Thursday, July 28, 2016

Relentless

A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.10


John 13:15
“I have set before you an example, that you should do as I have done for you”

Young John reclined with a full stomach. His ears were filled with the squabbling of his brother and several others as they again debated who would be first in this new kingdom that seemed days from being established. Thousands had come out to see the Lord as they came into town to celebrate the Passover.
Voices began to be raised and John gave his brother an angry glance that he hoped might finally shut him up. Next to him Jesus suddenly rose to his feet and unclothed himself wrapping a towel around only his waist. The squabbles ceased immediately and the room grew so deathly silent John could clearly hear the nervous breaths being taken as they looked on at their teacher. “What is this my Lord is doing?” John thought.
As Jesus filled a basin with water they now all knew what he intended and some gasped. John saw Peter shaking his head in disbelief and disgust and John understood what Peter was thinking because he felt the same.

Their Lord now looked like a common house servant, chest bare and a towel draped over his shoulder. He moved quietly with the basin and towel and kneeled at the feet of Peter placing the basin on the floor. “You shall never wash my feet!” Peter yelled in confused revile.
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus said to him flatly. A look of fear washed over Peter’s face at hearing this. “Lord, not my feet only, but my hands, and my head.” Peter stammered out. The Lord took and untied Peter’s filthy sandal and began to wash the grime from his feet that had collected from the days travels.
“What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Jesus said.
The Lord moved then to young John and kneeled. John felt a single tear roll out of his eye and down his cheek as the Lord poured the cool water over the first foot. This Lord, this teacher of his had taken his position as their Lord and teacher and thrown it aside to make himself like a lowly child or a house maid. He used the hands that healed the lame, the blind, and the sick to now scrub the muck from young John’s feet.
Jesus then moved on to Judas. John watched on, his Lord’s back was now to him. Then John saw something as the Lord untied the sandals of Judas, a peculiar almost sickened look of sorrow twisted its way into Judas’ face. Judas turned his head and would not even look toward the Lord kneeled in front of him working to clean his feet. Jesus moved throughout the room, changing the water several times as it grew mucky. When finished he washed his hands and clothed himself.
He stood before them looking around the room meeting the eyes of each of the twelve.
“You call me teacher and Lord, and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.”
Jesus moved back to his place at the table and reclined.
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen but this is to fulfill this passage of scripture: He who shared my bread has turned against me. I am telling you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

Jesus lowered his head and young John watched a look of great anguish spilled across the Lord’s face. He suddenly seemed very troubled.
“Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” Jesus said in a voice mixed with both anger and sadness.

Rant
Many people recoil or even wish to debate about Jesus’ demand on our lives. We read the parts of the Bible that aren’t so intrusive and convicting and go about mimicking the sometimes lukewarm devotion of the Christians around us rather than really looking at the type of devotion Jesus asks for, and the funny thing is, is that those of us that refuse to give everything over to Him are giving everything over to something else, whether it be a job, a person, a drug, material possessions, or something else that provides for us worldly pleasure, comfort, or false security. We are more than ready to worship any of these things while, if we are honest, we want to use Jesus as kind of a tool.
We often want to add Jesus to the lives we already have, we stick him in our pocket and think “This will be good to have around when times get tough.” Many times without even realizing it we’ve made Jesus our disciple. The plain and simple truth is that this type of devotion does not make us a disciple of Jesus Christ any more than occasionally flying on an airplane makes us a pilot.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking “The bible says all that’s required is that I believe.” This is a lie that the devil has been hard at work propagating for some time now. How often do we hear verses like John 3:16 being pulled out of its deep context and used as a blanket statement wrapping it around the entire word of God?
Its plain lunacy and I can’t say it enough or strongly enough to convey here just how incorrect this is and not, by the way, incorrect by my standards but incorrect according to the text of the Bible. I would encourage you not to take my word for it, please read and see what conclusions you draw yourself.

How misguided this thinking is becomes apparent when we do the same with other verses such as for example 1John 2:6 whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. Now if we were to take this verse out of its context and paste it across the entire bible as the sole meaning of faith in Christ many people that aren’t reading their bible like they should might get the idea that Christianity requires homelessness and martyrdom because that is how Jesus lived.
Why don’t we take any of the multitude of hard verses, rip them out of their proper context and hold them high as a banner for Christianity? Two words personal preference, we don’t like those verses. It’s that simple. Those verses ask too much of us.
We need to keep reading when we come to a verse like John 3:16 just as we need to keep reading when we come to a verse like 1John 2:6. When we do we see that the apostle John isn’t for a second saying all we need to do to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is be able to say “I believe” and then we can go about living the remainder of our lives as we see fit. You cannot read the book of John or even that 3rd chapter in John and come away thinking that, it’s just not possible, but many, some even pastors with P.H.D’s will tell you this is all that’s required.

Jesus Christ left the perfection of His throne in heaven to be born in a manure filled barn, to be the son of a lowly carpenter in a small back woods town. He lived a sinless life until the age of thirty-three and then walked himself into a town where He knew men would scourge Him, beat Him, spit in His face, and nail Him to a tree and on that tree He would bear the wrath of the Father.

Jesus already gave all for you and me, and while He was here on this planet He was very vocal about the kind of devotion was required to be His disciple. When we read the Gospels we can see His reaction to those that were unwilling to give all over to Him. He gave us many parables spelling out, in no uncertain terms, His very real expectations. And what of the Father’s expectations? What might our expectations be if we surrendered our child to be beaten and executed to pay a ransom for which He was not responsible?

The Lord’s brother said “Even the demons believe” might this be also the Lord’s response when we see him and tell Him how we “Believed?”  
Shouldn’t we expect the Lord to be interested in how we’ve lived?
He will be, His Word tells that again and again.

His example here before these first twelve disciples tells us how we should live. Jesus here again casts off any claim to His mighty position as Lord and amidst the selfish squabbling of His followers He takes the position of a Slave scrubbing the grime from their feet. Have you ever really thought about what that would be like, to scrub the feet of twelve men that had spent the day walking practically barefoot through roads and fields where multitudes of livestock roam?
Salvation comes through belief yes but also then repentance. We must die to ourselves, meaning we put aside completely our preferences, our pleasures, and our plans and make Him and His Word central to our lives going forward. We lay all at His feet because He has already given all for us. As He washed clean the feet of the first disciples His blood washes us clean before Father today.
We pray for the Spirit to guide us. The places He may take us might be hard, the truth is that Jesus just might ask us to give it all away but it’s when we are willing to lose all for Him that we truly begin a life of discipleship.

This isn’t easy and we aren’t going to be perfect at it, the apostle Paul tells us so. We will always be struggling and striving to live by the Spirit but struggle and strive we must! Being compelled to struggle and driven to strive for a life more and more free of sin and closer and closer to Christ and to the Father is a miraculous sign of the seal we’ve received in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He will convict us, instruct us, admonish us, empower, and strengthen us for the very real war being waged.


The war for our immortal soul. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Slaves of Freedom

 

Luke 4:18
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

There is much to be learned just here in this verse alone not to mention the verses leading up to it and just after it, we could literally be here all day, but what I want us to focus on today primarily is just one word freedom and not just the word itself but what Jesus meant by his use of that word and what type of freedom He offers us here today.

This is a powerful event Luke has recorded.
If we look further down in verse 23 of this same chapter we can read that Jesus had already been in Capernaum

A portion of that verse states- 'Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'"

So we can see that Jesus had already created quite a reputation healing and teaching even though in the text it would appear as though he had just emerged from his forty days in the desert.
So it looks like Luke placed this account here not because of any chronological order but possibly because it made a perfect kind of title to place here at the start of Jesus’ ministry because it encapsulates what His  ministry would be about.

This was likely a synagogue that Jesus frequented as a boy and young adult growing up in Nazareth. At this time in synagogues like this one they would often invite visiting Rabbi’s to teach but this wasn’t just any Rabbi, this was a well known hometown boy returning to His local church.
 Nazareth at this time is thought to have had a population no larger than two thousand people and being the son of a carpenter and then being a carpenter himself Jesus no doubt was well known by many here long before his ministry began.

Jesus opens the scroll to this portion of Isaiah that we now understand to prophesy of His first coming and also His eventual return and He reads it aloud. He then takes His seat, which was customary for a teacher to do before teaching or expounding on the text read. He goes on to tell these folks that He’d known all his life, in no uncertain terms, that He was the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah was speaking of.
 But as I said our focus here today has to do with this proclamation of “freedom for the captives” that was prophesied by Isaiah and begins with the coming of Christ into the world and no doubt continues still today.

So to begin to understand this proclamation we should ask ourselves “What is freedom” and who are the “Captives” Christ spoke about?
 Well I believe if you were to ask a Jew at this time in history it’s reasonable to assume that they would tell you this portion of scripture meant the very real physical release of the Jewish people from Roman oppression by a conquering Messiah leading an Israelite army. We here today however know that’s not the case.

Many in this area of ancient Palestine that would be freed and saved by Jesus were “Captive” to the oppression of the warped use of the law and the lies being hoisted upon them by the Pharisees, but what does this proclamation mean for us here today? 

What is freedom? As modern Americans living in an ever growing secularized culture we are again and again told that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want, however we want to do it, with whom ever we want, wherever we choose.
 We will work where we want, be friends with whom we want, dress how we want, talk how we want, listen to what music we want, be entertained how we want, and marry who we want.

 I think if you were to walk up to just about anyone on the street here in America today and ask them what freedom is their answer would resemble this if not be dead on the same. But is this real freedom, is this what God intends for us, is this the form of freedom that Jesus came to give us?

Did Jesus come and live a sinless life and then die the horrific death of being nailed to a tree paying the penalty we owe for our fallen sinful nature so that we might be free from the law to live a life of unlimited self indulgence and self exaltation? So that we might be free to hoist high up on the ladder of priority our own personal preferences and pleasures and follow those to our own ends?

I would submit to you today that when we look at real freedom, this very real and authentic freedom that Jesus is proclaiming here in his hometown church it looks very much the opposite of what our society tells us freedom is, and it is also often this real freedom that even we who profess to follow Christ reject for our own lives.

Secular society preaches to us a steady sermon of individuality and autonomy. We hear phrases like
“Be your own person, be true to yourself, make your own way, and do it for yourself.” The voices on the televisions and the radios tell us we must “Find out who we are and in finding ourselves we will somehow find happiness.”
 According to our culture we hold all our own truths, we alone decide our direction in life, and the best thing we can do to make ourselves happy and fulfilled is to look inward.
 Is it any wonder as we look out on the current landscape of our society that we see so much depression, suicide, drug addiction, divorce, violence, and promiscuity?
 To hold ourselves to such a high degree, to think all our answers lye in the truths we ourselves get to create is nothing more than another delusional form of idol worship. Simply indulging ourselves and being guided only by our own desires, pleasures, and preferences leads to another very real form of captivity. One of the many forms of captivity I believe Jesus comes to set us free from today.


Truth is not something we as created beings get to create. We can recognize it, we can utilize it and we can adhere our lives to it but we did not and we do not create it, and the truth is we are not independent beings at all, quite the opposite we are dependent beings, and we were created to be dependent beings and going further we were created for a specific purpose.

So when we live as though we are an end unto ourselves, as if all the answers and all the truth we’ll ever need are to be found within ourselves or even found in another fallen sinful human being, we get sick, we get lost, and we get imprisoned. When we remove God from the picture and say we’ve been evolved by forces of chance into a being that is totally self sustaining and completely independent we create a truly unnatural environment for ourselves.
 The idea that we are such dependant beings is very counter cultural and something we ourselves don’t like to here but the Word of God makes it abundantly clear.


Colossians 1:16 all things have been created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These are just a couple out of the multitude of verses throughout the Bible that tell us that not only did God create us but he created us for Himself and it tells us that He sustains our very existence. The action of the atoms and molecules spinning around right now to create a church pew of solid material for us to sit in is being sustained through Him. Each breath we take is being given to us, willed to us by almighty God. 

We are created beings created for a specific purpose and the Word of God tells us what that purpose is over and over again. These are again only a couple verses out of a multitude that tell us of our purpose throughout the Old Testament and the New.

Isaiah 43:21
The people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise.

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

Here in his letter to the Corinthians Paul is talking about foods some people abstain from but that others eat and he instructs us that whatever we may be doing we should do it to the glory of God. We were created for God not for ourselves, we were created for His pleasure and purposes not our own, we were created to glorify Him and be in relationship with Him and that is the freedom Jesus offers us, freedom to be what we were created to be and do what we were designed to do.


Paul confronts this modern self fulfilling type of freedom our culture preaches to us earlier in this same letter.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24
23“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

In seeking to do good for others we glorify our Father.

Have you ever used a knife for a screwdriver, or a drill for a hammer? You break the tip off the knife ruining it or you crack the plastic casing on your cordless drill, trying to use these tools for tasks they are not designed for turns out to be bad news for us and the tools involved.

Would it be possible to find an electric drill out in the woods and come to the conclusion that nature with billions and billions of years had put that drill together? Take a look sometime at the mechanics and processes of the human cell and you will see something far more sophisticated and advanced than the simple rudimentary cordless drill. We have much in common though because we and the drill were both designed for a specific purpose. Using these specifically designed tools for uses other than they were designed for always leads to frustration and brokenness. 


Some might here a message like this and think we’re speaking of following a bunch of rules and denying ourselves the things we most want to do. But it’s when we have been indwelled by the Spirit of truth and completely placed ourselves under the joyful authority of God that what we want to do most is what we were designed to do, it is then that we experience real freedom.
We talk to Him, pray to Him, have a deep continuous relationship with Him and what we want most is to be about His purposes and His work.

When we stop looking inward and start looking upward we begin to know and thoroughly enjoy what authentic freedom is. We ask Him where we are to work, where we are to live, and who it is we are to be. And we begin the struggle Paul spoke much about. We train, we run, and we strive to abide in the real and authentic freedom the Lord has graciously provided.

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

In John 15:5-8 Jesus gives us a remarkable picture, He says

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


Jesus came to this planet telling us He only does that which the Father wills and the purpose of His coming was to make us one with Him as He is with the Father and once we have tasted of the joy that is given when we are being made one with the Father through Christ Jesus we know what true freedom really is, and we begin to see that those who the Son sets free are free indeed!