John: Darkness Dies in the Light

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I want to explain what I believe are these two unshakeable truths that I hold. I have two rock solid beliefs of which no one and nothing on planet Earth can convince me otherwise. And if you didn’t grow up in the church, I’m going to try to share these beliefs with you. I’m going to try to share with you why I believe what I believe, and I’m going to try to convince you to believe what I believe. 


The first truth that I believe is, I believe in the Church of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Now, I realize you may have been burned really bad by the church, and you’re saying, “Jeff, I’m not really sure that I believe in the Church because I got hurt by the Church really bad.” Or maybe you’ve been to church and you were around a lot of hypocrites, and you’ve lost some faith in it. Or maybe you’ve studied history and you’ve seen some of those leadership disasters, some of those moral atrocities that I would just say ungodly men caused in the name of the Church over history, and you’re saying, “I’m not really sure that I believe it like you believe it, Jeff.”


Well, I’ll say this: If you were to go back and look over the course of human history, nothing has done more good for more people over more time than the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s why I believe in her. She has problems; she has warts and all, but I believe in her completely. And I also believe in this church. I believe in 2 Cities Church.


You see, what I think is absolutely best about King Jesus’s Church is not when we come together and sing some songs of praise and do a corporate worship service. When we bring our lights together and our lights get a little bit brighter by being around other Christians, that’s beautiful. But the Church is no question at its best when it leaves the building and is scattered into the community and is pushing back darkness. That’s when the Church is absolutely at our best. And I believe in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I believe in 2 Cities Church, because this is a church that is passionate about pushing back darkness.


Look at our website, look at our logo. You see the city of darkness becoming the city of light. We say this all the time around here, and now it’s time for me to explain that phrase, because if you’re just checking us out for the first time, I need you to understand these three words, because they come directly from the Gospel of John (Push Back Darkness).


You see, the word push means that we don’t sit back gather together in Bible studies, complain about everybody who’s not a Christian and pray that God would send somebody else to go make a difference. We’re the kind of people who come together, love on each other, serve one another, but we go out into the communities. The whole reason why we’re developing leaders and have created a digital discipleship program called Basic Training is to just help people to get good at getting into the community and pushing into areas where there is no Gospel presence.


When I say the word darkness, I’m talking about the places and the people that are far from Jesus. I’m talking spiritual darkness now. I’m talking about spots around the earth where there are a million people or more that have no Gospel presence whatsoever. But I’m also talking about the neighbor across the street. I’m talking about the coworker on the other side of the cubicle. When you get done working from home, and that person is far from Jesus, we’re talking about entering into their life. 


But the word back is perhaps for me the most important word that we’re discussing today. You see, the word back says when light goes into an area, darkness always retreats. Always, in every circumstance, everywhere on the planet, when you put light into darkness, darkness always runs away. And so, when we say “pushing back darkness”, we’re talking about being the light that’s going into dark places, and the darkness scurries away. I believe in the Church, and I believe in 2 Cities Church.


No matter how dark the world is around you, I believe it like the prominent religious leader, Bishop Desmond Tutu believes in it. He made this statement a long time ago when the world felt really, really dark to him. He said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all of the darkness around you.”


And maybe you’re sitting there saying, “Jeff, I live and work and I’m in a city or a village with a lot of darkness all around me.” And perhaps God has placed you as his light in that environment so that you too could push back darkness. I want you to hear what the Bible says today when we start studying through the Gospel of John. 


John uses the word darkness and alludes to death, light and life. John chapter 1, starting in verse 1, the Bible is going to teach us today what happens when Jesus’s church gets out of the doors and gets into a community and goes into some dark places. 


We live fearlessly, because darkness dies in the light.


We as Christians can live fearlessly, because darkness always runs. Darkness always retreats. Darkness dies in the light. In John chapter 1, look at the darkness and light language that you hear right out of the gate from this Bible book. 



John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.


Did you notice that John (actually the Bible translators who were translating this) capitalized the W in the word “word”? They did that because they want you, as you read the Bible, to know this is a reference to Jesus. Substitute the word Jesus when you read Word. 


Here’s what you need to know about Jesus: He was with God in the beginning. When you see that phrase in the Bible, you should be thinking to yourself, “This guy is saying that Jesus is eternal.” If he was around before the beginning, that makes him eternal. He was with God in the beginning, all things were created through him, and just so that you don’t get confused by what I’m saying, apart from him, no thing was created that has been created. He is eternal, and he also is in charge of everything that you see and created everything that you see, which makes him all-powerful.


And then John says next, “In him, was life.” I’ll use this analogy: John is saying that life was the light of men. And here’s where 2 Cities Church gets this phrase from, that light pushes back darkness. “It shines into darkness and yet the darkness did not overcome it.”


That light shines in the darkness and yet the darkness did not overcome it. That phrase means “cannot be stronger than the light, cannot push back light”. That’s not how light and darkness work. When light goes into darkness, darkness dies; darkness retreats. And John is saying when God’s people carry light into dark situations and into dark places, the darkness always runs away. And this is what 2 Cities Church stands for; this is what we’re all about.


So today starts a study. I don’t know how long this is going to take. It’s going to be a while, y’all, but we’re going to start studying through the entire book of John. And in order for us to understand light and life, death and darkness, I want to give you a little bit of background on John. I’m just going to try to make it really, really practical for you. And by the time we’re done, I’m just going to give you two takeaways from what we heard from the Bible today.

Who?

 

So, let’s learn a little bit more about this guy who wrote this book. Let’s talk about who John was. You see, when Bible scholars start to talk about Bible literature, they start to ask the questions, “Well, the Bible book has the name John on it. Who wrote this book? Is it John, or is it because the book talks about John most often? Is it somebody else?” 


There’s no question, most of the church fathers from the first and the second century, external evidence, say there’s no doubt that we believe it to be John, the follower of Jesus, John from the inner circle of the disciples (Peter, James, and John).  That John is the John who writes this book. But when you look at the internal evidence, let’s look at what the book says about the guy who writes it.


There’s no question the guy who writes this book is acutely aware of Jewish customs. He’s going to write it all over in this book. The guy who writes this book is very clear on the Jewish understanding of Messiah, and he’s going to explain it right out of the gate. In fact, in the first couple of verses, he explains the Jewish understanding of their savior, the anointed of God. The guy who writes this book is definitely a resident of Palestine. He’s using language that you’ve got to live there to know those kinds of things. The guy who writes this book was at the crucifixion and is giving personal details, like eye-witness details at the crucifixion. And the guy who writes this book claims to be the beloved disciple.


Now, if you’re sitting there saying, “Boring, Jeff. I don’t know what this has to do with anything.” Well, let me explain it to you this way. When you read a book, when you read a newspaper article, when you’re reading a magazine, or better yet, when you read the fake news on social media, you should be asking the question, “Does the person who writes have the authority to write this?” 


And in the case of somebody who claims to be an eye witness and is saying, “I saw some things with my own eyes. I just wrote those things down in paper and I want you to believe in what I just wrote down in paper,” the guy who’s writing these things, there’s only one person in the entire Bible who meets the criteria that we’ve just described, who was at the cross, who was a resident of Palestine, who was around during Jesus’s lifetime, who had this Jewish understanding of the Messiah and who would be able to refer to themselves as one of Jesus’s inner circle, the beloved disciple. So, no question it’s the “Peter, James, and John” John, the Sons of Thunder John is the one who writes this book for us.

Where?

 

Second question: Where did this book take place? Well, the answer to that question is, it took place in what is today modern day Israel and Jordan. It took place in biblical Palestine. That’s all you need to know about that question.


When?

 

Next question: When was this book written? Okay, hold on. Put on your thinking caps with me, because I’m going to nerd out on the Bible for just a bit on this question, because it’s really, really important. You see, most people who study the New Testament books really carefully will say John wrote five books in the Bible: the book that we’re studying today, the book of Revelation, and then there are three letters called First, Second, and Third John. Bible scholars say no question this book was written somewhere between like 85 and 95 AD. 


You’re saying, “Big whoop, Jeff.” No, this is actually pretty important because what we’re reading here is perhaps one of the newest, if not THE newest, youngest book in the New Testament, probably, my opinion, the last book to be written in the New Testament.


Now I’m going to geek out with you for just a second, because I could spend hours doing this kind of research. A long time ago when I was in school and I was studying through the New Testament and I was learning details about the New Testament, I thought I understood the Gospel of John and when it was written. I thought I understood the other four books that John wrote in the New Testament. Then I started to do some more thorough reading, and I started reading what some of the experts were saying. And then I had the privilege, literally, to go talk to the world’s foremost expert on what’s called Johannine literature, the five books of the New Testament that John wrote.


I asked him this question, “Hey man, I’m reading John and I’m reading Revelation, and I’m starting to wonder which of these two books was written first. Did Revelation come before John, or did John come before Revelation?” And I was absolutely convinced he was going to say, “What’s wrong with you? Everybody knows that John came first.” 


But his answer shocked me. He said, “I don’t know. In fact, I’ve talked to all of the folks that study this and the folks that are really serious about studying John’s books in the New Testament. None of us can really point for sure which came first, Revelation or John. We’re pretty sure that those three letters, First, Second, and Third John came before these two. But we don’t know if John was written next and Revelation last or Revelation came next and John came last.”


And you’re saying, “Why on earth would anybody care about this, Jeff? Why would you waste your time?” Well, here’s why: You’re going to read some phrases in the book of Revelation, and you’re going to say, “What does this mean, and how do I figure out exactly what this is referring to?” You are probably going to come across a phrase or two in the book of John and you’re going to say, “What does this mean? How do I know what this refers to?” 


This is where it becomes really important. You’re reading through the Bible, you get to a phrase or a verse in the Bible and you’re saying, “Man, I’m not really sure what’s going on here. I don’t think I really understand it. How do I figure out what this verse means?”


Well, what you do is you go to the verses right before it and right after it, and you start to say, “Do these verses and the chapter before it and the chapter after it, do they help me figure out what it means?” Nope. If you can’t figure it out from the verses in front of it or after it, then you take the whole book of the Bible that you’re reading and you say, “Is there anything else in this whole book that helps me understand what I’m reading in this phrase that I don’t get?” 


Pay close attention at this point. I don’t hear anything else in the rest of the book that helps me understand it. Where do I go next? Trick question. You do not go to the books in the New Testament that come right before it and right after it.


You see, if you were to go to the book right before this, you’re reading from an author by the name of Luke. If you were to go to the book right after it, you’re reading from an author by the name of Luke, and Luke tells you, “I wrote Acts. I wrote Luke.” John’s smack in the middle. You’re reading a different author. So instead of going to a different author, you say, “Hey, did this guy write any other books in the New Testament? Maybe he wrote something in another book that would help me understand what I’m reading in this book.”


And I’ll just tell you personally, after thinking about this for many years, about 20 years, I’m pretty sure (now, I have no way of knowing this, but I feel pretty confident) that Revelation came after First, Second, and Third John, and this is the last book in the Bible that is written before the Bible is compiled and we have what we hold in our hands in front of us.


And now if you’re wondering, “Why is this such a big deal to you when it was written, Jeff?” It’s a big deal, because when John wrote this, he was a teenager when he followed Jesus, and all of the rest of those followers have been murdered because of their faith. And he’s the only guy left on planet Earth who can stand up 50 or 60 years later and say, “I was there, and I saw it with my own eyes. And I’m writing to you what I saw with my own eyes.”


By the time that John writes this, all of the people who saw Jesus and walked with Jesus are pretty much dead, and their children are now starting to answer the question, “I know what my mom and dad said they saw, but I didn’t see it. Did that really happen?” And John is a very old man when he’s writing this book, but he’s writing it from firsthand experience. “I was there. I saw it with my own eyes, and I’ll tell you what I saw.” And because of that, John writes a book that is radically different than those other three what we call Gospels in the New Testament, the other three accounts of Jesus’s life.


And you should be asking, “Why was it so important that this old man who was living in exile, who had already been poisoned and they attempted to murder him more than once for talking about his faith in Jesus. Why would he write this book? Why would he take the risk?” Check this out, y’all. This is perhaps the only book in the Bible that tells you exactly why he wrote this book. “I’ll tell you why I wrote the book, and I’ll tell it to you right there in the book. John chapter 21 will tell us why he writes this book.


But before we do that, I just skipped over a great story. I was thinking this weekend about how do you communicate why when something was written is really, really important? Well, can you see the picture on the screens? [photo shown] What you can’t see is right below the title of the Wall Street Journal magazine is the date October of 2008. 

This magazine was written in September 2008, and then it was released in October of 2008. You can see the nest eggs, and you can see that the big title of this article is saying, “We’re going to help you figure out how to double your retirement”.


And then look at what it says on the side. “Here are the three things that you need to put your money into in September of 2008, and if you put your money into this, it will you a whole lot more money.” Do you see what those three things are? Put your money in the stock market, put your money into government-backed funds, and if you really want to make a lot of money, put it into real estate. 


Early September 2008, it doesn’t matter where you were in the world, you experienced a little bit of this personally. Some places in the world experienced this firsthand. Do you know what happened late September? In fact, do you know what happened at the end of September 2008 to the global economy right before this magazine hit the shelves? —One of the biggest crashes in stock market history. In fact, the second biggest crash in stock market history happened days before this hit the shelves.


It’s called the housing bubble, and the housing bubble burst. And when the housing bubble burst, people’s home values dropped by 40, 50, 70% of their value, and the stock market reacted wildly. You can see that people’s stocks and their retirement savings, some of them lost 50% of their value in one day, and the government started to inject cash into the economy, into these businesses that were “too big to fail”. And all three of these things failed spectacularly days before this magazine hit the shelves.


In fact, I remember people who were looking at their bank account on September 30th. This all happened on September 29, 2008. I remember friends looking at their bank account on September 30, 2008 and saying, “I don’t have a nest egg anymore. I have scrambled eggs with feathers and a beak sticking out of it. I just lost everything. My entire savings is gone, and it’s gone in one day because the Wall Street wizards who wrote this article said, ‘We can tell you how to make lots of money. Put it in the stock market, put it into real estate, put it into government backed funds,’ and all of them failed spectacularly in one day.”


John is saying, “I’ll tell you why I’m writing this book,” and why he’s writing this book is perhaps the only place in the entire Bible where an author tells you let me tell you why he just did what he did. John chapter 21. Here’s what he says:


John 20:31: But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


By the way, right before this verse, he says, “Hey, there are so many other things that I couldn’t possibly record all that Jesus did. I saw it with my own eyes. If I tried to write it, I’d die and still not get it all done. But the things that I did record, here’s why I did it.”


“I went through all of this work to write this book for you, just so that you would understand who this guy is in real life. And by believing in Him, you would have eternal life.”


What we’re going to look at over the next few months in this Bible book is, we’re going to study through the book of John, and John writes stuff that is not found… 90% of what John writes is not found anywhere else in the Bible. John decides, “I don’t need to write the stuff that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote because everybody knows those stories. They’ve been reading them for a long time. I’m going to write you this stuff that you didn’t hear from those, and I’m going to try to convince you that this guy really was the Son of God, really did go to a cross, really did die in your place, and really did come back to life again, and I saw it with my own eyes.”


Now John does something that’s absolutely amazing. John believes that by placing faith in Jesus, God, I’m risking it all on you right now. If you don’t come through, I am in a mess and there’s no hope for my future. When you place that kind of faith in Jesus, John says then and only then you have life. You see what John says right out of the gate? 


Just in the first verse alone, that in the beginning was the Word. And John’s saying that Jesus is eternal. You can believe in him. He says that the Word was with God, that Jesus is co-equal with God. You can believe in Jesus. And then John says, “I’ll just make it crystal clear for you, not only was he in the beginning and with God, but he just IS God or WAS God.”


And then John says it very clearly again, that all power belongs to him because there’s nothing that you see around you that wasn’t created by his power, that he wasn’t part of that creative process that made it. He’s eternal, he’s all powerful, He’s co-equal with God. He is God. Do you know what John is doing at this point? He’s fixing broken theology.


Have you ever had somebody knock on your door and try to tell you about their version of Jesus, who is A God, but not God Himself? -who is the offspring of a sexual relationship between God and a woman and basically a brother to Satan? That’s the Jesus that they worship. Or maybe they’re telling you that billions of people around the world believe this, and you should too, that Jesus is a god among many gods. There’s lots and lots of gods out there, so throw Jesus into the equation. Or not only is he a god among many gods, but he’s actually a really good man and a good prophet; he’s just not nearly as important as the prophet that we worship. Billions of people around the world have a distorted view of Jesus.


It started while John was still alive, and John wants you in the first verses to know who this man is. When we talk about Jesus, I need you to know who he is in real life. He is God who took on flesh and walked on earth and lived among us for a very short period of time. That’s why John writes this book, so that you would believe, and by believing you would have eternal life.


So What?


Now we get to the so what, Jeff? “So what? I get all of the who, what, when, and where, but what’s that have to do with me?” The truth is that men die in darkness, and God loved me enough, God loved you enough that he sent light into darkness to go sit down at my dining room table and tell me who Jesus is and tell me what Jesus did for me so that I wouldn’t die in darkness. God sent forth his son, Jesus, John says, “to bring light into the world.”


And when Jesus is standing on the mountaintop and getting ready to leave earth and go back to Heaven, He says to his disciples, “I’m going to send you now, just like the Father sent me, now I’m going to send you to go take light into darkness.” The same light that saved you, I want you to take it to somebody else who doesn’t know about him and introduce them to Jesus because men die in darkness, and you would be dead in your sins, I would be dead in my sins, if somebody didn’t love me enough to bring the light into my dark world.


And the reason why we’re studying through this Bible book is so that you would have the courage to be able to go have difficult conversations, to go into dark places. And if I could just be honest, I’ll tell you it can be a little bit scary from time to time. “Oh, that’s really dark. Oh, she’s really far from Jesus. Oh, he’s really hostile towards the faith; I’m not sure I want to have this conversation…”


When you start to think in those terms, I want you to put in the back of your mind, darkness dies in light. Light always, always, always pushes back darkness. It never works the other way around. In fact, what I want you to remind yourself of when you find yourself trying to be the light of Jesus in a dark environment, I want you to say these words to yourself silently, if not out loud, “He that is in me is stronger and greater than he that is in the world. And when I go with the light of Jesus, I have nothing to fear. I don’t have to fear the darkness.”