Monday, June 20, 2016

Homes: The Disciples' Future (John 14:1-4)

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going."

Our Home To Come: Heaven.

Jesus has promised us a future and a hope. We will one day live in the perfection that is heaven. This world is not our home. How does heaven differ from the place where we are today? The Bible gives us many descriptions that are hard to visualize physically, but I believe that we also have a clear description of the way heaven will be spiritually. Specifically, in this “Last Minute Teaching” Jesus describes three qualities that He wants His disciples to have that will be our qualities in heaven. If we strive to have these qualities in our lives now, we can make our experience here in the church a little more like heaven.

The first quality Jesus gives His disciples is Love:

John 13:34,35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 15:12: "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you."
John 15:17 "This I command you, that you love one another."

Jesus models love for the disciples when He washes their feet. He commanded them to do the same for each other. He is not instituting a third ordinance here along with baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He does not merely want us to perform a symbolic act of service such as washing each others feet. He is commanding us to have a servant’s heart.

What would the church look like if everyone had a servant’s heart? Can you imagine a place where everyone stepped up to the tasks at hand and took care of things instead of complaining about what was not being done? When Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, He was performing a task so demeaning that even Jewish servants did not do it. Jesus, our Lord, was showing us that if nothing is too low for Him, we should also consider no ministry below our station.

I sometimes wonder if we are making the best use of God’s money when we pay others to do the very ministries we are capable of doing. Why do we pay people to clean the church when we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to perform that task as a ministry? Why do we pay people to care for our babies and children when we are capable of doing that ministry as members of the body?

The second quality Jesus gives His disciple’s is Peace:

John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

The peace of heaven is best exemplified in the unity we can have with each other. Jesus prays for this unity in chapter 17 of John:

John 17:22,23 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."

Now, one thing needs to be said at the outset here. Unity in and of itself is not good. Unity can be evil. If a group of people come together for a bad purpose, they are unified in evil. The unity that God desires for us is that we be unified in Christ.

For this reason the peace that Christ has given us is not a “peace at any cost.” All too often we tolerate anything in the name of unity and peace. We avoid conflict. However, in a sinful world, we will have conflict for the sake of unity in Christ. We should not tolerate sin in our members. We must deal with sin in the church in a Biblical fashion. We also should never simply “go with the flow” for the sake of peace. If the church is headed in the wrong direction, we need to do whatever it takes to get it back on the right track. Tough decisions and hard actions are made for the sake of peace.

The third quality Jesus gives His disciple’s is Joy:

John 15:11 "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."
John 16:20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy."

Joy is sometimes a hard concept to grasp. We confuse happiness for joy. C. S. Lewis described true joy as a thrill and a longing for heaven. Lucy Maud Montgomery, in her book “Anne of Green Gables” describes this feeling through the words of her orphan character:

"Pretty? Oh, PRETTY doesn't seem the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don't go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful--wonderful. It's the first thing I ever saw that couldn't be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfies me here"--she put one hand on her breast--"it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr. Cuthbert?"

Joy is the feeling we get when we are accomplishing the thing we were created to do. If a hammer experienced joy it would be in hitting a nail, scissors may feel joy when they are cutting. We experience joy in doing the work of our Father in heaven. Ministry is what we were made to do.

How do you know when you are done doing what God has prepared for you to do? When can you retire from doing ministry? If you still have a pulse, then you still have a ministry to accomplish.

Our Temporary Home: This Earth.

If Love, Peace, and Joy characterize heaven, what is our current home like? It doesn’t take very long living here for us to realize it is contaminated by sin, pain, and suffering. For the Christian, who does not belong here, you can add to that list: persecution.

John 15:18-20 18 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 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, because of this the world hates you. 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.

Christ has not told us that we might face trouble from the world. He has said that we will suffer and be persecuted just as He was. All around the world Christians suffer daily. They are beaten, arrested and killed for their faith. The Twentieth Century saw more Christian Martyrs than all the 1900 years preceding it combined.

There is and explosive Church Growth movement in Northern India today, where 2000 churches have been formed in the past six years. If you were to go to one of their services today and witness a baptism, you would discover that part of the Baptismal service there teaches the new convert the words they should say on the day they are martyred!

The question we must ask ourselves is: why do we not face persecution? It is not because we live in a Christian nation, because we do not. Are we so similar to the world around us? Is there nothing to make us different from our culture, nothing that offends them about us? If that is the case, then we are not becoming heavenly. We are remaining the same as the world around us.

Where is your heart today? Are you looking forward to heaven and striving to become more like Christ in Love, Peace, and Joy. Or are you happy here in this sinful world, content to be like the world around you?

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