Tag Archives: redemption

I am holding on to you John 16 First St Johns May 1, 2016

[please click on the above for the audio of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that the great I AM is holding on to them said … AMEN!

I AM holding on to you, I AM holding on to you, in the middle of the storm I AM holding on I AM. For those who are convinced that I’m a stodgy fuddy-duddy, who just can’t get contemporary Christian music, I assure you that is completely inaccurate. I will compare my library of “contemporary” Christian music going back over twenty years to yours any day of the week.

One of the newer artists is David Crowder, the last Winter Jam we went to he was there and he really is great. I think he gets it a lot better than a lot of Christian musicians and yes, sad to say, there is a lot of junk out there.

One of his newest songs is titled “I Am”, if you listen to the song without really “hearing” it, it will sound as if me, you, the desperate sinner whoever that is, is almost frantically proclaiming that he is holding on. Sort of like me on a real roller-coaster. I don’t like roller-coasters, and when I am on one, I am probably thinking about how much “I am holding on”. But that’s not the point of the song and it is a really good illustration about our relationship with Jesus.

When Crowder says I AM holding on to you, who is the I AM? …  Yes, Jesus. In the middle of the storm I AM holding on to you. We have that assurance all the way through as to who it is that is really holding on. Jesus says, in our reading, “…whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you.” Now that is a huge assurance that in Jesus when we ask we will get what we need. More than that, when we think we’re asking in Jesus’ Name and we’re not, we’re asking for something that is not going to build us in Jesus or glorify Him or witness to the world for Him, we won’t get it. Why? Because He is holding on to us, even when we have a bad idea or motivation, He is holding on to us to protect us from ourselves and the world. Between John 6: 35 to 51, Jesus refer to Himself four times as “I AM the Bread of Life”. I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the door, I AM the water of life over and over. The people listening to Him all knew exactly what He meant, Yahweh told Moses that His Name is I AM. They understood His reference to the bread that Yahweh provided for their ancestors in the desert. They understood their need for that physical bread, and also the bread that “strengthens and preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.” That Jesus was saying I AM the bread. He was telling them that He is God the Son, the only one who could give them what they need to preserve them in their daily lives, but also for spiritual nourishment, to strengthen, preserve and prepare them to life eternal in the resurrection, as He was going to be shortly resurrected. The difference being our resurrection will be in the perfect world of the eternal earth.

Crowder writes “this is my resurrection song”, saying again that it’s about what Jesus did, He who died in order to save us from our sins, who was perfect, perfectly holy and God the Son, the only One who would be sufficient to pay those sins and in doing so gave us the hope and promise that we need in order to know that we are saved. Not just saved but also given the very visible, tangible evidence of our salvation. The perfect Son of God, tortured, mocked, humiliated, killed so that our sins are completely paid for. Not what we did, but entirely what He has done and continues to give us the assurance that He has provided everything necessary for us to live in this world in Him, and as it says in the Revelation reading: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” That is, we will be in the very presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the resurrected, perfected, eternal world.

Through all of our readings today, it is being made abundantly clear, who’s we are and in Whose hand we are and will always be.

Luke tells about Paul who is headed east, toward Asia. The Holy Spirit gives Paul a dream of a man in Greece, Macedonia, asking Paul to cross from Asia Minor to bring the Gospel message to Greece. Paul’s journeys have been entirely in faith to Jesus who knocked him off his horse on the road to Damascus. While Paul was taking the initiative to spread the Gospel, it’s obvious when we look at all he had to endure that it was the great I AM who was holding on to him, guiding him in his ministry. Paul had the things that he was told by the apostles in Jerusalem, by men who had been Jesus’ disciples during His incarnational ministry. He had his encounter with Jesus, he certainly had his experience of being raised to the third heaven. But the Holy Spirit was leading him into places that had never heard of Jesus. Paul didn’t have a New Testament to show people and help them to see who Jesus is. But Jesus was holding on to him, even in new places where Paul had to trust entirely in Christ. There were no churches, no clergy, no funds to live on, no Bibles, no radio, internet or television. Just Paul and maybe Timothy, Barnabas, Mark, maybe Peter caught up to him. Much more powerfully it was the great I AM who promised to hold on to him, did hold on to him and lead him to where he needed to be to build those churches, establish the Christian leaders who would be the catalyst of Christianity to grow around the entire world.

Finally He gives them the ultimate hope and promise; “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” It’s not up to us to overcome the world. We’re not going to be able to overcome the world, Jesus will. The world will ultimately become so corrupted, sin-filled, beyond the possibility of any kind of rehabilitation or redemption that it will be destroyed. Yea, I guess many people would wag their finger saying how mean that will be of God. “Why can’t God just leave us alone and let us be happy?” You hear people regularly ask. Because the world they envision, filled with destruction, despair, anger, intolerance will become an intolerable place to live, even to those who think that complete independence from God will form some kind of utopia. It won’t, the world today, all around us, is filled with despair, hopelessness. We see people substituting that hope with greed, drugs, sex, alcohol, things that separate us, divide us, even cause us to confront each other in anger, violence and destruction. The only thing that will unify us, bring the world together is the peace and hope of Christ, who through Him all creation came into existence. Jesus’ promise in our reading that yes, we will have tribulation, but in the things that He has promised us, we will have peace, we will have true life and life more abundant, our life in this world and especially in the life of the resurrection. The great I AM is holding on to us.

Crowder’s song may sound like the desperate floundering of someone who is just barely holding on, but it really is about the assurance that no matter what we’re going through, being led to some unknown to witness to Jesus, to serve others, going through the storms of life, that the great I AM is holding on to us and not the other way. He holds on to us even when we try to pull away, when we ask in His Name He is faithful to keep holding on, always for our good in Him.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

We’re called to be in the world, not of it.

We’ve been reading Dr Gene Veith’s book God at Work in our Wednesday morning group at the Green Bean in downtown York, Pa. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in a fundamental understanding of the issues related to living your Christian life in the workplace.

One great point we discussed this past week was Dr Veith’s following observation: “Christians live in tension with the fallen world. And they are not allowed to diminish that tension by either retreating form the world or by uncritically embracing it. Jesus alludes to this in His great priestly prayer in John 17: 14-18: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Throughout the history of the church, it has lurched from one extreme to the other. For so long  people were honored who escaped into the desert, forests, mountains, for a time those who lived on the top of poles or, sort of, scaffolds. This is clearly not Christian, not at all what Jesus taught. Sure Jesus is depicted as going off to pray somewhere, but sure enough the next day was right in the mix of the crowds. And it was not just with other Jewish people. Jesus interacted with Samaritans, Romans, Greeks, a Syro-Phoenician woman, free, slaves and no doubt others, Jerusalem was an international crossroads in His time.

Many Christians exist in an, essentially, Christian sub-culture, many have no non-Christian friends an don’t interact with any non-Christian unless it’s necessary. We look at Paul’s life and travels, from Israel to Rome and maybe even Spain. According to legend the rest of the apostles were dispersed to all the points of the new world. Biblically we are encouraged to interact with all non-Christians.

Dr Veith’s other point about “uncritically embracing” the world is also a great observation. Jesus certainly didn’t in His time, He was very counter-cultural, He was in the world to fulfill and observe the Law. He was against the Law, He did oppose those who abused, twisted the Law. Today we see the other extreme, especially in, so-called, liberal Christianity, which seems to allow itself to be dictated to by the world, regardless of what the Bible teaches.

Having said this, there seems to be this idea among Christians who do feel led to venture out into the world (which we are supposed to do), that if we are nice and sweet to everyone than they will all immediately fall in love with us/Jesus and everything will be all sweetness and spice or the other extreme, if people find out we’re Christian then we will be immediately set upon by the evil world. The latter supposition is probably closer to the truth, but neither one is really a day to day. Jesus told us: “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (Jn 15:18)
There’s this kind of odd idea among some Christians, that if we just say the right words, people will come around and love us and love Jesus. There is no magic set of words that people will immediately respond to in some kind of “come to Jesus” epiphany. It certainly didn’t happen with Jesus. Sure many responded to Him and what He did, but no question there were plenty of people who wanted to get rid of Jesus.

The world really does see Christians as gullible, suckers, easily led. This is the same world that will jump through hoops if you wave a few bucks in front of it, or booze, drugs, sex, the world will fall right in. Talk about gullible, Jesus is life, what the world wants is inevitable death. It’s stupid, but it is consistent, the world is all about death.

Dr Veith’s point is that as a Christian it is tough to be in the world. Jesus recognized this in His prayer. We live in this constant tension and yes sometimes we do give in to the temptations. Difference is, we’re forgiven, the world in the same circumstances, is condemned. As Christians we have to keep all this in mind. We can’t give up on the world, Jesus didn’t, He is our Lord, and we have to be faithful to His leading. We have to keep witnessing to Christ in all the areas of our life. But when we do that it is with the realization that often we won’t be “liked”, appreciated and the good works we do will often be repaid in spite and coldness. We can’t run away from the world, and we can’t affirm the world’s sinful lifestyle. We have to be faithful to Jesus’ leading and endure the world’s animosity.

We won’t be meeting this Wednesday because of a funeral, but May 14 we should be meeting the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver, 10am, welcome to park right behind the church.