January 01, 2007 A NEW Year!
|I want to start the new year focusing on how
we are to be salt and light in this degenerating world. Here are
some musings along those lines...
The Vine in the Real World - John 15:18-27
I have noticed a curiousity among many of my well-to-do friends over
the years. Case in point: I have a friend who was raised as the sheltered
son of an instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and
now teaches there himself, taking over the legacy his father built.
It was predetermined that Sam would attend Yale and Columbia U. , travel
the world, and live a privileged life.
The curious thing with my friend
and others like him that I have known are his tastes in entertainment
and culture. He was drawn toward the Blues, to James Browns music,
and to visiting third world countries and even living in Bolivia for
a time.He felt an sense that he wanted to reach beyond the trappings
of his world and touch something deeper, something he considered more
real. He sought this in the gritty, the base, the
authentic, and in the bohemian.
|There is a story of Robert Kennedy when he was
in the midst of campaigning for the 1968 presidential election that
reflects this as well. Kennedy was concerned not only to get
votes, but in going to places in the country that were not his normal
turf- going to places that were not going to generate a lot of votes
in the poorest of poor areas.
He spent one hot day in New York
City- 5 hours in Spanish Harlem- and at the end of the day he was covered
with dirt and perspiration. His guide that day was former light heavyweight
boxing champion Jose Torres. Torres looked at him and wondered- what
is a rich mans son doing here? What is driving him? He finally
asked him why he was doing this. I understand why you are running
for president, but why here? Why this way? Why do you keep coming back
to places like this? There are so many other more strategic places!
Kennedy was quiet for a time and finally he answered in a voice that
was so low that Torres said he had to lean over to hear it. He said
Because I found out something I never knew- I found out that my
world wasnt the real world. And thats the world I need to
In our church, it is likely that we are surrounded by like minded
people whose values we share, and whose company we enjoy. It is possible
here to forget about a real world. The world is full of sinful,
hurting, difficult, needy and often hostile people. Some of them are
the nicest people we can imagine and some of them are the most difficult
people we will ever encounter. The reality is, that is where we are
called. Not to this world, but to the REAL world- out there. So lets
||Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, The only place
to follow Christ is in the world. We must operate in a world
where our presence is sometimes resented, where our values are often
rejected- but where our witness for Christ is desperately and eternally
The upper room was a very comfortable
place for the disciples to be. The traitor had left them. They were
alone with Jesus and they were experiencing an intimacy with Him.
But quite deliberately the Lord Jesus not only takes them out of the
room physically, but he also takes them out of the room emotionally.
Having talked about their need for Him and having talked about their
needing to love one another, committed to the body of Christ, He begins
to speak very specifically about a hostile world where they are called
to bear witness- for Christians are not called to live in an Upper Room,
or remain alone in the garden with Jesus. We are not called to live
out our lives in a Christian congregation- we are called to be in a
place like THIS so we can bear witness in a world like THAT.
Lets look at the end of John 15. We have talked in my earlier
expositions of this chapter about Jesuss attempt to brand on his
men three very critical commitments to relationship: A relationship
to Him, a relationship to the body, and a relationship to the world.
Those three relationships do not compete. They compliment each other.
||If we are rightly related to Jesus and to His
body, we will be deeply committed to be rightly related to a needy
world. We will share Christs heart of compassion. (Compassion
= Splagcnizomai- to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved
with compassion, have compassion , for the bowels were thought to
be the seat of love and pity).
Beginning in John 15 verse 18 the
Lord makes a contrast with the previous passage. The word love
has been the important word in verses 12- 17. Now its going to
be the word hate. One another has been the context
of verses 12- 17 - and now its going to be the world.
15:18 "If the world hates you, you know that it has
hated Me before it hated you.
15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love
its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of
the world, therefore the world hates you.
15:20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave
is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also
persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
15:21 "But all these things they will do to you for
My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
15:22 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would
not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
15:23 "He who hates Me hates My Father also.
15:24 "If I had not done among them the works which
no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen
and hated Me and My Father as well.
15:25 "But they have done this in order that the word
may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, 'They hated Me without
15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you
from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the
Father, He will bear witness of Me,
15:27 and you will bear witness also, because you have been
with Me from the beginning.
|It is easy to mistake the treasure we hold in
our hands when we read the Bible. Centuries ago William Tyndale
came to love Gods Word and as he read it; he was
captivated by a vision , as he put it, that every ploughboy
in England could read the Bible in his own language. That
was something that was totally anathema to the official leaders
of the religion of that day. He knew it was going to be costly,
but he began to do it. When it was found out what he was attempting
to do he was driven underground. He came to be known as Gods
Outlaw. He was run out of England. He was then pursued on
the continent. He was eventually betrayed and imprisoned and finally
burned at the stake with the famous final words Lord,
open the King of Englands eyes!
When he was asked in the midst of
that persecution how he was dealing with it, he simply replied,
I never expected anything else. He listened carefully to
the kind of words the Lord spoke in John 15 and will continue to speak
in chapter 16. This passage is full of realism. The Lord was fully
aware that disillusionment is the child of illusion. If you have false
views about something, when you encounter reality you become disillusioned.
So the Lord did not paint a glossy picture of what it was going to be
like to live as His follower in the world. He is intensely realistic
about the cost and challenge of living for Him. But in the spirit of
being real, let us admit: Much of what is here is theory. We really
do not know how we will do when persecuted UNTIL we are persecuted.
We have lived in what is - well I dont quite want to call it a
fools paradise- but our culture has in the past supported
us, by and large, in our endeavor to live by Christs standards
and values. The seatide is changing and the sands are running
out on that state of being. We have entered into a different world.
If the Lord be not come in the next century, we will have to contend
with this passage in a fresh new light. What does it mean to be
a Christian in the world today? The Lord gives us insight in this passage.
|First of all the Lord is going to say in verses
18-25 that the reaction of the world will be hostility. Then he
will speak of the responsibility of the believer in the light of
this reality: to be a witness. This is a very simple passage, yet
it is profound in the implications for disciples.
Lets spend a little time thinking
about the source of the hostility- the Lord uses the term world-
we run into it right in the third word of verse 18. The term world
(kosmos) is used in a variety of ways- it is used of the physical world
as God created it, the world as all of humanity (God so loved
the world ) but most often in Johns gospel it is used
of the concept of man living, organized and deliberately, but leaving
the living God out of the picture, having a system of beliefs and ideas
that lives without Jesus Christ at the heart and center of it. So the
world is that way in which men organize their life and this
ultimately all falls under the influence of Satan.
||The world lies in the evil one- this is why Satan
was able to offer Christ the control of the kingdoms of the world
in the wilderness temptation. It takes different forms- it can be
very religious. Religious people may be intensely of the world-
the next chapter in John points this out- the Bible pulls no punches
about this. They may be very concerned about religious practice
and ideas but they have no room for the reality of Jesus Christ!
Or it may be political, or secular. The world system takes
on all different forms but it is organized to put together a lie-
that life is possible independent of God. So this is the basic
underlying idea of the word world.
The Bible also tells us that the
World is varied. The fashion, the course of this age keeps
moving in different directions. The Western world for example is different
from the world in the East. It has a different way in which the
organized independence from God represents itself. So we notice differences
in culture- we notice different styles and values. We are undergoing
dramatic changes in our country as we face the issues of secularization
driven by consumerism. Godly values are squeezed out of the legitimate
world forum. They are pushed more and more to the periphery. We have
had scientism, an explanation of life divorced from the participation
of God, but that is falling out of disfavor as science has failed to
produce real answers for our needs. The socialist societies were
seen as pioneering the way into the new world and have been seen to
be totally bankrupt. Now into our world has been injected a new understanding
of religiosity. The New age movement has evolved into a bland 90s
spirituality and tolerance. The concept of religious
values is further distorted in the rise of fundamentalism in different
religions around the world. Magical apologetics and Bible Codes abound
in the fringes of orthodox Christianity as the world is wooed and in
turn seduces the church.
What is becoming clear is that our society is becoming increasingly
adversarial toward the things of Christ. Do you ever think about the
fact that as we send missionaries out- that there are a higher percentage
of Christians in Korea than in Canada? There is a higher percentage
of professing Christians in Angola than in America. We have thought
of ourselves as the mission sending country- perhaps rightly so- for
God has blessed us richly. But America, the mission sender, has
become the mission field. Increasingly we need a view of the world that
understands the postmodern influence on our culture. We need to change
the way we view the culture around us. The world is no friend to true
If you were to choose the second neediest place to get the gospel, outside
of Islamic countries it is undoubtedly Europe. Tt is a post- Christian
society, and we are moving in that same direction. As the culture moves
away from us, we as men and women in the culture who know that the gospel
is the only way men can be saved need to rededicate ourselves to being
missionaries in our own culture, winning people for the cause of Christ.
The more we get aroused to that, the more the reality of this passage
will come into focus. We will experience the tactics of hostility.
In verses 18- 20 there are three basic tactics the world will use.
The first is : it will exclude- notice verse 19a.
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own;
The world embraces those who are committed to live by its values: the
world lives by assimilation and conformity. It puts a smothering embrace
and affirms those in the media culture within certain frameworks. It
gives material rewards to those, who, whatever their background are
willing to go with the system. Those who are committed to live for Jesus
Christ, who will say no to the values of the system and
its master know what it is to feel excluded.
Alexander McClaren wrote about this conflict when he said What
we believe to be precious, the world regards as of no account. What
we believe to be fundamental truth, it passes by as of no importance.
Much which we feel to be wrong, it regards as good. Our tools
are its tinsel and its jewels are our trash.
Have you ever met a rich, powerful, influential Christian? I have. But
they would be the first to bear witness that it is a great miracle from
God that they exist. I used to think that all people in this position
must have, by necessity, compromised their faith. With man it is impossible,
but with God all things are possible. The norm is that the world
will destroy anyone who desires to lift up Christ in their power alleys.
So it excludes... continued next week...