CONFERENCE SERMON: “THE IMPACT OF A GOOD TEACHER.”
CONFERENCE OF INDEPENDENT CHRISTIAN SCHOOL TEACHERS AND STAFF.
© REV DR. GORDON MOYES, A.C.
One of my sons looked up from a homework project on Ancient Egypt and surprisingly commented: “You know, history is really interesting if you have a good teacher!” I replied that in my experience every subject is interesting if you have a good teacher.
When Queen Elizabeth II was in the Solomon Islands during 1982, she was shown around a memorial commemorating the Battle of Guadalcanal. She did not know much about this aspect of the War and she was learning from a good teacher. The distinguished looking Solomon Islander who was describing the relics of that great battle was Sir Jacob Vouza, the most famous of all of the Islanders. His history, bravery, and courage during the war are renowned.
He had been a guide for the British and Australian armed forces, but was captured by the Japanese. While undergoing interrogation he was tortured but refused to reveal any secrets that would have harmed our forces. His arms were bound with rope and he was made to kneel. He refused to speak and while kneeling, a rifle bayonet was thrust through his back several times, breaking ribs, passing through his lungs and out the other side.
Again and again he suffered bayonet thrusts but he remained silent. The final assault was a bayonet cut across his throat from ear to ear. His body was pushed into the jungle and he was left to rot. But Jacob Vouza was not dead. By some miracle, his jugular vein escaped the slash of the bayonet.
He chewed through the ropes that bound him, and in spite of the blood that seeped into his lungs, he crawled back through the enemy lines to Allied territory where he reported the Japanese positions and all that they had said while he was a prisoner, and this information led to the defeat of the Japanese. His body was badly broken and it was a long time before he recovered.
There he was, before the Queen in 1982, and on television I saw the ceremony where he was knighted. The Queen asked him about the rows of medals he was wearing and he explained what significance they had: the Silver Star of the American Forces, the George Cross, awarded by the British Allies, and many other campaign decorations.
I heard him say, “Me old now, and me don’t look no good no more, but me never forget.” This man, who had seen the worst of the war and who “never forget,” was the best person possible to teach the Queen something of the history of his land. History is really interesting if you have a good teacher.
We have all had teachers who have made a great difference to us. Their wide experience and their rich imagination allowed us to capture a new understanding of their subjects.
Pope John Paul II canonized one of the rare saints of the 20th century. He was Father Maximillian Kolbe, who was Polish, as was the Pope himself. In 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland and began removing Jews to concentration camps, Father Kolbe helped hundreds of Jewish people to safety through various underground routes. At great risk to his own life he cared for the Jews until, eventually, the Nazis caught him.
They sent him with the Jews, who didn’t escape, to Auschwitz. In that ill-famed camp, he was singled out for special brutality, but even there he moved among his fellow prisoners with compassion and caring. One day, the commandant lined up a large number of Jews. One man had escaped, so he called for ten others to be taken at random, placed in a below-ground-level cell and starved to death. This was the punishment others had to bear for the one who had escaped.
Ten Jews were selected and dragged away to be put in the death cells. One of them was Francizek Gajowniczek. He pleaded for his life because he had a wife and two small children. While he was begging to be spared, Father Kolbe stepped forward and said that he would die if this man could go free. The exchange was made; Kolbe was pushed into an underground cell, and in two weeks had starved to death.
Francizek Gajowniczek survived Auschwitz and was in Rome on that day when the man who had died that he might live was declared to be a saint.
There could be no greater teacher to talk about the Lord Jesus Christ who had given His life that we might all be free, and the Polish Jew had seen in Father Kolbe a clear example of the teaching of the Lord; “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.” (John 15:13). Gajowniczek would never forget the example of Father Kolbe.
Spiritually we also need a good teacher. We require someone to help us develop our faith and our understanding of the world in which we live our faith. We want someone to come to us and say, “This is the way of the Lord, walk in it.”
Many of us could say, “Well, there was a man like that in my life,” or “I knew a lady like that” or “my old Sunday School teacher…” or “my….” And we recall someone whose words or life taught us things that made our spiritual life richer and we remember their influence with gratitude.
There were times when the disciples were unsure of themselves, uncertain of the way they were going, and they needed help in their spiritual experience. On the night before Jesus was to die, the other Judas, Judas Thaddeus, said to Him, “Lord, how can it be that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Maybe Thaddeus was thinking: “We know because you have shown us in so many ways who you are and why you are here, but the world outside hasn’t seen these things. We believe, but what if the unbelievers scoff at us? How can we know for sure that what you tell us is the truth, and how can we convince others?”
Jesus responded that the only way the disciples could be sure of their way and their task was to use the One whom Jesus was giving them as a helper. “I have told you this while I am still with you. 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).
The principle that the Lord demonstrated was that only those of spiritual affinity with Him would receive divine revelation. If you scoffed at God, had no time for the Word of God, then the precious things of God were not for you. Those who believe should know. God does not cast His pearls before swine!
Thaddeus asked, “Lord, how can we know for sure?” The response was the promise of a good Teacher, “… another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the true God. The world cannot receive Him, because it cannot see Him or know Him, but you know Him, because He remains with you and is in you.” (John 14:17). That was His certain promise of a great Teacher for His disciples, and we can appropriate that promise for ourselves, also.
How can we receive that Teacher in our own lives?
That is the first step. You must love Christ. “Whoever loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23). The beginning of the way of knowing the Spirit of God is to love Jesus Christ. To those who love Him, He will give His Spirit.
Everything in Scripture starts with love. God’s creation, provision, redemption, all start with God’s love. The life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, were all the explanation and exposition of His love. Everything we do as Christians is bound together in our love for Him and for others.
The early church learned the lesson well and no matter how much it suffered, at the end of the New Testament, the church was still preaching love. This is how John put it, “The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another…so do not be surprised, my brothers, if the people of the world hate you. We know that we have left death and come over into life; we know it because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love is still under the power of death…this is how we know what love is: Christ gave His life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:11, 13, 14, 16).
Start loving Jesus Christ and love others, and you will discover the presence of the Great Teacher.
A classic film about a great teacher is “Goodbye Mr Chips,” in the film, there is a splendid scene where the school choir sings the school song:
“In the morning of my life I look to the sunrise,
That is the kind of questioning we should make, and the answer will depend to a large extent upon how well we learned the lessons of life from the Great Teacher.
2.OBEY HIS TEACHING.
God’s love is unconditional, but there are expectations that flow from it. Our love for Christ carries with it obligations. The first is obedience to His teaching. That is why Jesus said, “If you love Me you will obey my commandments”. (John 14:15).
It is not optional. There are some who want to love Him but not obey Him. Others want to do the works of Jesus, but not to love Him. They are busy with good deeds but they do not have words of faith. Some have words of faith, but do not follow them with deeds of kindness. The Christian has both words and deeds. We are incomplete if we have deedless words or wordless deeds. We need always the deed and the Word.
In his First letter, John wrote, “Here is the clear difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children; anyone who does not do what is right or does not love his brother is not God’s child.” (1 John 3:10). Here the two requirements are brought together again: love your brother and do what is right – loving obedience.
John went on, “If a rich person sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against his brother, how can he claim that he loves God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” (1 John 3:17,18).
Governments recognize the obligation that if you love Christ, you must obey His teaching. Even the communist world understands it. Thirty-seven years ago, fifty countries, including Australia, Great Britain, and the United States, signed a Charter in San Francisco and established the United Nations.
It was a time for pondering as I looked at the great statue outside the buildings, which house the United Nations. It was the gift of the U.S.S.R, Communist Russia. It is of a giant of a man with tremendous muscles. He has a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other, and he is beating the sword into a ploughshare. Behind the statue, against a wall, there is carved in stone, this verse of Scripture:
“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.”
(Isaiah 2, Micah 4, RSV).
Why did Russia choose a verse from the Bible for its statue? Because the Russians know that Christian countries cannot acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace, and go to war.
At the height of the war between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, Youth for Christ in Great Britain held a youth camp in North Wales. They gathered 12,000 young people together and prayed for peace, and they collected $17,500.00, which was sent to the Christian Church in Argentina to show the love of the youth of Britain for them. If you love Christ, you must obey His teaching.
3.INVITE HIM INTO YOUR LIFE.
You cannot believe one thing, do the opposite, and still be Christian. To claim the Great Teacher as your Lord, Jesus said, “Whoever loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and My Father and I will come to him and live with him.” (John 14:23).
Verse 24 puts it the other way: “Whoever does not love Me does not obey My teaching. And teaching you have heard is not Mine, but comes from the Father, who sent Me.” Such a person will not have the Teacher with him.
There are three steps: Love Him, obey His teaching, invite Him in.
Incredible though it may seem, our heart becomes His home. It does not matter how rough your heart is: He went into the home of Peter, into the home of Simon the Pharisee, and into the home of Zacchaeus. They were all different, all with many faults, but wherever the heart was open He went into the home. “Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).
Have you done that? Have you opened that door and invited Him into your home? To do it, you must love Him, obey Him, and then invite Him in, and then….? (“I have told you this while I am still with you. 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.” (vvs. 25,26).
Love and obedience lead to an indwelling experience; the gift of the Helper who makes everything certain.
4.GROW THROUGH THE INDWELLING SPIRIT.
It is the Holy Spirit, Jesus told us, who is God’s enabling power and who will come into our hearts and lives to teach us everything. This brings us to the fourth step: love leads to obedience, obedience leads to experience, and experience leads to certainty. That certainty comes from personal growth through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit….” – this is God’s enabling power within us to help us to grow to Christian perfection and sanctification.
“…….whom the Father will send…..” – the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to believers who love, obey and invite Christ into their lives.
“……will teach you everything……” – the Holy Spirit is the Good Teacher who helps us to understand God’s will and word.
“……make you remember all that I have told you.” – That same Holy Spirit brings Christ’s word to our mind and helps us to know for certain, the truth about God.
It was through the Holy Spirit that the disciples remembered the teaching of Jesus when they came to write it down. That is why we call the Bible the Holy Scripture and the inspired Word of God. The Holy Spirit enabled the followers of Jesus to remember all that had been told them.
If the experience of Gajowniczek had been yours, to have someone in a concentration camp step forward to take your place to die instead of you, you would never forget or doubt his love.
If you had the experience of having someone step forward and go to the Cross to die in your place you could never forget or doubt his love.
If you had the experience of having someone demonstrate for you the reality of the Risen Lord, you could never doubt.
May you have that experience through the Good Teacher, by loving Jesus Christ, obeying His teaching, inviting Him into your heart, and then growing through the indwelling of the Spirit.
And may your students also have this experience because you are a good teacher to them.