04-22-18 “Laying Down Your Life”
New Testament: 1 John 3:16-24
Gospel: John 10:11-18
When we talk about sacrificing our lives for the sake of Jesus, we need to be clear about what that means. For example, when the Lord says, “You must pick up your cross and follow me,” what does he mean? Are we supposed to line up for mas crucifixion’s? I don’t believe that is what God meant.
Jesus doesn’t require our death, The Lord requires our life. Sin equals death but sin does not automatically separate us from God – nor does it automatically separate us from life.
We are often tricked into thinking our sin separates us from God. That would mean our sin is greater than God. I don’t believe our sin has that type of power. The worst sin may be, however, not choosing God at all. This would lead to sin being our God.
Sacrificing like Jesus for others does not require physical death. When we sacrifice like Jesus we are supposed to be sacrificing our sins. Jesus didn’t give up his life on the cross, he was up walking around three days later. So what did die on the cross if Jesus didn’t. Sin! The Lord needed to destroy our sin to set us free that we may have the life Jesus requires to make of this world what God originally intended.
If we agree that this world is not what God intended, where is the problem? What earthly thing are we feeding that gives us back as much as God. If God’s Earthly Kingdom is not being fed, then what is?
Where do you spend your time other than giving to God?
Where do you spend your money other than giving to God?
Where do you give your talents other than giving them to God?
The Author of 1st John asks us a question: If a person cannot share earthly goods with a needy believer, how can this person have God’s love abiding in him or her?
Jesus might say that if we are upset with the way things are in this world, like violence, drugs and gangs we might be look at how we handle the root causes of much of this ugliness – poverty. What are we willing to sacrifice to make a difference?
In the original Greek, the material possessions John speaks about could mean three things; livelihood, material goods and property. We are not just talking about money. We are talking about sharing Christ with the whole of our life. Yes, we can do that with our money, property, possessions and many other items. The key is that we have Christ aplenty and we are not to keep the Lord to ourselves. We must be able to share God’s love in love in everything
Describing the good life we might include our property, possessions, livelihood among other things. The good life or just life in general is exactly what we are to share. To give away, our earthly lives; not dying but sacrificing just the same.
We don’t die, Jesus died so that we would be free from sin which includes making idols out of lesser things like land, money, possessions. To give your life means to give away these very things we consider of life.
John is alluding not that God blessed us so that we could hoard, but so that we could give it away. God has richly blessed us, not only with land, possessions and money but with the Christ. If we want to share Jesus we must also share ourselves. We cannot separate the two.
In the ancient church this problem of not helping others was obviously a perpetual problem, because it is mentioned many other places in the Holy Scriptures.
It’s like God knew that only a society blessed, richly blessed would be able to generate enough wealth for all to share. This country has been richly blessed with wealth, so, so much money. Why are so many still hurting?
Giving to the needy is not a cure for sinfulness, and the act itself does not free you. The motivation for giving to the needy is love of God not for the hope of gainful return.
I don’t want you to give because I say so, I don’t want you to avoid sin because I say so. The motivation for both should be love of God or even better because God loves you and has blessed you.
I have heard some say only those who are worthy can receive my help. Who is worthy? God saw each of us as unworthy, yet we have been invited. How can we see this any differently?
Jesus’ reward for helping the poor was the crucifixion. I’m using hyperbole, the Lord’s reward was to have all of us in Heaven. Jesus actions were in due to His love of God, not that He felt He was just a good person who was doing good. There is more than just service involved here, if it were rote response to guilt that we do good works, we would have stopped long ago.
We continue because there is something much deeper at work. Love is not superficial, if you have ever loved you know this to be true. Do you know how powerful love is? Look no further than the cross.
Jesus did not teach hatred, yet we have become proficient in hating.
Jesus did not exhibit greed, yet we have become proficient in treasuring our desires.
Jesus did not rely on pride, yet pride directs nearly all of our decisions.
Jesus did not murder, lie, cheat or steal, yet we have accomplished all of these with passing grades.
Jesus did, hear me now, did exhibit love towards his neighbors – How are we doing in the loving our neighbor part? We might be passing but I don’t think we are getting an A. Just like a 7th grader who spends time away from his or her studies, when it comes time for the test they may pass, but not exceed. The student who gives the subject the time it deserves, who spends extra time, who gives it their all, will exceed. You and I spend too much time on subjects that do not equate loving our neighbors or loving God.
The final test each Christian student will take is one that covers deeds and not just words. It is easier to feel a sentiment like love than to actually love. Actual love is costly, it can hurt, it can feel terrible at times, but it is also God’s redemptive manifestation. Jesus was God’s love manifested in human form. We too are God’s love manifested in human form.
It is time we begin to understand that we are the result of God’s love, not destroyed in the fire but saved from it – for a purpose. Too many people think they have three strikes against them. Not true. Three strikes means you are already out. We can only have two strikes against us, because there is alway hope wherever God is involved. I want every child to grow up in a life of hope. I don’t want them to ever think they has three strikes. What children have, as all of us do, is three blessings which are far greater Grace, Love and Redemption.
Why do you call me Lord yet not do what I say? If we are going to call Jesus our Lord we must be willing to pick up our cross and go head long into this world, not to save it but at least make it better by revealing the Jesus that resides in each of us. You have far too many blessings to ignore the fact that you have been saved are saved and will be saved.
Leader: Go forth in peace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all
People: And also with you.