Ale & Teviot United Church


Archive for the 'Sermons – John 10' Category

Jesus is incomplete without you

26 September 2010 : John 10 : 22-42


I must be honest and say that I toyed with the thought of skipping over this passage we read this morning, on the grounds that we had already dealt with much of what’s in it. But the Lord thought otherwise, because there is fresh bread here for us. Let’s begin by noting where we find Jesus in these verses – in the temple, celebrating one of the key festivals of the Jewish people. So what, you might ask?

So far as the leaders of the Temple were concerned, Jesus was bad news, a rebel, a thorn in the flesh, a dangerous and subversive character who threatened to rock the very foundation of the Jewish religion. Yet from the Biblical picture of Jesus, he is in fact a devout, loyal and conscientious Jew. He shows respect and honour to the very people who, as we will see in these verses, are out to get Him. And that’s food for thought.


Let me put it like this. I am not a great fan of the General Assembly, because I happen to think that having 1,000 people cooped up in a stuffy hall, churning through a stuffy tome of reports, complete with obscure counter-motions and amendments, is not a good way to transact the business of the Kingdom, especially after half the commissioners have enjoyed a liquid lunch in Deacon Brodie’s or some similar establishment.


But at least I wouldn’t expect it to be a dangerous occasion, even if I disagreed serially and volubly with every decision taken. I wouldn’t expect the Moderator and Principal Clerk to ambush me in Hunter Square, stab me with a poisoned umbrella and hang me upside-down from the North Bridge. But, for Jesus, turning up at the temple to worship was, in effect, putting his neck on the line. He did not allow the hostility and nastiness of others toward Him to become an excuse for Him not joining in the worship of God.


He did not let their vendetta against Him become an occasion for a bad attitude toward them. He sat under their authority. He paid His tithes. He respected the office of the High Priest, even though the personalities occupying that office were a bit dodgy to say the least. And I find that very challenging – not just in the church, where in recent years I think we’ve made an unfortunate and unwise practice of fence-sitting in the vain hope of avoiding causing offence to people, but in the wider world.


What does the attitude of Jesus toward properly constituted authority have to say to us when few of our political leaders now are men or women of faith in Christ, and indeed a growing number are very definitely anti-Christ in their thinking? How do we hold the very thin line between respecting our leaders because they are our leaders, whilst still expressing clearly and uncompromisingly our Biblical values on a wide range of issues, such as, for example, the Scriptural teaching that God’s gift of marriage is for one man and one woman, not any other combination, biologically or arithmetically.


Jesus is, I believe, calling His church to recover the spirit of Daniel, of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, a prophetic spirit that is prepared to speak God’s truth in love, that will remain respectful and polite, whilst standing totally and uncompromisingly on what God’s Word says, not what the world says.

Jesus is calling us to stand up and be counted for the truth that will set the people free – however unpopular that may make us, whatever nasty stories the media may run about us, whatever turkey names we may get called. Listen. The devil, the father of lies and deception, isn’t about to lie down meekly and let us walk over him. When the church steps up to the plate and tells the inconvenient truth of the Word that the selfish world doesn’t want people to hear, it will get dirty. Are we strong enough to say – bring it on?


All right, let’s move on. If nothing else, you’ve got to admire the cheek of the Pharisees with their plaintive bleat : How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. Now, just what part of John 4.26, John 5.17-23, John 6.32-59 or John 8 – and that’s only in this gospel – were they too thick to understand? By what He said, and by what He did, Jesus had made it abundantly plain who He was.


And if there was even a hint in this question of a genuine desire for enlightenment, we might be able to cut these guys some slack, but that wasn’t it. Their motive is plain for all to see at vs. 31-33. They were just looking for a religious excuse to bump Him off. In a different age, you could picture this as a sting operation, with the Pharisees wired up to record an incriminating statement from Jesus on tape or something. Sad, really.


It wasn’t a lack of information that kept them from recognising Jesus for who He truly was, it was a lack of integrity. Here was their problem. If Jesus truly was the Son of God, as He claimed, as His ministry testified, everything these guys stood for would fall apart like flatpack furniture. Everything they believed in, everything they lived for, everything that conferred upon them status, power and authority, would be ripped away


Make no mistake, that is still the main reason why people don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the World. It’s nothing whatever to do with science, history, philosophy, or any other pseudo-intellectual drivel that gets spewed out by those who profess loud and long to be unbelievers. Atheists are atheists by choice. End of.


They do not want to believe, because they are at least smart enough to recognise that to profess faith in Jesus will turn their comfortable, respectable lives upside down. Things they do now, whether it’s overdoing the booze, cheating on their wives, bucket-mouth language, fiddling the tax return, exploiting and ill-treating work colleagues, they know fine that following Christ would mean big changes in these areas.


And, truth to tell, they don’t really want to change. They’ve reached a point of denial in their minds where they’ve come to terms with all that sort of crazy behaviour, in spite of the sin-consciousness that every human being has. As Paul points out in Romans 1.19, in rather more elegant terms than I’ll paraphrase here, even the biggest unbeliever isn’t so stupid and insensitive that he doesn’t have some realisation of right and wrong.


The tragedy is, of course, that the unbeliever is actually digging his own grave with that mindset of denial. They’d rather eat raw unfilleted sardines – yes, we’re just back from Portugal – than admit it, but trying to maintain the bluff blasé pretence of not caring, whilst internally suppressing a barrowload of guilt, is trashing their lives.

Please believe me, I don’t wish to be gratuitously offensive, but refusal to believe in Jesus is actually stupid. It cuts off the one and only avenue of hope, the one and only way out of the mess of sin and guilt. The ironic thing is that Jesus has very little to say about acts of bad behaviour. You don’t find that much teaching from Jesus against the proverbial sex, drugs and rock & roll. For Jesus, the primary sin is not believing in Him


Have faith in Him, let His grace overflow our lives, bringing forgiveness, reconciliation to God and to others, let His love fill our hearts, and in due time His Spirit within us will renew our minds according to the Word, and when our way of thinking changes, our feelings will change, our choices will change, our actions will change, our habits will change, our character will change. There is a neat balance to mission.


Yes, as I’ve already said, we need to be quite clear what actions are right and wrong, and not be afraid to say so. But, on the other side of the coin, people are not going to be brought into the Kingdom by focusing on their outward actions. These things flow out of their inner heart, and it’s the heart that needs to change. The surgery God’s people are called to carry out on society is not amputation of bad habits, but a heart transplant, and in time, by the grace of Jesus Christ in the born-again heart, the bad habits will be resolved. As Joyce Meyer says, we need to catch the fish before we start cleaning them!


And the bait is grace –a fresh start, a clean sheet, and the promise that once someone truly gives his life to Jesus, that is it. Jesus says in vs.28-30 : I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. Aren’t you glad that, the minute you say YES to Jesus, and really mean it, an everlasting covenant relationship is in place?


I wonder if we fully grasp how radically that covenant relationship changes our lives? It’s very interesting to see here how Jesus winds up the Pharisees by reminding them what the scripture says, in Psalm 82.6, that God called men “gods”. A New Testament believer truly does enjoy, in a very real sense, equality with Jesus. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. We have been lifted from darkness to light, from death to life, from frustration and hopelessness to mountain-moving authority and raising-from-the-dead power. And none of it because of anything we have done, it’s all by grace.


When the church, the body of Christ, the people commissioned to carry on the ministry of Jesus, in the authority of the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus – everyone say : that’s us! – when we wake up and smell the salvation coffee, knowing who and whose and what we are in Jesus, the devil will have a nervous breakdown.


If we are true believers, we are united with Christ. He is the head of the church, and we are, as Paul writes in Ephesians 1.23 : His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself]. You are part of Jesus. Without you, Jesus is incomplete. But when we are united with Him, we can do all things through Christ who is in us, to His glory, and to the good of those around us.

The Good Shepherd became the sacrificial Lamb

22 August 2010 : Isaiah 53 & John 10 : 11-21

Last time we began to study the claim of Jesus to be the Good Shepherd, in stark contrast to the religious leaders of His own day, who failed abjectly in the primary task of the pastor, which is to feed the flock with the nourishing food of God’s Word, the Good News of how much God loves His people, and of the great plan and purpose God has for His people. That remains, to this very day, the No.1 priority of all who have a call to minister – feeding the flock with the Word of God’s love, mercy and grace.

That is the yardstick by which I, and my colleagues, shall be assessed in the courts of heaven, and every other aspect of ministry is subsidiary to that. The greatest visitor, the most avid fund-raiser, the most hilarious MC at weddings, the most active in political or social concerns, the most enthusiastic participant in Presbytery or General Assembly, great if that’s your thing, but in the end what really matters is teaching from the Word the truth that sets the people free. Beside that, everything else is an optional extra.

But for Jesus, it went beyond teaching. Far beyond. He lifted shepherding to a whole new level by laying down His life for His sheep. The ministry of Jesus in Galilee was a wonderful thing to behold. Luke 4 tells us that Jesus, doing pulpit supply in the synagogue at Capernaum, stood up and read the lesson from Isaiah 61 :

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favour has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. He then gave the shortest sermon on record : Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing : pronounced the blessing and left.

And for the next three years Jesus fulfilled that text. He brought the love of God, not just in words but in real tangible practical actions, to the people. Acts 10.38 says : Jesus of Nazareth went around doing good, healing the sick. I wouldn’t mind that verse being read at my funeral about me. And during those Galilee years, as Jesus enjoyed, by and large, high approval ratings – except in Nazareth, His home town, where familiarity with the boy bred contempt for the man – it was sunshine and roses all the way.

But Galilee was not to be where the climax of Jesus ministry unfolded. That had to be in Jerusalem, that teeming and tense city, where the Temple was, where the focus of the religious life of God’s people was, and as Jesus set His face toward the city, so the chill set in under the looming shadow of the cross. Ministry to some people, in some places, at some times, was one thing. Redemption, of all people, for all time, was the true goal.

For this purpose Christ was revealed, to destroy all the works of the devil. [1 John 3.8] Throughout the Old Testament, the people had brought sacrifices to their weekly act of worship – and, then as now, for many it was just that, an “act” – in order to fend off the wrath of God till next week. That was never God’s original plan, and was never good enough, for God’s people – but that’s a whole story for another day.

Suffice to say for the moment that Jesus came to make that sacrifice complete and universal, to set all people free, for all time, from all sin, and from all its consequences – guilt, disease, stress etc – past, present and future. God’s ultimate purpose for Jesus was to BE the sacrifice that released eternal redemption for the world.

Now, this morning, we’re going to dig quite deep – and if I’m going too fast for you, do NOT be embarrassed to ask me to stop and go back over something. This is one of the most important messages you will ever hear, so don’t miss any of it. It will go on the church website shortly to print off if you need it, OK?

In Genesis, we read that God made a covenant with Abraham, that he would become the father of many nations, that his descendants would be more than the stars in the sky, yet at that time Abraham was old enough for a free TV licence and his wife Sarah for a bus pass. And by the time their son Isaac came along, Abraham qualified for a telegram from the Queen. Abraham’s faith would surely be tested to breaking point already.

Yet in Genesis 22, we find Abraham instructed by God to take this long-awaited son and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. Now you or I, at that point, might have been sorely tempted to tell God : Look mate, I’ve had enough playing games. This is going too far. Forget it. But Abraham didn’t. So great was his faith that he knew, deep down, that if he went along with this bizarre command, God would work it out OK.

So, even as Abraham took everything he needed for the sacrifice, he had faith to say to the household servants : Hold on to the donkeys, lads. My son and I are going up the hill to worship … and WE will be back. Do you hear that note of faith in there? Not – I will be back, but WE will be back. God had promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations, and Isaac was the fruit of that promise. Abraham had faith that God could not and would not lie, and somehow God HAD to find a way to save Isaac.

But God kept Abraham hanging on till the very last moment. Just as he was about to kill Isaac, God spoke : OK, Abraham. Stop right now. Don’t touch Isaac. I can see how faithful and obedient you are. I will supply the sacrifice. Abraham turned round, and there was a lamb caught on a bit of wood. He sacrificed the lamb on that hill, Mount Moriah, which was later known as Calvary. When Jesus went to Calvary, He became that sacrificial lamb, to save – not just Abraham’s one descendant at that time, Isaac, but all his descendants, more numerous than the stars in the sky.

The Good Shepherd became the sacrificial lamb. And the results of that sacrifice reach so much further than most of us have ever recognised. For every sin ever committed, from the Holocaust to a parking ticket, full forgiveness was released at the cross by the grace of God. There is nothing you have ever done, or said, or thought, or failed to do, that is beyond the forgiveness of Christ poured out on the world at Calvary.

If Galilee saw Jesus fulfil Isaiah 61, Calvary saw him fulfil Isaiah 53 :

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

Because the Good Shepherd became the sacrificial Lamb for the sake of His flock, you and I may be 110% certain that ALL [not just some, not just the little ones, but ALL] our sins HAVE BEEN – not might be, or will be, but have been – forgiven … AND … ALL [not just some, but ALL] our illnesses and diseases HAVE BEEN – not might be, or will be, but have been – healed. That is what Isaiah prophesied, and Matthew 8.17 and 1 Peter 2.24 both confirm that prophesy to be fulfilled in Jesus. Is that clear?

To whom does this wonderful redeeming power of the Lamb who was slain belong? Potentially, to the whole world. That’s what the Bible teaches. 1 John 2.2 : Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 Peter 3.18 : Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. 2 Peter 3.9 : God does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives. But does that mean all ARE saved? Sadly, no.

God in Christ has done absolutely everything to provide life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows, for everyone who breathes, as a gift, by His grace. Ephesians 2.8f : God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this ; it is a gift from God. But God’s gift must be appropriated by faith : faith, as we have already seen, being the hallmark of Abraham. Trusting God, not our circumstances.

Galatians 3.13f : Christ took away the curse the law put on us. He changed places with us and put himself under that curse. It is written in the Scriptures, “Anyone whose body is hung on a tree is cursed.” Christ did this so that God’s blessing promised to Abraham might come through Jesus Christ to those who are not Jews. Jesus died so that by our believing we could receive the Spirit that God promised. Believe and receive. That’s it.

It really is as simple as that. Sometimes people want to make this whole Christianity thing so complicated and so airy-fairy and angst-ridden. It’s not. Jesus died to set you free from the curse of human disobedience. The way you move out of curse and into blessing is to believe in Jesus and receive from Him by faith. And as you walk out day by day that life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows, you witness to those others spoken of in 1 John 2.2 who as yet haven’t believed and received and so are still under the curse. That is why we are here, to reach out to the lost sheep here and now.

A good shepherd feeds his flock the Word

John 10a 250710




Ale & Teviot Church

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