Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Participating in the sufferings of Christ

Scripture Reading

  • 1Peter 4:12-19

Introduction

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, honour those who died for their country. Built following World War I, it was expanded to remember those who served in subsequent conflicts. It is a beautiful place, with monuments to courage and devotion, but the highlight of the shrine is a hall containing a carved stone that simply reads: “Greater Love Hath No Man”. The architects designed the room so that every year on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:00 a.m light from the sun passes over the stone, stopping briefly to spotlight the word “Love”. It is a moving tribute to those who gave their lives. 

However, more than honouring the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom, the words on that stone carry a far greater meaning. Jesus spoke them the night before He would die on the cross. His death was not for freedom from tyranny, but freedom from the penalty of sin. His death was not to give us a better life, but to give us eternal life. As we remember those who died for their country, may we never forget to praise and honour the Christ who died in the place of a  dying world. For there is truly “no greater love than this than Jesus lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) (Taken from: Our Daily Bread, ANZAC Centenary Edition, Day 2)

Discipleship

There is, however, another love the Bible speaks about.  Our Lord made it very clear.  

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37, NKJV)

How does this love look like?  Are there any sacrifices attached to it?  Let’s look at one verse.  

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26, NKJV)

When Jesus Christ called his disciples, He started them to become fishers of men.  One of the first discipleship training events is recorded as the Sermon on the Mount. Read the verse carefully, and you will notice that Jesus might have included some bystanders when He taught that time, but it seems as if He directly spoke to the new followers.  

Six times in a row our Lord used the word “blessed”.  A way to translate it is “happy”, and by extension “privileged”. Up to the last, we might think that becoming a follower of Christ is really something special.  But listen to this: 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12, NKJV)

In the Upper Room our Lord drove the nail a bit deeper: 

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:18–20, NKJV)

Just hours before their Saviour would be nailed to the cross, He said, 

Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 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 16:32–33, NKJV)

They were there when Christ was arrested, they saw their Master being whipped, they saw his legs gave under the weight of the cross as He carried it to Calvary’s Hill.  They heard Him cry in agony as the soldiers hammered the nails through his hands and his feet.  And then there was the cry, “Why have You forsaken Me?”

It does not surprise us to find the disciples behind closed doors out of fear for the Jews, even till the third after that Friday.  Perhaps they would be next because they associated with Jesus of Nazareth.

Would it be that at that point, if we were part of the disciple group, that we would bale out? But then, what about the all-encompassing love we should have for our Saviour?  What about the price of discipleship?  If I bale out now, I will betray my Saviour.  If I now turn away from Him who loved me and gave his life for me, how would I face eternity without Him?  

The Holy Spirit and the Bible

The Spirit brings to my mind the words of Christ.  

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9, NKJV)

Other verses ring in my ear:

You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (Matthew 10:18–20, NKJV)

But there is also this promise:  

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NKJV)

What did David say when he faced death over and over again?  

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)

There is a cloud of witnesses to spur us on by their example of discipleship.  

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:35–40, NKJV)

Where do I stand?  About that sort of treatment for the sake of the Name of Christ I know nothing—yet! What took them through?  What made them follow till the end?  They believed God and trusted his promises.  The loved Him with all their hearts, all their minds, all their might and all their soul.  

The Apostles rejoiced when they were flogged after they refused to be silent about their Lord and Saviour because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:41)

Sufferings for Christians are nothing abnormal

And wherever the followers of Christ were scattered a pattern developed:  suffering and opposition.  

That’s why Peter wrote that Christians should not be surprised at the painful trials and sufferings.  Rather, we would rejoice.  Why? When trials come our way, our being ‘in-Christ’ proves to be true!  We are hated because Christ is hated.  If they love us, it’s because we are loveable, but not by Christ.  James writes: 

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)

Peter writes: 

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in [because of] that name. (1 Peter 4:16, ESV)

Conclusion

The Bible is clear about it:  the world hates Christ, and they will hate us too.  They will one stand in judgement before the throne of God for treading the blood of Christ underfoot and for the way they treated his church.

We might not yet have endured all the hardship the Bible is preparing us for, but the mere fact that we today pray for the persecuted church is proof that there are real, present struggles and battles which have and are claiming life and belongings.  Some fellow believers were killed just last week. Thousands are imprisoned, and many more are fleeing to who-knows-where.

My friend, we need to now put our faith to the test and become spiritually competent and worthy of the name of Jesus Christ.  We have to, time is running out.  Entrust your life in the hands of Him who has overcome, Jesus Christ, your Lord and Saviour.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 11 November 2018

 

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Called out of darkness into the light

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Isaiah 59:9-21
  • John 12:34-50

Introduction

Omar Bradley, one of the Generals in World War II also went to World War I. He became a General. He actually led one of the largest armies in history during World War II. He spoke at an Armistice Day in Boston, Massachusetts in 1948. He said,

“With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.  This is our twentieth century’s claim to distinction and to progress.”

After he made this speech, we had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Golf War, the war in Iraq, the continuous unrest in the Middle East in and the whole group of other wars in the world. We do not know how to make peace.

If we are going to move into the future, if we want to give hope to our children and next generation, it must come through our commitment to Christ, so that His light can shine in this very dark world.

The Word come to us in these main points:

  • Who is the Son of Man?
  • What was the mission of the Son of Man
  • The light will not always shine
  • Persistent, stubborn, sinful rejection of Christ
  • An urgent shout

Who is the Son of Man?

The title “Son of Man” was virtually the only title used by Jesus of himself. He has other titles. He is the Lamb of God, the King, the Messiah, the Beloved, the Word, the Son of God, and many others. But Jesus did not prefer to use these titles when He referred to Himself. In his own speech, He was always the Son of Man.

If we would look at the Hebrew, which lies behind this expression, we find something interesting about the grammar.  The “Israelites” in the Old Testament are from the word pair “the sons of Israel.”  With this title “Son of Man” Jesus identifies with the sons of Adam.  But there is more to it.

One Old Testament reference to the expression “Son of Man” is found in chapter 7 of Daniel,. This is the chapter that relates Daniel’s vision of the four great beasts that come up out of the sea and reign in succession earth for a time.  After the four visions of the four different kingdoms are explained, the vision shifts to heaven, and Daniel describes a scene in which thrones are set up and the Ancient of Days [God] takes his place upon one of the thrones and renders judgment. In this judgment, the last of the beasts is killed and all have their kingdoms taken away.

Daniel then writes of the final defeat and the establishment of a new and everlasting kingdom:

“In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14).

Between the writing of Daniel and before the coming of Christ, this concept of the “Son of Man” was spoken of in different writings, in which “Son of Man” is one term given to the long-expected Messiah.

Through the lens of all Scripture the “Son of Man” refers to “The Man” which means in Christ we have the eternal or man who exists eternally with God and who was to appear in this world at God’s command to complete God’s plan of salvation.

The title “Messiah” denoted a political figure whose primary work would be the deliverance of Jewish people from the Romans. But if Chris used this title publicly, everyone would have expected Him to organise an army and lead a liberation movement.  So He did not make an open claim to be the Messiah. On the other hand, with the “Son of Man” title, people did not know what to think about it exactly in a political sense of the word. Jesus used this title of Himself while at the same time filling it in with the precise meaning his Father would want Him.

This is one thing we need to stop and think about today.  We need to get a fresh understanding do who Jesus, the Christ, is.  It might even be possible that we think of Jesus in all sorts of categories, other than what He actually was send for into this world.

Some see in Him the answer to their financial problems.  The so-called prosperity theology makes a lot of this idea.  It is known by many names, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “word of faith” movement, the “gospel of success,” and “positive confession theology”.

Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray, and even demand, of God “everything from modes of transportation (cars, vans, trucks, even two-seat planes), [to] homes, furniture, and large bank accounts.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit then becomes a medium through which one can achieve whatever he wants.

The Jews at the time of Jesus had ideas and longings they wanted to be fulfilled by the promised Messiah.  With the tile “Son of Man” Jesus wanted them to understand that He was from God, God Himself, sent into this world to rescue it from its darkness by giving Himself to be lifted up.  This idea did not fit into their expectations.

Jesus, by using the title “Son of Man” made it very clear that He is from before time began.

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (John 3:13, ESV)

Our Lord taught the people that if they would not eat the body of the Son of Man, and drink his blood they would have no life in them.  The people were offended by these words and a great many left Him.  He then looked at the disciples and said:

“Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? (John 6:61–62, ESV)

In other words, if they did not understand and believe that He came to shed his blood and have his body broken to save them from sins, they would still be in darkness, how much more will they be offended if He told them that He would return to heaven where He was before He became flesh and lived among sinners.  It was something that choked every teacher of the Law: that a mere man could put himself on equal footing with God.

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18, ESV)

What was the mission of the Son of Man

We need to be extremely clear in this point:  John right through his Gospel points to only one thing:  God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into this world because

  • this world is in darkness and therefore it cannot see the Kingdom of God
  • this world can’t do anything about its own darkness, because flesh cannot do anything else but give birth to flesh
  • this world is in need of a Saviour who is in essence not from this world, but who makes it his business to come into this world to bring light into this darkness

Natural man does not love this message.  The concept of sin is not even welcome in dictionaries these days.  Atheists believe we do not need any concept of sin today because through evolution we have outgrown sin.

Richard Dawkins declares:

“More and more of us realize there is no god, and yet religion still has a hold over us. I think ideas of saints and sinners, heaven and hell, still shape our thinking. I want to give you a scientific alternative.”

With these words Dawkins reveals that he is still living in darkness. To him and others who think like him the Gospel still extends the warning and invitation:

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36, ESV)

The light will not always shine

While you have light.  This means that the light will not always shine.  Jesus said:

“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. (John 12:35, ESV)

I think it is meaningful that soon after Jesus spoke these words, we read:

When Jesus had said these things, He departed and hid himself from them. (John 12:36, ESV)

We need to tell the world, those living in darkness, this very unsettling and disturbing truth: We will not always have this light.  Now it is still time of grace for repentance, but this dispensation will come to an end.

There is a imperative, or a command, in verse 35.  It says, “Walk while you have the light.”  It does not say, “Walk in the light.” the command is, “Walk!”  Darkness is coming.  There is an earnestness and urgency in the words of our Lord.  It almost says, “Run to the light while it is still light, for the light will go out in a short while.  Grace is running out, darkness is close behind you, catching up with you.  Run for your life.”

After He withdrew from the crowd, most probably because He understood the significance of the hour, and also what follows immediately after this verse, He needed to be alone with his Father to pray; the Bible does not say why, but fact is He needed time alone.

Persistent, stubborn, sinful rejection of Christ

What followed immediately in the Gospel of John?

Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him (John 12:37, ESV)

In Isaiah’s chapter about the suffering Messiah there are words of joy for those who walked to come into the light.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4–6, ESV)

We gladly take these words as words of salvation and bow before our Saviour who has brought us into the light so we could see we need redemption.

But Isaiah begins this very chapter with these words:

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1,3, ESV)

John then quotes the words of Isaiah 6:10, which talk about the people in Isaiah’s time who stubbornly rejected the words of God because of their hardness of heart.  They stopped their ears when they heard the prophets of God speak to them, and they covered their eyes for the message of God, only to find out that when they took their fingers out of their ears and uncovered their eyes that they had gone blind and deaf:  there was no message for them anymore. God took it away from them.  Time of grace has run out.

So it was even at the end of the public ministry of Jesus.  He revealed the glory of God to them; He preached to them the message of the Kingdom of God; He became to them the light of the world and the bread of life; He was their good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep; He was the Son of Man who was lifted up as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the word.  Yet, they has their fingers in the ears and their hand over their eyes.

Some showed signs of some sort of faith, but out of fear for the people and their love of praise from men, they did not confess their faith.  This probably describes the lives of so many who warm the pews of the church every Sunday.

An urgent shout

It was only a few hours before our Saviour celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples now.  Then, later that night, He was arrested, taken away, sentenced and crucified.  His personal call to the public to come to the light was never heard again.

Jesus appeared again after He had withdrawn from them sometime earlier.  We read about what He said then in verse 44

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent me. (John 12:44, ESV)

The word for “cry” here is to make a vehement outcry, or to speak with a very loud voice.  He was not afraid for those who wanted to kill Him, but there openly and very publicly in the midst of the thousands of people who came to Jerusalem for the Passover, our Lord proclaimed the Gospel publicly:  He is God, send by his Father to bring people out of darkness into light and to give them light. Faith in Him is faith in the Father.  He calls people out of darkness into the light.

He also cried out very loudly and clearly for all to understand:

The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:48, ESV)

Can you in your mind’s eye see our Lord urgently warning the world not to reject his word?  Can you hear Him say that all sermons preached about Him, and all chapters read about Him in the Word – things we know and have heard thousands of time, and which we maybe not believed – will one day stand up against us – screaming at us as a judgement because we have not walked to the light at the command of Jesus, the Son of Man.  We rather loved darkness.

The last thing Jesus proclaimed publicly is a repeat of the first verses of the Gospel of John:  He is from the Father, God Himself, and He only does what his Father commanded Him.  Believe Him, and one believes in the Father; reject Him, and one rejects the Father.  This action has severe consequences

Conclusion

John wrote his Gospel with this purpose:

“…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, ESV)

It is important to understand this.  The Son of God was lifted up, crucified, so that by believing in Him we will be able to see, hear, and believe – and have eternal life.

The alternative is too dreadful to even think about.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 12 May 2013