Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

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

 

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Our heavenly home, and the way there

Scripture Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 1:19-33
  • John 14:1-14

Main points:

  1. Faith replaces confusion and anxiety
  2. The eternal home is being prepared
  3. Only one way to God
  4. Between now and eternity: work and pray

Introduction

My dear fellow believer in the Lord Jesus Christ,

I remember sitting in the funeral parlour.  The funeral director asked me all the questions about my brother’s impending funeral, and I had to think hard to be coherent.  Usually, I would sit on the other side of the table and ask about the same questions to families who lost loved ones in death.  To experience losing someone close made me trip over my words, not thinking clearly.

Our world can sometimes become undone when people around fail and disappoint us.  Applied to the church, it is usually not what happens in the world which disturbs us; it is usually what happens within the church that brings confusion. We have our disappointments, people get their noses into other people’s business, they gossip, slander, but what really gets us is when someone openly disowns the Lord through public sin.  We then just want to give up and walk away.

Faith replaces confusion and anxiety

Jesus had announced to his disciples that He would leave them.

Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. (John 13:33, NKJV)

Judas had left them to betray Jesus, and then there was the sad prediction of our Lord that another would deny Him.  But Jesus comforted them with these words:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1, NKJV)

They were sobering words.

The disciples faced disappointment, confusion and loneliness:  one of their leaders would deny that he ever knew Christ, and their Lord would be dragged before the courts, falsely charged, bitterly beaten and scoffed, only to be nailed to a cross along with two criminals.

But He had prepared them even before Judas walked out into the darkness of the night.

Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. (John 13:19, NKJV)

So now, on their way to the Garden of Olives, He instructs them again:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1, NKJV)

To the troubled means to be confused and as a result to go in some panic.  That’s what shock does to one.  It leads one to lose direction and hope.  When Jesus comforted them in their hour of confusion, He gave them the antidote to uncertainty.  “Believe in God, believe in Me also.

This is infinitely more than us trying to comforting one another with words like, “Things will get better, just hang in there.”  What our Lord said was to put our their trust in God, the One who created the universe, the One who had been faithful to his people up to that point in time by making all his promises come true in his Son Jesus Christ – the very same God who would carry them through precisely on account of what his Son accomplished in his rescue mission.

Faith is absolute trust that God will and can do as He promised because He is God.  When Moses led the people out of Egypt through the terrifying desert on their way to the Promised Land, he had to remind them of the One who made their rescue possible.  They too, like the disciples in John 14, were on their way to their Promised Land.  So Moses said to them:

Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’ (Deuteronomy 1:21)

They decided to send a reconnaissance group to find out more about the land.  Only two of the twelve men who returned had faith in God; the others wavered in unbelief.  Moses then said:

The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:30–31, NKJV)

They, despite of this assurance, did not believe in God, and wanted to return to Egypt.

I think something of this was in the mind of our Lord when He spoke to his disciples in John 14.  We will surely face difficulties and opposition in this world for the sake of Christ, but the antidote is faith – not blind faith, faith without any content, which is nothing less than so-called positive thinking – it takes one nowhere.

Believe in God, believe in Me.  If they would keep their eyes on Christ, they would see Him suffer, crucified, but they would see Him overcome death, hell, sin and Satan.  And this is exactly what happened.  After his resurrection and his intensive teaching in the course of forty days before He went to the Father, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirt, these men feared nothing.  All but one eventually died a brutal death. but they kept faith in God the Father and his Son.

Our eternal home is being prepared

The people of Israel was on their way to the Promised Land, but that was still a temporary stop.  Jesus prepared his disciples for the good news that they would inherit a heavenly home.  It is not a home built by human hands with bricks and mortar.  It is not a home where thieves and break in and steal, or a place where moth and rust destroy.  The Apostle Peter writes about it:

… an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4–5, NKJV)

Oh, we need to talk about heaven more!  We are too anchored to this world.  John writes about this:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4, NKJV)

He writes more about this city:

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). (Revelation 21:23–25, NKJV)

Our Lord assured his disciples:

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2–3, NKJV)

Christians don’t have a permanent address in this word.  Our address is the city of God.  When all around us seem unstable and insecure, yes, even after we have lost everything we have, our eternal home stands firm.  As a matter of fact, what we accumulate here can stand in our way to serve our Lord unencumbered.  It is really only when we turn our backs on what is dear to us now, that we can truely look forward to the home now being prepared for us by our Lord who opens the door to more than paradise for us.

Do you have your heart in that place?  Are you longing to be in your eternal home?  Are you looking forward to be with Him who saved you from eternal destruction?  Or are you confused and anxious?  May I then show you the way to Christ who said, “Believe in in God, believe in Me also”?

Only one way to God

When Thomas protested about not knowing where Jesus was  and not knowing the way, Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6, NKJV)

Jesus said so because He came from the Father; He said so because He came to take away the sin of the world; He said so because his Father loved the world and gave Him so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life; He said so because He laid down his life for those whom the Father gave Him; He said so because He is the bread of life and those who eat of his flesh and drink of his blood He will raise up in the last day.  But He also said so because only his life was the righteousness which satisfy his Father’s wrath upon sin.

Let no one ever confuse you to think that all religions are the same, and that some will get in heaven through Allah or his prophet Mohammed, or through Buddha, or through reincarnation, or through any earthly deity or human representative.  Jesus said:  No one comes to the Father but through Me.

So, how do we get to heaven?  Good works, effort, trying harder, having a good reputation?  No, it’s only through Christ.  He paid the price to rescue us from God’s wrath, He conquered death, He ascended to the Father, He intercedes for us, and He will return one day for those who loved Him, but He will also condemn to eternal torment those who did not love Him and followed other gods.

Between now and eternity: work and pray 

Christ taught the disciples that they, between his going to the Father and his return to take home those who love Him, have work to do.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12, NKJV)

How do we understand this verse? Three things:

First.  We’ve got work to do.  Let’s not marvel in how spectacular the works should be, before we started doing some work in the Kingdom of Christ.

Second.  Also, Jesus said that a servant is not greater than his master (13:16, 15:20). The idea that believers will outdo their Master does not come from the Bible.

What this verse teaches us is that not all of the revealed plan of salvation in Christ was revealed up to that point in time.  He still had to die, raise again, return to the Father, and the Holy Spirit had to be poured out.  Christ would use his church do go beyond the boundaries of Israel into all the world and bring in the nations.  In this sense then what Christ began will be completed by his Church.  In this sense their works would be greater, but it would surely not have more impact than what has been accomplished by Christ.  To understand the “greater” in this verse as “more spectacular” is just not what it says.

Listen carefully what Jesus said: “and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father”.  The success of the mission of the church rests upon the completed salvation of Christ.

Third.  What our Lord added to this statement is also defined in the rest:  “Whatever you ask in My Name, this I will do”.  Can we do great things on our own?  No, we need to pray, and to pray is to acknowledge that we stand with empty hands before our Lord.  Further, who does what we pray for?  Christ!  It is never us; there is never any room for boasting other than to know that Christ is doing his work through his church on there knees before his throne.

Conclusion

We do not only need to have faith in the Lord, not only look forward to our eternal home, not only know that Christ is the only One through whom we can go to the Father, but we also need to be busy, doing his work in humble submission to Him who provides for us to work for his Kingdom to come.  Amen.

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

For the glory of Christ who saves from death to life

Bible Readings

  • Psalm 116
  • John 12:1-11

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

As with the Watergate scandal, may other political scandals are usually, at least in the early stages, preceded by destroying evidence.  Only recently, if one can believe what the press tells us, thousands of emails were shredded from the private email server of Secretary Clinton.  Without evidence there is no case.

In our chapter this morning we see the religious rulers in the time of Jesus Christ trying to destroy evidence:  the evidence of the One who performed a miracle, and the evidence itself.  That would settle their case, and bring peace.

Bethany, six days before the death of our Lord 

Disregarding the orders of the Council

There is a connection between the dinner in honour of Christ and what happened earlier in Bethany.  That connection is Christ.  He caused people to gather in numbers.  The occasion was the Passover in Jerusalem.  The reason for their enquiry about Christ was about Lazarus whom some say was dead, but who is alive.  They wanted to see it for themselves.  This was in direct opposition to the orders and beliefs of the Jewish Council – Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

But life in the little village of Bethany carried on.  Quite publicly a dinner was arranged and Jesus was invited.  The whole event was for his glory.

The owner of the house, Simon, wanted to express his praise for the One who healed him from the dreadful disease of leprosy.  Cleansed from this unclean disease he was able to move freely in public, but more importantly, worship freely with the other people of God.

A village welcoming the Saviour

All in all we find ourselves in a welcoming village.  It was maybe through the hospitality and friendliness of Lazarus and his two sisters that Bethany welcomed Christ.  All of this inspite of the orders of the Jewish council.

Would it not be a wonderful attraction if Christians were more obedient to their Lord than to the world?  Would it not be a wonderful attraction if our hospitality is rooted in our true love for the Lord who performed the miracle of salvation in our lives?  The question is:  is the love for our Lord overriding our circumstances, and is our love for our Lord known to those around us?

The place where Lazarus lived 

Bethany was not known because Lazarus died there.  Bethany was known because Lazarus was alive (John 12:1).  The crowd from Jerusalem who expected Him to be at the Passover, happily travelled the three kilometres to see, not only Lazarus, but Jesus also.  As far as the villagers were concerned, those who arrived from Jerusalem could have troublemakers – just as some of them were when Lazarus was raised from the dead.  This is in fact what we read in the previous chapter:

But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:46, NIV)

But with Jesus in their midst, the Light of the world, the One who has power of death, their attitude was one of friendly hospitality.

Shouldn’t we have the same attitude?  Yes, we live in a hostile world who wants to silence the voice of the church.  But love for Christ, and not fear for earthly authorities, should drive us.

More than just blood brother and sisters 

Serving Martha 

There was another time when our Lord had visited Martha and Mary.  Mary was at the feet of Christ all the time, and Martha complained to Him about it.  He focussed her attention on more important things to begin with.  It’s almost like:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

When Jesus arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died, there was a change in Martha.  She was the first of the sisters for run out to Him.  There she made this confession:

“I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27, NIV)

When we meet her in Bethany at the dinner for Jesus, she was serving again, but it seems this time she understood that her gift was different to that of Mary.  Yes, she surely worshipped Him, and with the others she did what she did for his glory.  She also was resurrected, but in a spiritual way.  Her preparation of food was in a certain way on par with Mary’s sitting at the feet of Christ: both of them brought glory to their Saviour.

Worshipping Mary 

Mary sat at the feet of Christ. Sitting at the feet of our Lord, He instructed her, and because of her closeness to Him she understood that He would be killed soon.  Before that happens she had to anoint Him, not into a special office – He was born as the Word of God, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of this world. Her anointing Him was an expression of more than just her love for Him; it was proclamation.  All along He said He was from God and equal to God; He said his words were the words of the Father; his works were was the Father gave Him to do.

When she took the alabaster flask with the very expensive pure nard oil out of her cupboard, she proclaimed to the world that He is indeed who He all along claimed He was – and that she worshipped Him for being God!  For Him only the best would do.

The fact that she wiped the oil with her hair was an expression of her unity with Him.  And when the aroma of the perfume drifted through the house, everyone knew about Christ who was present.  Not her words, but her deed proclaimed his majesty.  But it also proclaimed the reason for His coming into this world:  His death was at hand.  He came to die so that those who believe in Him will live eternally.

Lazarus, the friend 

Lazarus reclined at the table – with Jesus!  There he could talk to the One who raised him from the dead.  There he had communion with his Lord.  The Bible does not record one word of Lazarus.  Many who are brought back out of so-called death or disease which is unto death, would want us to listen to their story and what they experienced on the other side.  If ever there was someone who could easily take over the conversation around that table in Bethany in Simon’s house, it was Lazarus!  Would not his testimony be invaluable – something to write about in the the church column of the local newspaper!  The banners would read: “Come to Bethany and meet Lazarus.  He will tell you about resurrection from the dead.

But nothing of what he ever said was more important than the One who made it happen.  “Come in – you’re welcome because Christ is here!

In a sense then the small circle of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the people of Bethany (and don’t forget about Simon, the leper) is what a congregation should look like:  everyone busy with what God has gifted them with – but all united in one aim:  to glorify Christ.

It’s never about who is the most important amongst the members.  It’s all about how we, all members under Christ, give glory to Him who saved us.  It’s how we present Him as Lord and Saviour, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

Preparation for the sacrificial death of the Saviour 

Anointing the Messiah for his death 

Mary anointed Christ for his burial.  The next Friday afternoon they nailed our Lord to the cross, His face was marred, his body broken, his flesh torn, covered in blood.  He could not be anointed with oil.  Even on the third day when He rose from the dead, those who wanted to anoint his body were too late: death could not hold Him.

The likes of Judas: the reason for His death 

The very act of glorifying Christ through the rich and expensive nard oil, which was imported out of the north of India and bottled in alabaster imported out of Egypt, also brought the extreme horrible and loathsome of sinful human nature to the fore.  The first words of Judas recorded by John reveals his stubborn unwillingness to bow before Christ as his King and Saviour.  It is indeed true that the most innovative acts of kindness towards others can sometimes be a cover-up for disassociation with Jesus Christ.  We hear it today too.  Many people want to be more loving and gracious than Christ, and in the process call things He call sin, good.  We hear that the only thing we need to do to others is to love them, as long as we do not judge them – and in the process pave the way to hell for them with acts of kindness.

But in a way Judas is to us an example of us all:  sinners are the reason for the sacrificial death of Christ.  We all need to find ourselves where Mary, Martha and Lazarus found themselves:  like Martha, confessing that Christ is indeed the Son of God; like Mary, sitting at the feet of Christ pouring out the best we have for his glory; like Lazarus, made alive again, fully associating with Him.

Witness to the glory of Christ 

He once was dead

Of Lazarus we know that he was once dead, but He was made alive by Christ.  Paul writes:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:1–2, NIV)

We need a spiritual birth.  We know now the Bible calls it to “be born again”. The way we were born does not take us to heaven.  My friend, ask Christ to give you this new life; seek salvation with all sincerity.

He associated with Christ 

We know the Bible says Lazarus was at the table with Christ.  It was a witness to all who attended, including those who wanted to destroy all evidence of the powerful work of Christ.  They wanted him dead.  Just imagine threatening someone with death who have met Someone stronger than death!

But we read this about him:

for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in Him. (John 12:11, NIV)

If your are a Christian you are a child of God.  How is it with your witness?  Do other see Christ in you?  Lazarus, together with the woman at the well, had an impact on people around them:  people believed on account of their witness.  How is it with your witness?

He was hated because of Christ 

His association with Christ made him a target of the hatred of the Jews.  Life in the footsteps of Christ leads to eternity, and that in itself is wonderful.  But we need to take our cross and follow Him.  Peter writes:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12–13, NIV)

Conclusion

Can I conclude with just one question?  Is all of your life to the glory and honour of Christ who saved you from death and brought your over to life?  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 15 January 2017

What have you to say about Christ?

Readings

Isaiah 49:1-7; John 9:12-27

Introduction

In his book, Catching the Light, quantum physicist Arthur Zojanc writes of studies which investigated recovery from people born blind. Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth could suddenly have functional use of their eyes; however, success has been rare.

Zajoc quotes from another researcher who observed: “To give back sight to a person born blind, is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon.” To which Zajoc adds, “The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind.”

Our Lord in chapter 9 of the Gospel of John dealt with both types of blindness:  a person born blind, and people who could see, but could not understand what they saw.

This is what John writes in all of his Gospel:  light shining in darkness, but darkness which could not comprehend it.  That light is Christ, and the light He brought into this spiritually dark world is like light bringing forth life.

The work of God on display

People in the time of Jesus was generally of the opinion that a particular sin leads to a particular sickness.  We understand that since sin came into the world, sickness entered into this world, but we certainly cannot draw a straight line between sin and sickness.

So, when the disciples saw the man born blind, they wanted to know who it was who sinned, him or his parents.  There was even the idea that a sinning mother could carry the curse of her sin over onto an unborn child.

Jesus Christ did not go into the merit of this unbiblical theology; instead He saw the state of the blind young man as God’s way to display his sovereign grace.

Christ was the One who the Father sent to seek and to save the lost.  Through the miraculous healing of the man’s blindness Christ demonstrated that He reigns over the darkness of this world.

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4–5, NIV)

The work of the Father who sent Him was to bring light.

It strikes us that both the man and his parents did not show any desire that our Lord would heal his blindness.  Can we see any natural inclination of any sinner to not even seek God for redemption?

We need to say it over and over again:  the fact that I may call myself a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with me seeking the Lord.  In spiritual blindness I couldn’t see the kingdom of God; in spiritual blindness Nathaniel knew nothing about Christ, who knew everything about him even before he saw Christ.  He then heard the words of our Lord,

“Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (John 1:51, NIV)

The way Jesus opened the eyes of this blind man, calls for different ways of interpretation.  Why did He mix spit and dirt to form a mudpack to go over the eyes of the blind, we cannot be sure of.  One commentator points to the fact that according to Jewish ceremonial interpretation, everything discharged from a person must be considered unclean.  So, when Jesus spat onto the dirt He very dramatically wanted to point out that He is not bound by the ceremonial laws cooked up by the Pharisees.

All of this happened on a Sabbath, to which the Pharisees added innumerable laws as to what they considered work and what not.

Christ saw contact with the blind as continuing the work of the Father.  Maybe the dirt was a reference to how God made Adam.  The fact that He did it on a Sabbath was to indicate that He came to heal the whole person.  This was He said in John 7:

… why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? (John 7:23, NIV)

Point is, all the ceremonies of the Old Testament had their fulfilment in Christ – one could say they found their “rest”, or Sabbath, in Christ – so that He who was one with the Father, and God Himself, could introduce a new creation through his own body.

It was not a problem for Him to make the blind man see.  He send the blind – who at that point of course have not seen Christ – to the pool of Siloam.  The Bible tells us that the meaning of that pool was “Sent” (9:7)  The One whom God sent to bring healing, was the One who sent the blind to the pool with the same name.  And it was there that the blind man’s eyes opened so that he could see.  That water did not heal Him; the One sent by the Father did!  Now that his eyes were opened he could see his Healer.

I was blind, but now I see

On his way back, he picked up some trouble from another type of blindness:  the religious leaders.  They wanted to know more about what happened, but their concern was not the fact that the man could see, but that he was healed on the Sabbath.  Because this happened on a Sabbath, they in their spiritual ignorance concluded that Christ was not from God.

The healed blind man had no problem.  When they asked him, “What have you to say about Him?”, they set a trap before him; either this, or they asked the question because they themselves could not argue against those who said a sinner could not do such a miracle.

What the Pharisees then did parallels very neatly with people who are spiritually blind even in our day:  this was not miracle!  The man was not born blind.  Call his parents.  No, he was, we know, but how he can see and how it happened we don’t know.  Ask him.

These poor parents actually represents another group of spiritually blind people – corresponding with Nicodemus, who just could not openly side with Christ because his spiritual eyes were not fully opened yet too.  They stood between the fact of the miracle and the fear of being ostracised from worship.

“Tell the truth.  We know this man is a sinner.”  Man condemning their Maker!  How many times have sinful man tried to make the sinless Christ like them.  If this is possible, He either cannot be a Saviour, or man do not actually need a Saviour.

You cannot help but love the fellow’s response:  “One thing I know. I was blind but now I see.”  You cannot dispute this fact, and I know the difference between being blind and having sight.  Even he got the Pharisees in the corner: they might not know where Christ came from, but denying his presence does not take away that He miraculously healed him.

In self-righteous fury they threw his out of the synagogue,

“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. (John 9:34, NIV)

In other words, sin caused your blindness; we can see and have no sickness, which means we are better than you.  He was not disfellowshipped for any other reason but the fact he dared to return their own theology in their faces.  This reminds us of the words of Isaiah 66:5,

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)

No-one as blind as he who does not want to see

Our friend with restored faith left the synagogue, but Jesus found him.  This is pure Gospel! Listen.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35, NIV)

This was the first time the man saw Christ – now with eyesight restored.  Christ’s work was not done yet in this man.  His spiritual eyesight had to be restored.  Do you hear the echo of the words of our Lord in John 6,

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37, NIV)

You have seen Him, He is the one speaking to you.” (9:37

He opened your eyes to physically see Him, and his Spirit is opening the eyes of faith to believe.

Do you see Him?  Do you hear Him speak?  Do you see Him standing before you, offering eternal life?

What did the man do then?  He just said, “Lord, I believe!”  And he worshipped Christ.  His eyes were opened so that he beyond the carpenter of Nazareth could see his Saviour.

Then our Lord 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)

These words hit the Pharisees hard.  “Are we blind too?”

Jesus answered,

“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. (John 9:41, NIV)

Let’s unpack this statement:  Jesus said to the Pharisees that with their own eyes that have seen Him and what He came to do. They saw the blind man’s sight restored, and they saw him worship our Lord.  If they did not physically see this they could be forgiven.  But now that they saw it, yet they remain spiritually blind and rejecting the Son of God who came to seek also them, they stand condemned, spiritually without eyesight.

Conclusion

This brings us to the question again, “What have you to say about Christ?”  Do you believe in the Son of Man?  Do you hear Hom speak?  Are your spiritual eyes open, and your spiritual ears able to hear?  Listen, He is the one speaking to you.

There will be a day that we might hear this question asked in maybe a different way, but we will not be able to escape a proper response.

“What to you have to say about Christ?”

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 11 December 2016

Crossing over from death to life

(John 5:16-30, Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Mercy – the work of Father and the Son

The first few verses of John 5 tells the story of our Lord coming to the aide of the helpless who superstitiously stared at the signs of moving water and then hoped to get in first and be healed.  One chap sat there for years, maybe all thirty eight years of him being invalid, and he was still in desperate need to be healed.

What a sad scene:  a multitude of individuals – blind, lame and paralysed – at the Pool of Bethesda with a desire to be helped and be restored.  This is sad a picture of helplessness.

This is the picture of a world without Christ.  This is the world of John 1:  a dark world, and darkness did not understand light.  But God’s eternal plan of salvation was put into place:  a new creation was about to called into existence.  So, God sent his Son to be the light;  God sent his Holy Spirit to give new birth.

On a Sabbath day, Jesus Christ stood amongst them.  “Do you want to be healed?” “Who’s talking?  I have been waiting thirty eight years, but I can’t get in the water; there’s always another stumbler in my way.”

With a word his desire became reality. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk”, our Lord said.  Jesus Christ just spoke a word, just like his Father in the beginning – and the Light brought forth life.  The man was healed and restored.

The Pharisees saw the man walking and complained about him carrying his bed on a Sabbath!  For years they did not even see him in is misery.  Like blood hounds they immediately wanted to know who allowed it to happen.  When they found Jesus He said,

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17, NIV)

Just in the previous chapter Jesus told his disciples, “My food, is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34, NIV).  In verse 36 Jesus said,

“For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. (John 5:36, NIV)

When God created the heavens and the earth He did so because He wanted to; He was under no obligation to do so.  When He created Adam and Eve, He did so because He wanted to.  When He gave them the garden to live to provide for them, and when He put them above all created things to rule over, He showed his mercy to them.  That He did not consume them in his hatred of sin when they then rebelled against Him and sin, was an act of mercy.

When He sent Jesus Christ, who was with Him from the very beginning, to be the light and life of the world, providing a way out of the mess of sin and darkness, He did so as an act of mercy.

“For so God loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

God’s rest on the Sabbath Day was for Him to continue his work – after the fall in paradise this work was a work of mercy.  Jesus came as God to do the same work:  He shows mercy and restores the sick, the blind and the lame – those who could not do anything for themselves.  He gave them new life.

Such are we:  in regards to salvation we can’t help ourselves.  We need a Saviour – and He has come!  He has authority from the Father, because with the Father He has been eternally God.

His work is a work of mercy. This mercy shines bright against the fall when man swung his fist against God and all of creation, of which God said “it was very good”, and corrupted everything with sin.  The cycle of work and rest was interrupted; it became work and death.  Death and sorrow entered and became part of our life.  But exactly because of this, when Christ came to deal with sin and death, He became our eternal rest; He became our Sabbath.

For this they nailed Him to a cross. Because He restored works of mercy on the day of the Lord, and because He said He was equal to God, they killed Him.  But who can kill God?  Acts 2 states,

But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. (Acts 2:24, NIV)

Now Hebrews says,

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9–10, NIV)

To be saved is to enjoy an eternal Sabbath of rest in Christ.  But there is a warning for us,

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:2, NKJV)

We hear this warning in the same breath as we hear of God the Father and the Son’s work of mercy.

Life – a gift from the Father and the Son (verses 24-30)

It is not possible to honour the Father and not honour the Son.

He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him. (John 5:23, NKJV)

But the opposite is also true:

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)

The words of our Lord are the words of the Father.  The words of the Father right in the beginning brought forth light and life.  The Spirit of God brings to life the Word of the Father and breathes life into the valley of dead bones.  Jesus said the time has come for the dead to the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  He is God.  He gives life.

He is speaking right now, here in this congregation.  All over the world today people will hear his word and those who are enabled to hear that word, their hearts will be moved by the Spirit of God to receive that word.  They will repent, believe, come to the Saviour, hear that they will not be condemned if they trust and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

More than that: even if they one day die in Him, they will be a day when He will appear on the clouds.  He will then call them.  They will hear his voice and will be raised to life, because our Lord declared at the grave of his friend 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)

But let this be very clear for us listening to this today:  verse 22 states clearly,

The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. (John 5:22–23, NIV)

There will be a last day.  The Bible calls it judgement day.  Matthew 25 tells us of that day:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31–33, NIV)

Revelation 20 talks about all of us appearing before the throne of God.  The books will be opened – and if our righteousness on that day is not the righteousness of Christ, we will stand condemned.  “Those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

The advice of the Bible today is not wait for that day to listen to voice of Christ calling you to life.  Instead, listen – He is calling now.  Those who hear his word and believe in Him who sent Christ have crossed over from death to life.

The Scriptures – good news about salvation (verses 31-47)

There are two ways to read and study the Scriptures:  on is to find rules and regulations to live a good life in the hope to gain some brownie points to be saved.  This is what the Pharisees did.  Jesus said,

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. (John 5:39, NIV)

The other way is to read the Bible and hear the word of Christ calling.  To understand that He is our life, our door to the Father, our Shepherd who laid down his life for us.  The Word of God dwells in them for they believe in the One He sent to be their righteousness in order to be forgiven and be saved.

After World War II the Nuremberg trials gained much attention because of a so-called “superior orders defence” principle. German officers who actually gassed millions of Jews pleaded not guilty because”an order is an order”:   Because Hitler issued the order, he must be responsible for their crimes, they simply obeyed a lawful order.

But this principle did not help them.  The court applied the  principle that no person is not relieved him from his responsibility under international law if a moral choice was in fact possible to him.  We are responsible for our actions

The same applied to the Pharisees, and of course to those who heard the voice of Christ, yet rejected it.  In other words, we cannot put the blame on anyone than ourselves if we heard the Gospel and did nothing about it.  Jesus Christ said,

These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me and have life. (John 5:39-40, NIV)

There is a danger in hearing the Word and then “make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” (5:44)

Conclusion

My dear friend, the hardest thing for us is to see ourselves sit at the well – sick, lame, blind, crippled – and to admit that we are as good as dead.

But then again – and this is a work of mercy – what is easier than hearing the word, to believe, to honour God, and to cross from death into life?

Listen to what Jesus says, “I tell you this so that you may be saved.” (5:34)

He calls you to a new life in Him.  Listen, do not refuse to come to Him and have life. (5:40).  On the contrary, make an effort to obtain the praise that comes for the only God (5:44).  Then only will the day of judgment be a day of eternal happiness.  The contrary is too scary to consider.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 6 November 2016

Bible study of the Gospel of John

 

 

 

 

living-into-eternityPublished by:

Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church
7 Denman’s Camp Road

Scarness 4655 QLD

(07) 4124 7018

herveybaypresbyterian.org
ⓒ 2016

Bible quotes from

  • The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (www.zondervan.com)
  • The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. (http://www.esvbible.org)
  • The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

This booklet, or parts of it, may be reproduced with the permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

A New Creation – light in Darkness
A New Vision – the glory of the Son of Man
A New Order – the Groom reveals his glory
A New Temple – Christ our access to God
A New Birth – born from above
A New People – a harvest who worship God in Spirit and truth
A New Food – true bread from heaven
A New Fountain – the holy Spirit
A New Shepherd – He laid down his life for his sheep
A New Life – to live even though we die

 

It is better that one man die than that the whole nation perish

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

Scripture Readings

  • Isaiah 49:1-7
  • John 11:45-57

Introduction

We continue our series of sermons following the Gospel of John. In the next few weeks we will look at the theme of life and death, as we follow our Saviour, from closely before He was arrested, to the end of his ministry.

Towards the end of his Gospel, John explains the purpose of his Gospel in these words:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

As we hear the Word of God speak to us from John’s Gospel chapter 11:45 onwards, this stated purpose of John will be our guide.  So, we pray that God will enlighten our minds as we read and hear the Word preached, that we will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we will receive life in his Name.

Our theme for this sermon is: It is better that one man die than that the whole nation perish.
We will open the Word of God under these headings:

  • Jesus Christ: inaction to his life-giving Gospel impossible
  • Jesus Christ, the last Passover Lamb appointed by the last High Priest
  • Jesus Christ, no authority stronger than his
  • Jesus Christ, arresting those desiring to arrest Him

Jesus Christ: inaction to his life-giving Gospel impossible

The last miracle our Lord performed, as recorded by John, was to raise Lazarus from the dead.  John does not record the fact that Jesus healed the ear of Malchus, a soldier, after Peter had cut it off with his sword; only Luke, who was a doctor by profession, records that fact.  John, however, wants us to understand the thrust of the Gospel as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to restore life, and that in abundance, by giving his life to die for our sin, to pay the price of righteousness before God, to destroy death, and to prepare eternal life for us.

So, immediately after recording the raising of Lazarus, John tells us about the plot to kill Jesus.  In this plot, Caiaphas, the last High Priest, made this remark:

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50, NIV)

It is almost beyond comprehension to understand the reaction of the crowd who witnessed the miracle of Lazarus.  This man had been dead for four days, and yet, death had to yield its power to Christ when He spoke and called the dead man to life.

We indeed have to turn to Chapter 12 to understand something of the events better.  It was at this dinner in honour of Jesus that we find Lazarus among those reclining at the table with Jesus.  We also understand from verse 12, that:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. (John 12:9, NIV)

So, it seems that between verse 9 and 12 of this chapter, and verse 45 of the previous chapter two things happened:

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.

Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45–46, NIV)

These two reactions spells out the theme of life and death very clearly:  those believed in Jesus as the son of God, received life;  those who did not receive Him by faith, did not receive eternal life, but they, being children of death and darkness, could not stand seeing Jesus perform any miracle or teach anything about the life-giving message of the Kingdom of heaven in their midst anymore.  In their sight, there was only one possible path for Him:  He had to die; He could not be allowed to be part of their world; they would not be told how they should conduct their lives by one Man who claims to be the Son of God.
Earlier in John’s Gospel our Lord confronts the Jews who did not believe in Him, although they boasted about the fact that they were children of Abraham.  Jesus said:

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:37–38, NIV)

Further on our Lord explains to them why they were planning to kill Him:

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! (John 8:43–45, NIV)

We have witnessed unheard of hatred and contempt of a national leader last week with the burial of Baroness Margaret Thatcher. One can only wonder if such and outburst of hostility could only be attributed to her policies as leader of Great Britain.  It struck me that Mrs Thatcher chose the Scripture readings for her funeral herself.  They came from Ephesians 6:10 and onwards where it speaks about the armour of battle against the evil spirits in the air; the other reading was from John 14 where the words of our Lord is recorded, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

Were these readings just by accident or ceremonial?  I don’t think so.  In a speech before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Mrs Thatcher made this remark:

“…we must not profess the Christian faith and go to Church simply because we want social reforms and benefits or a better standard of behaviour; but because we accept the sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ expressed so well in the hymn: “When I survey the wondrous Cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.”

I think the hatred poured out against this brave woman was aimed at her stance for Christ.

We see it happening all over again every day in our own land.  It disturbs us when people make a mockery of our Lord and his church, when they blaspheme his holy Name on every possible way, but actually we should not be surprised, this world who has rejected life, rejects the One who gives life; the only option is to now love death.  And we see it in the ways death is celebrated in same-sex marriages (no new life is possible out of such a union); euthanasia (everyone has the right to choose how he/she wants to die); and abortion (mothers should have the right to have their unborn children killed).

Jesus Christ, the last Passover Lamb appointed by the last High Priest

So, those who saw what Jesus did and yet did not believe in Him as the Son of God, went ahead and reported to the Pharisees, who then went to report it to the Sadducees, who as a group made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council.  It will help us to understand the make-up of this council.

The Pharisees, strictly speaking, were not a political party at all, though they had political power because they were so highly regarded. Actually, they were a religious party or denomination. They were concerned chiefly with observing each minute requirement of the law and with encouraging others to do so.  They saw in Jesus the enemy:  He laboured on the Sabbath day by healing the sick, and even allowing his disciples to pick some grain for food on the Sabbath day.  Jesus confronted them and called them hypocrites, white-washed graves full of dead bones.  Our Lord uttered other things against the Pharisees who thought and taught that their strict way of observing the Law would secure them a place in heaven.  They found that offensive and decided that Jesus should be removed from the scene because He made their teachings of the Bible look and sound ridiculous.

The Sadducees were not religious leaders as such, but they were a political party.  They were wealthy and aristocratic, and they collaborated with the Romans to preserve their privileged position. These men had much to lose, particularly if there should be a civil disorder; for that would bring swift intervention by the Romans.  As far as their religious beliefs are concerned, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Here they are faced with the reality of Lazarus who is alive, being brought back to life through our Lord.  What now?  Easy, kill the One who raise from the dead, and the resurrection of the dead is impossible.  Also, kill Lazarus who had been raised from the dead and the stories about the resurrection and the One who makes it possible will go away.  They had a problem on their hands:

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (John 11:47–48, NIV)

The concerns of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees are mentioned in this one sentence:  If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him [the religious argument], and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation  [the political argument].

Jesus Christ, no authority stronger than his

This statement is an acknowledgement that things were out of hand for them. The message of the Pharisees are rejected as the people saw and experienced the freedom of the Gospel of our Lord;  that the resurrection from the dead is true and that people believe as a result of it, flew in the face of the teachings of the Sadducees.  They could not, both groups, do anything against the power of Christ – even if they would decided to have Him killed: death would not hold Him, and by his death He would rescue the dying.  No matter what they did, they would loose the battle.  The very fact that we still preach this message is a testimony of the power of the life, love and Gospel of Christ over the powers of darkness.

Montgomery-Boice tells this story.

A number of years ago a lady was invited by a friend to go to a gospel meeting. “I am afraid to go for fear I will get converted,” she answered. Imagine! She was afraid that she might get straightened out with God. On another occasion a minister said to a certain woman in his congregation, “I have not seen your husband lately. Has he lost interest in the gospel?” She answered, “Well, he is afraid to come; for when he comes and hears the Word, it takes him nearly two weeks to get over it.”So, as someone else said, “Being convinced of sin and the conviction they we stand guilty before God, should not make us run away from Him, but should drive us to run to Him!”

Caiaphas, the High Priest, got up.  He was also a Sadducee and in effect the political leader dressed in a purple clerical robe of the Jewish people.  “Let’s think of the good of the people. Isn’t it better that one man die and the nation lives?  If everyone believes in this man, the Romans will come and take away our place [the Temple] and our nation.  So, it is our duty as leaders of the God’s elected people to have this Jesus Christ killed, and so save the nation [which is actually a speech to save his own position].

The very events they dreaded happened. They eliminated Jesus—in one sense at least. But in the aftermath of the crucifixion and the gradual scattering of the Christians from Jerusalem, the revolutionary spirit began to grow with intensity in Palestine, a war broke out, and the Romans intervened to crush the rebellion. In that great war all the strongholds of Israel were overthrown, Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed, and the temple was left in ruins. In fact, as Josephus tells us, a plow was even drawn across the temple area to stress the desolation. How different events might have been if these men had received their Messiah! But they did not. They resisted him, and the sin of resistance had consequences.

No one can frustrate God; no one can oppose Him.  If anyone would try to oppose Him, he will pay the consequences, as did these men. You may oppose him, but Christianity will spread. The Bible says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established”. If only the enemy of the Gospel of our Lord will understand this.  If only those who are hard of heart understand this.

Jesus Christ, arresting those desiring to arrest Him

It seems there are times when those who mostly oppose the coming of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ could become the wisest preachers of the kingdom.  Caiaphas was one in point.  The Bible helps us to understand:

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. (John 11:51–52, NIV)

God would have the High Priest preach the Gospel, even if he did not understand it himself.  His words sound like they were concocted in hell, but actually they were formulated by the Father. So also,  Pilate had a plaque made for his soldiers to nail to the cross of Jesus.  The intention was to deride the Son of Man: He is the King of the Jews.  He could not be more on the mark; He was the King, not only of the Jews but of the world.  He proved it on the third day when He conquered death.

Those gathered in the council room of the Jews had a few choices, but the choices were not choices of freewill; it was forced upon them.  It is of course the same choices we face as we have to deal with Jesus; it is the same choices the world has to deal with in regards to our Lord.

They had to answer this question: Christ is either Christ or anti-Christ, He cannot be both.  He raised Lazarus in the Name of the Father for the glory of the Father. Did the people who flocked to Him and believed in Him did so because He is from the Father or against the Father?”  Does He give life because all life was through Him in the beginning, or does He give life acting in the name of Belial? But fact of the matter is this, one cannot ignore Him!  You fall at his feet and worship Him, or you take the hammer and nail Him to the cross.  By doing so the choice is between life and death.

If one cannot ignore Him, another possibility is to oppose Him.  There is a warning here; not only do the Jewish Council serve as a warning that one cannot stand against the Son of God, the Bible also warns:

Kiss his Son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 2:12, NIV)

Can you oppose him? If you do, do you really believe that you will be successful? Will you not rather be in the deplorable company of those rulers who “take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters,’ ” of whom we are told, “The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (Ps. 2:2–4)?

You can believe on Jesus and follow him. His way is the way of the cross. But the cross is the way to victory, for it is only by losing life that a man can save it. It is only by following Jesus that the victory is won. But there is a price:  we have to take up our cross and follow Him.  That’s life.

Conclusion

The Gospel is preached – even today it has been preached.  It is the Word of God.  It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.  Why?

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

Did we hear his voice? Sure we have.  But we cannot remain without reaction.  We can try to ignore Him, or oppose Him, of worship Him.  The right choice is a choice between life and death.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 21st April 2013

 

 

 

The Christ lays down his life to give eternal life those the Father gave Him

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

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 23
  • John 10:14:30

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We begin a new series of sermons following the Gospel of John. There are certain very distinct themes in the Gospel of John:  there is light and darkness, life and death, the truth and the lie, being blind and being able to see, and others.

In the next few weeks we will look at the theme of life and death, as we follow our Saviour from closely before He was arrested to the end of his ministry.

Towards the end of his Gospel, John explains the purpose of his Gospel in these words:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

As we hear the Word of God speak to us from John’s Gospel chapter 10 and what follows, this stated purpose of John will be our guide.  So, we pray that God will enlighten our minds as we read and hear the Word preached, that we will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we will receive life in his Name.

Our theme for this sermon is:  The Christ lays down his life to give eternal life those the Father gave Him.

We will open the Word of God under these headings:

  • Who is Jesus Christ?
  • What was His mission?
  • Who belongs to Him?
  • What does He give to those who belong to Him

Who is Jesus Christ?

He is the shepherd, his Father the watchman – or the owner of all the sheep

John 10:3 talks about the watchman who opens the gate for the shepherd.  The picture is something like this:

At night time the shepherd in ancient times would bring the flock he is responsible for to a communal place where other shepherds also had their flocks.  During the night a watchman guarded the gate which provided entrance to the different pens.  In the morning the shepherd would ask the watchman to open the door to his sheep.  He would then call those sheep belonging to him and they, knowing his voice, would follow him.  Through the day he would walk in front of them and lead them to places where they could find feed and water.  At night time he would bring them back again.

Through the Gospel of John the theme of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son helps us to understand that Jesus is sent by the Father to seek and to save the lost.  The Father knows who belongs to them, because He gives them life through the work of the Holy Spirit.  He becomes their Father, because all who

did receive Him [Jesus Christ], 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)

In verse 29 of our chapter Jesus declares:

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:29, NIV)

Jesus also says in verse 17-18

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)

In John 4:34 our Lord declares:

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34, NIV)

So, in John 5:19 our Lord declares:

“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 in verse 26:

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (John 5:26, NIV)

Jesus came into this world to seek and save the lost.  There were and are some with the name of God on them, lost in their sins, yet held by the Father in his eternal love, who have to be saved by the blood of his Son, their Good Shepherd.  His Father is the watchman, keeping save those predestined for eternal life, and He will not have anyone snatch them out of his hand.

There were people, especially the blind leaders of the day, who could not understand this.  They wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy because He called Himself the Son of God.

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:33, NIV)

Jesus then, taking them to the Old Testament (Psalm 86).  Jesus says, remember, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (something they also understood very well);  in that Psalm God accused the leaders (the princes and rulers were referred to as “gods”):

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Psalm 82:5, NIV)

So what did they do? They did no defend the cause if the weak and the fatherless, neither did they maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed. They did not rescue the weak and the needy, and they did not deliver them from the hand of the wicked.  So, Jesus pointed out to the people their own leaders stand accused before God.  But their Father set One apart (John 10:36):

what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. (John 10:36–37, NIV)

If they would believe the Father then they would believe Him, because “the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”  Everything Jesus had done up to that point proved that He was from the Father, the promised Christ.
Our battle in this world is to convince the lost that Jesus is from the Father and that what He does is what the Father sent Him to do.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1–3)

This is the point of contention.  When those in darkness see the light of the Gospel regarding Jesus Christ, something marvellous happens:  they see the Kingdom of God, they worship the King and adore the Shepherd who came to seek and save them from the clutches of the wolf who had no other purpose but to kill and destroy.  But before this happens, there is darkness, there is enmity, and our battle is fierce. It is because of this very reason that they killed Jesus by hanging Him on a tree.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:6–8, NIV)

He is the shepherd of his sheep

Unlike the leaders of Israel, who proved to be bad shepherds, Jesus is the good shepherd.  They are described in Ezekiel 34:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. (Ezekiel 34:2–6, NIV)

In John 9 they are pictured as blind leaders who are leading the blind.  They enter the pen not by the gate, passing the watchman who owns and protects the sheep, no, they climb over the wall.  Their purpose is not to tend the flock, but to destroy the flock.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)

It is so different with Jesus, the Son of God.  He is both the gate and the shepherd.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9, NIV)

He is the only way to the Father, salvation is in no one else.  Acts 4:12

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV)

He is the gate where his Father is the Gatekeeper.  His Father knows Him to open the gate when He calls for his sheep.  When his sheep hear his voice they know that going through that gate following the Shepherd they will have life:  He will take them out to the pastures where He will see that they are fed and nurtured.  He, the Gate and the Shepherd in one, is life.  His intention in only good:

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11–16, NIV)

What was his mission?

Verse 11:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, NIV)

In the next verses we see a picture of the enemy, the wolf who attacks the flock to destroy it.  The hired hand runs for his life, but the true shepherd put himself between the danger and the flock to guard them from the attack.  The hired hand cares nothing for the sheep.  Not so with Jesus, the good Shepherd:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14–15, NIV)

He lay down his life for his sheep.  This was the command from the Father:

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)

This was the purpose of the Father sending his Son into this world:  to lay down his life for his sheep.  Those who are of his flock understand it for they know it.  Those who are not of his flock do not understand or know it.  They can’t hear his voice, and they don’t understand Him calling.

but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:26–27, NIV)

This takes us back to John 1:

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:11, NIV)

And we understand the words of our Lord in John 3:3

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3, NIV)

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19–20, NIV)

On the other hand:

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)

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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. (John 3:16–18, NIV)

Who belongs to Him?

In short, those who listen to his voice.  He lays down his life to bring them into the pen:

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16, NIV)

The Gospel about Jesus Christ is preached to those who do not believe, and God the Father will, by the work of his Holy Spirit, open the hearts of those whom He will draw to Himself to hear his voice and come to Him, never to be snatched from his hand.

When Jesus told them these things, the people had two reactions:

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” (John 10:20, NIV)

Others, on the other hand said:

These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:21, NIV)

There were two men on Calvary’s Hill that morning when they crucified our Lord; one mocked Him, the other pleaded for forgiveness – and got it.

What does He give to those who belong to Him?

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)

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.

The difference is is great as the difference between life and death:  eternal life or eternal death.  He died (laid down his life) so that those who believe in Him can live.  Those who do not belive in Him stand condemned to eternal death.

Conclusion

This Gospel has been preached – even today is it preached.  It is the Word of God “which cannot be broken”.  It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.  Why?

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

Did we hear his voice?  Do we believe? Did we enter through the only gate?  The reason why we heard this message today is to hear his voice – and believe unto eternal life.  Let’s thank God.

AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7 April 2013