Christmas Day Sermon: God Dwells With Us

God Dwells with us

Text: John 1:1-14

 

You might be wondering why there is this little tent sitting up the front here. What has a tent to do with Christmas? Well let me explain the connection. In our text, in verse 14 John writes, ‘14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (Jn 1:14a)’ That word ‘dwelling’ in the Greek is actually the word for ‘tent.’ The Word, that’s Jesus, became flesh and tented amongst us. At Christmas we remember that God came and pitched his tent in our world in the person of Jesus Christ. But don’t think of the tent like we go tenting, this isn’t God on a holiday. Rather it’s more like the tents on the screen, this is God humbling himself, this is more like the sort of tents we see in refugee camps. This is a big step down for God, a huge step, in fact so huge we can’t really understand just how huge it is. But this Christmas morning I want to look at the way God dwells with us.

 

1) God dwells with us in Christ

Firstly, I want to look at how God dwells with us in the person of Jesus Christ.

a) God’s Old Testament Promise

This idea that God would dwell with his people had been around for a while. God says to Moses ‘45 I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. (Ex 29:45)’ And that’s exactly what God did. Firstly, God dwelt amongst his people in a literal tent, called the Tabernacle. And later God dwelt amongst his people in the Temple. Both the Tabernacle and the Temple are called the House of God. And even after the Temple is destroyed God promises his people that ‘27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Ezek 37:27)’

b) God’s presence in Christ

And that promise is fulfilled not in the rebuilding of the Temple, but in the coming of Jesus Christ. Remember our text, ‘14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (Jn 1:14a)’ John goes to great lengths to explain that ‘the Word,’ which is his code name for Jesus, is in fact God. He writes, ‘1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jn 1:1)’ The Word, Jesus, was and is God. And in Jesus God became flesh and lived among us. God came into our world. We call that the incarnation, when God became flesh. John goes on to say, ‘14 …We have seen [Jesus’] glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14b)’ They didn’t just see Jesus they saw Jesus’ divinity, they saw the glory of the One and Only God in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s a pretty amazing thought: God became one of us, God pitched a tent and dwelt among us in person. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas, that history defining event when the second person of the Trinity was born in the flesh, when God the Son became a baby and lived amongst us.

c) God’s purpose in Christ

But it’s essential that we understand God’s purpose in coming into our world in the person of Jesus Christ. God didn’t just come and live in our world, he came to die for the world. When John the Baptist sees Jesus he says, ‘29 …Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29b)’ Later Jesus himself says, ‘24 …if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (Jn 8:24b)’ The point of God coming down to dwell with us in Jesus Christ is so that he could pay the penalty for our sins by dying in our place, as our substitute on the cross. Our text puts it like this, ‘12 …to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (Jn 1:12)’ When we believe that Jesus is God come to dwell among us, when we believe that Jesus died for our sins, when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, God accepts us as his children.

Application: Do you believe that in Jesus God dwelled among us?

The idea of God dwelling among us in the person of Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity. Is that what you believe? Do you believe Jesus is God in the flesh? Do you believe that in Jesus God dwelled among us? Do you believe that through faith in Jesus you have been reconciled with God? This Christmas I want you to know that in Jesus God pitched a tent and dwelt among us in person.

 

2) God dwells with us through the Spirit

But God not only dwelt among us in the person of Jesus 2000 years ago, according to the Bible God dwells with us right now through the Holy Spirit. Paul says that the church is ‘22 …being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:22)’ And later Paul says ‘16 …we are the temple of the living God. (2 Cor 6:16b)’ Jesus makes a huge deal of this later in John’s Gospel. He didn’t come into our world to only abandon us, rather in his leaving he would send the Spirit who would live in our hearts. Jesus says, ‘17 …you know [the Spirit], for he lives with you and will be in you. (Jn 14:17b)’ In a very real sense Jesus is still with us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised us that he would be ‘with [us] always, to the very end of the age. (Mt 28:20b)’ and through the Spirit Jesus dwells in our hearts. Paul prays that through the Spirit, ‘17 …Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph 3:17a)’ So what’s the big deal about the Spirit dwelling in us?

a) The Spirit us enlightens

Firstly, the Spirit enlightens us. According to Jesus the Spirit teaches us about Jesus. In John 14 Jesus says, ‘26 …the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (Jn 14:26b)’ The Spirit also testifies about Jesus. Again Jesus says, ‘26 …the Spirit of truth… will testify about me. (Jn 15:26b)’ The Spirit also proclaims the truth about Jesus. Again Jesus says, ‘13 …the Spirit of truth… will guide you into all truth. (Jn 16:13b)’ Basically the Spirit teaches us about Jesus, testifies about Jesus and guides us into the truth about Jesus. The Spirit turns the light on so that we can see the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ. We only believe that God dwelt among us in the person of Jesus because of the Holy Spirit.

b) The Spirit empowers us

Secondly, the Spirit empowers us. Jesus tells his followers to wait in Jerusalem until they ‘8 …receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on [them]… (Acts 1:8a)’ And the Spirit empowers us to be witnesses to Jesus, to proclaim the gospel, that through faith in Jesus and his death on the cross people’s sins are forgiven and they are reconciled with God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus’ followers boldly proclaimed the gospel. That’s pretty much the story of the Book of Acts

c) The Spirit equips us

Thirdly, the Spirit equips us. Paul writes ‘7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Cor 12:7)’ The Spirit gives us what the Bible calls spiritual gifts in order to serve God’s purposes.

d) The Spirit elevates us

Finally, the Spirit elevates us. Apart from starting with the letter ‘e’ the point is that the Spirit makes us more like Jesus Christ, what the Bible calls sanctification, the process whereby we become more and more holy. According to Paul ‘5 …those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Rom 8:5b)’ And elsewhere he says, ‘25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal 5:25)’ The Spirit produces in us a Christ-like character, what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit.

Application: Do you know the indwelling presence of the Spirit in your life?

The point in all of this is that Jesus didn’t just set up a tent 2000 years ago and then leave, rather he sets up a tent in our hearts and he lives in us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is still living in a tent, but now that tent is you and me. Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit he is hanging our lives. He is helping us understand more and more who he is and what he has done for us. He is empowering us to proclaim the gospel. He is equipping us to serve his purposes in this world. And he is making us more and more like himself. That tent doesn’t just represent Jesus dwelling on earth 2000 years ago, it also represents Jesus dwelling in you and me today. I want to ask you this morning: Do you know the indwelling presence of the Spirit in your life?

 

3) God dwells with us for eternity

The most amazing thing about that tent is that it also represents the fact that one day God will dwell with us for all eternity. In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John writes, ‘3 I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Rev 21:3)’ In the Greek it’s literally ‘Behold, the tent of God is with men, and he will tent with them!’, Our Christian hope is not just that God came and dwelt with us in the person of Jesus Christ, or that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but that we get to dwell with God himself, that we get to move into God’s tent. Earlier in the Book of Revelation John describes heaven as ‘15 …[God] spreading his tent over [us]. (Rev 7:15c)’ That’s our Christian hope, that God provides an eternal home for us, that one day we will dwell with God. Jesus says, ‘9 …use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Lk 16:9)’ There’s that word tent again. Heaven is pictured as an eternal tent. And Jesus’ point is that we should live our life here in light of our heavenly dwelling. He says use what you have to ensure that you will be welcomed into God’s eternal tent. Don’t worry so much about what life looks like here, rather focus on what life will be like up there. In a sense that’s what this earthly life is all about, preparing us for eternal life. Paul writes, ‘1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven… (2 Cor 5:1a)’

Application: Is your hope that one day you will dwell with God forever?

As Christians our hope is that when we die we get upgraded. We go from an earthly tent to an eternal house. This Christmas you can live your life in light of that hope, that because Jesus came and dwelled on earth and died for your sins, because the Spirit dwells within you, you will get to dwell with God in heaven. Is that your hope, that one day you will get to dwell with God for all eternity?

 

My prayer is that this Christmas you will remember that little tent there, and you will remember three things: Remember that God came to dwell among us in the person Jesus Christ; that God dwells in us right now through the Holy Spirit, and that through faith in Jesus Christ we look forward to the day when we get to dwell with God for all eternity. I hope you’ll never look at a tent in the same way again. Let’s pray.

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