This past Sunday’s message I explored the divergence between what Christ said we should expect and what we are seeing in our everyday walks with the Lord, and see if we are meeting expectations.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, just before His prayer to the Father, He spoke words meant to encourage the disciples, but I cannot but wonder why He was saying them and what they would face. He gets done with a tremendous promise in John 15:1-11, ending on such a great note– that their joy may be full. Then his talk changes to talk of death. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
What could this possibly have meant? Certainly Jesus couldn’t mean that there was to be death involved? Maybe death as they conquered Rome– yes, that could be it. Why was He talking about dying for ones friends. Jesus continues to say that those gathered are His friends because He has passed along what the Father has told Him, and they obey His commandments.
What would you think if you were a disciple hearing this? Would you be like Peter and say that you would never deny Christ? Would you feel afraid to be called a friend of Jesus? Could this be part of the reason that they scattered when Jesus let Himself be taken?
Jesus does not permit himself to rest there, but continues to tell them that the world will hate them because it hated Him. And here is the first reference to a theme that Jesus wants the disciples to hear and be prepared for. He says in verse 19 that the disciples will be hated because they are not of the world. The first question we as followers of Christ have to ask ourselves is, are we enemies of the world?
A.W. Tozer makes this observation:
The Christian is called to separation from the world, but we must be sure we know what we mean (or more important, what God means) by the world. We are likely to make it mean something external only and thus miss its real meaning. The theatre, cards, liquor, gambling: these are not the world; they are merely an external manifestation of the world. Our warfare is not against mere worldly ways, but against the spirit of the world.
For man, whether he is saved or lost, is essentially spirit. The world, in the New Testament meaning of the word, is simply unregenerate human nature wherever it is found, whether in a tavern or in a church. Whatever springs out of, is built upon or receives support from fallen human nature is the world, whether is is morally base or morally respectable. – The Divine Conquest, p. 117
Is our nature, our spirit truly at war with the world? Is the world our enemy? Does the world know it? The only way that people know who you are is if you are telling or showing them it. Undercover agents for Christ– those who claim Christ on Sunday and live as they want throughout the week– really cannot call themselves friends of Christ in the way that He was referring to the disciples. Sure, they may have salvation from sin, but they certainly are not keeping Christ’s commandments, which includes the Great Commission to go be wintesses to all of the world.
Jesus linked obeying His commands, being called His friends, and being enemies of the world all together. Yet another quote of Tozer I believe applies more to us now:
It is hard to focus attention on a better world to come when a more comfortable one than this can hardly be imagined. – Man, The Dwelling Place of God, p. 155
We have a very comfortable life in America. We have a lot of freedoms that we take for granted, and because of that we tolerate more of the spirit of this world than we should. We certainly get exercised about the “sin-of-the-day” but we do not see ourselves set in array in the spiritual realm against the enemies advances. We do not always look at the big picture of what is really going on, and instead concentrate on fighting battles on smaller playing fields.
The other side of this coin is something that Christians are now awakening to realizing– the world is no longer our friend. We get enraged when the government takes prayer or Bible reading out of the school. We get upset when a state legalizes same-sex marriage. We get bent out of shape when we can’t have Santa Claus– I mean a nativity– at Christmas and people wish us Happy Holidays. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t.
What I am saying is that we are in a battle here for each and every soul. It’s bigger than all of these things combined. In some ways we should not expect the world to accept Christian ideals, morals, etc. We had to come to the place where we realize that we could not keep from sinning except God work in our hearts and lives. We’re sent on a mission of love and compassion– to share Christ and the power He has given to set us free.
These other issues, though important, are not the big picture, and are– in some ways– a diversion. If we were effective in ministry, if souls were being saved and lives being changed, we would not have these problems. Inner change yields outer change. We need to realize that we are in battle and take drastic actions. We need to look at the places where the enemy is gaining the hearts, minds, and souls of those around us– or could gain more– and make sure to stand in that gap to bring souls to Christ.