”Christians are set apart.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, Our King, Our Strength and Our Redeemer! AMEN.
[Before sermon present Centenary Book]
that said- we turn to God's message for us today......
Today according to the Church's Calendar is the 7th Sunday in Easter.
It is also known as Ascension Sunday as it is the Sunday after Ascension Day,[as those of us who attended the evening service on Wednesday can testify.]This Festival,sadly to say, is one of the most neglected by Christians, yet it is so important. Many Christians celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, special events in their lives and so too Christians world wide celebrate Christ's ascension,although many are not certain what really is the purpose?
Jesus' ascension marked the end of his earthly ministry and the beginning of his Heavenly ministry- Jesus after his resurrection, ascended to Heaven! Jesus is alive ,seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us day and night!
Jesus came to earth to reveal God to us, his ministry and death reconciled us to God, and his resurrection, ascension and intercession restores us back to the Father! In the book of Hebrews we learn that Jesus returned to Heaven once, to offer himself on our behalf. Not only as son of God but first fruits of the dead, perfected mankind. Like an older brother he speaks to the Father on our behalf interceding for us continuously ! Let us then be ever mindful of the privilege we have of having Jesus as our High Priest, and celebrate with Christians always on this account.....praying for ourselves and our dear brothers and sisters in Jesus' name.
John 17: 6- 19... our Gospel reading for today tells us that Jesus prayed for his group of friends-those God gave him to be his disciples.
Jesus had shared his life with them,and showed them what God is like. He has taught them God's truth and they have accepted it.
This was a period of intense teaching of the disciples by Jesus in preparation for His death.
The disciples are a unique group. They are now to live in a wicked world while belonging to their Father in Heaven. They are the nucleus of the church.
Jesus is in prayer to His Father, and our Father in heaven. This particular prayer is one asking for the disciples to be protected and sanctified in the truth.
Jesus prays,(1) -that God will protect his friends- keeping them loyal, and guarding their unity. While Jesus has been with them,he has been able to prevent them from falling out. Only one has been lost,which is Judas Iscariot. His betrayal was foreseen in scripture (Psalm 41:9)
As Jesus prepares to leave this world,he knows that his disciples must engage in an awesome struggle.
He prays,(2), -that God will fill them to the brim with his joy- the delight that comes with knowing the Father and sharing his work.
He prays,(3) -that although they must continue to live in the world, they will be protected from the malicious attacks of the Devil.
He prays,(4)- that they will be constantly cleansed and strengthened by the truth of the Gospel.
Jesus is now devoting himself afresh to the purpose of God- setting himself apart from all other ambitions or distractions. He does this for the sake of his friends. It is through his devoted sacrifice that they in turn may enter the holy presence of God!
Do we really understand what it means for us from God's point of view as 21st century Christians?
On analysis we see what God is doing for us personally and collectively,when we are working with Him to build His church and not labouring on building our own towers, doing our own thing!
Jesus is praying for those who have been called and have accepted the opportunity to be His disciples. We know that Jesus died for the world but only those who have accepted His sacrifice on their behalf and made Him 'Lord and Saviour' are the objects of this prayer.
Have we made Jesus our Lord and Saviour? Are we living for Him or do we think that His institutions are ours? You will notice that Jesus specifically points out that He does not pray for the world in it's carnal self seeking state. He prays only for those who have come out of the world and aligned themselves with Him to serve His purpose!
Jesus states In verse 10, all who belong to Him also belong to the Father and you can know these disciples by their fruit – (i.e. What they do)
Jesus was leaving and the numbers of disciples would rise to billions. A new means of protection needed to be inaugurated. So Jesus asks the Father to bring this into being.
At this time as we approach the festival of Pentecost this passage reminds us of the role of the Holy Spirit as our guide and protector who, by living in us, sets us apart from non-believers.
Jesus asks for us to be kept in the Father's name. Do we appreciate that you as true believers we have God's name? We have been given a new spirit and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are now His. We're part of “the family.” We cannot and should not,take this lightly!
If we are learning about Jesus, our mentor who has gone before us, each day we will see, more and more, that this is Awesome!
When we look at the interplay between Jesus and the disciples, we see how He protected them, even from themselves, as they grew in grace and knowledge. This same protection is ours today if we avail ourselves of it.
Judas is the ever present example that one can be IN the Church but not OF the Church and destruction will be that person's reward.
Whenever we are privileged to get concentrated teaching from Jesus we find Him bringing us into remembrance of the gifts of the Spirit. Here in verse 12 Jesus tells us that although he will not be with us physically we will have His joy fulfilled in us. Knowing that they would face times of sadness and so will we
Jesus reminds us that His joy is ever present. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. As Sunday
by Sunday we remind each other when we share the Peace of God which passes all understanding, let us also remember we also have the Joy of the Lord, which is our strength! Recorded for us in Nehemiah 8:10
We should never over complicate the gospel and the part we play in taking the gospel to our personal spheres of interest. In verse 14 Jesus shows us how simple it can be. If we simply plant a seed from the word of God into people's minds as we converse with them, they mull it over in their minds,the Holy Spirit moves their heart, and their calling takes root!
Like Jesus we feed the hungry – not just physically ,but also in a spiritual sense. We do This by speaking the word! ...and the way we act towards others in love
We have to be prepared to be seen as different from the world ,as this is the necessary price of loving Jesus and not being ashamed of the gospel.
As we speak the word, in season and out of season, God will give us protection from the evil one. Satan,the Devil,who, having been defeated by Jesus',death,resurrection, ascension and continuous intercession, still seeks to beguile. We must be aware of his deception and put on the whole armour of God!
Remember as Christians we live IN the world but are not OF it! This is a GOOD thing and Jesus makes this point in verse 16!
We must be set apart from the world - a function of our immersion in the word of God. Immersed in Jesus and immersed in the Bible, our manual. God's word is truth and we are sanctified, set apart, made holy by the truth we know which sets us free.
So armed with the word and the Holy Spirit operating in us, we are sent into the world to bring the gospel to all peoples just as Jesus went into the world. If we believe and we are obedient to God,we can do all that Jesus did.
Of course we are not able to do these things because of our own goodness,but in the name of Jesus, and ,in the service of God. By our obedience to the Great Commission we receive the reward of Everlasting life!
What a great God we worship! Determine today to make him not only resurrected saviour, but also,Ascended LORD of our lives !
And so,.....May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy spirit, be with us and remain with us all, now and forever.