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ABLE TO TAKE WHATEVER COMES

Who He Really Is

John 15:18-27
5th September 2004

Everyone has to learn how to have the inner fortitude to take what-ever comes. Mrs Norma Lees this week was coping with her husband, the former Chief Commissioner of Police, who was dying with terminal cancer, and her son John, who was undergoing surgery for a brain tumour. She said: “If it wasn’t for the strength the Lord gives, I did not know how I would cope.” Norma writes our Prayer Sheet that guides us each week in our daily prayers. I noticed the Bible passages she had chosen for each day this week: “Stand firm then in the Lord.” “To all who received Him, to those who believe in His name, He gives them power to be come the children of God.” “The Sovereign Lord is my strength.” “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” There was the secret of her strength.

We cannot foresee the future. We do not know what suddenly may overtake us. None of those poor parents of the hostage children in Russia knew what would happen to them this week. The children were taken to school for the first day of a new term, never imagining they would be caught up in the most dreadful hostage crisis imaginable. Fanatical terrorists held parents, children and hundreds of others in the school gymnasium. 28 militants seized the school on Wednesday. The militants, wired the school with explosives as soon as they took control, targeting children, hoping to force the Russians to liberate Chechea. By Friday, 200 children and adults were killed and 700 were injured. None of these parents or children were prepared for what was to come that week.

On Friday, Beverley and I were guests of the Australian Father of the Year Council at the Luncheon where this year’s Australian Father of the year was announced. I was a former Father of the Year as was our dear member, Chief Commissioner Jim Lees who died that morning. Three hundred guests honoured Professor Graeme Clarke who invented the Cochlear ear implant to enable deaf children hear. The audience applauded also twenty “community Fathers of the Year” who had been nominated by readers of twenty local newspapers in Sydney. As each of their stories were told, I was inspired by the commitment of these fathers. Many of them had nursed their wives as they died of savage diseases, then went on to care for their children, many of them disabled and all of them disadvantaged. Yet these fathers made time to help in the community, in sporting teams, in schools and in local churches and hospitals. Those fathers were an example of people who had to learn to take what comes, and to make the most of it. Beverley said to me, that is what so many mothers do all the time often without the help of men who leave them in their troubles.

The one response of viewers watching Jesus in “The Passion of The Christ” was “How does he do it? No matter what the violence, He takes whatever comes.” Jesus never promised His disciples an easy life. He warned them frequently about opposition, imprisonment and suffering for their faith. Their morality and faith would be attacked by crude and cruel men even as He Himself would be. Among the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples were words of warning of what they would face and how they could take whatever comes.

The disciples were to find out just how tough the circumstances were. But what was more amazing was that they were going to discover just how tough they had become! The world has always marvelled at the resilience of the Christians, from the first century to the twentieth. The world can mock, scorn, hate and burn, crucify and bury, but the true Christian cannot be confined to the ground any more than his Master. New life blossoms from his witness. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

1. A WARNING FROM JESUS.

The world will hate the followers of Jesus as it hated Him. Tough circumstances should take no Christian by surprise because Jesus warned us clearly. The world hated Jesus Himself, so it is natural it will hate those who identify themselves with Him. The world hated Jesus because He is not of this world, and that is the same reason why they make it tough on us. We cannot expect better treatment than the Master, and if they persecuted Him they will persecute us also. The true Christian makes others aware of their own sin. A true Christian is a challenge to all they meet. The world has always hated true Christianity and persecuted those who loved it most. Of the three great enemies, the world, the flesh and the Devil, the spiritual person learns to defeat the temptations of the flesh and the Devil, but it is the world that is hardest to bear. Because Jesus has chosen us out of this world the others see the difference. Archbishop William Temple, that great spiritual leader, said the world “would not hate angels for being angelic; but it does hate men for being Christians. It begrudges them their new character; it is tormented by their peace; it is infuriated by their joy”.

John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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.” When John wrote these words of Jesus, the Church was living under persecution. Christians were indeed persecuted because of the name of Christ. Christianity was illegal. A magistrate needed only to ask whether or not a man was a Christian, and, if he was, no matter what he had done or had not done, he was liable to punishment by death. But no Christian could say that he had not been warned. On this matter Jesus was quite explicit. He had told his people beforehand what they might expect. “They will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them… And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”

2. AN EXPLANATION FROM JESUS: the world hates followers of Jesus because it hated Him, and it hated Him because they did not recognise that behind Jesus is God Himself. We should not be surprised because we have seen the hatred of men who crucified Christ. If we are to identify ourselves with Him, then that is enough for them to make it tough on us. Jesus makes it clear that the world’s rejection of Him and us, is in reality their rejection of God Himself. Two contemporary Roman writers, Tacitus spoke of the people “hated for their crimes, whom the mob call Christians.” and Suetonius spoke of “a race of men who belong to a new and evil superstition.” Why was this hatred so virulent?

Jesus said: John 15:20-25 “Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”

It was not only that the government persecuted the Christians; the mob hated them. It is still true that the world will hate the Christian. Say what you think about the immorality of homosexuality, and you will be vilified in press and harassed in your private life. When human society organizes itself without God, there is a cleavage between the man who regards God as the only reality in life and the man who regards God as totally irrelevant for life. In any event the world has certain characteristics, which are always part of the human situation. The world suspects people who are different. The world acutely dislikes people whose lives are a condemnation of it. It is dangerous to be good. The world always suspects nonconformity. A basic demand on the Christian is the demand that she or he should have the courage to be different. To be different will be dangerous, but no one can be a Christian unless she or he accepts that risk, for there must be a difference between the person who is of the world and the person who is of Christ.

Jesus did two things. First, He exposed sin. He told people of the things which grieved God and of the way in which God wished them to walk. He set the true way before people. Second, He provided the remedy for sin; and He did that in a double sense. He opened the way to forgiveness for past sin, and He provided the power in this present moment which would enable people to overcome sin and do the right. We know few people actively hostile to Jesus Christ, but many live their lives as if Christ had never come and simply disregard him. But no one can know life if he or she disregards the Lord of all good life.

3. A PROMISE FROM JESUS.

In the face of tough circumstances Jesus does not leave us desolate and despairing. Instead He repeats the promise that One would come as our Helper, our Comforter, our Advocate, our Counsellor and our Friend. “The Helper will come the Spirit.” Jesus repeats to the disciples that God’s Spirit would come alongside them to enable them to withstand persecution. Tough circumstances may arise, but they have an even more powerful Spirit within. The Spirit enables us to cope with whatever comes. The Spirit is the one “who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father.” The Spirit equips us to witness to Jesus Christ in spite of the pressures from the world that rejects God. The Spirit enables us to face persecution: sneering words, unjust criticism, painful assault and even the martyr’s death with courage and strength. John 15:26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

Jesus gives this warning and the reasons behind such persecution and tough circumstances, and reveals His promise of the presence of the Spirit within us. Christian witness comes from long fellowship and intimacy with Christ. “This is true, and I know it.” There can be no witness without personal experience. Christian witness comes from inner conviction. Christian witness issues in outward testimony. A witness is not only someone who knows that something is true; he is prepared to say that he knows that it is true and he wants others to know Jesus Christ too.

Jesus makes it clear that the world’s rejection of Him and us, is based on those good deeds we do and the clear difference that our life evidences. Some critics cannot abide Christians doing good deeds. They deride such people sneeringly as “do gooders”, blaming every fault in the community on those who reform society and show compassion on others. They may not do anything to creatively change society themselves. They just criticise those who do. They forget it is the person who is in the arena who makes the impact on life not those criticising in the grandstands. Such criticism reveals the spiritual bankruptcy of the critics.

Jesus left us with both warning and explanation. But what was far more significant: He gave us the Spirit of God within to equip us and enable us to cope with whatever comes. We can face tough circumstances and stand triumphant. You may not feel you have the power, for it is never given until the challenge comes. But rejoice. Live in peace and confidence. Because He promises you His Spirit to enable you to take whatever comes.

REFERENCES

  • Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT)

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.