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Sunday Night Live Sermons

DESERTING JESUS

Who He Really Is

John 6:60-71
18th April 2004

In the last three decades there has been a rising conflict over a worldview brought about by the rise of fundamentalist Islam. That clash has brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including hundreds of thousands of Christian martyrs. In the Middle East in a dozen countries: Indonesia, East Timor, Egypt, many sub-Saharan African nations like The Sudan and the Philippines. Tens of thousands have died which caused armed intervention from USA and the coalition of the willing countries fighting terrorism.

Christians workers in these countries cite enforced conversions to Islam, large scale village massacres, and in a few countries a program of genocide against Christian minorities. There have been two reactions: numbers of nominal Christians have left following Jesus and for their lives’ sake have become followers of Muhammad. The second is surprising: seeing the way Christians have died for their faith, numbers of Muslims have sought to become Christians, in larger numbers than at any time for hundreds of years. In the face of persecution, some believers have deserted Jesus, and some who have never belonged to Him, have now confessed their faith. As the early Church father Tertullian said in 200AD during the Roman persecution of Christians, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Many ordinary Christians even in our safe and secure Western world find it hard to follow Jesus. The pressures of temptation, the physical weariness that comes upon them that keeps them from worship, the delights of other attractions, the attitudes of non Christian friends all seduce a believer from following the way of Jesus.

1. SOME FIND IT HARD TO FOLLOW JESUS. John 6:60-65

Some struggle to keep committed to His way and may wonder if it really matters if we cease following our Saviour. One passage of Scripture answers that issue of whether it matters if we follow the way of Jesus or not. The event occurred just after a great crowd heard Jesus preach His high demands. The crowd in the synagogue of Capernaum did not want to accept His teaching about total commitment to His way and about eating His flesh as the bread of life. They grumbled to each other. Many grumble about the way of Jesus. “Many of His followers heard this and said, “This teaching is too hard. Who can listen to it?” Without being told Jesus knew that they were grumbling about this”. So followers who lack stamina, understanding and persistence say: “This teaching is too hard. Who can listen to it?” Jesus never said His way was easy. It requires endurance unto the end: “Everyone will hate you because of Me, but he who holds out to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 Follow His way and you’ll take up a Cross and a cup of suffering, not a cushion and a cup of tea! His way is tough, but those who follow find it leads to life!

Many want to give up and try in their own power. “So He said to them, “Does this make you want to give up? Suppose then that you should see the Son of Man go back to the place where He was before? What gives life is God’s Spirit; man’s power is of no use at all.” In spite of everything, they know they want to do things in their own way and they take no heed of the words of Jesus: “What gives life is God’s Spirit; man’s power is of no use at all.” They want to do things in their own strength.

Many do not believe because they do not accept His Spirit. They are happy to believe Jesus was a great man of God, but they do not want to trust their lives into His hands and to open their spirit to be in filled with His Spirit. So Jesus says: “The words I have spoken to you bring God’s life giving Spirit. Yet some of you do not believe. (Jesus knew from the very beginning who were the ones that would not believe and which one would betray Him.) And He added, “This is the very reason I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father makes it possible for him to do so.” v63-65 Long before Judas ever walked out into the night to seek money from the Priests, Jesus knew him as His betrayer. Jesus knows our inner betrayal long before we ever step outside the Church, and He looks at us and says: “The words I have spoken to you bring God’s life giving Spirit. Yet some of you do not believe.” So these who are not in total commitment grumble about the way of Jesus, give up and try in their own power and neither believe nor accept His Spirit.

2. SOME CEASE TO FOLLOW JESUS. John 6:66-67

From this time on many early followers turned away from the way of the Lord. “Because of this, many of Jesus’ followers turned back and would not go with Him any more. So He asked the Twelve disciples, “And you would you also like to leave?” v66-67 These are some of the saddest words Jesus every spoke. When those earlier followers found out that being a disciple meant more than eating bread and fish and witnessing miracles, they turned away to the next thing to capture their interest. Such fair weather followers of Jesus still rather round Him today only to depart when the storms come. Jesus wants to know who will stay.

We know former friends who no longer walk with the Lord. They left Him and He let them go. Jesus never holds any against their will. He wants no coerced companionship. Quietly Jesus says: “And you would you also like to leave?” We know family relations who no longer walk with the Lord. One secret sadness lies in the hearts of many parents who brought up their children in the knowledge and love of God, who rejoiced in their commitment to Christ, their baptism and confirmation, their membership in Sunday School and Church but who now see their children far from the Lord, loving money, pleasure and things more than they love Him. Parents search their hearts seeing if they were to blame. They are not. Adult children are responsible for their own decisions. Jesus looks at us and says: “And you would you also like to leave?”

We know fallen members who no longer walk with the Lord. They looked for an excuse to leave and have moved on. Some single women have attended here who have left after they had ascertained there was no eligible man who suited her taste. I remember men who left us because we were rebuilding on our city site. The Lord knows many who no longer walk with Him. Jesus quietly says to us: “And you would you also like to leave?” Everyone can be tempted to turn from Jesus and seek an easier way, to lower our moral standards and to stop trying. Jesus looks and asks: “And you would you also like to leave?” He gives us the option. We have free will. We may leave.

3. THOSE WHO UNDERSTAND NEVER LEAVE. John 6:68-69

Those who really know Him and His word and who experience eternal life, they know that there is no other!

People without Jesus have nowhere to turn. “Simon Peter answered Him “Lord, to whom would we go?” Peter could see the clear option. There was no one else. Nowhere else. No creditable alternative. It was Christ or nothing! There is no middle ground. You cannot be half atheist any more than you can be half pregnant. If Jesus is “the way, the truth and the Life” then there is nowhere else you can turn. If Jesus is “the bread of life” then there is no one else who can satisfy you. If Jesus is “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”, then there is no one else to whom you can go. If you do not have Jesus everything else is just toothpaste!

We know the words of Jesus give eternal life. Peter had learnt the truth about the bread of life. Jesus said satisfaction could only be found in believing in Him. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” v35 Never hungry! Never thirsty! Here was real satisfaction! This bread alone satisfied their deepest needs. Jesus affirms: “For what my Father wants is that all who see the Son and believe in Him should have eternal life.” v40 Peter responded: “You have the words that give eternal life.” He had understood all that Jesus had taught. The words of Jesus give eternal life. Nowhere else you can find that! We know eternal life because we first believed His words. Here is the logic: salvation starts with His word, then we respond with belief, and so we receive eternal life. Many want eternal life and so believe but their belief is wishful thinking, not based on a sound knowledge of His Word. But they who know His Word and believe in Him, know for sure they have eternal life. So Peter says: “And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God.” v68-69

4. YET FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS MAY BETRAY HIM. John 6:70-71

Jesus chose twelve to follow Him. What He desires is not our goods or our gifts, but our fidelity in following Him. Christianity is not a philosophy of life, an ideology based on love, a creed listing Biblical doctrines. Christianity is following Christ. To turn from Him is to betray Him. “Jesus replied, “I chose the twelve of you, didn’t I? Yet one of you is a devil!” He was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. For Judas, even though He was one of the twelve disciples, was going to betray Him.” v70-71

Even faithful followers may betray Him. Think of the horror in those words of John horror even though John does not disparage his former friend: “For Judas, even though He was one of the twelve disciples, was going to betray Him.” v71 Not only Judas. Mark would record the day when: “all the disciples left Him and ran away.” Mark 14:50 Jesus knows our hearts and our intentions. He knows our commitment to follow and our capacity to fall. Each faithful follower who falls betrays Christ, crucifies Him afresh and puts Him to open shame. Hebrews says: “For how can those who abandoned their faith be brought back to repent again? They were once in God’s light; they tasted Heaven’s gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit; they knew from experience that God’s word is good and they had felt the powers of the coming age. And then they abandoned their faith! It is impossible to bring them back to repent again, because they are again crucifying the Son of God and exposing Him to public shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6 The consequences of falling away are horrendous! They have crucified the Son of God afresh! They have put Him to open shame! They have been lost!

They have abandoned their faith. They have hardened their hearts. It is impossible to bring them back to repentance again! Lost! Realise how serious are the consequences of turning back from following Christ. Thank God we each have the capacity and the power to remain faithful to Christ! Peter states it: “You have the words that give eternal life. And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God.”

Here is the essence of it: “we believe and know”. His holy life has inspired our admiration. His teaching has illuminated our minds. His call has captured our wills. We put Him to the test and we are now certain. “We believe and know”! Now there is no other way we would rather go. There is no one else we would rather follow. We have decided and committed ourselves. We now sing: “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. No turning back.” Jesus said: “Anyone who starts to plough and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 There is tragedy, horror, death in the backward look! That is not for us. We have put our hand to the plough and are looking to Jesus. No turning back! For we believe and we know!

That is why many Muslims, coming to know about Jesus, have come to believe and to know Him. For them there is no turning back. There can be no deserting Jesus, even though they may now pay the price of their own lives. But they have become true disciples, followers who never turn back. May their example lead us into deeper commitment and full commitment. No desertion. No turning back!

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.