Friday, April 17, 2020

Life and Death

Read John 3

After Jesus came to John at the Jordan, John did not stop baptizing.  You might think that his job was done.  It was not, but it was lessening.

You might wonder why John didn’t follow Jesus.  John had his assignment and he would not become a distraction for the very One for whom he prepared the way.

People still needed to repent of their sins.  Not all of the people who needed to do this would make their way to see John.  John kept doing what he was called to do, but he had perspective.

In the course of a discussion that began with ceremonial washing, the context turned to the fact that people were following Jesus more than John.  Even some of John’s own disciples had left to follow him.

John explained that he was not the Christ.  He had explained this before but did it again.

The Christ is from heaven. He is the only one who has seen and known heaven.  He is on a mission from his Father.  That’s why he is with us.

John was of the earth.  He had surely been given gifts by the Father, but he originated of a father’s desire.  He had a heavenly mission but was a man with a God-given mission.

That mission was to prepare the way for the Christ.  That was a big deal at first but had lessened somewhat since the arrival of Jesus at the Jordan.  There would come a point—in this case imprisonment—when John’s work at the Jordan and other places would come to an end.

John was not upset about this.  In fact, this is what he thought being the forerunner called him to do.  He prepared the way for the One who was coming after him.  Now that One had surpassed him in his earthly ministry.

Have you ever watched a relay race?  Runners don’t just run their leg and stop and then pass the baton.  The runner of the first leg runs as fast as he can and passes the baton to the next runner at full speed.  That first runner keeps on running.  It would be unnatural to slam on the breaks.  Once the baton is passed, he gradually slows down.

The race is in the hands of the next runner, but the first runner still runs for a bit.

Jesus had the baton.  Jesus was the reason for John’s mission.  Jesus was the One that brought life and life eternal.  The Father had placed everything into the hands of Jesus.

John had preached repentance but now he preached life and death.

Whoever receives the Son has life but those who don’t remain dead.  The wrath of the Father is still upon them.

John proclaimed repentance and turning away from a sinful world.  He prepared the world that was under the wrath of God for the Christ.

Jesus proclaimed deliverance because his Father desired mercy and forgiveness over wrath, but belief in the one and only Son of God was essential.  It is essential.

In the middle of his explanation, John appeared to be a little exasperated.  He said the One who comes from above has testified to the truth but no one has believed him.  John was not concerned that his part has lessened.  He wondered why everyone was not responding to the One who came after him.

Surely, no one does not mean every single person on the planet for we have already noted some who did believe and follow Jesus.  John was wondering how so many had come to see him and partake of this earthly baptism, yet were not yet ready to believe in the One who came after him.

These people who had come to see John had only known repentance and forgiveness for a time.  Whatever they had done in accordance with God’s law, they would do again next year.  Maybe they grew closer to God for a time, then the relationship would atrophy.

I can’t imagine a Hebrew feeling any better than he could on or just after the Day of Atonement. But a few months later, the slavery of sin would rattle its chains more and more each day.

David had said that his sin was always before him.  All the blood of goats and bulls could not make him clean.  Only God could create in him a pure heart.

We are temporal beings made from the dust of the earth.  We don’t comprehend eternity, but God placed eternity in our hearts.  We can’t know it in the world, only in God.

Eternity had come in the man we know as Jesus.  He brought life and life eternal, but so many did not want to receive what he brought.  The darkness of the world was too appealing.

From the beginning of this gospel, the state of the world has been compared to darkness.  The light came but people did not recognize him.
The darkness cannot overcome him but somehow people chose darkness.  It’s comfortable.

Hello darkness my old friend.
 I’ve come to talk with you again.

 Paul Simon’s words sometimes hit close to home.

How could people not receive the testimony of the One who came from heaven?  People were comfortable with their condemned state. 

How can people today reject the truth that we know in Jesus Christ?  

Condemnation is comfortable.  You have heard me talk about the twin gods of Apathy and Ambivalence before.  Their companions are bitterness, vitriol, and acrimony.  They are alive and well in modern American and they have taken the life out of life for so many.

So many people are checking on their stimulus check every hour and don’t check in with God once a month.

So many people who watch part of this broadcast as a program and are not participating in worship, won’t be here when we start to gather again.  Not because of health concerns or geography but comfort.

So many people love their comfort and darkness so much that they won’t hear the testimony of the one true God that we know in Christ Jesus.

Most of the time when we gather together, I preach to disciples.  I challenge those who already have professed Jesus not just as Savior but as Lord.  Jesus is Lord.  He reigns.  My comfort zone is continually being changed by him.

Most of my messages are for those people, people who are following the Lord and growing in his grace.  Most are not about salvation for in your profession of faith you have been saved from sin and death and in your discipleship, you are stepping into abundant life.

In this new format, I know that we are reaching some who just want to check the God block on their to-do list just in case this pandemic thing gets really bad.

I know some are just running this broadcast in the background of something else that they are doing.

Some just post their like or heart emojis and then get back to binge-watching Netflix. 

Some are worshiping because the Spirit of God that lives inside of you compels you to worship.  If that’s you, pardon me for a moment while I speak to everyone else.

This message of life and death is for real.  It’s not theory or philosophy.  It’s not something to be considered only in your old age. 

This is here and now life and death. 

We see the pandemic deaths posted on the news every day.  You will grow comfortable with the numbers.  You’re still breathing.  Those are just numbers.  Death is not near you, is it?

That’s a cold thing to say.  How can you say that?

Talk with someone who is old enough to remember the Vietnam War but was not sent to Vietnam.  What do they remember?  The numbers and sometimes the names of those lost that day would be published on the evening news.  Yes, there was a time where half an hour of local news and half an hour of national news was enough.

People grew accustomed to the daily accounts of American casualties.
Men and women still die in battle all around the globe.  We seldom hear about them.  Many more die when they come home and take their own lives.  Little attention is given to them.

We have grown accustomed to and comfortable with death.  Death counts grow every day from war, disease, starvation, and even the contagion of the year.

What we are missing is that we are already dead.  We are already dead until we believe in Jesus.  Jesus brings life and life eternal.

If you are comfortable in your present existence but don’t know life, eternal life may not be appealing to you.  You may be comfortable in your present darkness and think that it’s good enough.

You may think that you don’t want to give up what you have for what you believe life as a disciple of Jesus Christ is.  What you need to understand is that all that you have, all your worldly belongings and pleasure and treasures of many kinds are just decorations on your casket because you are already dead.

Some of those who are here every Sunday are thinking, “What got into Tom?  He is always preaching about love and growing in God’s grace.  What’s the deal?”

You would be correct if I were talking to those who know the Lord and desire to follow him, but right now I am talking to those who are dead and don’t even know it.

If that’s you, stop listening to me and confess your sins to the Lord, profess your belief in him, and affirm that you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and sent his Spirit—his own Holy Spirit to live within us.

Then I want you to do one more thing.  Call someone that you know who is a believer and begin learning about following Jesus.

Learn about life abundant and life eternal.

Learn about growing in the grace of God.

Understand that professing Jesus as Lord is not something to be saved when you think death is near.  Death is here and you are under the wrath of God.  It’s a wrath that God does not want you to bear so he made a way for you to receive his love and forgiveness and grace.

Your profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not the finish line.  It’s the starting blocks for you can now live as God designed you to live.

For those who have professed their faith in this moment, know there is a celebration in heaven over you that’s just beginning.

For those who have been faithful disciples for some time, be ready to receive our new brothers and sisters as they reach out to you for help.
Let them know this God who is love by our love. 

Celebrate that their names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that God has entrusted them to you to help them grow in his grace.


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