alive again? What if I were to tell you that for 40 days people saw Him… Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom He had cast out seven demons saw Him… the disciples who were hiding from the authorities saw Him on several occassions… a couple of men walking to the town of Emmaus saw Him… Paul said there was a time when more than 500 saw Him at once… His little brother James saw Him….
What about it? What if I were to tell you that He died, and then was alive again… that He died and three days later rose again… that He was the only man to have ever defeated death?
I wonder… do you believe it?
These are important questions, because John here, in the first of two awesome truths mentioned in vs. 12, says you NEED TO BELIEVE IT!
That awesome truth is all through the Bible – BELIEF, FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST IS WHAT SAVES.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36 NKJV)
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24 NKJV)
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NKJV)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (John 11:25 NKJV)
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46 NKJV)
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31 NKJV)
Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36-37 NKJV)
To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43 NKJV)
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 NKJV)
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 NKJV)
I wonder… do you believe it? You need to. You HAVE to, if you want to be saved. There is no other way! The terrible truth John told here is that many will not believe and will die lost, but then the awesome truth is that you don’t have to be in that number, if you will but believe!
There’s more, though. John mentioned something else… a second awesome truth – you need to RECEIVE Him. It takes both – BELIEVING and RECEIVING.
I eat out a lot. Perhaps you can tell that by looking at me. I like to eat. And I like to eat with friends. So often I find myself at a restaurant, having finished a meal with some friends. And the dance begins. You know the dance… the one where the waitress brings the check, and before you can grab it another member of the party grabs it and insists they are going to pay it. Maybe some good natured back and forth occurs as you argue that you wanted to pay the check, and they argue that “No” they will pay it.
Jesus’ death on the cross was a gift. It was payment for a debt that He did not owe. He did not die because of His crimes, but rather because of yours. His death was payment for your sins. He picked up the check for you.
The problem with many people is this – they won’t let Him do that. They won’t receive the gift He wants to offer them.
This Christmas you will no doubt give and receive gifts. Depending on the custom in your home, gifts will be handed out and eager hands will receive those gifts, and then they will be opened and accepted.
Jesus has a gift for you. But you must receive it. You have to reach out and take it. It’s an active thing. BELIEVING is something that takes place in the heart and the mind, but RECEIVING is an act of the will. You have to reach out and TAKE the gift He offers.
And you do that by simply asking. “Jesus, I know you died for me. I do believe, as best I know how. I have questions… but I choose to believe. And I want the gift of salvation You died to give me. I receive you as my Savior, and from this moment on will trust that gift of salvation forever.”
I wonder, have you RECEIVED Him?
Terrible truth # 1 is that many will NOT receive Him, and terrible truth # 2 is that those who do NOT receive Him will die lost.
But what awesome truths come next – if you will but BELIEVE and RECEIVE Him, He can change your life and save your soul forever.
I want to close the sermon differently than normal… by playing a short video clip for you. It requires a bit of setup. In this clip, there are two characters – one, a Pharisee named Nicodemus. We know from Scripture that Nicodemus would eventually both believe and receive Christ as his Savior, but in this clip he has not come to that point yet. He has not met Jesus, but rather he has met Mary Magdalene, whom he knew as a terribly demon-possessed woman. He had even tried to help her and failed. But now he finds she has been cleansed and healed and he wants to know what happened. This clip is somebody’s idea of what that conversation might have looked like. Watch it and notice the way Mary describes her experience at the end.
PLAY THE CLIP from “The Chosen”
“I was one way, and then I was completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.”
My friend, that can be you this Christmas. The awesome truth of God’s Word is that if you will but believe in Christ, and receive Christ, you will be saved. No matter what way you might be now, you can be completely different. That Babe in the manger we see in so many nativity scenes? He can and will make the difference… if you will only believe… and if you will only receive.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12 NKJV).