Sunday sermon 5 May – Seek the Lord
Sunday 5 May 2013
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 14:24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
John 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you.
John 14:26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
John 14:29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
It’s Pentecost in two weeks’ time. Pente is not just the name of a board game. It means 50 (Pentagon and Pentagram – you know all those words).
Fifty days after Passover was this Jewish Feast – also known as the feast of weeks. On that day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church – and the disciples empowered to preach the gospel and heal the sick. Celebrated in some churches as Whitsunday. Why?
There’s a real danger that we mark the day in our calendars and say – WOW look at that – and nothing actually happens to make the experience real for us.
The truth is that the work of the Holy Spirit is not a one-off experience. A day on the calendar.
It is a central part of our Christian lives.
Reminds me of the story Nicky Gumble tells of the Religious Education teacher at school who asked his class one day: “How many people believe in God the Father?” and most put up their hands. “And how many believe in God the Son?” Quite a lot responded. And then finally he asked: “How many people believe in God the Holy Spirit?” And there was silence. Eventually a child responded: “sir, the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit is absent today!”
The Holy Spirit has often been a side-lined person in the Trinity.
One can understand the fears of people who look at the word “Spirit” and think of strange and spooky things. But we must remember that all we have of God is only possible through the Spirit.
· Our regeneration – we are born of the spirit (John 3 – the Nicodemus passage)
· Our sanctification – we are transformed by the spirit (2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2Co 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. KJV)
· Our experience of the presence of God – Jesus is with us through the spirit (Matt 28:20 – “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
· Our development of Christian character – we have the fruits of the Spirit – which we should know by now – recite together… (Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Gal 5:20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions Gal 5:21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Gal 5:23 gentleness and self-control.)
· Our appropriation of the gifts of God – the charismata are the gifts of the spirit and include the gift of healing which is a gift of the spirit (and by the way the gifts are not for our benefit alone but are there to bless others). 1Co 12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1Co 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 1Co 12:5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 1Co 12:6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 1Co 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. And then they are listed…
· The peace of God – which is made real by the Holy Spirit. This peace is more than just one of the fruits of the spirit. It is a special gift of Jesus as we see in today’s passage.
And so we come to our first verse of the reading today – a most remarkable line which should get our attention immediately:
Jesus replied (to Judas whose question arises in this different discussion): (John 14:19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. John 14:20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”)
John 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
It’s quite a complicated discussion and one of the few references to the other Judas in the team (not Judas Iscariot). It’s a question about Jesus revealing himself to his followers and not to the general public or the greater world stage. The reply is interesting in that context. What do we need? Listen: John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
The Father and the Son will make their home in those who love and obey. Love Jesus and take his teachings seriously.
They will MAKE THEIR HOME in those people who are committed to love and obedience.
Now I know you like the hymn “Trust and obey” but this is “love and obey.”
By the Spirit who makes this possible!
To seal this Jesus continues in verse 24: John 14:24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
This is serious business! This is Jesus transmitting the words of the Father to the disciples!
GETTING SERIOUS WITH GOD
Getting serious with God is the only way to really experience all he has for us! And so we read on to understand more: John 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. John 14:26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. John 14:29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
Not only do we have the presence of the Father and the Son who make their home in us through the Spirit (verse 26 re-enforces this – it is the counsellor – the Holy Spirit – who will become their on-going teacher, who will remind them of Jesus’ words), we have with this experience the PEACE OF GOD – NOT THE PEACE OF THIS WORLD.
So many people want the peace – but they don’t want a bit of this God business!
The world that Jesus speaks of is the world of people who are outside of God’s influence – by their own choice. In Jesus day they were around – in the crowds – in the towns where he visited. They would have heard but not believed.
Hence Judas’ question in verse 22 – John 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Well God may have loved the world so much that he sent Jesus – but the truth is the world in general did not open its arms to the Gospel and still does not! The world is made up of people who are spiritually dead in their sins. So they would not discern spiritual things. And today it seems that nothing has changed – in fact it seems that peoples’ hearts are more firmly set against the things of God!
If you go back in John 14 to earlier verses you will read this: John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— John 14:17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
SO WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THIS TODAY?
“Very interesting” you may say – or “very confusing” – yes John’s gospel is not simple because it records the words of Jesus who clearly saw the need to repeat some key things. Like preachers often have to. For years sometimes!
The words that keep coming to us are these:
· A presence that gives us peace.
How serious are you about seeking the reality of the power of God?
While the presence and power of God is really a gift of grace – the bible constantly reminds us that we appropriate the fullness of the Lord’s power when we actively seek him!
Reminds me of one of my favourite passages from Jeremiah 29: Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jer 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
So I ask again: How serious are you about seeking the reality of the power and presence of God?
And that begins with LOVE. Our love for Him! The greatest commandment is about loving God! Jesus re-enforced the Deuteronomy 6 teaching of Moses in these words in Mark: Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
And when you really love someone – you want to please them – not out of duty – not to earn their love – but because you delight in the relationship!
Christians who are serious about God the Father and the Son making their home in us (through the Holy Spirit) – have some housekeeping to do! (read Psalm 24! Psa 24:3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? Psa 24:4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Psa 24:5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour. Psa 24:6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob )
Just like the old days when you tidied up when the pastor came to visit and got rid of the dodgy things lying around – perhaps you tidy your place when you have visitors in general – the idea of a Holy God making your life His dwelling is quite challenging. Or you clean up when the landlord is coming to check on the house! J
I’m not sure if we can biblically call this place the house of God – because it isn’t according to the Bible. We probably need to get out of that habit. Let’s be biblical: Paul in Athens talking in the context of an altar built to an unknown God says this: Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. Acts 17:25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
So back to –
· A presence that gives us peace.
Too many people want to go straight to the peace! We want the feel good factor – our problems to end – the world to be a place of harmony – and cats and dogs to get on well. Sorry to pop the bubble – it’s not like that. You can’t get this happening in your life if you do it the world’s way. Let me try to explain.
I’ve done a lot of heart searching over the past weeks. I’ve been here just over two years. Jesus ministered for three years. Paul was in Ephesus for two, and Corinth for 18 months.
They seemed to get a lot more done in shorter amounts of time! It’s a lot harder today it seems – wherever you go ministering in the church.
I think this – this is my personal reflection – that the world has crept into the church. We want a whole lot of things that are not really on God’s agenda.
Yes we want to do things well – but pastors are not entertainers or nursemaids. Some folk don’t seem to even open the bible! But they want bells and whistles and they seem to want everything on a plate.
The point is – are people here to hear and see what they like and enjoy? Or to meet with God and hear what he has to say to us?
When you bring the world into church you can easily quench the Holy Spirit – you put out the light and stamp out the life.
We make it about us. And it is not about us. If you get caught up with trying to please people then we miss God. It’s a distraction.
It is – according to what we read about Jesus’ teaching to his disciples in John 14 – about love, obedience and God’s presence that gives us peace – not as the world gives! That changes us so that we can make a difference in our families, our places of work, and the world where we live.
Our preacher at our second service captured things well last week – when she talked about real peace. About being peace-makers. People who gossip and criticise are not peace makers. People who complain that church doesn’t suit them are not peace makers. They are divisive.
If your group meets and spends all its time talking about others you are not peace makers. It’s called gossip. In fact Paul – again to the Corinthians – wrote: 2Co 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. Perhaps there is a reason why Paul had an issue about certain groups of people being silent in church. In his day it was the women in the Corinthian church who clearly were out of order.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever—John 14:17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
We are like the world when we focus on the wrong things, and then we can’t discern what God the Holy Spirit is saying or doing in our midst. Paul speaks about this again to the Corinthian church when talks about his preaching which was – in his words – “not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor 2:4). He goes on to say in that most amazing passage in verses 9 and 10: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1Cor 2:10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. And then he says this: 1Cor 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them..
All this church stuff we do – has no buying power, no currency – without the Spirit leading and directing. In fact – scary thing – churches can carry on doing the same thing for years – without necessarily being led by the Holy Spirit.
I read this amazing account this week about Judson Cornwall (15 August 1924 – 11 February 2005) – a great preacher and prolific writer who started preaching at the age of 7 in the depression who went back to a church where he had ministered. Twenty years before he had taught them to seek more of God – and they had not listened. In fact he’d had a dream which he shared with them at the time – where the church members were in a large store and told to take anything they wanted – it was all free. They did – stuffing their pockets with cheap trinkets. Higher up were shelves with really valuable things for free too. Cornwall, in the dream, told them: “look up! look up!” But they didn’t. He resigned some time after that. (p94 – “More” by Simon Ponsonby). At the reunion dinner a lady said: “Oh pastor isn’t it wonderful? We still have all those gifts which God gave us in that renewal when you were here twenty years ago.” He excused himself from the party, returned to his hotel and fell on his bed weeping.
I wouldn’t mind if we shut up shop and just met for 6 months to really seek the face of God. No entertainment. No – “that’s my favourite song or hymn”. No more chocolates and celebrations. No more worldliness in measuring things – sermons, songs, programmes – to see if they are up to scratch or if they work for ME.
Just prayer – Just cultivating a deep love for God, real obedience to God, and the presence, power and peace of God. Seeking to be the people of God who have Him with us and working through us. Fully. Totally. Completely.
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
May the Holy Spirit speak to us today. May He speak to you! Don’t be like the people in the department store getting the cheap trinkets. Imitation.
Look up! Look higher!