Message preached on Sunday, September 13, 2009
Old guarantee cards for electrical appliances always had small print. People didn’t usually bother to read the stuff in small print because the print was so tiny. They would read the portion that said that the item was guaranteed for one year and were quite satisfied. When the gadget stopped working, armed with the guarantee card, they would return to the shopkeeper and expect an immediate replacement of the defective piece, only to discover that according to something or the other in the small print they could not expect anything.
These days guarantee cards don’t have small print, but say that “conditions apply.” Yes, the product is guaranteed, but the buyer has to abide by certain conditions. Even today customers discover that the guarantees are not as good as they thought.
Companies announce free offers or the chance to win something or the other in a lucky draw. But “conditions apply.” It isn’t quite so free as the announcement made it appear. When such announcements started to appear, I was in college, and I would say to myself, “I’ll walk into the shop and say, ‘I don’t want to buy anything, but I’ll take the free item’.” Of course, I never did that because I didn’t want to be regarded as someone crazy. The point is there is nothing free. There is always a price to be paid, a condition to meet.
Christian preachers talk about the unconditional love of God. Of course it is:
God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life (Jn.3:16, NCV).
But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Rom.5:8, NCV).
It is true that God’s love is unconditional, but we do have to place ourselves in the path of the love flowing from God. Like a river that floods only the villages and habitations in its way, God’s love floods only into the lives that stand in the path of the flow. That is a condition.
Allow Jesus to Fit Us
When humankind fell, it distanced itself from God. Adam and Eve who fellowshipped with God, no longer felt close to God and avoided His fellowship (Gen.3:8). And that is the way it has been ever since. Our hearts are not inclined toward seeking God. Humans were out of sync or out of tune with God. Someone had to come and do the syncing. Someone had to retune us.
That is what Jesus came to do.
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God (Jn.1:12-13, NLT).
Being fit for God’s company and kingdom doesn’t come with self-efforts. We need to be reborn. Starting a new page won’t do. Only changing the book and starting afresh would bring us back into fellowship with God (Jn.3:3,5).
Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit (Jn.3:6, NCV).
For this complete changeover to happen all that we need to do is believe that Jesus can and will do it for us (see Jn.1:12-13 again).
For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants (3:16-21, NLT)
It is only when we believe that Jesus is able to save us that we will turn to Him. It is only when we believe that Jesus is the only one who can save us that we will turn to Him. Until then, we will try to fit ourselves for the kingdom, but all our own efforts will be unacceptable to God, because like Adam and Eve we declare our independence from God. We declare that we can fit ourselves and become like gods. That’s revolt. That is why it won’t work at making us fit for heaven.
Allow Jesus to Do His Work
The Bible tells us that on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus went around washing His disciples feet. All of the disciples were in shock. They sat there like dumb machines that can be grabbed and manipulated by a living person. The disciples didn’t know how to respond to this act of Christ’s and mechanically extended their feet as Jesus came to each of them. That’s what happened until Jesus came to Peter. The big, blustering fisherman roused himself from his stupor and protested that he wasn’t going to allow His Master to wash his feet. To this Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me” (13:8, NLT).
Many people don’t allow Jesus to do His work in their lives. They think that by being a decent sort, they can make the grade. But Jesus is very clear. Unless He is the one washing us clean, it won’t suffice. We just won’t belong to Him. We won’t be fit company for His Father and the Holy Spirit. If we don’t allow Jesus to wash us clean, we declare to Him, “We can become gods without any help from you.” If we don’t allow Jesus to do His work, then we’re still in revolt against God’s rule in our lives.
Some people after coming to Christ, take over handling the rest of their transformation. Peter thought that he would be different from all the others. He was not going to be like others in allowing the Master to touch his feet. He didn’t realize that he was claiming that he could be different from all the others without the Master’s help. Jesus says that it can’t be done. He is the one who can transform us. Without Him, it won’t happen.
Allow Jesus’ Power to Flow
Hard stone in the middle of a river, though awash with water, will still not be able to grow anything. Only soil that is soft enough to allow the water to flow into it is any good for growing any plants. So, it is not enough to stand in the flow of God’s love. There is a need to open our lives to let the love of God enter our lives. Jesus said,
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples (15:4-8, TM).
Oh yes, the love of God is unconditional. But only the person who will let that love flow into his or her life will experience the unconditional love of God. Nothing can stop the love of God reaching us and entering our lives.
Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death?…But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:31-19, NCV)
No one else can prevent us from experiencing the love of God. It is absolutely unconditional. The only one who can stop me from experiencing God’s love is my self. The only condition that applies to experiencing God’s love is that I must let it flow into my life.
CONDITIONS TO FULFILL
Message preached on Sunday, September 20, 2009
In any agreement there are two sides. An agreement is a two-way street. It is a relationship. There is a contractual element to an agreement. There are conditions that apply to both parties.
The condition applicable to being a Christian is that we need to let Jesus do His work in our lives (Jn.13:8). What then are the conditions that we need to fulfill on our part? What does Jesus want me to do?
After Jesus had washed the feet of all His disciples He said,
Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them (vv.14-17, NLT)
“Do what I did,” is all that Jesus says to us who wish to follow Him. He said that the reason to do this is because we are disciples. That is implied in calling Him “Master”.
Be a Disciple
Many folks think that the word “disciple” is a term that is exclusive to the religious world. That word just means “student” or “learner.” There is nothing religious about the word.
What does a student have to do? Today parents tell their children, and student counselors tell youth, “Concentrate on your studies.” What they mean is that their wards should get book-knowledge or head-knowledge. They should learn the theory. They are being advised to learn with their heads.
Learning was very different earlier on. First of all there was a relationship between teacher and student. That is no longer the case. That is why they have parent-teacher associations in schools today. But it isn’t such a good idea. Parents today don’t want their kids to learn wisdom. Parents want them to learn for a career. They want them to learn, not for learning’s sake, but for something ulterior. With that agenda, parents are the ones to derail any attempts to reform education.
Nehem’s parents admitted him to a school that advertised they would only teach toddlers to learn by playing with toys and with one another. To their dismay, after the first PTA meeting, Nehem started to come home with homework. He had to do reading and writing. His father said, “There should be no PTA meetings.”
In the school of Christ, the teacher-student relationship is important. It is only because of that relationship that anything is required of the student.
Learn by Following
The second thing about education in the ancient past was that the teaching method was what we describe as “show and tell.” There was greater emphasis on learning with hands. Students learnt to do. They gained hands-on-knowledge. Jesus the Teacher told His students, “Just do what I did” (v.15).
When the disciples asked about rank in the kingdom of God, the Lord drew their attention to a child. He told them to be like a child in humility (Matt. 18:1-4). A child may pretend to be a king or a soldier and strut around, but has no airs. He is only playing. Little children do all their learning by imitation. They are humble enough to imitate those that they admire. That is all Jesus is asking us to do. Imitate Him whom we admire. Only then would it be true admiration.
Of course, learning does involve getting head-knowledge. Jesus said that His disciples were to do what He did (v.15), but He also talked of them knowing or learning things and following up the learning with doing it (v.17). Do, learn, and do: that’s what Jesus said.
We think that we must first become a follower of Christ’s and then serve Him. But the Lord turns that notion on its head. He said, “If anyone serves me, let that person follow me” (Jn.12:26). When John Wesley didn’t understand about salvation through faith, the German Moravian Peter Böhler said to him, “Preach faith until you have it, then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” Böhler seems to have said, “Imitate faith and learn.”
What exactly was Jesus Christ’s act of washing the disciples’ feet about? The Apostle John recounted that episode with the following introduction:
Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love (13:1, NIV).
Mark of the Disciple
Jesus demonstrated to His disciples that He was not offended by their self-centredness, selfishness and disrespectfulness. In their quest to race to the top in the kingdom, thinking it was like all earthly power structures, they didn’t even wash the Lord’s feet. No one wanted to wash the Master’s feet lest he found all the other disciples queuing up to have their feet washed right after Christ’s, and he would be manoeuvred out of the race. Each one thought of himself, not of the Master. As the Teacher, He could have ordered anyone into subservience and servility. Instead out of love, He Himself picked up the basin and served them.
What is love? For a Christian it is keeping the Jesus rules—doing what Jesus would do.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (13:34, NIV)
If you love me, you will obey my commands… Those who know my commands and obey them are the ones who love me, and my Father will love those who love me. I will love them and will show myself to them …If people love me, they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Those who do not love me do not obey my teaching (14: 15, 21, 23-24, NCV).
I loved you as the Father loved me. Now remain in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and I remain in His love. In the same way, if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other as I have loved you (15:9-10, 12, NCV)
When we love others the way Jesus does, we become one with Jesus and His Father. We will be demonstrate by our imitation of Christ Jesus that we are children who belong to God’s family.
When aristocratic families grieve they manifest a quiet dignity unlike the uneducated. While the unschooled give complete expression to their grief with loud wails, and tearing at their hair, or rolling on the ground, the aristocratic will show a calm exterior, even though they feel sorrow just as much as others. But they are conscious of their identity and it makes them conduct themselves in public in a manner that befits their status. In a similar way, we, who are royalty (1 Pet.2:9; Rev.5:10), the children of the King of Heaven, show by our conduct that we are God’s children. Our conduct sets us apart. It distinguishes us.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (13:35, NIV).
For children imitating father or mother is not drudgery, but a joy. Jesus said that we would indeed find joy in obedience.
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy (15:10-11, NCV).
As we obey, we will find ourselves drawn into friendship. We don’t obey because we are slavish about the laws of God, but because of love being our motivation. We are not slaves. Jesus says we become His friends as we follow Him.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father (15:14-15, NCV).
As a disciples of Christ there are just two basic things we need to learn and do. We need to let Jesus do His work in our lives, and we need to just follow what Jesus did.