Monday, March 19, 2012

What Will It Take?

John 18:1-6 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. (2) And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. (3) Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. (4) Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? (5) They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. (6) As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

In the past 5 chapters of the Book of John, we have witnessed the final teachings of Jesus to his chosen apostles and then concluding that session with a prayer. After that gathering in the upper room, he immediately goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray in private. The other three gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all record that event. While there praying, Judas has made a deal to betray him and a band of men come to arrest him.

In verse 4, we are told that Jesus knew exactly what was unfolding, and so he asked that band of men, “Whom Seek Ye?” The Leader of that posse, speaks up and responds “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus, knowing his ultimate mission, chooses not to fight. Chooses not to run, but instead allows himself to be arrested. For that reason, he simply says “I am he.”

But notice what happens upon Jesus opening his mouth .....

John 18:6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

When Jesus claimed “I am he”, they stumbled backward and fell to the ground! Basically, Jesus knocked them back by the POWER of his voice! God wanted these men to know that this was no ordinary criminal. God wanted to impress upon these men that Jesus was no ordinary MAN. Jesus, by simply opening his mouth, was able to overpower these armed and trained soldiers.

What would your response had been had you been in that band of men coming to arrest Jesus? I don’t know about you, but I think that I would have to quickly reconsider my earlier decision. Remember, by this time, Jesus had been teaching and performing miracles for 3 years and his reputation was well spread. People knew that he was able to raise the dead, heal all manner of sickness, feed the masses and still violent storms. If that show of raw power isn’t enough to change their minds, What would it take for these men reconsider who he is?

By the same note, what about us? Are there really many people in this country that have not heard of Jesus. For those that generally believe in the existence of Jesus, what would it take to be convinced that he IS the Son of God and Savior of mankind. If you believe in those facts, what is it going to take for you to change your lives to live the life that he calls for us to live?

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Jesus requires us to deny ourselves and truly be followers of his. Following Jesus is much more than just making a claim to believe in his existence. Following Jesus means that we must reshape our lives to follow his pattern and teaching.

What is it going to take for you to truly be his follower?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That We All May Be One!

John 17:20-21 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (21) That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

As we continue in the book of John, we are still in the chapter where John is recording a prayer of Jesus that he is offering in the presence of his apostles as they are gathered to partake of Jesus’ last passover. In doing so, Jesus has just established the Lord’s Supper and is giving his apostles final instructions before his death. In just a matter of a few hours, Jesus will be arrested and put to death. So this prayer is important so that they know the importance of their role in spreading the Gospel after Jesus’ departure.

In the text today, Jesus starts off by stating, “Neither I pray for these alone (the apostles) but for them that believe on me through their word”. That group of people would include all of those that are New Testament Christians. That could include you and me. Jesus is offering this part of the prayer for us .... So what does he want for us?

John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

He wants his believers, his followers .... All christians .... to be One. Jesus is praying for Christian UNITY! I have to think that this is pretty important since this prayer is being offered in this setting. We know that Jesus, leaves this setting and goes to the Garden of Gethsemene and prays to God privately, but this is one of the last prayers he will ever offer.

Would you say that “Unity” is an accurate description of Christendom today? Absolutely not! First we need to understand what unity is. Is unity just agreeing on a few “key” topics of Christianity? Is true unity agreeing to get along in spite of differences? Is unity just everyone wearing the same name of Christian? Absolutely not! All of those things describe the current state of Christendom. But according to the Bible that is NOT UNITY!

Look how Jesus describes unity? That we might be ONE as God and Jesus are one! Do God and Jesus ONLY agree on a few key topics? Do they just agree to get along in spite of difference? Are they satisfied just to wear the same name? Come on .... That is a joke. God and Jesus are in perfect HARMONY.

Perfect harmony is the way in which we are to have unity as well.

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The apostle Paul deals with this very problem. He stated that unity should follow this pattern .....which is a great commentary or what Jesus prayed.

1. We should all speak the same thing

2 Be NO division Among You

3. Be Perfectly Join together in the Same Mind

4. Be Perfectly Join together in the Same Judgement

Again ... Perfect harmony! But what is the COMMON standard that we should all come together? By my opinion? By your opinion? By societal norms? By Democratic Vote? NO! By the Will of God and his Word! By TRUTH!

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Even Jesus himself said that of his own self he did NOTHING. Because he only seeks the will of the the Father. If everyone TRULLY sought the will of God and had the courage to submit himself fully to it, and to disregard our own thoughts, feelings and opinions, we could achieve the unity that Jesus prayed for.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are We Sanctified by the Word?

John 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

In our text today, Jesus continues his prayer to his father, just prior to his arrest and execution. What is interesting is that he will leave this upper room and immedietly go to the Garden of Gethsemene where he will pray again. So what is the difference? In the Garden, he is by himself and he is praying for his own strength for his appending death. Here in the upper room, he is there with the apostles and so the prayer is largely for their benefit.

In this portion of his prayer, Jesus makes two basic statements. First he says for their sakes .... he sanctified himself. What does it mean to be sanctified? Simply it means to be SEPARATED for GOD’s SAKE. This separation is not so much a physical separation as much as it is a spiritual or mental separation. So how was Jesus separated? His death on the cross. Jesus voluntarily allowed himself to be separated from society and treated like a common criminal so that the apostles and ourselves might be saved.

But Jesus makes the statement about his sanctification to set the premise for the next statement.

John 17:19 .... that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Yesterday, we looked at verse 18 where Jesus was sending us out into the world and today Jesus wants us to be sanctified as he is sanctified. We must be in the world to let our light so shine, but we must not think like, act like or have the lifestyles of the world! Instead we should be like Christ! We should think like, act like and have the life of Christ.

But Jesus goes on the specify HOW we are to be sanctified ... Through the Truth! Through the word of God we should pattern our lives. Once we do that, we will be different from the world. And that difference will indeed sanctify us.

Are you separated from the world? If not, open God’s word to learn how to be more Christ-like!

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Are We To Do?

John 17:18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

As Jesus continues his prayer to his father, just prior to his death, and just after instituting the Lord’s Supper, he makes this statement about his intentions for the future his followers.

Jesus states to God that HE has sent us .... his followers, into the world! But what are we suppose to do in this world? Why are we here? I want to focus our attentions on two main points today.

First, we are to be IN the world because Jesus sent us into the world. God never intended that we, christians .... his followers, are to hunker down in a compound or bunker and physically separate ourselves from the world. There are many religious groups that have taken the Bible’s warning about the dangers of the world to such an extreme that they have physically removed themselves into communes so they will not be negatively effected by the world.

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Instead, Jesus himself says that we are to be in the world so that we might positively influence the world

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (15) Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Jesus specifically deals with this concept of hiding away. He said in verse 14 that WE were to be the Light of the WORLD. That is why he sends us out into the world. Then in verse 15, he says, you don’t light a candle, and then cover it up with a basket. That is essentially what we are doing when we escape to a cave to be a hermit. We need to get out into the world and let God be seen in us.

Secondly, What are we to do once we are sent? Jesus gives us the perfect hint in our main text.

John 17:18 As thou hast sent me into the world,

We are sent as Jesus was sent. So we should do what he did. So what did Jesus do? That may best be answered by identifying what he didn’t do. He did not make his secular job his identity. Jesus was raised as carpenter, but he spent his time preaching. Jesus did not focus on being rich. So many people in this world would do anything for money, but Jesus thought that serving God was more important. Jesus did not dwell on being popular. From a human standpoint, it seems that that he might have done better had he. But God knows best. We must care more about pleasing God than pleasing man. Jesus certainly didn’t concentrate on pleasing himself. In fact, Jesus about a dozen times in the Gospels, stated that he could not speak and do what he wanted but he could only do and say what God has told him to do.

When we go out into the world, we must demonstrate the love, forgiveness, truth, justice, compassion and benevolence of our Great God. That is what Jesus Did! Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick and comforted the downtrodden ..... all so he could demonstrate the Greatness of God .... and that is what we should do out in the world!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In the World ..... Not of the World!

John 17:15-17 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (16) They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (17) Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

As Jesus is closing out the session in the upper room with his apostles just hours before his death, Jesus offers a prayer. The words of today’s text are a continuation of that prayer, as it has been the last few days.

Jesus’ prayer comes down to a single word: Protection! Look at Jesus first statement in verse 15. He says, He is not praying that God takes them out of the world. Why would he make such a statement? Because just prior to that this he informs them that they will be hated because the world hated him. So what is the first, natural reaction to persecution? ESCAPE! Get out of there! But Jesus specifically is praying that He is NOT asking God to remove them from the upcoming situation of immense persecution. In fact, we know from church history that most of them will eventually die by violent means. So if they are going to be hated, and the persecution will get so bad, why not just pray that God removes them from the situation? Because it is through THEM that the gospel will be spread throughout the world.

So what does Jesus desire and inquire for them? To be kept from evil! What evil is Jesus wanting them to be protected from? Physical? Maybe to some degree. But that is not Jesus’ primary concern. Jesus is primarily desiring that they are kept from the evils that could lead them away from God and their mission. And that is the basis for his last statement in verse 17.

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Set them apart, Jesus says through or by the truth. That is our ultimate protection against evil as well. If we gravitate towards living by the word of God, we will naturally be protecting ourselves from the evils that can destroy us.

We are to be of this world, but we cannot be influenced by and molded by this world. Instead, we MUST be set apart. We must think, act, behave, and develop our lifestyles by the word of God.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Are You Glorifying Jesus?

John 17:9-10 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (10) And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

To understand the proper context of our passage today, Jesus is in the upper room with his 12 apostles giving them final instructions before his death, just mere hours away. After, the discussion and just before going out to the Garden of Gethseme, Jesus leads the apostles in prayer, of which this is a portion.

Our focus this morning will be on the last statement of verse 10.

John 17:10 ..... and I am glorified in them.

In verse 9 Jesus is praying to his father on behalf of the apostles. The apostles are the ones that will initially take of the torch of spreading the Gospel after Jesus’ death. In doing so, Jesus claims these apostles as his own. And because they belong to Jesus, they in turn belong to God. And then he makes this all important statement.

I am glorified in them! As he dies and ascends into heaven, these apostles will be the only representation of Jesus that the earth has. If anyone will see Jesus, they will have see him through the disciples. They will have to personify the nature, characteristics, love, forgiveness and teachings of Jesus.

The same really applies to New Testament Christians today. Jesus is no longer on earth today. If Jesus is going to be seen in this dark and sinful world, he is going to have to be seen through us, his followers.

The question then is? What are you saying about Jesus? Can the world tell that you are a christian? Can they see ANY difference between you and the world. If not You are not Glorifying Jesus as we should.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

One of the preachers that I most respect use to always say....If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you. Could the prosecutor find enough people to testify against you? Would your actions, behaviors and lifestyle be evidence against you. Or would the state have to drop the case for a lack of evidence?

Are you Glorifying Jesus?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Meaning of Life

John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

Before we get into today’s text, let’s catch up on the context of the passage. Starting in John 13, we find that Jesus has gathered his apostles together to partake of Jesus’ last Passover remembrance. That very evening, Jesus will be betrayed by Judas, arrested by they Jews, tried in a kangaroo court and turned over to the Romans to be executed for his “crimes”. While in the upper room partaking of the passover meal, Jesus uses that memorial to establish the Lord’s Supper of which we as Christians ought to partake to remember Jesus’ great sacrifice. After the meal, Jesus gives those that will carry on his legacy. final instructions. Just following the discussion in chapters 13-16, Jesus closes out the evening by offering a prayer to his father. In chapter 17 is the recording of at least part of the prayer.

During that prayer in the upper room with the apostles, Jesus makes this interesting statement. One of which we ought to strive to be able to state on our last day on earth. I believe, that if we are Christians, this ought to be the meaning of our lives! He makes 2 separate yet related declarations.

1. I Have Glorified thee on Earth!

I once had a discussion with a person and they made a profound statement that I believe most of the world lives by: “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want”. Here is a secret ...... If you are a Christian .... It is NOT your life!

1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

This passage tells us a truth that should be obvious but often is not in the spiritual application. Let’s say that you buy your dream house. And on the evening that you have closed on that house and have taken possession, you hear a rustling at the door and see the former owners letting themselves in. You go to them and ask, “What are you doing?” And they reply, “Just because we sold the house, didn’t mean that we intended on living somewhere else.” How would you reply? I would say GET OUT! As the owners of the house now, you have complete control over what happens.

When we voluntarily gave ourselves over to God to have our sins washed away, we sold ourselves to God. Therefore, we no longer have control over what we do. Instead, God is in control. Therefore like Christ, we should glorify God in our bodies.

But what does it mean to Glorify God? In short, our lives should be a walking advertisement for the goodness, love, grace, mercy, compassion and purity of God! We should live in such a manner that people see a difference and want what we have!

2. I Have Finished the Work Which Thou Gave Me to Do!

The second thing that Jesus says in this verse is that he has finished what God wanted him to do. Are we about our father’s business? Are we doing what God wants us to do? Do we keep our eyes open for opportunities to serve God? Do we share the mission of Jesus to seek and to save the lost? Do we have the mind of Jesus (Phil 2:5)? Do we walk in the steps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21)?

What is your life about? Are you more focused on yourself, or do you share in Jesus’ view of life?