Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Perfect knowledge, perfect joy, perfect peace

Scripture readings

  • Ezekiel 36:24-29
  • John 16:12-33

Introduction

Herman Lange, a German Christian was to be executed by the Nazis during WWII. In his cell on the night, before he was to be killed, Lange wrote a note about two feelings which occupied his mind: “I am, first, in a joyous mood, and second filled with great anticipation.” Then he made this beautiful affirmation: “In Christ, I have put my faith, and precisely today I have faith in Him more firmly than ever.” Finally, he urged his parents to read the New Testament for comfort: “Look where you will, everywhere you will find jubilation over the grace that makes us children of God. What can befall a child of God? Of what should I be afraid? On the contrary, rejoice!

A non-Christian said,  Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” “God has no religion”. But his deathbed he uttered his last words, “My days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness…” His name was Mahatma Gandhi. 

Jesus was approaching his last moment before they apprehended Him, and handed Him over to be crucified.  On his mind was his ministry from his Father to reveal Him to those would continue the work of global evangelism after He returned to his Father. He prayed, 

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4, NKJV)

When He announced his departure to his disciples, they were filled with grief.  On the one hand, they were called to be fishers of men, but their rabbi was leaving them. On the other hand, since they began to follow Christ, they learned to love Him and be close to Him.  His words were the words of life. But now his announced his departure. They would miss Him. 

How would they survive without Him?  Where would they get the same level teaching from when they needed answers and guidance?  And then Christ said this:  

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7, NKJV)

Perfect knowledge

Christ did not expect of his church to tackle the wise and the philosophies of this world on their own.  He promised to give them a Helper.  

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8, NKJV)

The work of the church would have vaporised towards the end of the first century were it not for the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  He is the One convicts the world of sin, those who do not believe in Christ.  He is the One who convicts sinners of righteousness, because of Christ’s complete redemption, because there is no righteousness in man, and no other can or will be able to do what Christ has done; He is now at the right hand of his Father.  The Holy Spirit is the One who makes clear to unbelievers that the prince of this world is condemned and of powerless against the judgement of the Father; no one who comes to the Father by any other means will ever be saved (John 16:8-11).

Paul writes about the work of the Spirit:  

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NKJV)

With these words, Jesus Christ comforted his disciples.  And it should be our comfort too.  We must speak the words of Christ, we must declare his grace to this world, however, we in some sense will only be onlookers as the Spirit does the conviction, the preaching of the righteousness of Christ, and as He convicts people of their sin.   

Is it no so that the Holy Spirit will teach us all sorts of ecstatic gifts so we can prophesy, speak in tongues and do miracles?  We need to understand these things in its context as Paul wrote it to the Corinthian church.  We cannot now dwell on all the issues, but here are a few principles:  

  • The Spirit gives gifts as He determines, not as individual members desire it. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
  • The gifts of the Spirit are always for the common good of the whole body of believers; if they serve no purpose for the upbuilding of the church, they are not needed. (1Corinthians 12:7)
  • There are gifts which are more important than others.  Paul prioritises the gifts beginning with the apostles, then the prophets (or preachers), then others, and then at the bottom of the list the speaking of different tongues (1Corinthians 12:28)
  • Not all believers will or can speak in tongues, or do miraculous deeds, or heal others (1Corinthians 12:29)
  • But all believers must love one another as Christ loved them (1Corinthians 13) and all believers must tell of the wondrous deeds of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-21)

It is for this last universal task of evangelism we all must be involved in we need the Holy Spirit.  Why? 

“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12–14, NKJV)

The Spirit inspired Paul to write:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12, ESV)

The Holy Spirit has no new agenda other than that of the Father and Son.  His work is to continue the work of Christ.  He is the One who teaches the church of Christ the will of the Father and all about Christ.  

The ultimate work of the Holy Spirit was the inspiration of the Scriptures.  Of these we read:  

…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15–17, NKJV)

This is the point.  Everything we need to know about salvation, everything we need to preach, everything we need for comfort, everything we need to defend ourselves with against the attacks of all the wise and learned of the world, is written in the Bible.  Who reads and studies the Bible as the World of God has perfect knowledge.  The remarkable aspect of it all is that while we present this Gospel to the world and to every lost sinner, the Holy Spirit does the rest.  We are like the sower in the parable of Jesus who sows wherever he can, but then rest and sleep, leaving it all in God’s hands.

Perfect joy

We touched in this last week.  Let’s just recap.  Christ taught his followers a crucial lesson:  his death and resurrection, together with the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word, give incomparable joy. 

Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22, NKJV)

David knew something about this:  

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm 16:5–6, NKJV)

In another Psalm:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26, NKJV)

What is the source of our joy?  

  • First of all—Christ completed which the work the Father gave Him:  He taught his disciples, He revealed the Father to them, He took their sins on them and paid the penalty of sin, He rose again to overcome death, and He ascended into heaven to intercede and prepare a home for those whom He was sent to rescue.
  • Second, His work of teaching is complete.  John 16:23 is an interesting one: 

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23, NKJV)

The first “ask” is to inquire or to want to know more.  The second ask is the same as prayer.  Our joy is connected to the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us to teach us and in that sense, we do not need to inquire outside of what He teaches in the Bible.  It is only by diligent study that we will get all the answers we need to equip us for service.

The second “ask” is prayer.  What we need to be successful as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lies in diligent and faithful prayer.  In the Name of Christ who is our complete salvation and all-sufficient Saviour, we approach God to ask Him to give according to our needs.

The joy of the church of Jesus Christ is anchored in these things.  What more do we need?  Are we robbed of our joy if we don’t get the Lear Jet we are praying for?  If this is your expectation, then surely you will be disappointed.  But if it is Jesus Christ and the fullness of his grace you desire, you will never be disappointed.  Your cup will overflow with joy.

Perfect peace

Just one last thought.  Our chapter also speaks of peace.  Our Lord  said to the small band of disciples moments before He was arrested: 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)

What peace is perfect peace?  I have overcome the world.  The Greek tense is the perfect tense which describes an action brought to its conclusion in such a way that its results stand firm. In other words, when Jesus says He has overcome the world, it is complete, and nothing can change that fact.  

In Revelation, we read,

“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome [is victorious] to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NKJV)

Does it give you peace to hear the words of Christ:  

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4, NKJV)

Does it give you peace to hear Christ’s promise:  

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12, NKJV)

Conclusion

So, my friends, because you can trust the Holy Spirit to guide you, because you can ask God in the Name of Jesus Christ, and because Christ has overcome the world, then it should be true of all of us:

And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! wrath, because he [Satan] knows that he has a short time. (Revelation 12:11–12, NKJV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 3 February 2019

 

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Christ makes us his friends, and the world hates us for it

Bible Readings

  • Psalm 9:7-20
  • John 15:9-16:4

Introduction

My dear friends in the Lord, Jesus Christ,

My mother was one of the fairest people I knew.  Like a hen, she would protect her chicks.  Don’t get into Mom’s bad books by spreading stories about her children. As kids, we knew she would always defend us, and it gave us a sense of security.  But in her fairness, Mom demanded that we always act like kids who bore the Schwartz name. We had to show respect and obedience. But, even on the odd occasion where we were apparently in the wrong, we were never left on our own.  Mom would be between us and those we were accountable to, stating her case for fairness, but asking for lenient discipline.  

Chapters 13-16 of the Gospel of John recorded the last and private teaching of our Lord when He addressed his disciples.  They were about to be scattered (16:31), they had a mission:

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)

What would the need to remember and take along in their mission to fishers of men?  When times get tough, what did Jesus give them to hang on to?

I have loved you

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9, NIV)

This an extraordinary statement. When our grandson wanted to express how much he loved his mother, he said, “l love you more than all the Holden Commodores in the world.” But really, we do not love comparatively.  When Jesus expressed his love towards his disciples, He used an unmatched comparison.  He loves us with the same love as the eternal Father loved his eternal Son.  This is mind-boggling. How do we know what Jesus says is true?  Just go a bit further in the chapter.  

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12–13, NIV)

In chapter 10  Jesus Christ declared his love:  

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

But the reason why both the Father and the Son love the world is not that the world is so lovely and lovingly. As we saw last week, when Jesus came into the world to dwell amongst us, this place was dark.  God’s own did not receive him.  Why not?  They were spiritually blind, and by nature they hated God.  And yet, He loved them as the Father loved them.  We know the verse:  

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

So, when his disciples would face persecution and hardship in their fruit-bearing mission, when they were stuck in jails, when they lost kindred and possessions, they could hold on to what Jesus impressed on their minds the last night they spent together, “As the Father loved Me, so I have loved you.   

What carries the church through persecution and hardship?  When all of this world is lost, when health has departed, when loved ones have lost their memory, when we bury those we hold dear above all else, when we lose our names and reputations for the glory of Christ, what is left?  What keeps us going?  I have loved you!  Paul writes:  

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)

Remain in my love

Our Lord gave his disciples this command:  Remain in my love.  It can be tempting to despair and walk away from Christ’s love when the going gets tuff.  He may seem distant, and we don’t see his love in our trials.  Jesus knew all of this, and that’s precisely why He added the command, “Remain in my love”.  

How does one remain in his love? You take Him on his word. 

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10, NIV)

Christ had all reason to walk away from the love of his Father. People scorned Him, they hated Him, the devil tempted Him in the desert, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  Yet, He says: “just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10, NIV)

You will have complete joy

When we put the love and the word of Christ first in our lives, when we understand the love God has for us in his Son, when we understand that Christ endured all the scorn and hatred to save us, then, even in the face of hardship, we will have joy.  The world can not add to this joy, and worldly joy cannot compete with this inward and unspeakable joy, because the joy we have in Christ is all we need.  

… fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3, NIV)

Jesus prepared his disciples, 

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22, NIV)

This verse most probably was the context of the short time between the death and resurrection of Christ. But ultimately it points to time between the ascension of our Lord into heaven, and his return when He comes to takes his won with Him to be in the presence of the Father.  Even though we do not have Christ in Person with us, our joy in Him nothing can take away.  Many martyrs of the faith sang hymns of joy when they burned on the stake.  Steven, while they stone him to death “… full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:55–56, NIV)

Love one another

One way to love Christ is to take Him on his word and completely trust Him.  But there’s another aspect we should not forget, we must love one another as part of the same family as Christ loves us.  Christian love is comparative love.  What’s the comparison?  As I love you.  This is a big ask.  You look at your fellow Christian and what do you see?  Someone whom Christ loves, someone who has become part of the family of Christ on the same basis as you have: drawn by undeserved love.  

Do we love your brother and sister?   How much and to what degree?  As Christ loves us? As Christ gave up everything for us, so we need to set our brothers and sisters in Him on the same level.  As Mom would say, “You touch my children, and you touch me.  You touch my fellow brother or sister in the Lord, and you touch me.  We are of the same family.  This is a different love the world wants to sell us.  It is not the warm fuzzy feeling I get when someone does something nice to me. What drives my love for my fellow Christian is the love which Christ had for me when He laid down his life to save me.  When my brother weeps, I weep; when my sister is hurting because of the name of Christ, I am hurting.  Together we carried the yoke of Christ.  

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NIV)

Friends of Christ have the world as their enemy

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15, NIV)

What happened when we started to follow Christ?  We became part of God’s family.  In Him, we are brothers and sisters.  In Christ we were taken out of the world, we received a new citizenship, we received a new mind and heart, we are born from above, and we received new marching orders.  

The world has no attraction for us anymore.  If we love Christ the way He loves us, our lives are driven for his glory.  When Jesus interceded for his disciples at his Father’s throne, He prayed:  

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:15–16, NIV)

How is it that we could become friends of Christ?  

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15–16, NIV)

You see the order here?  You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” For what reason?  “You so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”  How is it possible to bear fruit in this world?  Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” What is our authority?  I have called you friends”.  Friends, not in the sense of being buddies of Christ, but friends because we are not enemy anymore.  So now, we go out in the word with a few things written on our minds:

  • Jesus loves us as the Father loves us.  
  • Jesus laid down his life for us.
  • No-one can rob us of our joy, because nothing in the world can add to our joy.
  • We have fellow soldiers, saved by grace, family in Christ, and our love towards one another is as strong as Christ’s love for us.
  • We have the words of Christ to reach a lost world
  • We did not choose ourselves—we were appointed by Christ
  • The fruit we bear will have eternal consequences, not because of us, but because of Him who sent us
  • We are no strangers to Christ anymore, by grace He has wiped out the enmity between us and God.

So we have the world at our feet!  They are just waiting for us to speak the word. Not so!  

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)

Here’s an excellent test to see if we really love Christ.  Does the world love us?  Do they like the things we say and do?  When John the Baptist preached the word of God, he ended up in jail, and later he was beheaded.  Steven died a martyr.  So did about all the apostles and many others who followed Christ.  James writes, 

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

There is an eternal choice?  Would you follow Christ and inherit eternity because He calls you his friend, or would you rather be in step with the world and forfeit your soul?  

Amen.  

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 27 January 2019

 

Why does Christ need to reveal Himself, and how does it happen?

Scripture Readings

  • 1 John 4:7-16
  • John 14:15-31

Introduction

Dear friends in the Lord,

One of the pleasures in our advanced digital society is to talk to robots when you ring enquiries of some more significant enterprises. It sometimes takes many minutes, and many entries into the keypad to get to the right department— if you are fortunate. But it’s only about then when the testing of your civility is really put to the test. Here’s the problem: many companies outsource their support departments to outfits overseas. The issue quickly explodes when the person who is supposed to help you speaks in an accent you really can’t understand. It takes multiple times of asking, and numerous times of explaining before you finally realise life is better living with the problem, rather than trying to fix it.

It is undoubtedly exceedingly difficult to explain something if you don’t really know the technical terms to describe your problem, and the situation is compounded if the person you asked don’t understand your question, and you, then, in exchange have no idea what he meant.
Let’s keep this in mind as we approach the sermon today. The question is, “Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Darkness, unbelief, no knowledge

John begins his Gospel and sketches the picture for us. God created the world in the beginning. Christ was the agent through which God created the universe. He is called the Word.

Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:3–4, NIV)

Between creation and the Gospel of John, something terrible happened: The world was plunged in spiritual darkness. Although the world was made through Christ, the people of the world did not know it. Although it belonged to Him, they, in unbelief, did not receive Him.
There were darkness, unbelief and no knowledge. Sin caused mankind to be spiritually blind. They did not speak the language of God, and they could not understand God. What they understood well, was darkness and the voice of the prince of darkness.

For them, and us, to hear God, to understand Him, see Him and receive Him, was not possible. We did not speak the same language, we did not have any communication. There is no option for us—we didn’t need to do anything to become sinners and be separated from God, we were born sinners. We had no choice between light and darkness, we were born into darkness. We are not born into a state of somewhere between darkness and light, so that by our choosing we slide one way or the other. We are born on the wrong side. Isaiah describes it in these terms:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2, 9–10, NIV)

How do we get out of this mess?

There is good news:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

The author of Hebrews puts it this way:

In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1–2, NIV)

Jesus Christ is the One who communicates between the Father and us. He is God’s Word.

To become children of God, we need a few things to happen: we need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith.

Revelation

Judas, not Iscariot, asked Jesus while they were still in the Upper Room with Christ in the night before Christ was arrested to be crucified the next morning,

“But, Lord, why do You intend to show Yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22, NIV)

This question follows the disclosure of Christ in the previous verse where He said:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21, NIV)

The expression “has my commands” is synonymous with “receive”, and it takes us back to the statement in the beginning: those in darkness did not receive Him. Light did not receive Him. Jesus said:

The world cannot accept Him (the Holy Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17, NIV)

So, what happens between living in darkness and receiving light? Quite a lot. The eyes of our heart open when the Holy Spirit gives us a new life. The Bible calls it “the birth from above”, to be born again. Then alone can we see and understand. John the Baptist said,

“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27, NIV)

What was the mission of Christ? The woman at the well  answers, 

“I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, He will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25, NIV)

Indeed!  He makes Himself known.  He declares Himself.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24, NIV)

When our Lord answered Judas when he asked why He is going to reveal Himself to them and not to the world, He actually wanted them to know that without his revelation no sinner would not understand. Christ is the Word of God. Christ came into the world and became one of us. He speaks our language, and He understands our need.

But He has to stir our hearts out of death to understand who He really us, and to understand our need for salvation.  When He does it, He plants faith, life, light and the ability to receive the grace of God.

What is very critical to understand is that not all people receive the grace of God. Jesus said: “The world hates Me”. (John 7:7) Further into the same chapter we read that some  received Christ, and others were divided about Him. The leaders even insisted that He is devil-possessed. They wanted to kill Him. Why? Christ made it clear to them: they are born of darkness, born into darkness, and they served the prince of darkness.

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43 47, NIV)

Does it take you back to the telephone conversation where it seems no one understands no one?

Some people can hear the Gospel of Christ a thousand times preached in simple language and still walk away untouched. See, not all people are going to heaven. Some inevitably will end up in hell. Jesus said:

“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39, NIV)

Another verse:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18–19, NIV)

So, my friend, you might sit next to Judas asking why and how is Christ is revealing Himself to you today? The answer to the “why” is this:

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23)

By this, you will know if you belong to Him. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV) That’s the test. Are you a child of God? You will know if you love Him. And you will love Him because He loved you first. Here’s the test:

Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24, NIV)

There is a simple, but glorious, answer to the “how”:

My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23, NIV)

Think about it: the Creator of the universe pours his love out on sinners, on me, on you. Both He and the Son make their home in us. Your life should be the throne of the eternal, loving, saving God who made a claim on your life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How does He live in us? By his Holy Spirit.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13, NIV)

The ministry of the Spirit is to teach us to understand who Christ is, and more about the love of the Father.

What is the result? We have peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

Is there more? Sure! Joy.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)

But there’s more! Jesus declared:

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me… (John 14:30, NIV)

That’s why our Lord can give us this assurance:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29, NIV)

We need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith. Where does it come from? It comes through the words of Jesus Christ:

These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. (John 14:24–25, NIV)

Conclusion

Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?

The Word answers:

  • We are all born in darkness and need light. We are all in need of faith to see and receive Christ.
  • Not all who hear the word will believe, but those whom the Father has given to his Son will listen to his voice and follow Him.
  • Christ makes Himself known to us to enable us to receive Him as Lord and Saviour.

How does He do it?

  • He lays down his life for the sheep.
  • He gives us his Word
  • He gives us his Holy Spirit.

Can you be sure that you are a child of God? Yes, listen to his voice, receive Him because

…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12, NIV)

Do you want to go home today with peace and joy in your heart? Take this assurance with you:  If Christ is your Saviour, no-one can snatch you out of his hand. Above all, if you know Christ as the truth, the truth will set you free, and if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 20 January 2019

 

Christ prays for the well-being of his church

Scripture Readings

  • 1John 2:18-27;
  • John 17:20-26

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Something has crept into church life in the last decade or two.  They call it church shopping.  Driven by our consumeristic world, a church, or more so a congregation—even irrespective of the particular of its doctrinal position—has to have certain characteristics and should have some activities to the liking of those who church shop.  Only when he/she finds a church that will meet the shopper’s demand, will he/she join.  This leaves the door open of course to leave whenever those expectations are not met.

Seldomly does such a church shopper measure his or her standards for what a church should be like against the desire of Christ for his church.

Today we will learn from the Scriptures what Christ was praying for his church.  Our Lord was about to give his life when He prayed this prayer.  His death was only hours away.  Last requests are usually important requests.

The Church to grow by proclaiming the Word

In John 17:20 we hear our Lord pray:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message… (John 17:20, NIV)

In the first part of the prayer Christ prayed for his disciples, but now He goes further:  Jesus prayed for the church to grow through the preaching of the Word.  Before He left them to return to his Father He gave them the Great Commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19, NIV)

His eye was on the ends of the earth:  from every nation, tribe tongue and people God’s own has to be gathered in.  Sometimes we don’t understand that this commission also includes our city; on average we support missionaries in far-off countries.

But what we more often than not lose focus of, especially in modern day congregations where the main items on the agenda have become music, entertainment and consumer satisfaction, is the medium, the tool by which we must conquer the world.  What is it?  The message (or as it sates in the Greek text of 17:20—the word!

We hear of “spirit-filled” worship, thundering music which sounds like rock concerts, of happenings, of emotion, and even of healings and miracles, but any worship service without the proclamation of the Word of God is no worship service.

Word proclamation was right on top of Christ’s prayer list for his Church to grow.  Gospel proclamation is to have the people of God hear Him speak through his Holy Spirit; its about the message of Christ who came to take away the sins of the world; its equipping the saints for their work of service; through the Gospel God’s Spirit work to bring about regeneration, the new birth, the opening of blind eyes, the opening of deaf ears and to unlock a stubborn mind to understand the mercies and greatness of God.

The church in Corinth had all sorts of things happening in their worship services; people spoke in tongues, others performed miracles, others drove our demons, but somewhere along the way they missed out badly.  Listen to what Paul writes to them:

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying [this is: proclaiming the Word], they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:23–25, NIV)

What is your expectation of a church?  Children’s programs, a certain music style, a more relaxed style of worship?  Has the pure proclamation of the Word ever been on the top of your list?  Is walking away from a worship service with a heart thumping like the music you heard more important than the knocking voice of Christ on the door of your heart.  What will take you through low times other than the Word of God?  What is your answer to a seeking sinner if you are not trained in the truths of the Gospel.  Can you handle the sword—the Bible—of the Spirit?

We need to be attuned to the prayer of Christ and be a church who grows by the preaching of the Word.

The Church to be in unity under Christ

The second petition of Christ for his church was unity.  We have to understand that the unity of Lord is praying for here is not oneness or uniformity.  What our Lord is asking for is that his church would be one with Him in the same way He and the Father are one.  This has not to do with structural unity, but does excludes such unity.

The world will be in no better position to believe that Christ was the One sent by the Father if there was only one denomination over all the earth.  Structural unity might play a part, but the most important aspect about unity is that the church who lives under the authority of Christ would speaks the words of her Master, and thinks the thoughts of Him who her Head.

Right through the ministry of Christ we hear Him say things like:

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19, NIV)

And:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30, NIV)

Or:

My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. (John 7:16, NIV)

Or:

I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. (John 8:50, NIV)

The unity between the Father and Christ was to think and act in unity; they are one in purpose, one in mind and one in deed.

When the mind of the church is set on the mind of our Lord and his Father, so that our words, our purpose, our goals and our actions reflect what God has ordained for his church, the world will take notice.  This, of course, means that the church will be immersed in the Word of God.  Like the prophets of old our only message will be, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

Who will believe our message if what we proclaim varies like a leaf in the wind of every new idea.  It is now that we need to firmly need to stand by the Word to help those who seeking meaning in the tempest of modern day sexual revolution.  Listen, the Word of God, says the prophet, is “like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV).  The writer of Hebrews says,

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Charles Spurgeon once said:

“If you wish to know God you must know his word; if you wish to perceive his power you must see how He works by his word; if you wish to know his purpose before it is actually brought to pass you can only discover it by his word.”  

Oh, that the Church of Christ might start thinking Gods thoughts after Him.  Let’s cast out man-made ideas and wishy-washy doctrine which is the truth, because it is the truth which sets us free. Our message is never ours; its about Christ,, the One whom the Father sent to save sinners whom He calls through his Word.

The Church to shine forth the love of God for Christ

From unity of mind, spirit, action and purpose with the Father and the Son flows the necessity for the church to shine forth the love of the Father for the Son and for those He Himself loves.

Love without doctrine is mere emotion and will not stand the storms of life.  Doctrine without love is nothing more than lifeless morality.  But love and doctrine, how pure the intentions with if may be, without Christ is nothing but an ideology without a base.  When Christ is in the centre, When He is the well-spring of doctrine and preaching, love necessarily follows.

Our time is obsessed with love with no substance.  It never satisfies; its forever nothing more than shifting shadows.

But when someone finds Christ and meets the love of the Father everything changes.  He can and will read more about it in the Scriptures, indeed he will consume God’s testament washed in the blood of Christ.

The challenge of the Christ is to shine forth this love—and it starts with a personal relationship with the Saviour.  Nothing is more off-putting than someone telling you to do something he knows nothing about.

What does our congregation look like in the shining forth the love of the Father which He had for his Son?  It’s not about me, or about you, Mr Church-shopper.  It’s not about what you can get and how you can be a consumer of Bible goods; its about how you should shine forth the love of Father displayed in the Father.  We are mere mirrors and soundboards—not the images and the sound.

The Church to live towards a sure destination

Our Lord prayed to ask his Father something we really can’t fathom:

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24, NIV)

Man! Do we really get this? Is it your one and only desire to enter into the glory of your Saviour?  Our Lord could ask boldly because He opened the gates of paradise when He was nailed to the cross, and He secured eternity for his own when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Now, those who live in Him will be taken into the realms of glory of Christ which were his before He left it to ransom his church with his blood.

He prays,”I want them to be with Me where I am.” That’s a sure destination.  It’s not based on our good works or out utmost performance; it’s sure because Christ went ahead of us.

Christ prayed this petition for his church so she would never lose sight of her eternal destination.  Through toils, snares and tribulation Christ’s own must look forward and say:  We have an eternal home!  My Lord is praying for me till I reach the everlasting shores, and then He will take my hand and welcome me into his glory!

Conclusion

Let’s close knowing that Christ prayer for his church to grow through the preaching of the Word, He prays for his church to think his thoughts after Him and are of the same mind, He prays that his church will live out and shine forth the love of the Father for his Son, He prays for his church to come home to Him in glory.  Is his prayer your prayer too?  Let’s make his prayer the prayer of our congregation.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 23 April 2017

The Intercession of Christ (2)

Scripture Readings

  • Exodus 28:6-21
  • John 17:11-19

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we might make the mistake to disregard everything the Old Testament in connection with sacrifices and offerings.  It is true that we living on this side of the cross of Christ do not need an earthly high priest, neither an altar, nor sacrificial animals.  Moreover, we don’t need a temple which is divided in different sections where only certain privileged people may enter, and others are excluded from those sections.

Jesus Christ was the end of the sacrificial system.  In Him we have access to the Father, but then only if we by faith rest solely on his complete righteousness.  We understand from last week that their is no other Saviour, no other other link between the Holy God and sinners.  The Holy Spirit is the promised Comforter who takes us by the hand to this only Saviour. No other person or persons can make the claim Jesus made:  what belongs to the Father belongs to Him—and whom the Father gave to Him, He saved.

The shadow of the old covenant

But having said this, we cannot disregard certain aspects of the Old Testament priesthood which acted like a shadow of the real High Priesthood.  For as long as the tabernacle of the old covenant was in place, so says the writer of Hebrews, they served as

“… an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:9–10, NIV)

This writer continues:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. (Hebrews 9:11, NIV)

Our reading from Exodus this morning took us to beginning of the office of High Priest.  Aaron was that person, assisted by his sons.

There are three particular themes in the symbolism of the garments of the high priest.

  1. The first is beauty. The Bible describes the quality and design of all the items of clothing, together with the use of colour and precious stones. But beauty is dominant in the breastplate; the Hebrew word translated approximately as “breastplate” has as its basic sense “beauty” or “excellence.” The clothing symbolises beauty, while beauty describes the office.  The high priest, Aaron, fully robed, was a splendid figure, and the splendour of his garments indicated the magnificence of the office with which he had been entrusted.
  2. The second theme is the role of the priest as representative of Israel before God. The names of the tribes of Israel were engraved on the two onyx stones in the ephod, and in the 12 precious stones attached to the breastplate. The high priest entered God’s presence to seek deliverance from God’s judgment for his people and in order to keep the people constantly in God’s remembrance.  Verse 12 states:

Aaron will bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial. (Exodus 28:12) 

On the breast piece there four rows of precious stones with the name of one of the twelve tribes engraved on each one.

Aaron will bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breast piece of decision over his heart when he goes into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. (Exodus 28:29)

  1. The third theme is the role of high priest as the representative of God to Israel. The Urim and Thummim, (objects kept in the breast piece of the High Priest and used to discern the will of God) were kept in the breast piece, by means of which God made known his will to Israel.

The eternal High Priest

When Christ came to be our High Priest He first of all came not in splendour, but as a ordinary human being.  But Hebrews says about Him:

For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)

He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).  He made his dwelling with us and we have seen his glory, the glory as from the Father (John 1:15).  In his prayer (John 17) Jesus prayed to the Father:

And now, Father, glorify Me at your side with the glory I had with You before the world was created. (John 17:5)

Only He could declare:

Everything I have belongs to you, and everything you have belongs to me, and I have been glorified by them. (John 17:10)

Like the high priest He revealed the will of God to his people.  On his heart were the names of those who belonged to the Father. After Christ completed his work, the office of high priest disappeared, because

“I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6, NET)

But like the high priest He intercedes for those who belong to the Father, having their names engraved on his chest.

My dear friend, before the splendour of our High Priest, who is our Lord, our Saviour, our Mediator and our God, we need to stand in awe and worship. He is the only One who knows the Father as an equal. He is the only One who has made the Father known to us; without him we lived in darkness, but in Him we were translated into light; once we were blind, but now we see.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

But He is also the only One who may stand in the presence of the Father with our names in his heart.  He says,

When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost … so that the Scripture could be fulfilled. (John 17:12, NET)

If you believe and trust Him will all your heart, soul, mind and all your might, if his sacrifice as the Eternal High Priest is you only hope to one day stand before the throne of the Father, know this: your name is on his heart.

The intercession of our eternal High Priest

To complete his mission He had to go back to the Father where He came from.  Yes, He would send them the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them, but He interceded for those who belong to both Him and the Father even before He left them. He was facing the most terrible anguish and loneliness, but He did not pray for Himself.  One commentator puts it like this,

“I come to Thy presence where there is fullness of joy, and to Thy right hand where there are pleasures for evermore. I come—to where the river of the water of life flows from the throne of God; but these, these are in the wilderness. I come—where no enemy can follow me, where no temptation can assail me, where no weariness can distress me; but these, these are in the world. I come—to reap the trophies of my great victory. I come’—to grasp the scepter, to wear the crown, and to ascend the throne. I have been weary here, but I shall soon be weary no longer; the way has been rough and thorny, but it is all over, my haven is almost reached; yet these, these are in the world!”

What does He ask?

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name.”  (17:11)

We who are followers of Christ don’t have a home in this world.  Our Lord says, “… they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (17:14, 16)  This is profound statement. Jesus Christ makes a comparison:  He is not of this world, so are his disciples not from this world.  How is this possible.  We have to go back to chapter 1:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13, NKJV)

Nicodemus also had to hear from our Lord that natural birth does not make anyone a child of God.  The Pharisees thought they were children of God because they were descendants of Abraham (8:33), but Christ made it clear:

He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47, NKJV)

Being born from above those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour got now citizenship:  it now rests with Christ at the throne of God.  At the moment we are like sojourners, like foreigners on a 465 visa:  we can can one be here if we have a job and a sponsor.  And we have both.  Jesus said,

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:18, NKJV)

Do you still remember that you have a job to do?  You have to represent your Lord as ambassador; you have to tell of his glory, his salvation, his love. And you have to love as Christ loved; you also have to pray as He taught you, pray that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers to bring in the sheaves to the storehouse.

Why does He ask?

Our job is not an easy job.  Although we have good news, and although the news and the grace are free, this world hates us.  Why?  Their master, the devil, hates Christ, and so he hates us too.  The world does not hate us for being loving, caring for the sick and the needy, providing shelter to the helpless, or care for the elderly—they actually constantly remind us of our duty to be loving.  But when we love to the point that we want them to bow before the Saviour and give Him all they have, and receive salvation as we have receive by grace, they spit on us.

Whoever thought to be a Christian is glamorous need to rethink his or her claim that his indeed a Christian.  Being a Christian is being on Christ side, and to be on Christ side is to face a hostile world.  The brother of our Lord, James understood this all too well.  He writes:

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)

He who wants the good of what Christ offers, while still clinging to the things of this world, is like an adulterer who tries to split his devotion between more than one person.  It’s either Christ, or the world—not both.

But if you follow Christ with an undivided heart, know this:  our Lord is mentioning your name to his Father:  “Protect them from the evil one.” (17:15)

Conclusion

I’ll end the sermon here.  I had in mind to still touch on Christ’s prayer for our joy and sanctification.  But let’s just conclude to say this: if you know Christ as your High Priest, you’ve got it all—you’ve got reason for joy because He has sanctified you when He walked through that temple curtain which separated God from sinners, and now He is appearing before the Father on your behalf.

The price is paid; hallelujah! Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 April 2017

The Intercession of Christ (1)

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 20
  • John 17:6-13

Introduction

My dear brother and sister in the Lord, Jesus Christ,

Early in January this year, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland, invited Muslims to its recent celebration of Epiphany, which marks the revelation of Christ’s deity through the wise men’s visit to the infant Jesus.  Madinah Javed stood at the lectern and read in Arabic from the chapter of Maryam, or Mary, which tells the story of the birth of Christ.

But Javed reportedly went beyond the allocated passage translated in the service sheet and read a verse from the chapter saying Jesus isn’t God’s son.  That verse reads: “It is not befitting to Allah that He should take to Himself anyone as son, Holy is He. When He decrees anything, thus then He says to it, ‘Be’ it becomes at once.

Apparently similar interfaith readings had “happened a number of times in the past in this and in other churches, and have led to deepening friendships locally, to greater awareness of the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ.”. This is a quote from bishop Chillingworth.

Can their be such a thing as interfaith worship? What do Christians and Muslims hold in common?

The more and deeper we study the Gospel of John—which in no way contradict any other part of the Scriptures—the more we understand that the Person and work of Christ is the only bridge between sinful man and the Holy God.

Christ, who is God, who comes from God and from all eternity, where He enjoyed the same glory as the Father, together with the Holy Spirit.  He completed the mission of the Father to gather a church for Him; this He did by living a perfect life of righteousness in the sight of God—He also exchanged his righteousness for the unrighteousness and sin of unholy people to purchase them with is blood. This no other person did; no one ever will, because Christ is unique:  He is the only mediator between God and man.

Salvation through Christ is free, where all other religions preach salvation through efforts by the adherents, in some cases even through perpetual reincarnation, to climb the ladder to eventually reach God.  The message of the Bible is quite the opposite: it’s not us who must apply all efforts to reach up to God, but it’s about God who came down to us and did what we cannot do, how hard we might try.

Salvation – from beginning to end the work of God

Every word recorded in John 17 comes from the mouth of our Lord.  We studied the first 5 verses last week. We understand from those verses that Christ completed the mission of the Father to save those the Father gave Him. In another sense we also understand that, not only is the work of Christ completed, but it is complete—nothing is added to it.

Moving on to verse 6 and what follows this theme is continued.  Some commentators think that what Jesus prayed for in the first few verses—that the Father would glorify his Son with the same glory He have before He left heaven to come to complete his mission of saving sinners—is based on what He had done, as it is recorded in verse 6 and what follows.

What these verses spell out is Christ’s work to make his Father known to sinners.

He revealed the Father 

It might be a good idea for you to have your Bibles open to read and follow with me.  We are at verse 6. Jesus prays to the Father:

I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were yours; You gave them to Me (John 17:6, NIV)

Just those words first. Christ speaks in the past tense “They were yours; You gave them to Me.” This is a profound statement.  They were yours.  There are other Bible verses which will help us understand what our Lord is saying here.  Let’s go to Acts 13.  Paul and Barnabas were on their early missionary journey.  They arrived in Antioch, expounded the Word about Christ and how He was God’s Son.  Then in 13:48 we read these remarkable words:

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48, NIV)

We almost hear the same thing in Acts 18.  The Lord comes to Paul in Corinth and we read verse 9, “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid. Go on speaking; do not be silent, no matter what the threats were.” God would protect Paul, but he had to preach the good news.  Why?  “…because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:10, NIV)

There were people living in Corinth who knew nothing about God.  They were worshipping idols and lived in utter sin.  But they belonged to God.  They needed to hear the Gospel of Christ who would reveal the Father to them.

The same principle is in Ephesians.  Long before we knew anything about God, He had his eye on us through Jesus Christ.  Paul writes to the Ephesian Church

For He chose us in Him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He [God] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Ephesians 1:4–5, NIV)

In 2 Thessalonians 2, verse 13, Paul continues along the same lines:

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13–14, NIV)

It should not surprise us to hear the same principle even in the last book of the Bible:

and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. (Revelation 13:8, NET)

If we now go back to John 17:6 we can’t otherwise but to understand that what Jesus was saying that God gave some people to his Son to save them, even before they themselves knew anything about God, or about their need to be saved, the Saviour, and salvation itself.

But Christ revealed this plan of God to those his Father gave Him. This is a work which will continue until our our Lord returns.  To his disciples, his church, He gave his Word and his Spirit to empower them with the commission to go into all the world to proclaim this good news.  Jesus prays for his church:

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who [will] believe in Me through their testimony… (John 17:20, NET)

They still go in his name, under his authority, and still the success of the work does not depend on them, but on the Father who knows the names of those whom He knew and those from all eternity.

We know Romans 8:28 well, but lets not take it from its context.

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28–30, NET)

Jesus says in John 17:6 that He made the Father known to those who had no idea that He had his hand on them from eternity.

What was the effect of Christ’s ministry?  

Let’s take it step by step.

Verse 17:

Obeying or believing the Word of the Father

Not only did Christ proclaim to them the Word of the Father, He was the Word (John 1:1).  Those who believe  the word (not “words”—verse 6), know—a key word in John, because to “know” in John’s Gospel is to have moved out of the darkness sin into the light of eternity. When they hear the word of God they understood that Christ is from God.  They accepted the teachings (now “words”—verse 8) of Christ as coming from God the Father.  Moreover, they know and understand that the Person Christ is sent by the Father, and the He came from the Father—and therefore He is God.

See, there is no other Saviour.  There is no other link between heaven and earth. One believes in Him and live in a relationship with the Father; he who does not believe in Christ, has no relationship with the Father.  Such a person in still dead in sin, without hope and without salvation.  If you are are such a person, hear the word of God about Christ, and fall at his feet.  All that the Father gave Him will come to Him, and He will never cast out those who come to Him.

They worship Christ as Lord

Verse 10:  Jesus is in prayer with his Father.  He says:

Everything I have belongs to You, and everything You have belongs to Me, and I have been glorified by them. (John 17:10, NET)

So, what does this verse say?  Those whom the Father gave to Christ, believe in God, but they also believe in Christ.  According to the Bible to give glory, is to worship.  Indeed, they worship Christ as God.

Conclusion

So, we have to say to the Archbishop and to the Muslim girl:  we do not worship the same God; our faiths have nothing in common between them.

But let’s not stop there:  not allowing for anything common between Christianity and other religions does not give any man or woman who does not worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour any soapbox to stand upon to look down on any religion, because anything without Christ is futile.

And truely, let’s be honest, nor does any Christian have a soapbox to stand upon:  we have not sought Christ, we have not loved Him first; but He loved us first and came into to world to seek and to save the lost. He made the Father known to us. What we do know is that we are saved by grace and not by works, so that no one should boast.

Because of this we know the privilege to know God through Jesus Christ.  And we know that He is interceding for us:

I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. (John 17:11, NET)

We do understand that no-one can come to the Father but by Christ. That’s why we need to proclaim Him, even to those who still don’t know that they belong to Him:  they need to know Christ to know the Father.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 April 2017

Complete Salvation in Christ

Scripture Readings

  • Proverbs 8:22-36
  • John 17:1-5

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Over time words can loose its meaning. Some time ago the word “awesome” was reserved to describe the actions or person of God; these days a hamburger can be awesome! Some time ago the words “ever” and “forever” described something which no one at any point has seen or experienced and will not see again anytime soon; but according to modern day TV “ever” describes something which has not happened since last week. We hear phrases like, “It was the hottest day ever!” Or, “This program is the best you will ever see!”—yet, they are already working on the next series, which in all honesty then, must be worse.

When words like “ever” and “forever” are used without any real meaning, not only does the past loose it meaning, but the future does not offer much hope either.

Reading the Gospel about Jesus Christ we must make sure that we truely understand references to time: “Eternity” and “eternal life” are not words we should not read over as if they refer to something with a use-by date, or will only be of significance till the next new thing on the market presents itself.

Christ’s eternal mission accomplished in time (John 17:1,4)

Right in the beginning of the Gospel of John we read these words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1–2, NIV)

This beginning refers to eternity, and what happened when the eternal God created time and space. This is also the opening statement of the Bible:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NIV)

John 1:3 continues to explain how God created in the beginning:

Through Him [Christ] all things were made; without Him [Christ] nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3, NIV)

Then, just a bit further into the Gospel John writes:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

When John the Baptist introduced Him to the people—and keep in mind John said that the reason he was baptising was that Christ might be revealed to Israel—he said:

“This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ ”) (John 1:15, NIV)

Christ was from the beginning, from eternity, equal with God, God Himself, one in the Godhead together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But there was a space of time—about thirty three years—in which Jesus Christ lived on the face of the earth.

The reason why He came from eternity into time and space was to bring light into a dark world. John the Baptist puts it this way:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29, NIV)

The prayer of Christ recorded in John 17, the first five verses we read this morning, marks the beginning of the end of his earthly ministry. Only hours from this prayer they arrested Him, charged Him, nailed Him to a cross and He died to take away the sin of the world. He prays: “Father, the time has come.” In verse 4 He prays:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4, NIV)

By completing the mission of salvation his glory would be restored. It was the glory Paul writes about in Philippians 2:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6,9–11, NIV)

Christ came from eternity, He ministered in time to sinners who had no hope and no eternity apart from eternal condemnation, so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, that is, they will live for ever. Jesus declared at the grave of Lazarus:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, NIV)

Christ’s authority to grant eternal life (John 17: 2,5)

Keep in mind, Christ was God from all eternity. As the Son of God He came into this world. As Son of man He completed God’s mission of salvation. He has all authority in heaven and on earth, because He is God. While on earth the Father granted, or gave, Him authority over all people. Satan wanted to stand in his way by killing all boys under the age of two; he then tempted Christ in the desert, but in all attempts he failed. The Jews tried to kill Him their way, but they couldn’t; Judas tried to have Him killed his way, but He couldn’t. Who his hour came, Jesus willingly stepped in to do the will of the Father.  He once declared:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

Because of his eternal authority, and because He completed the eternal plan of salvation for which the Father gave Him to this world, He gave eternal life to those his Father gave Him.

My dear friends in the Lord, let’s get this right: we don’t let Christ into our hearts, because we feel the need of a Saviour. We have no authority—we are dead in our sins, and true to our sinful nature, we can’t seek our Christ and make Him our Saviour. It is He who seek and save the lost. He is not the powerless Saviour who eventually loses the battle for our hearts if we decide to let Him go. No, the Bible says He has authority to give eternal life to those the Father has given Him.

Yes, some indeed hear the invitation to receive Him as Saviour, but continue in their sins to eventually enter eternal hell. Why? Our Lord said of those who did not believe:

… but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:26, NIV)

But whom He wants as his own, hears the voice and to them it is life. He said:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NIV)

If you do not worship Christ as sovereign God, you will not fully trust Him; your faith will be troubled in difficult times, and when Satan causes you to doubt, you will probably fall back on your deceitful emotions. If you had any part in your salvation you have reason to doubt.

Further, if you rightly understand that the eternal Saviour, who is God with all authority, claimed your life because He shows his grace to you by saving your life, you will want to give Him everything, please Him in everything, and only live to please Him. Do you remember what Peter did when he was sinking in the waves and only Jesus could save him? He cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus reached out and took hold of him.  Then those in the boat worshipped Him: “Truely, You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Surely, if you know Christ as sovereign Saviour in salvation, who is eternal God, who calls with authority and even the devils cringe in his presence, you will fall before Him in adoration and worship. When difficult times come you will hold on to his words: “No one can snatch you from my hand” (10:29); and, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (16:33)

Eternal life: To know the Father through the Son (John 17:3)

Jesus came from eternity, He came into time, into space, and lived with us. Why? To complete the mission of the Father. What was it? That He might give eternal life to those whom God had given Him.

Now, you may ask, “What is eternal life?” and, “How can I receive eternal life?”

Right in the first chapter of John we learned this:

Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12–13, NIV)

All people born after Adam and Eve are born with the need to be saved from sin. The Bible is clear about this. The Holy Spirit needs to give us a new birth for us to become children of God, because birth by natural descent will never get us into heaven. The decision to be saved rests with God. But He revealed his decision in Christ, who is our only connection with the Father. The salvation He offers is complete—not only is it done, it’s complete in the sense that nothing needs to be added to it.

So what did Jesus do to connect us with God? He made the Father known to us. To “know”, to “see”, to “believe” in John describes the ministry of Christ to the sinner. Through Him we know, through Him we see, believe, move out of darkness into the light, and live—and as a result we receive Him as Saviour (which is the opposite to not recognise and therefore not receive Him as Saviour).

Now, in John 17:3 our Lord says:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

Eternal life is to know the only true God and and receive life through Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Or put in other words:

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Conclusion

My dear friend, what you have heard today is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. The eternal, sovereign God, who is rich in mercy, gave his only Son—who is equally eternal and sovereign—that whoever believes in—or knows—Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is the best news ever! It’s good forever! It’s awesome! If you shut your ears to this gospel you’ll regret it forever! So, come to Christ—now! Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 26 March 2017

Christ, the Holy Spirit and joy

Scripture Readings

  • Romans 8:6-17
  • John 16:12-33

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

They say the American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection.

Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was very proud of it.

Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.

John records what happened in the night before Christ was arrested, only to be crucified the next day.  It was in more than way a night of confusion and agony. First, Jesus— like a slave—knelt before  them and washed their feet.  Then one of them walked out into the night to betray their rabbi to the Jewish leaders, and then they heard that another would disown Him.  Next thing is He announced to his small group of disciples that He was going to the One who sent him. But He also assured them that He would send them the Holy Spirit so that they would not go astray, or trip and fall (16:1).

Jesus Christ—the completion of his ministry

The road to the cross

The Father sent Jesus into this world to gather a church for Him.  Christ left the eternal throne of glory, was born like a human being—although not from an earthly father—walked the face of the earth like all other humans beings, yet without sin. To complete the mission of the Father, He had to perfectly obey the Law, and also take the curse of disobedience to the Law as his own to become the perfect righteousness which satisfy the holiness of God.  That’s the only way we can be saved.

Now, in the last hours of his earthly ministry, He taught his disciples what they could expect, and how they had to be his voice, hands and feet when He went back to his Father.  He had to go back to the Father to stand in perfect righteousness before the Father, and as such intercede for those whom He saved. Although they would love to have Him with them all the time, He could not remain with them; He had to finish what the Father sent Him for.

Now, what did He mean with “In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me”? (John 16:17, NIV)

In John 14 our Lord was referring to the place in heaven, the rooms in his Father’s house, which He is going to prepare for them, and then come back to take them to where He will be.  This clearly refers to the second coming of our Lord at the sound of the last trumpet.

But in 16:17 He did not point to that event.  He pointed to his death on the cross—and all which would happen before that;  He also referred to his resurrection from the dead.  In other words between the night He was arrested in Gethsemane, and the Sunday of his resurrection when He appeared to them.

His suffering, death on the cross and resurrection was the pinnacle of his ministry.  As a matter of fact, without the cross his ministry would fail.  Those mocking Him while He was dying with his hands and feet nailed to the rugged wood of the cross—“Others you could save; save yourself”—was the final attempt of Satan to avert the necessity that He paid the price for sinners to set them free.

The night Jesus spoke these words to them He was arrested.  The next morning, the morning of Good Friday, the disciples would have felt like lost sheep.  The One they came to love and worship was handed over, tried, falsely accused and forced to drag the cross on which He would be nailed to the place of execution.  On the way He would be mocked, ridiculed, spat one, beaten until He was not physically able to walk, and sank on his knees in agony.  Peter who once said that he would give his life for the Lord, followed in a distance with a heart heavy because He denied his Lord.

Then, when it was time for the lambs of Passover to be slaughtered, at about 3.00.pm on Friday, Jesus cried out, “It is finished”.  There the real Passover Lamb died and took the sin of the world on Him so that they might go free.

Jesus prepared them for those three days of confusion.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20, NIV)

Joy restored

So when on the Sunday of his resurrection Jesus appeared to Mary at the open grave, and she went back to tell them the good news that He had risen, they still didn’t believe.  The death cloth folded by itself in some ways helped their unbelief, but they went back to the place they were gathered and locked the doors for fear of the Jews.  Then our Lord appeared in their midst.  Luke records:

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:37, 41, NIV)

What He prepared them for in John 16 came true:

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22, NIV)

While they were grieving in unbelief, the world rejoiced (16:20): they at last got rid of Christ. Not so!  He conquered death, hell, sin and Satan. This completed his ministry of reconciliation. It is therefore no surprise that Christ adds:

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23, NIV)

Unfortunately some translations do not clearly translate the “ask” of this verse.  They are two different words in Greek. The first “ask” (In that day you will no longer ask me anything) should be enquire—something someone does who is not sure about things. On “that day” Jesus Christ met them and everything was different. Yes, they still needed teaching, but his mission was then complete—after that the Holy Spirit would take over the ministry to the disciples.

The second “ask” (my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name) stands in connection with prayer.  Christ now goes back to what He taught them in 15:11 about joy:

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24, NIV)

With his mission complete, He stands at the throne of the Father interceding for his church.  In his name his church now prays and the Father listens.

Paul writes:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31–32, NIV)

John continues:

The Father Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27, NIV)

The Holy Spirit

But all of this would not be possible without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  With the Saviour at the throne of the Father, the Spirit continues the ministry of Christ, but not in the sense that He adds to this ministry; no, He takes what belongs to Christ and makes it known to us (16:14).  He does not reveal new things apart from Christ. It is the Spirit who does the convicting and convincing work in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement as the disciples does the preaching of the Gospel of Christ; the Spirit guides the church in truth, which is the Gospel inspired by Himself.

Our Lord said:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15, NIV)

The main ministry of the Holy Spirit was to constantly take the disciples—and us— back to Christ.  Like the flowers in the John Sargent’s picture when he became doubtful, the Spirit holds up the picture of the Saviour before us so that we would not stumble and fall in confusion.

Further, the Spirit connects us with the righteousness of Christ. Paul writes:

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11, NIV)

Moreover, the Spirit is also interceding for us when we pray—that “asking” from the Father:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26–27, NIV)

In another place Paul writes:

… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:11–13, NIV)

Christ and the Spirit:  a reason for Joy

Jesus said:

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24, NIV)

To this He adds:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

Christ’s complete salvation brings joy.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit brings joy.  That our prayers in the Name of Christ are answered, brings joy. That Christ has overcome the world, brings peace.

So, when Christ, after the forty days of intensive teaching, on the glorious day of ascension, returned his his Father we read about the disciples:

While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24:51–52, NIV)

Add to this the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

Conclusion

O, that we will have this vision:  the completed work of Christ, now interceding at the Father’s throne, only to return and judge the living and the dead; the ministry of the Spirit, constantly taking us back to Christ like Sargent who went back to his painting, to sustain us in our task of evangelism and mission; joy, because the Father loved the Son and He loves his church and gives them what they need; joy, because our Lord has overcome – once and for all. Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 19 March 2017

Foreigners in this world

Bible readings:

  • Isaiah 66:1-6
  • John 15:18-16:4

Introduction

My dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Last week we heard from the Word of God of the perfect and complete joy our Lord gives to his church.  This joy is to found in the Word of God, prayer and being fruitful in the service of our Lord.  We heard that joy is no option for the Christian – it is part and parcel Christian.  Our joy rests in the complete work of our Lord and Saviour:  we read about this in the Bible, we express our gratitude towards God for it in prayer and the way we are fruitful in His service.  We don’t become joyful Christians we because or after we have done these things; we are joyful because we are Christians.  Joy is a gift from God.  When Paul and Silas found themselves in prison with their feet in stocks, they were praying and signing hymns in the darkest hour of the night (Acts 16:24-25).  This teaching and proclamation from the month of our Lord about complete joy came hours before He would be arrested, handed over and be nailed to the cross.

And then, almost in one breath the tone changes (keep in mind there were no verses or chapters or paragraph headings in the original).  So let’s read  verses 17 and 18 together:

This is my command: Love each other. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” (John 15:17–18, NIV)

The World:  Inescapable conflict

The world hated Christ first 

The explicit teaching of our Lord to his church is not to go out into this world to hate those who are not part of his family.  No, listen to his teaching:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:43–44, NIV)

And yet to be on Christ’s side means to be on the wrong side of this world.  When Jesus uses the term “world” He refers to those under the command of the prince of this world, those opposed to God and his Son.  There is an inevitable clash between Christ and this world; there is also an inescapable enmity between those who belong to Christ and those who worship the prince of this world.  The Bible describes this animosity in terms of love and hate.

It all started in paradise.  Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the Devil, sinned against God and lost their innocence and free will.  After paradise things got worse and even nations fell to the deceit of the devil.

In the fulness of time God fulfilled his promise and the promised Seed was born – Jesus Christ the Son of God.  When He was born, so writes John, the world was a dark place with no light.  Jesus was the light coming into this world.  Those the Father gave Him, not those born from natural descent or the will of a man, but those born of God, those who believed in His Name received the right to be called children of God.  This was the beginning of the end of the reign of the prince of this world. As Christ proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit opened the hearts, mind and spiritual eyes of people, Satan started to lose ground.  For the devil this meant war.

The death and resurrection of Christ meant forgiveness and freedom for those held in bondage.  This was the end of Satan who loves seeing people held in sin.  He loves reminding and accusing people of sin.  But Christ cancelled sin and disarmed the devil – He triumphed over him by the cross.  Now, with Jesus as the head of his church, the task of the church is to go to the nations with this promise:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:18–19, NIV)

One can say, because of this, all hell broke lose upon the world: Satan hates Jesus and he hates his church.

But don’t despair.  Listen:

As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)

I have chosen you out of this world.  This means that our victorious Lord saved us by his blood, He gave us his Spirit, and He is with us, never to let us go.  “No one will ever snatch them out of the hand of my Father.”  This is no hollow promise; it is written in the blood of Him who crushed the head of the serpent by dying for the sins of those where were once in the clutches  of the devil, and who destroyed the enemy.  He once said, “The prince of this world has no hold on Me.”

There is a war raging; there is blood, persecution, difficult times, death and false accusations, God will keep us in the hollow of his end for all times.

I didn’t bargain on this

Yet, there might be some who say, “I really want to go to heaven one day ,but I did not bargain on this. I’d rather not sign up for battle.”  Some preachers proclaim a cheap Gospel that only speaks about how God loves us and how his love would then make our dreams come true.  Old Testament prophets tried the same recipe, preaching,”Peace! Piece!”, while there was no peace.

The Gospel calls to commitment, and that commitment includes the inescapable reality of conflict with this world.  There is not really any choice:  it is either with Christ, saved from sin, loved by the Father, being part of his family, bearing fruit in his name, and being hated by this world, and then being welcomed into God’s eternal Kingdom when He calls us home.  Or, take it easy, not pick a fight with this world, be fruitless, and be thrown in the fire of eternal hell when God calls the end of our days.

Up to now we have heard about the battle with the world.  But there is another.

The war from within:  excommunicated for Christ

There is however another battlefield – one that causes many a soldier of Christ of put down the armour and surrender. It almost without fail involves the heartache of a war between so-called members of the Church, and those who will not give in to the demands of a gospel that is watered down to appease men.

A lonely road

When Jesus called his disciples and began to teach them about following Him, as it is recorded in the sermon on the Mount, right at the beginning of their walk with Christ, He told them this:

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Luke 6:22, NIV)

We all know the expression, “He treated me like dirt.”  This is what our Lord means here.  What is good in God’s eyes, can be evil in the eyes of the world; this is what the disciples had to prepare themselves for.  They would be treated like dirt for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom.  This is the cost we have to count when we follow Jesus. In the same chapter where Jesus taught the disciples that people will treat their name like evil, He also said:

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26, NIV)

Our text verse for this morning, John 16:2 says:

They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. (John 16:2, NIV)

This verse refers to a verse in Isaiah 66, which reads:

Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: “Your own people who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame. (Isaiah 66:5, NIV)

There is mention of two types of worshippers:  those who come before the Lord with contrite and humble hearts and tremble before his Word.  The second group of worshippers indeed do bring sacrifices, offers lambs and grain offerings, they burn incense, but as the end of verse 3 states, “They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations.

The sad thing is that those who revered God were kicked out excommunicated from inclusion into the Covenant People of the Lord.  My people! God’s people!  Church people!  We worship together, we sat together at the table of the Lord, but now, because I stick to the Word of God in reverence and trembling, we have become enemies – and they want to get rid of me, ostracise me, yes, excommunicate me.

In John 16:1-4 our Lord prepared his disciples for a life of loneliness because they will be treated as unfit for worship and service.  They name will be treated like dirt.

Remember the words of Christ

Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. (Luke 6:23, NIV)

I must confess that even though the words of this verse are so plain, my sinful inclination makes it hard to understand.  When I am treated like dirt because of Jesus, my saviour and his Word, I should rejoice and leap for joy?  Why?  Because it is a seal on my faithfulness and the authenticity of the Gospel.  True prophets of God in the Old Testament were treated the same way because they stuck to the true Word of God.

Conclusion

Dear friends in Christ, disciples has its cost, its heartache, its loneliness, but it has its reward.  We need to look at our Saviour, who came to his own, but they rejected Him, nailed Him to the cross.

I believe the time for us to make that sacrifice is not far.  Just, tremble at the word of God, fear not those who can destroy the body only, but fear Him who has the power to destroy both body and soul.  Worship Him faithfully, and He will give you eternity as your reward.

Amen.

Sermon Preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 12 March 2017

Complete joy

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 19
  • John 15:5-17

Introduction

A lady was crossing a certain London station, when an old man stopped her, and said: “Excuse me, ma’am, but I want to thank you for something.” “Thank me!” exclaimed the lady. “Yes’m. I used to be ticket collector, and whenever you used to go by you always gave me a cheerful smile and a ‘good morning’, and you don’t know what a difference it made to me. Wet or fine, it was always the same, and I thinks to meself, `Wonder where she gets her smile from; one cannot be always happy, yet she seems to,’ and I know’d that there smile must come from inside somehow. Then one mornin’ you comes by and you had a little Bible in yer hand, and I says to meself, `P’r’aps that’s where she got her smile from.’ So as I went home that night I bought a Bible, and I’ve been readin’ it, and I’ve found Christ, and now I can smile too, and I want to thank yer.” (The Way of Faith.)

In John 15:11 our Lord said:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (or complete). (John 15:11, NKJV)

I always want to squeeze the last drop of fuel into the tank of my car, but let’s face it, when it’s full, it’s full.  When Christ fills us with his joy, we need not go and look for more joy.  But tragically, Christians are not really joyful people.  Why not?  Let’s search the Scriptures.

Main points:

  1. Joy is a mark of a true Christian
  2. The joy which comes from communion with Christ
  3. The joy of Glorifying the Father by displaying fruit of communion with Christ
  4. The joy of knowing God

Joy is a mark of a true Christian

We’re not talking about having fun, or being frivolous.  Of superficial Christian we have enough filling the church pews in our day.  Joy to the Christian is not an option, it is a necessary characteristic of a Christian to be joyful.  The Bible almost make being joyful a command.  The festivals of the Old Testament were times of joy.  Of the place of worship God commanded:

There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:7, NIV)

David wrote in the Psalm we heard right in the beginning:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:1–2, NIV)

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is, amongst other things, “joy” (Galatians 5:22).  To not be joyful before God is to not live as He intended; in a way not be joyful, is to show Him that we do not think much of his grace.

The joy which comes from communion with Christ 

All of us immediately start to assemble the flatpack we bought, but soon nothing works out:  we have less panels on one side, more screws we think we need, and what we assembled resemble anything but what is photographed on the packaging.  But deep down on the bottom of the box we usually find the instructions.  Embarrassed we follow the instructions and eventually all works out.

Many Christians are angry Christians. For them serving God is tedious and frustrating. Their spiritual life is unattractive.  Like justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years once said, explaining his choice of a career: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Remain in Me.  Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Without Him we are frustrated and joyless flatpack Christians.

Three very distinct tools for being joyful Christians – the way God intended – are mentioned in the paragraph from John we read this morning.

The Bible

If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, NIV)

We heard it last week:  The words of Christ is like the trellis against which we are trained up to grow and bear fruit. The Word is also like the pruning knife which cuts away the access to assure better and more fruit.

Many Christians wonder why their spiritual life is so miserable and unproductive.  But if their study and knowledge of the Word of God is poor, so will their fruit be.  In 1 Peter 1 the Apostle teaches us that we “are born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23, NIV)  This Word is preached to us (1:25).  But Peter goes on saying,

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2–3, NIV)

We heard in our reading of Psalm 19 how precious God’s Word is:

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7–11, NIV)

The have complete joy is know the God of the Scriptures and the Scriptures of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, and made true by the testimony of the holy Spirit.

Prayer

If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, NIV)

A joyful Christian is a praying Christian.  Or put the other way round:  a prayer-less Christian know no joy.  How can he be joyful if He never talks to the One who saved Him?  A prayer-less Christian is somebody who does not remain in Christ, and as a result his life displays signs of spiritual death.  There is no fruit.  Such a Christian runs the danger of being thrown away, picked up only to the used as fuel for fire.

How much to you pray, my friend?  Let’s not beat around the bush.  Weigh up you life against the standard of Christ and ask, ‘Where is the fruit in my life?’  If there is none, go back to on your knees and have communion with your Saviour.  When you start trusting God to provide what you need to glorify Him, the fruit will follow.  Our Lord said, “It will be done for you.”  This might apply to individual Christians, but let’s not lose the context of the words of Christ:  He speaks to his disciples.  The command to pray and the promise that He will give what we need, is foremost a command to the congregation.  And it says a lot about the fruit a congregation bears:  if there is little fruit, is probably because there is little prayer.

Bearing fruit

A fruitless Christian knows no joy; or put the other way round, he who bears fruit in Christ is a joyful Christian.  And according to the paragraph the best of all fruit is true Christian love born in the heart of the Lord.

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:9–10, NIV)

There is a continued line of love from eternity into our earthly existence through Christ, which goes back to the Father from our joyful hearts through our Saviour.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12, NIV)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16–17, NIV)

Being a disciple of Christ is not possible without communion with Him through his Word, through prayer and through bearing fruit of love – no, not the sentimental rubbish put forward today as love.  Never allow the world to give you any definition of love and how you should love.  Your benchmark for love is Christ’s love, who did as his Father commanded.

The joy of glorifying the Father by displaying fruit of communion with Christ

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)

For those of you who grew up with the Larger and Shorter Catechism you will know the first question and answer:  What is the chief and highest end of man?  The answer:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

Why?

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36, NIV)

The fruit of being in Christ is necessarily that of glorifying our Father.  To praise Him is to bear fruit.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15–16, NIV)

Bearing fruit does not make us children of God.  We cannot try harder to be children of God by trying to bear fruit.  The opposite is true: the fruit we bear displays the fact that we are in the Vine, Christ, because without Him we ca do nothing.

Bearing this fruit of praise and glory to the Father through love towards Him and towards others has the effect that it makes us truely happy.  We are not baptised in vinegar.  His praise should be on our lips, and praying through Him we will have joy.

The Joy of knowing God

Our Lord said:

I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15, NIV)

Right in the beginning of the Gospel we learned that because of the darkness of sin, sinners do not and cannot know the Father.  Christ came to make known the Father.  He is the door, the shepherd, the vine, the living water, the bread of life.  Who the Father gave Him He saved and none of them will be lost or snatched from his hand.

My friend, through Christ you may know, really and truely know, the Creator of the universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches you to call Him “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:16).

What more can we ask for in this life?  Paul says:

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him …  I want to know Christ! (Philippians 3:8–10, NIV)

Conclusion

My dear friend, are your joy complete?  What gives you most joy?  Do you really know God through Jesus Christ?  Our ticket collector of our introduction had this testimony:  I bought a Bible, and I’ve been readin’ it, and I’ve found Christ, and now I can smile too.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 5 March 2017