Jesus for a New Millennium
35/98 18/10/98 Scripture: John 14:15-27
THERE are three important questions for us to answer as Australians, as members of Wesley Mission and as Christians as we enter the last three years before the third millennium.
1. What kind of a world will we face in the Third Millennium? We are fortunate that our own Dr Keith Suter in `Global Change' and `Global Agenda' has outlined brilliantly, the international changes that the world is experiencing. He expands on such issues as removing the nuclear threat, the population crisis, the degradation of the earth's environment, bridging the gap between the industrial and third worlds, the growth of trans-nationals, the breakdown in public and private morality, the AIDS epidemic and drug problem, and an increasing rate of change. We have seen the emergence of free market socialism, the privatisation of the welfare state, the rise of the Pacific-rim countries, and growing numbers of women in community leadership.
In Australia we see social change. For example:
1. The aging of the baby boom generation and the flow on of the baby busters is changing the age of our work-force, and the demands upon pension and superannuation funds.
2. A new demand for products and services for the post-family formation stage of life including health care, professional services, leisure programs, insurance and retirement services and villages.
3. Family and quality of life issues are becoming dominant influences on social choices.
4. More women are entering the work force earlier, for longer periods of time and for more hours per week directing pressure towards investment in child care and equality of outcomes in employment.
5. Education is taking longer but there is concern over the quality of education, training in specific skills with demand for greater creativity, innovation and productivity from employers.
6. The young link into global forms of communication. Instead of surfing the waves, they surf the 'net. Increased communication will mean greater isolation with people alone at the keyboard and in virtual reality amusements.
7. There is a declining proportion of people in each household who work full time outside the house, leading to a greater mobility of household members and a significant pressure on family ties.
8. There is an internationalisation of fashion, food preferences and leisure pursuits. Basketball replaces cricket. Tourism becomes our biggest industry. Trans-national corporations force a greater diversity of products and services and a shift from domestic trading patterns to trans national franchise retail provision. The McDonaldisation of the world continues!
9. The demand increases for better and quicker information access: TV, mobile phones, computers.
10. The Asia-Pacific growth rate determines the core preferences in trade, travel and tourism flows.
2. What kind of a Wesley Mission will we need in the Third Millennium? In these final years of the twentieth century, Wesley Mission, Sydney, is changing some of its emphases and expanding some of our traditional ones. These are Wesley Mission's Millennial Megatrends. I have written a full paper on this and you can write for a free copy. In this paper, I expand what the church must do as it enters the Third Millennium and responds to these changes. It is the third question that is vital to us just now.
3. What kind of a Jesus will we need in the Third Millennium? Scholars, like those in the Jesus Seminar, who reject the Bible have spent the last twenty years dismembering the Christian doctrine of Jesus Christ. With a paring knife they have been peeling away the apple peel, then the flesh, then the core, soon there will be nothing left! Bishop John Shelby Spong does not believe in the virgin birth, the incarnation, the miracles, the healings, the teachings in the Gospels, the death of Jesus upon the cross, His resurrection from the tomb and His ascension and coming again in glory! He believes less about Jesus than any Muslim! He has pared away so much of the apple that he can now only give you the pip!
The third millennium requires the Christ of the scriptures to meet the new challenges. We need:
1. JESUS CONFRONTS SIN
Some modern scholars have turned Jesus into much less than a Saviour from our sins. They have called Him the Galilean thinker, the wandering preacher, the charismatic holy man, the radical social reformer, the man of the Spirit, the uncomfortable prophet, the divine wisdom and the marginalised Messiah. As we have studied these, one each week, we have seen that there is some truth in each description of Jesus, but any picture of the historic Jesus that does not reveal Him as the One who saves us from our sins is an inadequate picture.
The next millennium with all its technological capacity for human destruction and inhumanity to people, reveals already that human sin is going to be writ large on this new chapter of human history. We need a Jesus who will be Saviour from sin.
In the future we are going to need a Jesus who can confront us in our sin. Some theologians want a comfortable Christ, a social companion, a sanitised Jesus who will never make us feel uncomfortable. Most do not want to be reminded of sin and the need for redemption. They want to be affirmed they are OK as they are. An earlier generation would call a church leader admitting immorality to repentance. But in our day we have seen such a one applauded and affirmed in her ministry.
Jesus never said that He had come to affirm us in our iniquity. He said: `If you love me, you will obey what I command... Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, `But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?' Jesus replied, `If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.''
Note the powerful emphasis upon obedience to His word. Jesus kept the commandments and the Law and Christians were to live lives of holiness. We are to `trust and obey'. The new millennium requires that kind of obedience not affirmation in our sin. Our sin requires powerful confrontation in order that we might be freed and forgiven of it. Without a knowledge of the seriousness of sin, there can be no salvation. Only the Jesus Christ of the scriptures can confront our sins.
2. JESUS REMOVES GUILT
Aware of our sin, we carry guilt until that is removed from us. Jesus Christ illuminates our sin, and removes it from us. His spotless life makes ours shabby by comparison. But His sinless death removes our sin and enables us to live like His spotless life. Jesus said: `I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ...All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.'
We would not be alone. He was giving us the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort and encourage us. With the Holy Spirit within, our guilt is removed and our lives are enhanced by His grace and gifted by His Spirit that we might better serve. Only the Jesus Christ of the scriptures can remove our guilt.
3. JESUS DEFEATS DEATH
The consequences of sin is death. We know that without God's intervention we have no hope of eternal life. The combined weight of our good deeds can never outweigh the consequences of our alienation from Him. Death is inevitable. But Jesus Christ defeats death. `Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.' Because He lives, we shall live also. Only the Jesus Christ of the scriptures can defeat our death.
4. JESUS REMAKES LIFE
Only the Jesus Christ of the scriptures can remake our lives. Our Wesley Institute for Ministry and the Arts, the largest tertiary institution the Uniting Church has in Australia, has recently finished two weeks of performing `The Man Of La Mancha.' Don Quixote, The Man of La Mancha, beautifully illustrates the gospel of Jesus Christ. Others see what exists, but The Man of La Mancha sees what can be. He sees a harlot, Aldonza in an inn. She's a waitress by day and a prostitute by night serving the drunken mule drivers. The Man of La Mancha says to this prostitute, `My Lady.' She looks at him and exclaims, `Lady?' A mule driver makes a pass at her and she squeals, laughs. The Man of La Mancha says, `Yes, you are My Lady, and I shall give you a new name. I shall call you Dulcinea. You are My Lady, My Lady, Dulcinea.'
Once, in distress, not comprehending him, when they are alone, she says, `Why do you do and say these things?
Why do you treat me the way you do? What do you want from me? I know men. I've seen them all. I've had them all. They're all the same. They all want something from me. Why do you call me Dulcinea? Why do you call me your Lady? What do you want?' He says, `I just want to call you what you are .. you are My Lady, Dulcinea.' Later there is a horrible scene backstage. You hear screams. She is being gang raped. She runs onto the stage. She has been cruelly raped. She is crying, hysterically. Her blouse and skirt are ripped. He opens his arms to her and says compassionately, `My Lady, Dulcinea. Oh, My Lady, My Lady.' She cries. `Don't call me a Lady. Oh God, don't call me a Lady. Can't you see me for what I am?'
`I was born in a ditch by a mother who left me there naked and cold, too hungry to cry. I never blamed her. She left me there hoping I'd have the good sense to die. Don't call me a Lady. I'm only a kitchen slut, reeking with sweat. I'm only a whore men use and forget. Don't call me your Lady. I'm only Aldonza. I am nothing at all.' She runs into the night as he calls, `But you are... my lady.'
Years later The Man of La Mancha is dying. He is dying like our Lord, from a broken heart, despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. To his deathbed comes a Spanish noble-lady with a lace mantilla. She kneels, makes the sign of the cross, and prays. He opens his eyes. `Who are you?' `My Lord, don't you remember? You sang your song to me, don't you remember?'
`To dream the impossible dream,
to fight the unbeatable foe,
to bear the unbearable sorrow,
to run where the brave dare not go.
To try when your arms are too weary,
to reach the unreachable star!..'
`My Lord, don't you remember? You gave me a new name, you called me Dulcinea. I am your Lady.' She stands proudly. His faith in her made her new.
We need a Jesus who can make us new. Only the Jesus Christ of scriptures can remake us. He said `Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.' Jesus Christ loves you, has faith in you. He has given you a new name. He believes in you. He died to forgive you of your sins. Name Him `Saviour' now. Only this Jesus Christ will do for the third millennium.
Gordon Moyes 1998
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