The boy sat with his mother in church and listened to the sermon entitled, “What is a Christian?” Every time the minister came to the end of a point he’d bang the pulpit and say, “What is a Christian?”
Finally, after several points the little boy turned to his mother and whispered, “Mama, do you know?” His mother turned to him and said, “Yes, dear. Now sit still and listen.”
The little boy turned back in obedience and began to listen. Finally, the minister came to his final point. He banged the pulpit especially hard and shouted, “I ask you, what is a Christian?” All this was too much for the little guy, so he jumped to his feet and cried out, “Tell him, Mama, tell him!”
Years ago at Christmas I received a couple of golf books including Tom Kite’s book entitled, Lessons I Learned on Life and Golf from Harvey Penick.
Now Harvey Penick was one of the greatest golf instructors of all time. He taught thousands to play the game, including Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. For over 60 years people would flock to Austin, Texas from around the world to have Penick teach them.
He was a remarkable man. He used to keep a little red notebook in his back pocket in which he’d jot down principles he’d discovered in teaching the game of golf. Over the years, he filled several red notebooks, and for years people begged to see them. Kite asked. Crenshaw asked. People around the world asked, and each time Harvey said flatly, “No”. Several years ago, under pressure from his son and current golf instructor, Tinsley, Harvey relented; and the Little Red Book was born. As soon as it hit the shelves it became a runaway bestseller. It’s a must read for every golf professional. It’s a must read for every golfer. And when you read it, you discover that of all the principles Harvey isolates, one stands out.
It's in Kite’s book. It’s in Crenshaw’s book. It’s in every review of Harvey Penick’s teaching. It’s the line Ben Crenshaw says was going over and over in his mind on the back nine at Augusta in 1995 when he won the Master’s five days after Harvey’s death.
Harvey says, “I can’t say it too many times. It’s the most important advice in this book. ‘Take Dead Aim.’ Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in your life at that moment. Shut out all thoughts other than picking out a target and taking dead aim at it.”
That’s what John does.
Of all the four Gospels, John’s Gospel is first and foremost evangelistic. His targets are men and women. His aim is that they might know the Son of God and that He might transform their lives.
According to John, knowing Jesus Christ should radically change your life. In fact, he’s so confident of this change that he begins his Gospel with the words, “In the beginning…” For John, the transformation Christ makes in a life is as radical as a new creation.
Now some suggest that this text, these first 18 verses, were written after the completion of chapter 21. In other words, sitting down and writing about all he’s seen and heard, he composes the prologue: “In the beginning was the Word…” And when you read it you get the sense that John can hardly contain himself. He packs into these 18 verses so much truth that you wonder how he does it. Teresa of Avila once said, “I only wish I could write with both hands, so as not to forget one thing while I’m trying to say another.” That’s how John must have felt.
In these 18 verses John summarizes the whole of the Gospel. Now, we usually read this text at Christmas time, and we think about the Babe in the manger. God became a man in the womb of a woman! The Creator of all flesh becomes enmeshed in flesh. The non-carnate becomes incarnate. But for John there’s much more to this text than that.
Here in these 18 verses John sets forth four dramatic implications of the incarnation. “God became a man. Great, so what?” John answers that question. That’s our message this third Sunday of Advent.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Taking Dead Aim” you may wish to consider the following:
1. What evidence is there in John’s gospel that he may have written 1:1-18 last?
2. What is John saying about the identity of Jesus in verses 1-3?
3. Why is the insertion of John the Baptist in verses 6-8 so significant to John’s message?
4. What biblical doctrine is being described by John in verse 12?
5. What does this say about the widely-held view that everyone is a child of God?
6. What biblical doctrine is being described in verse 13?
7. What is John saying here about man’s free will?
8. Why is this such a hard truth for people, even Christians, to believe?
9. What biblical doctrine is John describing in verse 18?
10. How do verses 16-18 agree with what Paul says in Ephesians 1 & 2?
See you Sunday!