Friday, March 17, 2006
March 18 Sunday Sermon Notes
The Scripture Text: John 3:36 (TT) "The one who trusts and obeys the Son has life eternal, and the one who mistrusts and disobeys the Son will not see life eternal, but God's wrath remains upon him."
This verse deals with issues of trusting/obeying God's Son, attaining eternal life through God's Son, and having God's Wrath removed from us through God's Son.
This is a pivotal verse for us to understand as we prepare our hearts for the Resurrection Celebration.
Some general comments about the text.
Our everyday trusting and obeying of Jesus Christ is how we experience eternal life everyday.
We think that we ought to trust and obey Jesus primarily because it is the right thing to do in and of itself. And this idea is close to being correct. We ought to trust and obey Jesus. But the reason he gives us in this verse, the point of motivation stated here, is so that the truster can have eternal life now, in this earthly everyday life. The second point of motivation why one ought to trust and obey Jesus is so that God's Wrath will no longer remain upon him. So our motivation for obeying Jesus, according to this verse is two fold (I realize that other Scripture teaches more about this topic, but as a beginning point, let us begin here...) 1) to have eternal life NOW, and 2) to have God's Wrath removed NOW.
Again, in preaching last week's sermon, I was struck by my incomplete comprehension of eternal life. For the rich young man, he was seeking out Jesus to determine how to get eternal life. In this verse in John's Gospel, John the Baptist is instructing the reader how to attain eternal life: trust and obey Jesus. So what does this mean, eternal life?
It is a life spent trusting and obeying Jesus eternally - both in this life and the next. So eternal life begins and exists as I trust and obey Jesus. And if I want assurance that I have eternal life, I will have that assurance in my actual trusting and obeying Jesus.
Trusting and obeying Jesus can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit, thus when we realize (see) that we are actually trusting adn obeying, we gain assurance that a miracle, an irrevocable miracle has happend - my trusting and obeying is a sign that God has reconciled me unto Himself. If God has reconciled me to Himself, that means that His Wrath which was upon me has been removed, or rather redirected, rather absorbed by the Cross of Christ.
What is eternal life then? It is the good life that gets better and better forever by trusting and obeying Jesus Christ through the enabling of God's Spirit.
Why do I trust and obey Jesus Christ? Because it is how I attain eternal life, and eternal life is what my heart naturally yearns for more than anything else. And Jesus Christ has come that we may have eternal life, and that we can have it by trusting him to confer it upon us, and to obey him as the way to experience it.
Does this make sense?
Eternal Life is to be for us the most delightful, most magnetic, most desirable of all things for us: a life of ever increasing joy.
There is something in us that pauses at the idea of linking together the combined cause of pursuing our own greatest good and at the same time following Jesus.
C.S. Lewis in one of his most famous comments (and one of my most favorite) remarks on this idea:
"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love.
You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant (18th century philosopher) and the Stoics (ancient Greek philosophers) and is no part of the Christian faith.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mus pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holidy at teh sea.
We are far too easily pleased."
The point: my motivation for trusting and obeying Jesus is my desire for the good life that gets better and better forever and ever. I catch glimpses of what the good life might be here on the earth, and I take that and must trust that Jesus holds out the best version of it, and I must believe his instructions on how to attain the best life, and not only believe that his Way is the Best Way, but that I must actually obey what he instructs me to do that I might actually attain this Best Life. And Jesus says that this Best life can begin Now.
I find that in trusting and obeying Jesus, my aspirations for the best life possible become centered in Jesus himself, and that our deep desires for the good life become deep desires for Jesus himself. But we must start what we instinctivly desire: the good life that never ends, and only gets better forever. Jesus promises us that kind of life if we trust him to provide it for us through his faithfulness and our obedience.
Does that make sense: John the Baptist teaches us that the one who trusts Jesus has eternal life. It is present tense, we have it NOW. We have it NOW through the faithfulness and grace of Jesus Christ, but we experience it NOW through our trusting and obeying everyday.
What does this mean for why I celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ died and was resurrected that I might have eternal life. (John 3:16). Jesus died and was resurrected so that humanity, so that you and I could have the good life we always have instinctively longed for...but could never attain.
Sin was the evil power which corrupted our pursuits, turned our dreams into despair, twisted the good life into a life of either gross immorality or quite desperation. But through the Triumph of the Cross, The power of Sin is broken, and thus our desires for the good life, instead of being corrupted by the power of Sin, is redeemed by the Power of God's Spirit, so that we can have life eternal.
Jesus died so that we can have the good life.
I know I want the good life. And I must trust Jesus at his Word: if he promises me the good life if I trust and follow him, then I will take that Decisive step, and follow.
And so my celebration at Easter is both reflective and anticipative. I reflect upon my experiences of the eternal life through my trusting and obeying, and am deeply glad for what has occured. And I anticipate what God might do through me and us, through our trusting and obeying...and am so very glad that Jesus' resurrection is a sign of God's love for humanity and his commitmant to get us the good life with Him.
Let me know how this strikes you.
I am trying to prepare my heart for the celebration of the Resurrection through more thorough knowledge of the story, of the Gospel and Epistle teachings, as well as purified devotion to the One and Only.
Let me know if the Spirit is prompting you to join on this journey through this series and Scripture study.