Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Taught by the Spirit, We Keep Christ's Words

John 14:23-31 Each week we confess our Christian faith in the words of the creed.  We confess that we believe in one, holy, Christian and apostolic church.  When we confess that the church is “apostolic” we are saying that we believe what the apostles believed.  But there is even more to being apostolic than that!
            The root of the word “Apostolic” is the verb “to send”.  From the very beginning of the Christian church, believers in Jesus were sent out into the world with the Good News of salvation.  That was true of the apostles and it is also true of every Christian since then.  Each of us have a part in the mission of the church for the sake of the world’s salvation. 
The words that we have before us for our meditation this morning were spoken by Jesus in the Upper Room after he instituted the Lord’s Supper.  As meaningful as that moment was, it was not meant to be an end unto itself.  After the supper was ended Jesus said:  “Rise, let us go from here!”  Forgiven of their sins, instructed by Jesus, fed by the body and blood of Christ, the apostles were ready for their mission to the world.
So it is for us.  Worship on the Lord’s Day is blessing but it is not an end unto itself.  Instead, it is the preparation and strengthening we need to take our place and do our part in the Lord’s mission by keeping his Word, sharing his peace, and confronting evil.  Jesus said:
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.   “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
            We are going to hear this theme again next week—that a big part of Christian discipleship, of following Jesus as Lord and Savior, of our life with God—is keeping and guarding the words of Jesus.  Our faith and the Lord’s mission depends upon it! 
Faith comes from the Holy Spirit working through the Word.  We believe in Jesus and have a life with God because the Holy Spirit has brought us to faith through the preaching of the Gospel.  The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  Our saving faith in Jesus comes through the Word of God.
Faith is maintained in the same way—by the word.  To continue in faith we need to know what God’s will is for our life and the direction he wants us to go and the forgiveness we have when we fail.  It is necessary for our salvation to keep and guard the words of Jesus.
But it goes much farther than that!  Keeping and guarding the words of Jesus is necessary for the salvation of the world so that others can hear of Jesus and come to faith! 
Just as those who keep and guard Jesus’ words are his disciples and have a life with God—those who don’t know his Word cannot have a life with God until someone shares Jesus.
It was not enough that the disciples around that table in the Upper Room kept the Word of God and were saved by faith in Jesus.  He told them, “Rise, let us go from here” because he came to save not only them-- but the world-- and so to every generation of Christian including us here today, he says the same:  “Rise, let us go from here.”
He wants us to take his words of life out into the world around us and yes, we do that in places where we cannot go through our mission giving, but we also do it through our own personal witness.  The words of Jesus that we have kept are to be upon our lips so that those around us can have the peace with God that we have.  Jesus says:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
            I don’t have to tell you that we live in a world that is filled with anything but peace.  Instead, there is turmoil and conflict and hatred.  And that is not just true among the family of nations—it is true among the family of man—because the nations are merely people in a certain place who share a common language and culture. 
There is no peace among nations- because there is no peace among men- and there is no peace among men- because the great majority of people in the world do not know Jesus.
So it has always been.  Jesus came into this world in the midst of violence.  A tyrant killed dozens of babies trying to get to him.  His own people tried on numerous occasions to murder him and finally succeeded and by the time the last apostle died, Jerusalem and its temple were rubble. A violent world is nothing new. 
But Jesus came to bring peace—peace with God and peace between men.  He did that by offering up his life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross, his shed blood removing the wrath of God over sin that kept us from God’s presence—so that now we have peace with God-real and lasting- even in the midst of a violent world. 
Jesus intends that his blood-bought peace would make us agents of peace in the world.  As his disciples sat around the table in the Upper Room, experiencing the peace that comes from knowing that they were right with God through Christ’s body and blood—he told them:  “Rise, let us go from here!” 
Let us go from here to the garden where I will be betrayed and captured by an armed mob.  Let us go from here to the cross where I will die a violent death.  Let us go!
And what were the words that were spoken by the Prince of Peace in each of those violent places?  Put away your sword!  Father, forgive them!  Words of peace and forgiveness shared with the world so that men could have peace with God and peace with one another.
Very quickly in the life of the church we see how the peace that Jesus gives makes for peace among men as Jews and Gentiles—enemies for generations—were gathered into one church, united in the body of Christ.
In the same way, part of our mission as disciples is to be agents of peace in the midst of violent world in which we live.  Paul says that if possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.  The writer to the Hebrews says that we are to strive for peace with everyone.  And Jesus says that peacemakers are blessed.
We become agents of peace in a violent world, first of all, by sharing the Good News that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.  The peace that Jesus gives—the peace that comes from knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we are right with God—is the only peace that can heal troubled, fearful hearts.
Second of all, we extend Jesus’ peace by living with others in ways that are gentle and humble and caring—putting flesh and bone on the peace we have in our hearts. 
When those around us see that kind of peaceful life in our marriages and families-- and the humble way we conduct ourselves in the workplace and school and community—it is a compelling witness to the power of Christ to change lives for the better—a witness that is desperately needed in this broken, evil world in which we live.  Jesus says:
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
            One of the many blessings that come with being a part of Christian congregation is that there are people around us who share our values and concerns and priorities.  We share the same understanding about what is right and wrong and that is a comfort because often times when we look at the what the world around us values, it seems like we are the last sane person on earth.  And so to discover that there are others who see the world as we do is a blessing. 
            That night in the Upper Room the disciples must have felt the same way.  They believed in Jesus when the vast majority of their friends and family didn’t.  They believed what Jesus said about what is important and lasting.  It must have been a blessing to gather around that table in the Upper Room in safety and peace. 
But they weren’t allowed to stay there.  Jesus said, “Rise, let us go from here!” and he said that knowing full well the evil they would encounter from the ruler of the fallen world.
But that is exactly why Jesus sent them from that place—to confront evil with the goodness of God! 
Christians have always faced the temptation to remain a holy huddle—people cut off from the world, content to by surrounded by others like themselves.  It certainly seems easier and less dangerous (and it is!) if our only concern is for ourselves.
But Jesus loves the world and wants to save the world and so he sends us out into the world to confront evil—not conform to it!  Evil had no claim on Jesus and it must have no claim on us.  Our lives as his people are to be set apart and different from the world around us as a witness to the world. Jesus said, I do as the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. 
So it is for us!  Our Christian witness is not just the words that we say, it is how we live.  Holy lives, obedient to God are our testimony that we have a Savior who can change human lives and there is no more powerful support to the words we say about Jesus- than the witness to give to Jesus- in the holiness of our lives.
Before long our worship will be over but our witness will being:  keeping Jesus’ words, sharing the peace of Christ, and confronting the evil of our world with the holiness of the Lord.  May God the Holy Spirit bless our witness to Jesus!  Amen.

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