Decisions, Decisions!

    Aug 23, 2015

    Passage: John 6:56-69

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Detail:

    Joshua 24: 1-2a, 14-18; John 6: 56-69; Ephesians 6: 10-20

    Joshua challenges the 12 tribes of Israel to follow the Lord or the gods of the Amorites or the gods of their ancestors before Abraham. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 24:15b The people all swore their allegiance to the Lord.

    Jesus, sounding like a madman insisting that the people who ate his flesh and drank his blood would live forever. He was the bread that came down from heaven, unlike the manna their ancestors ate. Eat of me and you will live forever. Many were offended by these statements and considered the teaching difficult and could not accept it! Jesus sensed their offense and continued speaking like a mad man and ascending to where he was before. He tried to explain that he was speaking in spiritual terms, not physical and that it was the spirit that gave life, not food. Then Peter answered when confronted with the decision to continue following Jesus or going away; “Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And he added that Jesus was the “Holy One of God.”

    Paul taught the Ephesians how to withstand the powers of evil that were all around them and against which they fought. He made sure that they knew that it was not flesh and blood, “but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

    He described the “whole armor of God”, taking physical elements of war that people would recognize and gave them spiritual qualities. He was interpreting Christ’s spiritual view of life and encouraging Christians to live spiritually and inn order to do this, Prayer was needed at all times. Paul knew that it was difficult to understand and explain and asked for prayers to reveal the mystery of the gospel.

    How does it work?

    How can you and I take bread and wine and be changed? How can we become eternal?

    How can we withstand the wiles of the devil? Someone threatens you and your first reaction is to strike back! But Paul understood that our only real enemy, is within us, and we have to decide if we are going to live by the example of Christ with the Lord Jesus deep in our hearts or if we are going to live only physical lives by the rules of survival?

    CHOOSE THIS DAY WHOM YOU SHALL SERVE, the false gods of this world who allow you to rationalize any behavior as blessed, or the God of Abraham, Lord of all the earth who is truth?

    Decisions are not always easy, because all things are not completely clear and also right decisions are more often than not grounded in who we believe we are. They reflect our self-definitions. They are consistent with our philosophy of life. Jesus challenges even this thinking by stating that we must EAT HIM, and take him in, flesh and blood, and in essence, become HIM in order to think like him and live like him and have eternal life. And though the act of communion may be physical, it is like the whole armor of God, a representation that we can begin to identify as carrying the Spirit of the Living God. We must decide to define life in spiritual terms, and know that any chance of living the eternal life is found in having Jesus in us! We need to feel like Jesus, think like Jesus, live like Jesus and pray like Jesus (at all times).

    Most everyone rejects this as silly fantasy, and some who accept it then turn it into an excuse for abusive behavior toward others. It is a hard saying, because it demands a commitment to a mystery that somehow leads to Christ like behavior (and remember that Christ sacrificed himself for the world) that may not be comfortable.

    The world is concerned with the right to bear arms and Paul wanted us clothed with symbolic, even invisible, spiritual armor. But many Christians feel that without arms, we cannot defend ourselves from our physical enemies. That may be true, though I know in my heart that it isn’t (the body they may kill, Christ’s truth abideth still….His kingdom is forever). I haven’t a clue on how we can change the way of the world. I only know that the way of the world leads nowhere and in the end does not satisfy, and the way of Christ is fulfilling. Serving one another that all may know the glory of God is living in the kingdom and it surrounds me with the eternal. My eternal is a quality of life that I cannot experience by following the way of the world.

    For me to live forever is to know Christ in my heart. I have had eternal moments that are enough to fill a lifetime of vacations. I have prayed with the dying and witnessed a peace that the world has never seen. I have received the grace of God so many times that my heart aches with gratitude and it is all I can do to not feel completely ashamed, because I know that I did nothing to deserve it. Kindnesses returned ten-fold! One glimpse into heaven is more magnificent than the most beautiful earthly vista. There is a peace that comes with Jesus that erases fear and addresses my natural desire for power. The acceptance of Christ for people as they are addresses my natural bent to judge.

    I cannot change the world. I can love the world and I can give myself to the world and I can decide to live for Christ. But you and I must accept that such a decision is HARD!

    It is wonderful and it changes us from the inside. But it demands a covenant relationship with the TRUTH, with the creator God and with Jesus. It seems impossible, except that God makes it possible by leading us with the Holy Spirit….which like a cloud, surrounds us and lives in us and we breathe Her, in and out, and see through Her a world that can be, even as we live in the world that is.

    It is hard because it demands a life consistent with the truth revealed in Jesus Christ.

    Hard Sayings and Hard Choices.

    When Jesus decided to give up his physical life for God’s spiritual existence, the world was forever affected. He died a physical death so that we would no longer be afraid of death. He knew that he would be resurrected and that those who believed would be relieved of our fear of death, and dying and make the decision to live spiritual lives reflecting the IMAGE OF GOD IN WHICH WE WERE CREATED. When Jesus turned toward Jerusalem from Jericho against the advice of his disciples who knew that certain authorities were seeking his death there, they followed him with this thought; “Let us go up to Jerusalem that we may die with him!” Jn. 11: 16…..and these words were uttered by Thomas, who didn’t realize that the death that would be required of him and of all who would follow Christ was a death of our old selves (the gods of our ancestors before Abraham, the gods of the present [idols]) and taking on Jesus the Christ as our new, reborn, resurrected selves. We would live in the kingdom of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit and by doing so would live out our destiny. The promise is that we would live forever, and that we would recognize the truth and be free and know that forever is a quality and has nothing to do with time, except that our love will have a forever impact.