Roger's Postings

Friday, May 04, 2012

John 15:5-8.                Remaining in Jesus???                                                6/5/12

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. {6} If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. {7} If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. {8} This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Also with reference to 1 John 4.

 Here this morning we are reminded of the importance of remaining in Jesus and he remaining in us. If we are to bear fruit and be ‘successful’ in our Christian life, this is essential. In our present context today this is as vital as it was way back in the early days of the Church; for we are facing the same threats as did the people that John was writing to in his letter.

 More and more I am becoming absolutely amazed at how many ‘Christians’ are taking on board a little bit of this and a little bit of that, when it comes to their spiritual lives. We are taking ‘on board a whole variety of different thinking, that are often in conflict which each other when we get down to the basics; and we are building our lives around it. My truth and every other ‘truth’ is seen as equally valid and it is just a matter of picking and choosing what we believe is right for us and what suites us. And we think that this is right and good. Believe me; the only one who thinks that this is valid and good is Satan himself.

 In this regard, then, I believe that we in the Christian Church today are facing one of the most dangerous eras in the whole of Christendom. With access to so much, and such a variety of thinking, we are in danger of destroying ourselves. We are making ourselves the determiner of what it good and right to believe and hold as truth. We are accepting every ‘spirit’ as holding and imparting some good. But we need to recognise that this is just not so. There is a True and Ultimate Truth that is over and above every other ‘truth.’

But then the questions arise, as to who and what is this ultimate Truth? What are we to do with all of these other views that state that they are right and good? Which is right and which is not?  How much can we listen to and take in? Do we take the best of this and the best of that and put it all together? Or do we do what so many are doing today, and throwing their hands up in the air and their brains out of gear, giving up on it all, being prepared to take their chances. What do we do?

 Here let us begin by listening to what John has to say in: (1 John 4:1-3)  Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. {2} This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, {3} but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

 Then a little further on: {14} And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. {15} If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. {16} And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.
{10} This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. {11} Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Here then we have some very good advice for us, to give us a clear, simple and good way for us to approach this matter. There are three key points that we need to keep in mind: whether we are questioning what we are hearing and what is being pushed our way, or if we are seeking to live and speak in a responsible way in the midst of all of this confusion. Three simple checks to keep in mind.

1.             There is a clear need for acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of God who came into our world as a human being to die for the sin and lostness of mankind.
2.             A willingness to listen to and base everything on what God has to say to us in his Word – the Bible.
3.             There needs to be love for one another with the love that comes from God.

Let us now consider the first. Acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.
The first thing we always need to ask ourselves: is what is being said and done pointing us to and helping us to see Jesus as the Son of God who came into our world as a human being to die on the cross for the sin of mankind. In other words is it pointing us to Jesus Christ, the sin of humanity and our need for the forgiveness that he has extended through his death, or is it focussing on something else.

Now in many cases there is no recognition of Jesus at all. And in fact he is ‘poo hooed.’ So straight away we know that we need to be careful. We recognise immediately that they are coming from a completely different basis and are heading in another direction all together. Others again speak of Jesus: perhaps as a great teacher or a good example for us to follow; or that he is some kind of spiritual being who can impart good feelings and some inner power, but nothing of his death on the cross for the sin of humanity. Jesus name is used merely to give credibility to some other focus such as how we should live in order to be blessed, or how we might get in touch with our inner feelings and being.

In most religious discussions and thought these days the focus is here on one-self: on me and my feelings, goodness and even what I think is right. What we say, do, think, feel and experience is what is important. There we have the age old sin of humanity rearing its head once again.

The importance of Jesus and his death on the cross is pushed aside and ignored. Yet it is precisely there that we can see and know the very heart of God himself. There in Jesus, death and resurrection we can see that the Bible is true to its word and can be trusted fully.

That of course leads us to the second point: the importance of the Word of God for our direction and guidance as to what is right and wrong. This too is absolutely critical today as well, because there are many who say they are ‘christians’ but are not willing to listen to and be guided by the Scriptures. We too often want to pick and choose what suites us: adding to or changing what is written to fit our own thinking or agenda. So again we start from the point; this is what I believe, and then we seek to make God’s Word fit into that thinking. So we end up where so many are at today; so far from the truth that they are not even christian any more.

We need to hold to God’s Word as just that, God’s Word in all its truth and purity. All of it. No matter what we are listening to, or speaking, we need to continually check back to see if it is what God is really saying, or is it a perversion of the truth. Most importantly we need to ensure that it seeks to focus us on and lead us to Jesus Christ and the absolute necessity of his death on the cross for us and for our salvation.

All the while we need to keep in mind the third point. The love of one another with that love that comes from God. How often don’t we see in any dispute, and in the promotion of more radical ideas, that love for one another is the first thing that goes by the wayside. Or we find that some self-proclaiming guru finally is seen for what he really was on about: seeking to get rich and powerful without any real concern for the people he is dealing with. Instead of serving others, so often they are self-serving. This is another way that we can identify whether the voice we are hearing is from God or not. If there is no love in action; then we need to walk with caution.

 For our part we need to ensure that we are always guided by the love of God. He is the one who determines what loves is and is the one who enables us to do what is needed for the benefit of God and others. So it is not primary our actions that are the focus But God and what he wants worked in and through us. Here we are called to love; even if we receive nothing in return: to love even if it hurts: to love simply for the benefit of the other person: to give of ourselves so that the other person may gain life. That is the love that God has extended to us through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.
To do that we need to remain in Christ and he in us. If we remain in him and his word remains in us then we will be assured that we are safe and secure. As we look to and place our trust solely in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for us, as the Bible clearly points out to us; then we can stand firm and at the same time love as we are loved. As we in this way remain in Jesus, we will then also bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be his disciples.  Not only will we not be lead astray, or lead others astray, but we will be enabled to point others to our only source of life and salvation – Jesus Christ. To him alone, be glory and honour now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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