He Has Now… and Therefore… A Pentecost sermon on John 7:37-39
He Has Now… and Therefore!
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the presence of the Holy Spirit which fills your hearts kindles in you the fire of God’s love, as you learn to love others by showing them God’s love!
- Do you like waiting?
You are sitting in the drive-thru, and you realize there is a mini-van in front of you, full of kids in uniform…
Or maybe you are at Ralph’s or Trader Joes, or Costco – and the lines stretch down the aisles…
Or maybe you are waiting for that package from Amazon, and they text you at 9 o’clock on Friday that they are delayed and won’t deliver that package you needed until Monday, maybe!
How many of us like waiting?
Frustrating, isn’t it?
I mean, at least we are not like Moses, who was waiting 40 years to see the promise land, and then wasn’t able to, because of his sin. Or David, who had to wait for years to become King, waiting patiently for Saul to be removed, as God promised!
Or the apostles, who had to wait for Christ’s Kingdom to be established, and then had to wait with no hope for three days… and then an undetermined time after the Ascension, for Jesus’ promise for the Spirit to come…
As John’s said, ‘But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.’
And they had to wait…
I don’t think that they were any better that we are, and they were waiting for something far more important!
- Do We Live Like the Spirit is Here
So here is the harder question of the day.
Are you living like you are waiting for the Holy Spirit to show up?
Are we living like we know God is present in every moment of our lives?
Are we living in the age prior to Pentecost?
It’s a hard question…one I don’t want to answer…
Because I live more like I am waiting for God to show up, then living like I know He is here. It’s not just acts of sin that show this, but it is the loving others, sacrificing for them, that is challenging.
I mean, is there anything more important in life than seeing people come to know God loves them? And the only way they will know, is if we depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us to them, and empower us to share with them that love.
So often sin is described as doing this which God said not to do.
But sin is also not loving our neighbor, which includes no loving them enough to want them to live in the presence of Jesus, both now and for eternity. Sin includes not sharing with them the gospel and the freedom from guilt and shame which comes with sin.
I don’t want to give us an excuse, but the reason we don’t share Jesus’ love with others is because we are living as if the Holy Spirit hasn’t come…yet. We are waiting around for God to make a move…
Forgetting He has…
- No – Jesus is in His glory therefore
Hear John’s comment again,
39 When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.
During Easter we proclaim that because He has risen, We have risen. That means this has now happened as well,
That Jesus has entered His glory, and He has given us the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean?
First, “25 “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)
This is everything from the day Jesus told Peter that Jesus would cause him to be fishers of men to the very words at the Ascension. Where He said,
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT2)
If we are looking to grow the church, the preschool—the other ministries we may start on this campus—it depends on us doing what Jesus taught us to do, to love each other, to care for those around us—physically for sure, but also spiritually. To make sure their burdens are lifted, that they are free from oppression, to continue to the work Jesus gave to all of us..
To lift Jesus up, that He may draw all men to Him.
Not to argue with them – that’s worthless, not to debate with them, that will only result in winners and losers.
As we realize the Spirit is with us, we come to rely on God’s lead more and more. As we encounter people in our lives that need to know His love and His mercy.
Evangelism and Discipleship aren’t programs of the church, they are the side effects of walking with Jesus, of the Spirit comforting us, freeing us from sin,
This is how Paul told a young church leader
4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.
Titus 3:4-8 (NLT2)
This is what started at Pentecost… it will keep going on in our lives, for Jesus not only is risen, He has been glorified, and given us the Holy Spirit to comfort, sustain, guide and empower us, as we share with people why we have hope.
Because Jesus loves us all.
He Knows My Name(s?)! Their Name (s?) too!
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross…
It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon’s house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?” Acts 10:3-18 GNT
St. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was a master wordsmith, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. It comes as a surprise then that he vacillates so much on St Peter’s name in this passage. Talking to others, the angel uses his full name – “Simon Peter.” Yet when addressing the the Lord in a vision, the Lord only uses the name Peter was given by God, “Peter.”
Is it only a curiosity? Is it only something with a hidden message, that only those who have been introduced to the full mysteries of the faith are to understand? Or is it a message to Peter, to prepare him for a lifetime lesson?
For sure Cornelius’ men don’t know – all they have been told is to fetch Simon Peter.
But for Peter to hear Simon again, the name he had before he encountered God, should have shaken him. It would be like me calling one of you Saint and Sinner, identifying the before Jesus you and the you who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. But identifying you as well as the Saint you are becoming… and are.
For Peter it is the lesson in a microcosm – the vision retold, personally…
God declared Simon Peter clean.
And as Peter hears the voice from heaven speaks, it addresses him… not as Simon Peter, but simply as Peter.
Peter the cleansed, Peter the one restored to ministry after he denied Jesus 3 times. (John uses the same Simon/Peter description on the seashore in the same way)
Peter will go and minister to those God would declare clean – even though the world sees them as sinners. He understands what Luther noted,
“Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, in as much as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other. Christ also pleased not himself, hence we are to do as he did.”
As we look at equipping the saints in the churches we serve, understanding the sinner-saint dynamic will be important. We aren’t any better than Peter as we judge what we see in the brokenness of the churches and the schools we serve. We need to consider the work God can do with those who are broken, as we bear their infirmities, as they see God at work in our lives, so that they know that God can work in theirs.
We talk about the fact that we don’t have authority as ministers of the gospel. We only have the ability to influence people. And the greatest influence we can have… is helping them see how complete the work of Jesus is, in those weak enough to depend on Him.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 169.
Now… at last! We Celebrate!
Thoughts which bring me to Jesus, and to His cross
10 And then he said, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king.
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:10,21-23 GNT
It is in the intimacy with God that we develop a greater intimacy with people and it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that we indeed can touch the heart of the human suffering to which we want to minister. Do we really believe this? It often seems that our professional busy-ness has claimed the better part of us. It remains hard for us to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed, in order to be with him from whom all good things come. Still, it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that the minister becomes minister. There we remember that if anything worthwhile happens at all it is God’s work and not ours.
Something happened to King Josiah as the gospel, contained in the word of God was read to him. It went far beyond doing church, “right,” and being good, ethical stewards of the money entrusted to their care.
He didn’t have a time of silence and solitude as we normally think of it, but as the gospel was read to him from the word of God, the miraculous happened.
The Holy Spirit created the intimacy with God which made King Josiah unlike any other king, including Hezekiah and David.
He became a king who was also the pastor of his people. He realized part of his work was to free them from bondage to false idols, to bring them to the point of celebrating the Passover–something long forgotten among the people.
They celebrated it, in a way that reflects on their hunger and thirst for the presence of God, and to see and celebrate the work of God in their midst…now!
The people of God came back to life, they realized again what God was doing! Revival broke out–not because they were running the business of church right, but because their time was dominated by God’s revelation of His presence and care.
Nouwen is correct though, it is not our work that makes us pastors, priests and ministers. It is not from our agendas that we find the strength and ability to minister. It comes from the time when our darkness was invaded by the glory of God’s love, where His comfort and peace sought us out to heal us.
It is time, to gather around the gospel, to hear it–to realize the intimate presence of God–who loves us, cares for us, comforts and heals our brokenness..and then uses all of that, as we serve and minister to those around us…. as we guide them to the Altar– to our Passover…
Lord, may it be said of our time, that our moments of being gathered together and celebrating Your work in us is unlike any other, as You revive Your church as you did the people in Josiah’s day!
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 51). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross
Jesus answered, “All those who drink this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life.” John 4:13-14 GNT
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 GNT
With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: for physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations). And with pastors, it is God (not relieving anxiety, or giving comfort, or running a religious establishment)……Most of the people we deal with are dominated by a sense of self, not a sense of God. Insofar as we deal with their primary concern—the counseling, instructing, encouraging—they give us good marks in our jobs as pastors. Whether we deal with God or not, they don’t care over much.
Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
It used to be that people would tell me that “that was a good sermon pastor,” as they walked out of church. “Or that was a great Bible study!” They do it less often now because they know I will often ask, “why? what made it good for you?”
Some are quite able to answer, others, – well what else do you say to a pastor after church?
It gets me to think, what do people remember of the services we share in, what is their take away?
I can only pray it is Jesus. That He is present in thier lives, that He is merciful, that He loves them.
Anything else is worthless..
The Augsburg Confession makes that clear – the comfort to anxiety laden consciences is what is found when people is what the Liturgy (aka the Mass or Worship Service) is about. That is what and how we need to leave people. Aware of their relationship to Jesus, and comforted by it. That was Peterson’s goal, and his struggle as well, as people didn’t always respond to that focus. Still it is what we are called to do!
So look for that comfort as you attend church or Bible Studies, prayer meetings or other small groups. Perceive the presence of Jesus, as you sing, as you pray, as you listen to the word read and preached, and as you receive Christ’s body and blood in Communion.
And know, He is with you!
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 139–140.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 56.
The Blessed Chaotic Life
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to our cross:
34 *Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If anyone wants to come with me,” he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 35*For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! 37There is nothing they can give to regain their life. Mark 8:34-37 GNT
But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.
But a solved life is a reduced life.
There are days where I would love the idea of a solved life. To have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. (same thing for…things) The clean desk, the organized calendar, the perfect family. To have a government that isn’t petty, but actually does it work with the intent of providing peace and safety to all.
It sounds like a nice utopian village, and is utterly, completely impossible.
And as I think about it, I am glad it is.
For knowing that life will be chaotic is a blessing, for it strips away that part of me that wants to play God. There is no illusion in my life that life is under control, much less “solved”. I have to approach life much as Luther indicates, satisfied to know the basics of survival – and what must be done now, With that, I find more time to seek after Jesus, to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence. Or to see that presence revealed, for Jesus was there all the time.
This resonates with the gospel of Mark, where Mark is urging us to set aside everything–to lose it–in order to see Jesus save it. For we can’t save ourselves, or even manage our lives once they are saved.
Being not in charge means living in a way that seems out-of-control – even chaotic. But that is okay, when we realize the promise of the one who does understand, and shapes all that chaos into blessings beyond our expectation. Blessings that are full of peace and joy, for they are given by the Lord who is present. I might hate the chaos, but in Christ, we will thrive on it. That isn’t a paradox, it is a promise of God Almighty and All-knowing. Understanding this doesn’t make the chaos any less hectic or disturbing, but it can build a joyous expectation as we wait to see how God will make it all happen.
Heavenly Father, when life seems chaotic and out of control, remind us of Your care, and Your will for us! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 72.
What worship is… the place where souls are cured
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
God Will Revive You then go and Tell Them How the Lord Restored You!
Thoughts which draw me to the cross
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had had the demons begged him, “Let me go with you!” But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.” Mark 5:18-19 GNT
1 I praise you, LORD, because you have saved me and kept my enemies from gloating over me. 2 I cried to you for help, O LORD my God, and you healed me; 3 you kept me from the grave. I was on my way to the depths below, but you restored my life. Psalm 30:1-3 (TEV)
Had not these shepherds believed the angel they would never have gone to Bethlehem, they would have done none of those things related of them in this gospel. One might say, I would gladly believe if an angel from heaven were to preach to me. But whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him.
The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation.
Luther points out something we know, at least we should know it. The shepherds, the first of the New Testament evangelists, went to share what they saw in a manger. This is what the angels shared with them, but their message was not about the angels, it was about the Messiah, who came to them.
Likewise, the man posessed by demons, commissioned to bring the gospel to his gentile community, is to talk about what God has done to him.
Hear the Psalmist as well, who understands that they’ve been saved at the gates of hell. Saved from those depths, and restored!
These are the seeds of a revival. These are souls that are being changed by God, souls that have been cured. There is little need ot but point them at their community, at their world and let them go bring the news about God’s ministry in their lives. (Luther goes on to say they shouldn’t remember the messenger – so overwhemed by the presence of God and His love.) This changes communities, it changes the world.
Revival doesn’t just target a demographic. It tells everyone, and they come, for they need God’s love and cure as well. This is so different from the Church Growth Strategies I’ve been taught over the last 40 years! Those strategies want the pastor and leadership to plan the ministry, to control the way the Holy Spirit focuses, bsaed on data and marketing strategies, leadership principles and, to be honest , investment strategies. (Investement of time and resources, not just money).
Revival means the pastor is, as Peterson notes – more focusd on helping people deal with sin and sorrow by planting seeds of grace, and encouraging people’s awareness of the Christ revealed to them in prayer, study, sermons and the sacraments. Done well, the people treasure these moments of being cured, and it is so amazing that they will share it with those they encounter. Their hunger is for Christ, and to see the Holy Spirit at work.
“Seek God first, and the rest shall be added to you” THis is true for the church, as well as for the individual.
Lord, please help us look to You, to cry out for Your minisry, for You to revive Your church. Help us to seek Your face, and then send us to tell others what You have done! Help us hear Your message, and to see You revealed to us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 456.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 65.
He’s Making His Lists III: An Advent Sermon based on Matthew 11:2-15
He’s Making His Lists III
† Iesou, Huios, Soter †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the love revealed in the lists they made about Jesus’ work—2000 years ago, and today.
Intro: Don’t turn away…
I want you, for a moment, to put yourselves in the place of John the Baptist, as he awaits the return of his disciples. He was in prison, and like many of the prophets of old, it was for living the life he was called to live, a life walking as God directed. In prison he find himself deep in thought, he begins to wonder, and to doubt…
Before you ever say you wouldn’t…consider John the Baptist, and the reading tonight.
Here is the greatest of the prophets, the first one to recognize Jesus, even while they were both in the womb. I can’t even imagine the conversations they would have had while they were teens…
And at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.. and proclaimed that He is the Lamb of God, who would take away our sin…
Yeah–the Agnus Dei comes from this guy…
And while in prison, he struggled. So much he had to send his followers to ask Jesus… are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting… or should we keep looking?
It almost sounds like John was the unfaithful, broken, weak and unstable one that needs to be invited to come see that Christ was born.
Jesus responds in a unique way, not challenging John’s doubts, but giving them a list to pass on to John.
He didn’t condemn John for his lack of faith—He ministered to him, even though he wasn’t right there.
Jesus sent a list to him… a list?
If I were John, I would want a miracle. I would demand one.
I can hear him saying, “Jesus—we’re family, I’ve given it all for you—why don’t you help? Why don’t you get me out of here? If you are the Messiah….why aren’t you…”
Jesus helps him focus and gives him a list that matches the list in Isaiah we saw Sunday.
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Matthew 11:4-5 (NLT2)
In other words, tell John, whose father was a priest, and studied the Old Testament deeply, that the prophecies are coming true. Jesus wanted him to know what was happening, that all pointed to not only John being saved, but all the world would have the blessing of salvation opened to them!
Just take the Isaiah’s checklist – John I am doing all that and more…the news that God is saving the Jews and the Gentiles is being preached – and it will be preached until the end of time!
This is what John knew was supposed to happen, but life Got in the way…
Instead of a lecture, or being mocked for his lack of faith, Jesus reaches out to John, and assures him with words John knew well. He recalls the promises made in the Old Testament, so that John can be re-focused on the ministry.
Don’t turn away… because of me.
I think this is where we need to go back to the beginning. And hear the words that sound shocking at first,
‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’
I think I hear those words at first as judgment – you blessed if you don’t turn away when you realize who Jesus is. A lot of translations make it sound that way….
But it is just as likely that it means that we don’t turn away because we are in Christ.
Try reading it this way,
God blesses those who do not turn away—because of me.’
You see, on our own, our faith struggles and fails. But when we remember He was born, he died for us, that is something quite different, far more powerful, far more precious.
When I say the closing blessing of a sermon, it is always based on this concept – that you know you dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, for your hearts and minds are kept in that peace by Jesus, – this is what John needed to know it is what we need to know.
We don’t fall away and get condemned by Jesus, for it is His responsibility to keep us in Him, and in knowing that we are truly blessed!.
Whether we are grieving, broken, struggling, in prison.
John kept ministering…
In fact, it is after his disciples return that John does significant ministry, instead of with the crowds, with the leaders of Israel, including Herod. So much so, that Herod is grieved by having to kill John, tricked by his new wife and daughter.
Jesus didn’t blast him, didn’t deny him the opportunity to minister. He reached out to him, showed him what God promised to do, and that it was getting done.
And lifted John back up off his feet, and reminded him of the ministry God had called John to..
And if you are struggling tonight, if things seem rough, God will do that for you as well.
That is what Advent is about – being there with John, and hearing that God is with you…that He is saving you – for that is what He promised, and that is what the lists in scripture show. AMEN!
And may you see revealed this peace of Christ in which you live, as Christ keeps your heart and mind in it. Amen!
Evangelism is More Than a 10 Minute Presentation
Thoughts that drive me to the cross:
22 Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (TEV)
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
I think we cannot experience that which we have not believed. I still think we must instruct and urge men and women, toiling along in average and common Christian ways, to move forward and claim spiritual victory they have not yet known.
The joyful and the sad should be advised differently. Before the joyful are to be set the sad things that accompany [eternal] punishment, but before the sad the joyous promises of the kingdom should be set.
It was nearly 40 years ago that I was “trained” as an evangelist and trainer of evangelists. Somewhere I even have the certificate from Evangelism Explosion, and the neat talking cards they equipped me with, so that I could be an evangelist, and train others to do the same.
Forty years later, I feel less equipped, having seen that a practiced monologue doesn’t make someone an evangelist. I know now that the role of an evangelist, like that of a pastor, is something that can take years, that requires the patience of a shepherd, and the willingness to sacrifice time and energy helping people see the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Because we struggle in this world, because we struggle in our own worlds, we need to hear the gospel-the truth that God loves us-daily ourselves. We need to believe, as Tozer points out, what we are sharing. We need to have revealed the victory that God provides. Otherwise we cannot provide it for those who we love and care for, for we cannot give what we’ve not had given to us.
The other part of this is that we can’t give to someone else when we don’t know where they are at. We have to be like them, as Paul so eloquently points out. All of us are evangelists and therefore serve as a conduit of God’s grace. But conduits connect two points, in this case, God and one or ten or 100 of His people. Some of these know they are God’s people, some are beginning to discover it, and some are fighting it. So we come alongside them, and bear their weakness, we share in their trials, and we love them…
The work of an evangelist is never clean, it is never simple. I learned that when on one of my first EE calls, the door we knocked on to visit a couple was answered by the wife’s “friend”, and she would come to the door, well, not adequately dressed. They both, and the husband, needed God’s presence, in the days ahead, yet no card in my stack addressed their situation in a way that would draw them to Jesus. It would take them years to work through life’s issues, as the gospel and the church showed them God loved them. Not a ten-minute presentation followed by a prayer and baptism. More like a spiritual rollercoaster that seems out of control. But God knows the tracks… we just ride with our people.
This is ministry, an investment of time and love, to help the broken find healing they need for the wounds of life, as they get to know the Lord who loves them. This is whether you are a pastor, or a parent, a elder or just a friend. For we all can share the Lord’s love that we’ve come to know.
Let us depend on God’s love and presence, as we share that with those around us….
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 93.
We Need to Be Shocked Back to Life! (Spiritually )
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
Romans 8:23 (NLT2)
The question keeps coming up in John’s Gospel: Where does this man Jesus come from? Does He come from God or only from man? The question is the most basic one that can be asked about us and our love. Are we and our love born again from above, from God? Or are we and it only the product of human nature? The answer to this question makes an infinite difference, the difference between Heaven and Hell in the next life.
This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.
Thirty years ago, I was defibrillated 5 times. Just like you see on every medical show when they should “clear” and electricity is passed through the body, with the intent of rebooting the electrical and chemical nature of our body, so our heart will restart and run normally.
Spiritually, we need something like that. What Spurgeon called vivification, the idea of bringing us back to life, being born again, where God brings us to life. Kreeft indicated this was the one question that matters, the one most basic to our life, and the one that makes the greatest difference, period
The problem is when we want to be brought back to lift without dealing with what caused us to whither and die. If all the paramedics and ER doctors did was to shock me back to life, and never try to address the cause, it would have mattered not. The same is true spiritually, and while one day we will be free from all sin and suffering, God is freeing us from its effects, even now. This is the mortification that Spurgeon said was part of the same work – the process of eliminating the rot caused by sin, and sin itself.
Mortification isn’t easy, neither is vivification. Both require drastic changes, and discipline and some pain. And yet, the life that is provided, free from the rot, free from the pain, is beyond words.
God is with us, He’s the great physician, the one that does both pieces of work… that makes it not just a possibility – but a promise.
So let Him get to work on you…
Let Him draw you to the cross – where both things happen, as the sinful you dies, and you are raised with Christ Jesus. Amen!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).