A letter out of Africa to POTUS

(POTUS = President Of The United States)

“Dear President Obama,

Obianuju Ekeocha

Obianuju Ekeocha

I ask you sir, with all due respect to your highly esteemed office, what if our African values and religious beliefs teach us to elevate the highest good of the family above sexual gratification? What if African society has been naturally wired to value the awesome wonder of natural conception and birth of children within the loving embrace of marriage? What if the greatest consolation of the African child is the experience of being raised by both mummy and daddy?

No child (in any part of the world) deserves to be raised in a motherless or fatherless home because it is almost always a vicious vortex of emotional trauma and turmoil. Africans know and understand this and as such will stand in defiance of your new design of marriage and family. For us to comply with the draconian demands of this, your “modern” design, will entail completely demolishing our own society that is already afflicted with so many problems.

In some parts of Africa, we are still trying to out-law odious practices like female genital mutilation, so please don’t try to persuade us to introduce yet another type of mutilation into our society. In many parts of Africa we are still trying to recover from the deep wounds inflicted by the aberration of marriage which is polygamous marriage, please don’t tell us to take on yet another aberration of marriage which is same-sex marriage. In some other parts of Africa we are still mourning and counting the graves of young people lost to AIDS –a deadly disease rooted in wide-spread sexual perversion and depravity, so please do not encourage our leaders to enact laws that will raise altars to even more sexual depravity.

Africa wants to walk the path of authentic growth, development and stability. And this path is not paved in morally objectionable sexual “rights,” but rather in authentic rights that promote human flourishing and common good. So on this note, Africans ask for the friendship of all people of good will, including the POTUS and other great leaders in the Western world, provided they do not try to strip our Africa of her dignity which is rooted in stable family structure, provided they do not ask us to demolish our value system in the face of their new design and provided they do not ask us to sacrifice the stability of our society at the altar of selfish sexual gratification.

This is the only way that Africa and Africans will fit into the new redesigned and redefined world.”

Letter written by Obianuju Ekeocha, born in Nigeria, now living and working in the United Kingdom as the founder of Culture of Life Africa (www.cultureoflifeafrica.com)

Evolution and Christianity

Atheist Richard Dawkins pointed out a few years ago that Christians who try to mix evolutionary ideas with Scripture, thereby essentially saying that Genesis is not trustworthy, were “deluded.”

When asked if there was “a defining moment” when he decided he didn’t believe in God, Dawkins replied as follows:

Oh well, by far the most important was understanding evolution. I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they are deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, and I think I realized that about the age of sixteen.

Makes one think!

Inescapable Opposition

So that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 35:1-20
  • John 15:18-16:4

After killing six million Jews and countless fellow Germans who resisted the Nazi Regime in Germany under Hitler, trails where held to bring to justice the perpetrators. At one stage the trails were brought to a halt as the defence pointed out that under Hitler there was no law prohibiting the killing of Jews – in fact, it was state policy, and those involved in the killings did so to obey the law.  Of course this defence tactic did not work; the trails went ahead and they were charged with murder.

The reason why I bring this up is to stress the point that people usually have a principle which leads them to do things.  Very rarely are our actions without cause, or without justification.

David in Psalm 35 David describes a time when he faced opposition of people who had no justification to pursue him.  He writes a prayer:

Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. (Psalm 35:19, NIV)

In Psalm 69 he writes:

Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal. (Psalm 69:4)

The enemy had no justification to hate; although David sinned against God,  God was his refuge as he took his sins to God to be forgiven.  As far as God was concerned there was nothing between Him and David, and yet his life was nothing but the life of a refugee.  Saul hated him, pursued him from one end to the other wanting to kill him; then there as Absalom, his own son who turned against him.  Even friends close to him in his household and palace turn against him.  They hated him without reason.

David was a forerunner to Christ.  David’s throne was established in the throne of Christ.  Our Lord felt the full force of an enemy who without reason or justification hated Him to the point that they nailed Him to the cross where He died for those who hated Him.

Our reading from John 15 points to this in verse 25:

But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:25, NIV)

The riches of God’s promises

There is a measure of hope, more than a measure of good news in the first part of John 15.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9, NIV)

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13, NIV)

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15, NIV)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)

There is more than love and warmth in these verses: they sum up the Gospel: I loved you; I chose you; I lay down my life for you; I call you my friends; ask what you need in my Name.

One can only ask why someone whose life was dedicated in serving others, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind, restoring life to the dead, picking up those downcast, bringing hope to the hopeless and proclaiming forgiveness of sin would be hated to the point that they would rather have Him crucify while a rebel was allowed to go free.

Inescapable conflict

And then, almost in one breath the tone changes (keep in mind there were no verses or chapters or paragraph headings in the original).  So let’s read  verses 17 and 18 together:

This is my command: Love each other. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” (John 15:17–18, NIV)

Up to verse 17 good news which speaks of everlasting love and forgiveness.  It speaks of a new community of love in Christ of which He is the Head, and and a family where members can count on one another for love and support. But then in verse 18 its about this family of God in Christ living in a hostile world.

The explicit teaching of our Lord to his church is not to go out into this world to hate those who are not part of his family.  No, listen to his teaching:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:43–44, NIV)

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. (Matthew 6:2, NIV)

The apostle Peter writes about the life of the church in this world:

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. (1 Peter 4:15, NIV)

And yet to be on Christ’s side means to be on the wrong side of this world.  When Jesus uses the term “the world” He refers to those under the command of the prince of this world, those opposed to God and his Son.  There is an inevitable clash between Christ and this world; there is also an inescapable enmity between those who belong to Christ and those who worship the prince of this world.  The Bible describes this animosity in terms of love and hate.

The world hated Christ first

It all started in paradise.  Adam and Eve rebelled against God, listened to the voice of the deceiver, the Devil, sinned against God and lost their innocence and free will.  When God spoke to them He made a promise of grace:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NIV)

After paradise things got worse and even nations fell to the deceit of the devil.  Millions of people were kept in bondage doing the will of the father, Satan.  Even God’s own beloved people could not help themselves but follow him and the practices of the godless nations around them.

In the fulness of time God fulfilled his promise and the promised Seed was born – Jesus Christ the Son of God.  When He was born, so writes John, the world was a dark place with no light.  Jesus was the light coming into this world.  Those the Father gave Him, not those born from natural descent or the will of a man, but those born of God, those who believed in His Name received the right to be called children of God.  This was the beginning of the end of the reign of the prince of this world. As Christ proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit opened the hearts, mind and spiritual eyes of people, he started to lose ground.  For the devil this meant war. He hated Christ. When Jesus died on the cross and rose victoriously again, the Bible says:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13–15, NIV)

The death and resurrection of Christ meant forgiveness and freedom for those held in bondage.  This was the end of Satan who loves seeing people held in sin.  He loves reminding and accusing people of sin.  But Christ cancelled sin and disarmed the devil – He triumphed over him by the cross.

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Revelation 20:1–3, NIV)

Listen, Satan is bound, he cannot deceive the nations as groups of people anymore; he cannot do other than what he is allowed.  Now, with Jesus as the head of his church, the task of the church is to go to the nations with this promise:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:18–19, NIV)

One can say, because of this, all hell broke lose upon the world: Satan hates Jesus and he hates his church.

We belong to Christ

But don’t despair.  Listen:

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)

I have chosen you out of this world.  This means that our victorious Lord saved us by his blood, He gave us his Spirit, and He is with us, never to let us go.  “No one will ever snatch them out of the hand of my Father.”  This is no hollow promise; it is written in the blood of Him who came to crush the head of the serpent by dying for the sins of those where were once in the clutches  of the devil, and who destroyed the enemy.  He once said, “The prince of this world has no hold on Me.”

The world does not hate the church because of any other reason.  They would not hate us for doing good, building hospitals, aged care facilities, caring for the blind, the crippled, or the downcast.  They would love us for doing it, but it is when we do it in the Name of Christ for his glory, proclaiming spiritual freedom and forgiveness of sins for those whom we care for, all hell breaks loose.

See, the problem satan has with the work of the church is that we proclaim forgiveness in the Name of Christ – that takes away his hold on people.  He knows his losing and giving away of his followers.  He hates us for it.

By being truthful to our calling in Christ we understand that it is only possible because we belong to Christ: “I have chosen you out of the world.”

He holds us in the hollow of his hand – and Satan has no say over those in the hands of Christ.  We need to understand this, and we need to experience this now as a reality so that when real persecution comes we would know the experience of what it means to trust Him in difficult times.

God will keep us in the hollow of his end for all times.  Yes, being on Christ’s side is to be on the wrong side of the enemy.  There is a war raging; there is blood, persecution, difficult times, death and false accusations.  Yet, listen to the promise of our Lord:

“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. (Luke 21:12–19, NIV)

I didn’t bargain on this

The Gospel of Christ is free, but it is never cheap.  Some preachers proclaim a cheap Gospel that only speaks about how God loves us and how his love would then make our dreams come true.  Old Testament prophets tried the same recipe, preaching,”Peace! Piece!”, while there was no peace.

The Gospel calls to commitment, and that commitment includes the inescapable reality of conflict with this world.  It is a call to war.

Yet, there might be some who say, “I did not bargain on this. I’d rather not sign up for battle, but I really want to go to heaven one day.”

There is no way to say this in any diplomatic or subtle way – in any case making it sound anything less than what Jesus said:

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)

And then:

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:6, NIV)

There is not really much choice:  it is either with Christ, being saved from sin, being loved by the Father, being part of his family, bearing fruit in his name, being hated by this world, and being welcomed into God’s eternal Kingdom when He calls us home.  Or, take it easy, not pick a fight with this world, not showing fruit to the glory of the Father, and by thrown in the fire of eternal hell when God calls the end of our days.

Conclusion

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15,17, NIV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28 July 2013

 

So that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah the Son of God

Bearing fruit in Christ to the Father’s glory

Scripture Readings

  1. Psalm 80
  2. John 15:1-8

Every farmer understands that his existence hangs on the fruit of the crop he plants.  Farmers are not known for what they plant, but for what they harvest.  A cotton farmer is not someone who plants cotton seed; he is someone who harvest the white cotton after he planted the seed and watered it.   The question is always, “What was the yield?’, not, “How much did you sow?”

The church of the Lord in both the Old and the New Testament is described as a vine.  Isaiah 5 describes it this way:

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. (Isaiah 5:1–2, NIV)

Psalm 80 which we read earlier also refers to the Lord’s church as is vine:

You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. (Psalm 80:8–9, NIV)

In these passages the question is that fruit was expected from the vine.  That was the purpose why God, the Farmer, planted the vine.  The fruit was to produce something that would put the glory of God on display through the actions of God’s people.

The vine, Jesus Christ and the cross

We have been hearing the Word of God preached from John for quite some weeks.  We understand that John 13 introduced the private ministry of Jesus to his disciples.  Everything described in John 13 to 17 happened in the night before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, charged and nailed to the cross.  The setting for our chapter is between the Upper Room where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples;  Him teaching them to love and care for one another in the face of hatred against Christ and his Kingdom in this world; Him introducing the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; Judas walking out into the darkness of the night; Jesus declaring that He will do exactly as the Father commanded; and Him leading them out to Gethsemane where Judas betrayed Him and He was arrested.

The reason why this is so important to keep in mind is because everything Jesus said, taught and did was said in the shadow of the cross.  What He accomplished on the cross by dying for sinners, taking their punishment on sin upon Him and becoming their atonement and justification, would make possible all that He commanded them to do.

Had He not died on the cross, his teaching to love one another would not be possible and would remain at best a hollow lesson in morality. Had He not died on the cross, the wine and the bread of the Supper would be meaningless.  Had He not died on the cross, Peter’s denial of Him would have remained an unforgivable sin that would have kept him hiding in the shadows, guilt-ridden for all eternity.

Precisely because He was willingly on his way to the cross to fulfill the command of His Father, He could continue to teach his disciples that they would the the cornerstones of the New Testament church of the Father, bought in his blood to bear much fruit that will reach the ends of the world, until the last of the number of the elect of the Lord has heard of the Good News.  They would indeed be seen as the household of God, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:19-20:

… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20, NIV)

Where the church of the Old Testament failed by not bearing lasting fruit, here those “in Christ” will succeed because of Christ, his death and resurrection; they will be lead by the Spirit of God, empowered to be witnesses to the ends of the world.

In Christ

The church is to remain in Christ, because He is the true vine.  The vine of the Old Testament disappointed.  Although Israel was known as the son of God in many places of the Bible, they fell short of their task.  Psalm 80 says:

Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. (Psalm 80:14–15, NIV)

With the birth of Jesus the angels sang a song of glory and adoration:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10–12, NIV)

When He was baptised the voice from heaven declared:

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, NIV)

On the mountain where He was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared, a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice was heard saying:

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5, NIV)

Jesus is the Head of his church.

And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18, NIV)

So, it is not the pope who is head of the church; it is not the church which is the true vine, it is Christ.  The clear message of the Gospel of John is to teach that everyone outside of Christ lives in darkness, unable to hear, see, taste or drink of the life-giving grace in Him.

That is why Jesus is the son send by God because He loved the world to that those who believe in Him will never perish. He is the bread of life, the living water, the good shepherd, the way, the truth and the life – without Him there is just no way to the Father. But equally true, not being in Him, is to surely fail in the mission of the Father for his church.

The Father is the Gardener of the vine

Verse 2 of John 15 is an interesting verse; the translation and understanding of this verse can be problematic, but it can also be a source of extreme comfort.

Context is everything, and therefore one cannot just look at words and ascribe meaning isolated from the context.

What puzzles me is the inclusion of the words “in Me” in this verse:

He (the Father) cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2, NIV)

If this verse is how it traditionally translated, the meaning is plainly this: branches that bear no fruit are pruned away, exactly because there is no fruit while the Father expects fruit.  The secret for bearing fruit is to “remain” in Christ.  This is exactly what the rest of this paragraph teaches:

Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5, NIV)

Our Lord can say these things because this is what the whole Gospel of John teaches.  Without Him and outside of Him one is dead, spiritually blind, unable to see the Kingdom of God or to taste the Bread of Life, and drink of the living water.  The reason why the saved sinner can see, being saved of his spiritual blindness, is because the Spirit of God gave new life.  It is almost as if the Spirit puts us in Christ so that we now live.

So, back to the “in Me” of verse 2. I was puzzled by this “in Me.”  How can it be that one is/remains in Christ, and yet one can be cut off by the Father? It was only till I read the commentary of James Montgomery Boice that my eyes was opened to another possible translation.

Our verse does indeed refer to two sorts of branches distinguished by the fact that one bears (is not yet bearing) fruit and the other not.  But both these branches in this verse are “in Christ”.  Listen to verse 6:

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:6, NIV)

This refers to a branch that is not “in Christ” anymore.  This branch is like the one thrown away and burned in the fire.  This verse describes the branch that is not “in Christ”, and therefore it was fruitless.  Let’s not minimise the teaching of this verse:  without Christ we can’t do a thing, and we are dead; our destiny is the fire of God’s judgement.  We will come back to that again.

What then is the Bible teaching us in verse 2.  James Montgomery Boice points out that the word translated as “cut off” in verse 2, may also have the meaning of pick up, raise up or lift up.

When we lived down in the wine country of South Australia I saw something that I think helps us in this regard.  The new vines are planted.  New shoots are in the root stock.  These new vines at the beginning of the new season grows wild and will cover the area around the plant.  The sun will not shine on the branches and the fruit will be miserably small, if any.  So what the farmers do is to “train them up”.  The new branches are literally curled around the supports provided, first vertically, and then horizontally.  New they can grow, flower and bear fruit.  At the end of the season they are pruned so that they would bear more fruit.  This is an ongoing process; but starts with the training up.

I wonder if this is not what the Lord meant in verse 2.  The translation would then go like this:

He trains up every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2, NIV)

Jesus was talking to his group of disciples who were still at the very beginning of their journey in the Lord.  They still had so much to learn and to understand.  Yes, they were already “in Christ”, but there was so little fruit.  Look at Peter, bravely he said he would die with Jesus, but he failed and denied his Lord three times.  After Jesus completed his mission and He rose from the dead, He spent time with Peter – alone.  “Do you love Me?”  Three times!  Was it to condemn and load Peter with guilt that He asked him?  No, it was to pick him up, to train him up, and then to give him the charge to bear fruit, “Feed my sheep.  Feed my lambs.”

What does it tell us?  We need to understand verse 3:

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (John 15:3, NIV)

The word pure does not mean without sin, but it refers to the pruning work of the Word of God, applied by the Spirit of God.  So how does God train us up and prune us?  Through his Word.  Peter writes:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22–25, NIV)

He continues:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2–3, NIV)

Jesus has the same thing in mind:

If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, NIV)

How then are we fruitful

I think the answer is short: we remain him Christ, if his Word remain in us.  David writes:

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psalm 119:97)

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105, NIV)

The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:9–11, NIV)

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

If we understand and study, yes live in and by the Word of God, His Spirit talks to us and reveals to us the depths of God’s grace; our souls are nurtured and we start growing.  It is in the Bible where we learn what the will of God is; and by knowing his will we will need how and what to pray for as a church as we need to be fruitful – and our Father will give us what we need.  Why?

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7 July 2013

 

Obedience to Christ through love brings joy and fruit

So that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Micah 6:6-8
  • John 15:9-17

Introduction

When God created the world in the beginning, He created everything, and yet, He also created mankind to be under-creators:  God appointed them to be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it.  Adam and Eve had to work the ground, plant seeds and care for the animals.  God did not create all animals at once – however, all sorts of animals He made.  He did not create all plants, but all the kinds of plants He created.  He did not create all humans at once; He commissioned Adam and Eve to be fruitful and have children and train them up to do the same.  Adam and Eve, and in them all their seed, were the crown of God’s creation.  To them God gave breath so that they were different from the animals and other created things.

It was not their world – it belonged to God, but in a certain sense they were under-creators – always accountable to God. Their task was to be fruitful to the glory of God.

The sin they committed was to take what belonged to God and use it for their own pleasure.  The result was that their fruitfulness and fruit-bearing task would become painful and difficult.  The very fact that their first son killed the second proofed this.

Redemption in Jesus Christ through his cross, resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to, in some way, sanctify the original commission to Adam and Eve.  The first miracle of Jesus happened at a wedding in Cana.  Marriages are sanctified in the blood of Christ, and children are a blessing of God.

In another sense God in Christ restored the commission to be fruitful to his church.  In principle Christ restored everything and all authority is under Him, but He calls his church to give effect to the fruit of his death, resurrection and ascension.  As He gave Adam and Eve his breath, He gave us his Holy Spirit so that by his enabling we can indeed become witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth.

Last week we heard the Word from the first part of John 15.  The message of our Lord was that our Father in heaven, through the Word, is doing what we need to bear fruit.  He lifts us up and prunes us.  This He does for as long as we remain in Christ.

If we do not remain in Christ, we die, all our effort will fail because without Him we can do nothing.  The judgement of God rests upon those who are not in Christ – they will be thrown in the fire.

The fruit-bearing success of the church is to remain in Christ – for as long as they do so, they can ask what they need in their task to be fruitful, and they will receive it.  This is to the glory of the Father.

As the Father loved Me

Now we hear about the reason why God will be glorified: Christ provides the foundation on which He bases our possibility to bear fruit.

“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9, NIV)

Just for one moment let the weight of this truth impact on your mind.

This statement of the Lord uses the Greek tense which describes factual events which took place.  It is something like, “Captain Cook arrived in Australia”, or, “We are your parents.”  One does not dispute statements like this; there is no way to undo these events.  “As the Father loved Me, so I loved you.”

From all eternity the Father and the Son, together with the Holy Spirit have been/were there.  There has never been any disagreement between them.  God is eternally the same – yesterday, today and into all eternity.  So the Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Father and the Holy Spirit loved the Father and Son.  “The Word was with God and the Word was God.”  Without any shadow of turning, without any possibility of failing, or hint of wavering. Perfect for before all times, perfect now, and perfect into eternity.  The love between the persons of the Godhead is far beyond what we can fathom, and not equal to anything we might know.

Now Jesus says, “As the Father loved Me, so I loved you.”  Not the same love, but the same degree of love – eternal, steadfast, without any shadow of turning.

Turn with me to Ephesians 1.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:3–10, NIV)

God loved sinners and wanted them to be saved.  To that Jesus was appointed the only One through whom we can be adopted as his children.  To gain the redemption from God Jesus gave his blood for our sins to be forgiven.  We now know the grace of God, and at the end of time we will stand before the throne of God in the righteousness of Christ.

As my Father loved Me, so I loved you.”  He love us because the Father loved us.  The Father loved Him because He laid down his life out of his own accord, willingly and freely.

My prayer is that we will never forget the statement of our Lord in this verse.  For if we indeed remember it well, what follows will come naturally, “Now remain in my love.”

Remain in my love

How do we remain in his love? “If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love.”  Jesus says He remained faithful to his Father and kept on doing what brought glory to the Father by pleasing Him.  Because He and the Father are one in purpose, He could not do anything other that what the Father commanded Him.

There is something in this to describe our relationship with Christ.  Get this picture.  I read from Psalm 123:2

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us his mercy.  (Psalm 123:2 NIV)

Slaves were humbly dependent on their masters – they lived by the grace of their masters.  So, obediently they follow the gestures of the hand of the master who would not even need to say a word before they do the bidding of the mistress, so we wait for grace and mercy and then do what our Lord, who bought us free from slavery.  This verse might even go further to indicate the gesture from the hand of the master to declare free the salve in his presence.

Jesus says, “I loved you as the Father loved Me – remain in my love.” This means being drawn into the family circle of God through the love of Christ to experience the love of the Father, will necessarily lead to the desire to remain in that love.  And here at the throne of the Father at the feet of Christ, his wish becomes my command.  I want to do obey, because I take my lead from my Saviour who remained in the love of his Father by doing what the Father commanded.

Love brings fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23, NIV)

The divine character of God, now sanctified through Christ, is reflected in the original nature of Adam and Eve.  God gave them something of His nature in that they were created in his image.  Sin destroyed it, but in Christ that has been made new.  We are now restored in righteousness and holiness that we might rightly know God our Creator, heartily love Him and live with Him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise Him.  We constantly struggle with sin, but our perfect righteousness is Christ – we need to remain in Him in order to remain in his love and the love of the Father.

There is a verse in the Bible that links all of these things together:  obedience, fruit and joy.  It speaks of Christ:

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3, NIV)

Because of the love of the Father for Christ, and the love of Christ for the Father – and their love for sinners, Jesus endured the cross, scorning and shame:  his reward was the joy of doing the will of the Father and save the lost.

This brings us to joy.

Fruit brings joy

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)

The views, outlook, and aspirations of the Master will be those of the disciples as well. This is the reason for the twofold repetition of the word “joy”—“my joy” and “your joy.” The joy of Jesus is to be the joy of the disciple.

The Bible has much to say about joy.  Indeed, to rejoice and be joyful is a command.  True worship of God is and should be joyful and with rejoicing.

Israel’s worship was often described as terms of a festival of rejoicing.

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:5–7, NIV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1, NIV)

What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Closing

It is only when we really understand the extent of the love of God in Jesus Christ, and we understand the satisfaction of doing his bidding that we bear fruit, that we tell of Him, that we care for the poor, the sick and the lame, that we become partners with those out there on the mission field, and when we bear the fruit of the Spirit – that we begin to understand the joy of serving the Lord.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 July 2013

 

The Death of Reverence, The Death of Holiness

“I sat on the pew outside the sanctuary and began to weep. I was crushed at what I was hearing and what I was experiencing. “Was I such an anomaly that finding a place to worship God with reverence and holiness was asking too much?

I literally felt like there would be no place for me to worship, no place to confess sin, no place to hear from Christ, no place that honored our LORD in thought, word and deed.

If you were to tell the believers in the 1960s and 1970s that by 2010, if you really wanted to lead people in worshipping God then you would have to adopt the concert hall, the bar room, the disco in order to worship, they would have quit sharing the gospel at that moment out of reverence for His holiness.”

I sometimes feel just the same … and it has become a burden on my soul.

Read more

 

The Prince of Heaven versus the prince of this world

So that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 2
  • John 14:28-15:4

The prophets and Jesus Christ

Isaiah

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6–7, NIV)

The birth of Jesus was announced as the fulfillment of the promise made in the time of Isaiah:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23, NIV)

Daniel

Daniel had a dream of four different bests representing four different kingdoms in succession:  Babylonia in the form of a lion with wings like an eagle; Medo-Persia in the form of a bear with three ribs in its mouth; Greece in the form a of a leopard with four wings like wings of a bird; and Rome, a terrifying and frightening beast.

But Daniel saw something else: above all these thrones was the throne of the Ancient of Days – God in heaven.  Thousand upon thousands attended Him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.  He then opened the books – it was time for judgement.  Daniel wrote down what he saw:

“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:11–14, NIV)

Daniel’s prophecy pointed to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of God, and it was indeed under the Roman Empire that Jesus was born.

Revelation

Last week we had a look at Revelation 12.  Let’s go there again.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1–6, NIV)

The prince of this world and Jesus

The dragon of these verses could not wait any longer.  Soon after Jesus was born, we read:

…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13, NIV)

At be beginning of the public ministry of Jesus when He was baptised at the Riven Jordan by John the Baptiser, we read:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17, NIV)

He is the Son of God; his Father has pleasure in Him, and the world had to know about Him.  That voice from heaven would return again to confirm to the people that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

The tempter

What happened next with Jesus was his temptation.  Satan tried whatever he could to tempt Jesus to give up his mission to seek and save the lost.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3, NIV)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5–6, NIV)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8–9, NIV)

Christ remained obedient to the Father and the Scripture and showed that the devil had no hold on Him.

He went out to proclaim the Kingdom of heaven, healing the sick, performing various miracles, and casting out demons.

Powerless before Christ

Mark records very early in his Gospel that Jesus had an encounter with a demon possessed man.

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:23–24, NIV)

Jesus just ordered him to come out of the man and with a shriek it left the man.  Then just a few chapters further we read of another encounter with a demon-possessed man.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mark 5:6–8, NIV)

The Prince of Heaven

In everything Jesus did and proclaimed, He showed Himself to be the Son of God promised by the prophets and sent by God: his mission was to seek and save the lost by destroying the power of the Evil One over them, and dealing with the sins of the lost on the cross where He died for those in slavery of sin and bound by the prince of darkness.

God Himself

When Jesus taught the Jews about who He was, they laid a charge against Him that He was demon-possessed.  But He said, “I tell you the truth before Abraham we born, I am.”  (John 8 58) This sounded too much like the name by which God revealed Him self to the Israelites.  Jesus meant it to be understood that way, because He was and is God.  They then wanted to stone Him, but He hid Himself – His time has not yet come.  He was in charge.  To kill Him was not in their hands.

It happened again just a little while later.  We read about that in John 10.  Jesus said to the crowd:

Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37–38, NIV)

Then they tried to seize Him, but He escaped.  This happened after He assured his disciples:

he reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

The Son of God glorified

As Jesus moved closer to the time appointed by the Father on that glorious time of Passover, Jesus declared:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:23,27, NIV)

Again there was a voice from heaven, assuring that the Name of Jesus would be glorified. Jesus immediately said:

“This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:30–31, NIV)

The Son of Man in control

Jesus was all the way in control.  The devil tried to be step ahead, but could not rush the timetable of the Father.  Jesus was the Passover Lamb; He had to be killed on the appointed time – when all other lambs were killed in Jerusalem in preparation for their Passover.

Satan even entered Judas.  He was now in control of this evil man to see that Jesus would be crucified and killed – get Him out of the way!
It was only after Judas left the room into the darkness of the night that Jesus declared:

“Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. (John 13:31–32, NIV)

Satan has no hold on Him

Now, as our text this morning points out, Jesus said:

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me. (John 14:30, NIV)

The sinless Son of God

Sinless

The devil has no hold over Christ, because Christ was always in control as the Son of God – the One from Psalm 2, the One from Isaiah 9, the One from Daniel – the Son of God, the Messiah, the King, the Shepherd who would lay down his life out of his own accord.

But the Devil had not hold over Him because He never sinned.  He could not be accused of any wrongdoing.  He was the sinless Lamb of God.

The prince of this world could do nothing to the Prince of Heaven; as a matter of fact, it was the other way round.  The Prince of Heaven used the prince of this world to accomplish the mission of the Father.  He would be merely instrumental in the unfolding of the plan of God to save sinners through the death and resurrection of his Son.

Obedient to the Father

This exactly what Jesus said:

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave. (John 14:30–31, NIV)

When the world would see the Son of God hang on the cross of Calvary only a few hours later, they had to know He did what He did because He was obedient to the Father.  The cross and death of Jesus will be the condemnation of the world who saw it, heard it, knew it, and yet they rejected Him.

How dreadful for the unsaved to hear the words of the Gospel in their ears, knowing that they mocked and crucified the Son of God, to know that He did it because He was obedient to the Father, and yet, they did nothing to worship Him and beg Him for forgiveness.

On the other hand, for those who believed in his Name and believed in Him as Lord and Saviour they know now this:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13–15, NIV)

May the Lord, by the encouragement of the Holy Spirit which brings to us the words of Christ help us to understand that in Him we are more than conquerers.

Conclusion

I have to conclude with the words of Paul in Romans 8:31-39:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39, NIV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 7 July 2013