Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content


Home > Sermons

Deep Truth

Jesus came to rescue and redeem his creation.
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Living Deep". See series.

Liz is friends with people of many religious backgrounds, and she's just starting to realize that what she claims to believe about Jesus necessarily has implications for her friends who hold different beliefs. So she's asking all sorts of questions—deep questions about how to live out her Christian convictions in a world that doesn't often share her point of view. In a world where so many people have such different views, how could it be possible that one view was greater than any others? Is there really only one way—one path—that leads to God? Isn't believing in God enough? Does what we believe about Jesus make that much of a difference?

Maybe you've experienced a moment when you realized that what you believe about Jesus' work in the world has implications for the lives of those around you. Our understanding of Jesus is critical to our relationship with God. And these are some of the questions that are addressed in the portion of John's letter that we come to today.

But before we dig in, let's take a moment and remind ourselves of the journey we've been on during the last several weeks. We've been looking at a simple letter that the apostle John sent around to the churches about 50 years after Jesus lived.

The basic premise of his letter is simple: You are either living life, or you're not. You are either living the deep life that is made possible by Jesus, or you're missing out. One way leads to light and life, the other to darkness and isolation.

Right from the beginning, John connects this life with Jesus: "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim it to you...so that you may have fellowship with us." Many of his readers, who are two or three generations removed from the historical Jesus, are beginning to question whether they are living the life of a true believer or not. And so John suggests there are three tests that anyone can apply to his own life to determine whether or not he is really living deeply.

The first test is the ethical test, and for the last few weeks we've been drilling down on this question: How do you live? Do you have a deep walk—a walk of obedience? Have you experienced deep clean—forgiveness and a fresh start? Do you have deep desire—a desire to love the goodness of God more than the things of the world?

The second test is a relational test: How do you love? We'll talk about this test in a couple of weeks.

The third test is a doctrinal test: What do you believe? This is the test of our passages today, and what we will discover is that to live the deep life is to be rooted and grounded in deep truth. Deep truth has everything to do with our understanding of who Jesus is.

At the time that John wrote this letter, there was a crisis in the church. There were those who were leading people away from what Jesus taught about himself, and the nature of their false teaching is found in these verses: "Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ" (1 John 2:22); "Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:2-3).

These teachers were denying that Jesus was God in the flesh, as he claimed to be. There was a certain brand of teaching at this time that argued that Jesus was really just a person who at the time of his baptism became inhabited by the Spirit of God, but God's Spirit left him before the crucifixion. They believed that for God to connect himself with the material world, human beings, and suffering, would somehow diminish his nature—that coming down to earth as a human was beyond his station.

John's reply to this false teaching is clear, definitive, and filled with conviction! To abandon Jesus' claims of divinity is to let go of the possibility of living the life that God has for you. The incarnation is the deep truth that John urges his followers to keep at the very center of their faith and at the core of their lives.

You live in the U.S. like I do. We have neighbors living all around us with many different views about God and salvation and religion. There are Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Catholics, and Protestants, at least. What are we to do with such a particular view of Jesus in this environment? How do we continue to hold such a view when it puts us at odds with other views held by the world around us?

Following John's lead here, I want to offer to you a counterintuitive suggestion. Rather than softening our view about the distinctive claims of Jesus, rather than convincing ourselves to place Jesus to the side of our belief system, maybe we should consider more carefully what the deep truth of Jesus really means to us. Maybe we should embrace it more deeply. I would suggest that the more we discover about Jesus, the more beautiful a truth the incarnation becomes. Believing that God became a man isn't a selfish, exclusive claim intended to put people off; it is actually a generous and loving claim that holds out the best possible hope for humanity and the world.

I want us to consider more deeply three implications of the core truth of the fully human, fully divine Jesus.

Through Jesus, God shows us who he is.

A friend recently shared a story of a woman he knew. All of her life she was on a desperate search to hear from God. Throughout the span of time and history, human beings have had this built in yearning to know what God is all about. This woman was no different. She so dearly wanted God to reveal himself to her—to speak to her and give her an experience that allowed her to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was real and that he was present.

One weekend she went on a spiritual retreat of sorts with some other seekers to a beautiful retreat center at the top of a grand mountain. In her desperation and longing, she found herself sitting alone one morning, overlooking a beautiful vista. She knew that if God was ever going to show himself, it would be in such a moment, and so she waited with great anticipation. Suddenly, she heard a voice, and the voice said to her, "Who the heck do you think you are?" Only the voice she heard used even stronger language.

She was devastated. She walked away broken and defeated. She felt like she'd finally heard from God, and what she'd heard was that he wanted nothing to do with her. She felt a fool for even entertaining the thought that he might want to spend time with her—to let her know who he is.

How many people hold this view of God: that he's distant and aloof, that he's too busy, like a father whose thoughts are so preoccupied with the important things he's doing that he brushes past his kids who are starving to know him?

This is why Jesus came to earth—why God sent himself to dwell among us: In Jesus' life recorded for us in the Gospels, we have the unbelievable opportunity to see what God is really like! Through Jesus' words we learn what God would say to us. Through his actions we can see what was most important to him. By his loving relationships, we can know his heart for people. In Christ, we see a God who is full of love and compassion, who is ready to forgive and embrace, who is ready to humble himself and stoop down to let us know who he is. In the person of Jesus, God speaks directly, acts visibly, and shows publicly just how he feels about humanity.

N. T. Wright puts it perfectly: "Jesus provides exegesis of God. Dare to shape your vision of God around the person of Jesus."

Listen to what Jesus says about himself: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The worlds I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work" (John 14:9). When you grab hold of the truth that Jesus is God, you realize that God is revealing himself to you!

Because of my understanding of Jesus, I never heard God say to me, "Who the heck do you think you are?" because in Christ I see a God who is willing to go to gates of hell and back for me! Through Jesus, God shows us who he is.

Through Jesus, God invites us to be with him.

Now, there is a problem with our ability to relate to God. The problem is that God is just. That's not a problem, per se, because we want a God who hungers for justice. We heard some stories recently about the justice of God that reminded us how important that aspect of God's character is to us. When we heard of the boy living as a slave, who spends his life in a brick factory under terrible conditions, we got angry. When we heard about young girls who have been sold into prostitution and are held in dungeons, our hearts resonated with the cry for justice. We call this righteous indignation. I know several people who have been so moved by an appeal to God's justice that they've made the decision to go to law school in order to fight for justice in situations like these.

So God's justice is a good thing. The problem is that if complete justice prevails, eventually the gavel will fall on us as well. When we're completely honest with ourselves, we know that our selfishness and sinfulness has contributed to the problems of the world. And of course, this is where Jesus comes in again. This is where God in the flesh makes all the difference!

As a man, Jesus was the only person to live a perfect life. And as God, Jesus was the only one who would be qualified to bear the burden of the sin of all humanity—the only one whose sacrifice would be complete and sufficient.

On the Cross, God's justice was met by something only he could offer: his divine love! At the Cross, God's love and justice kissed each other (Psalm 85). And in Christ, at that moment, a door of invitation opened. The bridge between God and man has been made possible by the man, the God, Jesus Christ.

In our building there is a cross that illustrates beautifully how it is that Jesus is God's invitation to relationship with him. This cross was fashioned during a time of worship at the end of a youth retreat. On the cross are 3x5 cards, and on the cards are written phrases that represent kids' struggles with sin—"I really need to learn not to gossip;" "Help me to not live two separate lives, one with friends and school and one at church;" "Forgive me for judging others;" "Help me to let go of my pride;" "Help me overcome temptation." These kids understood it! By placing these cards on the cross, the kids acknowledged that it was on the Cross that Jesus took upon himself the sin and injustice of all humanity—including their own.

First John 4:9-10 sums it up perfectly: "This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." God's provision of Jesus makes us able to be with him—through Jesus, God invites us to be with him.

Through Jesus, God makes the world right again.

If you do a brief overview of all the religions of the world, you discover that there are three primary views of the material world—of the world we live in. The first view is that the world is an illusion. This view holds that the goal of religion life, enlightenment, or salvation has little or nothing to do with the material world. Rather, the goal is to disregard the physical realm altogether, getting in touch, instead, with the "spiritual." For some, this means that the consequences of our physical actions are meaningless, so we're free to do whatever we want in our flesh; in the end it doesn't matter.

A second view is that the material world is bad. This view holds that the goal of religious life is to withdraw from the world, because there is no hope to be found there. The physical world is on its way to destruction, and to be entangled by the things of life in this world is to become tainted by its evil.

There's a third way to view the material world, and it's the one that becomes John's view of Jesus—a Jesus who fully enters into a real physical existence. This view holds that the material world is good; it was created to be a place where God's glory is put on display. The beauty and joy and rich relationships that are possible indicate the goodness of the one who created it. With salvation comes a deep appreciation, affirmation, and engagement with the world in ways that align with its intended purposes.

As I was thinking about this part of the sermon, I was watching my daughter at her horseback riding lesson. As she was riding, she came around the corner right in front of me and right then the horse broke from a trot into a full canter. I heard the sounds of the snorting animal as it burst up to speed and the clip-clop of his hooves on the earth below. I saw the strength of the horse and the physical connection between it and my daughter as together they leapt as one over a small wooden jump. Seeing that was a powerful reminder of the amazing beauty and goodness of the material world.

But the truth is that none of us get very far in this material world before bumping up against a reminder that all is not right. The material world is not always a place of beauty and goodness. When we got back to the barn, we found out that the rider who rode before my daughter had been thrown off her horse. She wasn't hurt, but it demonstrates the point that all is not as it should be on this earth.

Despite how much beauty and goodness and truth the world contains, we recognize that something is wrong with creation. Accidents happen. Sickness threatens our lives. Violence and oppression cause people to be displaced and even worse. There's the toil of hard labor and the frustration of limited resources. Natural disasters strike us and leave us lacking food, water, and shelter.

Once again, Jesus enters the picture. Jesus is not afraid to enter this world fully, getting his hands dirty. Jesus doesn't shy away from it or live like the physical world is an illusion. What does he do? He takes broken things and begins fixing them. Legs that cannot walk, he restores. Eyes that cannot see, he touches with his fingers. Stomachs that are growling with hunger, he begins to feed. What we discover is that through Jesus, God is working to bring together all the pieces of the broken creation, in order to make this world right again.

Through the work of Jesus, God is not throwing away creation, he's redeeming it. He's not disposing of it; in Christ, he's liberating the world from the hold of sin and death. And when Jesus rises from the dead, he has a physical body that is restored.

The message of the gospel is that God will do with the entire world what he did in Jesus at Easter. You see, Jesus' physical resurrection assures us that the new creation is indeed underway. In Christ, everything gets brought back together.

The restoration that Jesus can do in a human heart—the forgiveness of sin—has implications for the physical world as well. Jesus is restoring all of creation so that once again it will be a fully cooperative and active demonstration of the glory of God!

And so, there is a lot at stake when we consider the deep truth that Jesus is God. So much hinges on this fundamental reality: our ability to understand God; our potential to relate with a God who loves us; and our hope for the redemption of the world we live in.

Love the people around you with the beauty and goodness of Christ.

This brings us back to the questions that Liz raised in her response to John's letter. What do we do when we realize that we believe something very different that what those around us believe? What do we do when people misunderstand and misconstrue who Jesus is and what he's done? I would suggest that if you love the people around you deeply, you show them the beauty and goodness of Christ.

This week, we watched in amazement as Chilean miners who were trapped half a mile underground in confined darkness for 69 days each found rescue as they were lifted to safety by a rescue capsule. One by one, each miner made his journey through that 36-inch passageway from the depths of the cold cave that entombed them, to the brightness of sunlight and the vast open skies above.

Imagine that you were the group leader of those 33 trapped miners. For months you've been trying to find a way of escape—you've looked everywhere for an out, checked all the side channels, explored the safety shaft—and no matter what path you've explored, you've still found yourselves trapped.

Now, standing right before your eyes is a hole that has been cut from the surface and a caged rescue capsule has been lowered into the hole from above. A few miners have even been taken above by the capsule, and you hear reports back that they've made it all the way to the top.

How would you feel if someone began to spread stories to your friends that the basket was unreliable—that the means of escape through that route was unimpressive or somehow too unbelievable? Out of concern for the safety of all of your friends, you would do all that you could to persuade them that this way is certain—that this way is a good way. Though others might suggest other possibilities out, you know one thing is true: this way leads to certain rescue!


What do we do when our friends challenge our belief about who Jesus is, especially when we understand more fully the rescue he provides, not just for us, but for all of humanity and for the world? We find ways to make him known more clearly. We describe more carefully and clearly why he has become so dear to us. We let our love and goodness gain us a voice, and we give testimony through our lives and our words about who he is and what he's done. We learn from Christ who it is that he wants us to be, and we live genuinely in him. We let him lead us to become a part of the solution of a broken world. We faithfully testify that Jesus is the Christ—God made flesh: our greatest hope, and the greatest hope for all the world.

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it? ____________________________________________________

Tom VanAntwerp serves as Pastor of Community Life at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Related sermons

God's Protection and Delight

Zephaniah paints a picture of love.

Facing Off Without Falling Apart

Seven principles for proclaiming the gospel in hostile territory.
Sermon Outline:


I. Through Jesus, God shows us who he is.

II. Through Jesus, God invites us to be with him.

III. Through Jesus, God makes the world right again.

IV. Love the people around you with the beauty and goodness of Christ.