28 September 2014

DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING DIFFERENT


John 15:18-25

The late great Leonard Ravenhill said “Why Do we expect to be better treated in this world than Jesus was.” What did the Romans & Jews do to Jesus? A better question might be asked this morning! What did we do to Jesus? According to the Bible!
  • He was spit and slapped repeatedly in the face.
  • He was blindfolded and was repeatedly punched by multiple people.
  • His clothing was torn and removed from His body and it was sold amongst themselves.
  • He was made to stand there almost naked in front of a captive crowd of on-lookers.
  • His back and front was brutally beaten and whipped to the point of death due to shock of pain and agony.
  • He was ridiculed dressed like a king as He carried His cross up to Calvary, which is outside the camp.
  • He’s hands and feet had long spikes put through his skin into the wood to hold His body in a position that would cause His lungs to fill up with fluid as He hangs there and dies a slow sinner’s death on a cross.
According to Isaiah some 700 years before Christ came, penned these prophetic words. “As many were astonished at you His appearance was so marred [disfigured] beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” Isaiah 52:14. Never was any man's face more disfigured, or his form more altered, than his was. As John Calvin said “Christ was disfigured among men, or that his beauty was defaced by the perverse judgment of men.” All this suffering because mankind’s hatred towards Jesus Christ and who He claimed to be. There hostility demonstrated their true heart of the Jews. Hey hated Him through His words and actions, because it revealed to the Jews how sinful they truly were. This is a picture of the hostile world system then and today. This is a picture of us…..this is a picture of our culture and world system today. This response by the Jews reminded of a missionary who was approached by an African Chief, in this case a woman. “And Hanging outside the missionary’s cabin, on a tree, was a little mirror. The chief happened to look into the mirror and her reflection, with its hideous paint and evil features. She gazed at her own terrifying countenance and jumped back in horror exclaiming, “Who is that horrible-looking person inside the tree?” “Oh,” the missionary said, “it is not in the tree. The glass is a reflecting your own face." The African would not believe it until she held the mirror in her hand. She said “I must have the glass. How much will you sell it for?” “Oh” the missionary said, “I don’t want to sell it.” But she begged until the missionary caved! She took the mirror. Exclaiming, “I will never have it making faces at me again,” so she threw it down and broke it to pieces.

This is what the Jews did with Jesus. This is what you did before salvation. For those of you here who don’t have a relationship with Christ? This is what you’re doing every day and you don’t even know it, because your sin has blinded your eyes to see truth and the reality of your desperate need to be saved. Jesus suffered and died physically because people don’t want to hear the truth and they hate it when you expose their sins. There is something that many in the church that “don’t” or “won’t” talk about among the fellowship of brother and sisters. It’s a fact and a known truth today, that we too could face persecution like Jesus did in the year 2014. But this shouldn't surprise us! Should it? According to Jesus as we open John’s letter. He continues His conversation with His disciples as he prepares them for the coming days and future with this statement found in (v18-v20) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” And sadly, we expect this world to get along with you and me! Jesus has for the past few hours or chapters for us telling His disciples what? He has been telling them and demonstrating His love for them by washing their nasty stinky feet. Telling them not to worry or be troubled about His departure and what is before them. He gently reminds them that apart from Him we can do nothing, or endure nothing if we are not attached to the Vine. He tells us we’re to love and willing lay down our lives for the branches, because He did that for us. Again what did Jesus say “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (v13)

THE WORLD REJECTS CHRISTIANS FOR THE REASON WE’RE NO LONGER IDENTIFIED WITH THE WORLD. (V19)

The world’s love is also conditional. If you want to be “loved” by the world, you need to do what the world does. This means that the only way we will ever be accepted is if we follow after this worlds system and stop this foolish game called religion. In the spiritual realm, if you follow Jesus Christ, you will be hated. That’s right: HATED! Whether you like it or not, the Bible is clear that Christians will be hated and rejected by the world.
This world wants to……Ridicule, mock, slander, misrepresent, remove our rights, call us bigots and narrowed minded, intolerant, haters. Their desire is to destroy us and anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, so don’t be surprised when this happens to you at school, at work, in the home and around the community. See history is destined to repeat itself, if people will not stop to listen or change their ways as their forefathers did. They hated Christ way before they hated you, so don’t be surprise when we get treated the same way as Jesus did when He walked amongst the people. As Paul said in 2Tim 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” And we need to be careful! Persecution doesn’t just come in physical harm as we have seen in the Middle East or Asia. That is one form of persecution and it breaks my heart, but there are other subtle ways as well this world is trying to destroy you. See, the world wants you to fall and fail.
  • They want us gossip about others
  • Have bad marriages that lead to divorce
  • Fight and argue and never reconcile.
  • Say bad words
  • View inappropriate images
  • Have pre-marital relations
  • Fall to peer-pressure
  • Live promiscuously and free to explore other sinful behaviour
  • They want us to like the things they like
  • They want us to dress, talk and act like the world
  • They want us to leave the God we love, for the things of this world.

See, the world wants to watch Christians waver and sin. When we participate in their behavior, it makes them feel better about their own sinful lifestyles. So which is better? To fit in and be liked? Or to know that the God of all creation loves you and me? As one writer said “Jesus insists that He chose us out of the world for the purpose of salvation and service. It’s better to be loved than liked.”

THE WORLD REJECTS CHRISTIANS BECAUSE OUR IDENTITY IS HIDDEN IN CHRIST. (V20)

Our lives are hidden in Christ and this is a problem for the world today. As followers of Jesus, we can’t expect to have an easier time than He did. As the Apostle Paul says, we will smell either as the aroma of death or life. In 2 Cor 2:14-16 we read “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” If the disciples were looking for gratitude, kindness and praises from men they would be painfully disappointed after this statement by Jesus. See, this thinking according to Jesus would be false and not to be expected! They hated Jesus, what do you think they will do with us? Jesus was and is perfect and sinless, where we’re sinners, who are no better than anyone else. So for people to accept our message [the Bible and the gospel] and accept us is insane! We’re living on hostile ground according to this world system and Jesus. But understand this! Not everyone hates Christians! But a good majority hate anything that involves the bible and the gospel. But I personally believe and you can disagree with me if you like! But this is one of the major problems with the North American church. We try so hard to fit in and have people accept us, instead of winning then with the full the truth found in the Word of God and the gospel. We want to be relevant and contemporary with good morals and we forget the reason we are breathing at this moment! It’s all because of Christ and what He did and faced on the cross for you and me! And this is where our identity is. As John MacArthur said “the reason why more Christians are not persecuted is simply because so few are truly godly, ….and it’s easy to be distinguished in the eyes of the world if we compromise godly living.” As the Apostle Paul reminded the church “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20. This should be the anthem of our lives every day. To know that Jesus called me and chose me to be His child for the glory of His name. What can man do to me when we have this heavenly promise? According to Jesus, nothing…absolutely nothing! “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,” Matt 10:28-32

THE WORLD REJECTS CHRISTIANS FOR THE REASON THEY ARE IGNORANT OF GOD. (V21)

This world system is doing what they deem right in their own eyes, and they think they know what’s best for everyone else…including me and you. This goes all the way back during the period of the Judges. On own hand you have Joshua saying Jos 24:15  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15. And then we see the people turn so quickly to ignorance. In Judges 21:25 we read “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” We see this in religious circles. There is a huge difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Persecution because of their ignorance and hatred towards God…it’s not you! It’s all about Him so don’t take persecution personal. This was to be expected……..JESUS SAID SO. Jesus goes on to say about their ignorance in the next few verses. (v22-v23). Jesus argues that the world is guilty because they have rejected His words. Jesus said “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Jesus isn’t saying that men and women would have been innocent if He had not come or spoken to them. The world was already sinful and rebellious before He came as a baby in a manger. Christ’s coming highlighted sin in human hearts; He pointed it out so people had less grounds to claim ignorance. Therefore, to reject Christ and His words brings greater condemnation. That’s why it’s worse for those who have tasted the truth and do nothing with it. That’s why Jesus said He will have more mercy over Sodom and Gomorrah then those who heard the truth of the gospel and do nothing with it. Ignorance is not bliss and it doesn’t lead to Heaven! It leads to death and forever torment…..that’s the road the world system is on during the time of Jesus and they’re still on it today around the globe. 

The question for us to answer is who do we wanted be accepted by? The world where they will leave you alone? Or a Holy God who loves you and says you will be hated [you can count on that]for following after Him? In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals. A man named Paul Rader, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, "I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, 'Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?'" Rader continued, "I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr, and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in Paul's heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome." Those early Christians "lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back." Can that be said of us? Or is our possession, or acceptance holding us back because we want  the world more than Jesus to like us. “Jesus insists that He chose us out of the world for the purpose of salvation and service. It’s better to be loved than liked.


21 September 2014

HE CALLS ME FRIEND



John 15:12-16

Let me begin by saying "that there is not one person in this sanctuary that doesn’t need, care or desire for a companion or friend to turn to." Every person, every loving Christian would give anything for one good friendship. I can remember growing up and my best friend who I considered being more like a brother than a friend, but he was a friend none the less. We were inseparable and sometimes that wasn't so good…maybe we should have been apart, so that we wouldn't get into trouble like we use to. But the one thing I knew about our friendship is that I knew he would always be there for me no matter what or where I ended up. That’s a true friend! See a friend is someone you can……Always count on and call upon at any time to help you through whatever is going on in your life.
Trust with your deepest thoughts or secrets. Won’t stab you in the back or hurt you intentionally. Respect, because they care about you and your well-being. Again that’s a friend! Not only did I have that kind of friend growing up but the Lord has blessed me again with my very best friend in my wife Julie. God is good and he knows we can’t and shouldn’t be alone in this evil world system. We need one another…in the family…in the church ….in our Christian lives. “Friend” by definition “is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard” according to Dictionary.com. That’s nice and simple, right? But according to the bible when it comes to “friendship” We’re told that friends love at all times. Prov 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity." A prime example of this is found in David and Jonathan. They were well-known for their close friendship. 1 Samuel 18:1-5 talks about the knitting of the two men's souls. Jonathan gave his robe and armor to David, essentially honoring David above himself and stripping himself of his kingly position. A position which was rightfully his, since his father was King Saul. But his love for David and the friendship they had was more important than power or fame.

A FRIEND ACCORDING TO PROVERBS IS MORE LOYAL THAN FAMILY AT TIMES. Prov 18: 24 says “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

A FRIEND CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH GOOD WISDOM. Prov 13:20 speaks about this “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

A FRIEND WILL WILLINGLY SACRIFICE THEMSELVES FOR THEIR FRIENDS. John 15:13 we read Jesus saying “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”

That’s what a true friend by definition is! This is what Jesus is telling us this morning. That sacrificial love that cares and has wisdom to bring to the table and selflessly seeks the interest of their friend over themselves continually day in and day out. We see this kind of friendship displayed in the life of Christ in His incarnate form. Not only did He display this type of love but He calls us out of darkness to do the same towards one another. If we went back to the Old Testament we see this same love demonstrated towards Abraham by God Himself. The bible says Abraham was “a friend of God” In 2 Chron 20:7 we read “Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” The Letter by James we are reminded of that truth! James 2:23 it says “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS." And he was called the friend of God.” The extraordinary friendship Abraham had with God was special and it was a friendship that would last forever just as it does for us under the gospel of Christ. Again this was no ordinary friendship and the same rule applies to us today. This kind of friendship that Abraham had to be called “a friend  of God” is the same thing as or carries the same meaning as “we are His adopted children” This was only possible through the shedding of blood on a cross through Christ, who laid down his life to preserve and keep us for all eternity by pleasing the Father’s wrath. That’s off the charts love……that’s off the charts friendship. This is the same kind of love Christ wants us to exemplify towards one another not only to the world but to the family of God. Everyone who is attached to the Vine is a branch through the saving working and power of God through the gospel. See not only are we to love Christ [which is a no brainer] but we are to love the branches that He prunes and prepares to produce more fruit. It’s a sacrificial love for the true church….the fellow branches saved by His sovereign grace.Genuine friendship that Jesus describes to His disciples is to exist among the family of God. Everything we read in this chapter alone tells…screams to us how we’re to live with one another. The very beginning of this chapter we see how our relationship begins and ends with Christ. For without Him we can do NOTHING! Then we see how we are to love one another in the branches in this portion that we are going to look at this morning. Then we see the end of the chapter how we’re to love and live in this world that not only hates Christ but you and me the true church. How are we to love one another according to what Jesus is saying before He leaves He’s disciples and this earth to go to His Father? We can demonstrate this through sacrificial love…willing to lay your life down for your friend.

SACRIFICE IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENUINE FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE (V12-V13)

Jesus demonstrated that to the world on the cross of Calvary. Always understand! That Jesus did not die for Himself, but so that others might live. Do you remember what Paul wrote……“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:6-8. The greatest sacrifice given to mankind is the plumb line where we’re to sacrifice for the sake of His glory and His precious gospel.See! Sacrificing for one another goes along way and builds many things. For example! Longer-lasting and happier relationship. It builds trust and brings honor to the friendship. It says “I care so much about you. That I’m willing to take your place.” Relationships like that are more likely to last when people are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the relationship. See! Sacrifice has been grafted into the Christian’s DNA. Paul wrote “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1. We must sacrifice ourselves for one another. Sacrifice is the essence of godly love. "Service" is the last word in the verse, and sacrifice is our reasonable, logical, rational, spiritual service. This is the way we minister to one another and exhibit godly love.

IT’S ONLY THE GOSPEL THAT MAKES THIS ALL POSSIBLE FOR YOU AND ME (V14-V16)

Jesus says “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” See we always need to understand! Jesus would never command us to do what is impossible for us to do. The secret, of course, is that we are to love, he says, "as I have loved you." And it’s through this kind of love relationship that Jesus had with the Father that makes it possible for Jesus to love us. In this same manner, and from the same foundation, we are to love one another with the same quality of love towards those who are attached to the Vine. The bible calls those who know and love Christ by many names……..
  • Beloved of God ……Rom 1:7
  • Beloved brethren…….1 Cor15:58
  • The called…… Rom 1:6
  • Children of God……John 1:12
  • Children of promise…….Gal 4:28
  • Sons of the Resurrection…….Luke 20:36
  • Heirs of God……Gal 3:29
  • Vessels of Honor……2 Tim 2:21
  • Vessels of Mercy…..Rom 9:23
  • Slaves of Christ…… 1 Cor 7:22

And the list is endless…..

But “friend” captures a very unique relationship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. See God has “appointed” you friend, which means “set apart, ordained for special service to do His will. He doesn’t call us servants! Servants didn’t have a close relationship with their earthly masters. Servants didn’t usually know what their master was doing because they were on a need to know basis. Servants were to be instructed and had no right to the Masters purposes and plans. But we are not called “servants” we’re called “friend” which is a more exalting title then being called “a disciple”. God has called us friends to live in a way that exemplifies the Lord in and through our lives. Demonstrating what a true friend looks like as we love one another sacrificially under the grace that was given in Christ. He chose us out of darkness to be a people that are different in how we live, speak and act with one another. He chose us to live sacrificially every day for the sake of this name and His precious gospel.

How?

By being a friend of honor, mercy and love to the branches that are attached to the Vine. Not trying to be the Vinedresser by cutting and tearing people done. Not by being self-centered and unloving or trying to get people to more like you. Jesus died for your wickedness and we deserve His wrath and through His grace He became for us the greatest friend a person could ever know. And Jesus graciously grants this access to His friends through the gospel truth. As He has “made known to you” (v15) God’s divine truth revealed to the heart so that you’re able to fulfill this command given in (v12-v13). When the disciples asked Jesus why do you speak in parables? Jesus responded with this answer! “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Matt 13:11. The word “mystery,” in the Bible, properly means a thing that is “concealed,” or that “has been concealed.” We’re a blessed people for Him to call us His friend. A friend to whom the truth has been revealed to. And we need to bless the family of God with that same love and grace that was given to us. We are to graciously do likewise with one another! Why? That’s what friends are for and Christ means everything to me and you. Right? This is how we know love, all because of what Christ did on our behalf. A friend of Jesus knows divine truth and wants to share that truth with others. A friend of Jesus has been chosen by Christ Himself and wants to open up and love others as Christ loved us. Again this has been put into the Christians DNA for a reason! The exemplify Christ in and through our lives.

What does that look like for you and me? There was a man named Deng Jinjie saw people struggling in the water of the Sunshui River in the Hunan province of China, he didn’t just walk by. In an act of bravery, he jumped into the water and helped save four members of a family. Unfortunately, the family left the area while he was still in the water. Sadly, Jinjie, exhausted from his rescue efforts, was overwhelmed and swept away by the river current and drowned. When we were drowning in our sin, Jesus Christ gave His life to come to our aid. We were the ones He came to rescue. He came down from heaven above and pulled us to safety. Jesus’ sacrificial love for us now inspires us to show genuine love for one another. Genuine love for a friend has a cost! The cost is sacrificial love and seeking the interest of others above you. This is a command to you and me "fellow branches".