Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5, 2012 Should do it or Want to do it?

John 14: 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you and yet has thou not known me Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

John 14:21 He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.

I've been hanging out with John, the beloved, this Holy Season, and just lately spending time in the chapters where John recorded the events of Holy Week. As I read chapter 14, I was overcome again with what Jesus was feeling in these final days as He anticipated the cross. He knew the agony that awaited Him, and even in that foreknowledge could experience in anticipation the horrors of taking our sin upon Himself. Then, after John records in chapter 13, that Jesus was troubled in Spirit, we hear again an exchange that must have brought Him further pain.

Think about those words in verse 9 - "Have I been so long time with you?" I can imagine the frustration Jesus was experiencing. For three years these men had been scarcely an arm's length away from Him, and yet they appeared not to have gotten it, to have heard and understood His Words. Scarcely hours before this scene, Jesus said, " He that seeth me seeth Him that sent me." And somehow Philip either didn't hear, or notice or remember those words. And patiently, Jesus goes through it once more, ending that dialogue reminding Philip that "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him," v. 21.

All of that takes me to the questions in the title: Should do it or Want to do it? How much of our faith is about what we should do and how much is it about what we want to do - to love God back? Are we very different from Philip, having heard over and over the Great Commandments: Love God and love one another, having heard that God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to pay our sin debt? Has it become a list of words arranged in a certain way that we acknowledge? Has our Christian life become filled with things we do because we should, like going to church or having our devotions or reading our Bible, because we should...or it has become our thoughtless habit?

I wonder how like Philip we have become - having heard it all, but not having allowed it to penetrate very deeply?

Jesus was a Person who lived, and walked, and talked, and grieved and got frustrated, but He finished well because He was motivated by a love we cannot understand. He cares only about what we do as a way of loving Him back, of the pages of Scripture we devour because we long to hear from Him, of the minutes we spend in prayer, because we long to be in His company, to talk to Him. He cares about our awareness that He is constantly showering us with His unconditional love for us, love that He demonstrated some two thousand years ago when He walked the steps to Golgotha for me, and for you.

Oh Holy Father, Holy Savior, I thank you for what you did for me, and what you do for me every minute of every day. I kneel at your feet in gratitude and peace and joy, and I thank you for one more Holy Week we call it, a time of reminding ourselves of the reality of your gift to us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 3, 2012 Looking Ahead

John 12:25-27 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and that where I am, there shall my servant be: if any man serve me him will my Father honor. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

I have settled into the book of John this Easter season, spending a couple of weeks at the end of John. Did you ever notice the difference between the way John ends his book, his gospel and the way Matthew, Mark and Luke do? John ends his with words about Jesus, his beloved friend. I think the others end theirs more impersonally, about Christ's words to them and about them.

Anyway, I decided this week, the Holy Week, as it is often called, I would go back to that week in John are reread the events as John recorded them. First I was surprised to notice that of the 21 chapters in the book, just under half of the chapters are about the final week.  It must have been so fresh in John's mind, still so powerful, that when he wrote his gospel although he had year's worth of events to write about, these events were most important.

Chapter 12 begins with the dating of the chapter - six days before the Passover. Six days before the crucifixion. It appears that Christ was crucified on the Passover, a fulfillment of what the Passover symbolized, the value of a blood sacrific to covwer sin, to redeem God's chosen people. But think about Him that day, waking up and knowing what was ahead. The parade, the palm leaves,   the knowledge of the shallowness and the brevity of that worship. He knew it all. He felt it all, just as we feel the pain of something ahead that we know will hurt.

As He says these words that John hears and records for us, Jesus knew experientially the truth of every phrase He uttered. He knew that loving His own life and well-being could cost not only His life, but our lives. I've been thinking a lot about how we mentor and disciple without any kind of formal relationship. How there are people all around us watching how we do it, so they can learn how to do, or perhaps not to do something. So Christ shows us here how to hate our lives, how to serve God rather than self.

But this morning, maybe three days before the anniversary of the crucifixion, I think about how Jesus was troubled. He knew all about the horrors soon to be visited upon Him for you and for me. And He wrestled with it, bringing to mind Hebrews 4: 15, But we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but which was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

And I am both comforted and challenged by His prayer here in John. He was tempted in a way I never will be, and He turned to the Father, and in honesty expressed His need. And then He went out and did it. So I need to pour out my heart in honesty, express all of my need, and then live life in absolute confidence that God will not allow me more than He and I can experience, yet without sin.