Sunday, October 17, 2010

Get your game on


John 15:18-27 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 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. 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.
But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.
But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, 'THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.' When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

There is a philosophical understanding of life that says all that we see and experience is not real. The task of life is to get beyond the senses to the reality that is found in the mind, in understanding. A hit movie was based on that premise called the matrix, where it showed that the world as we understand it is a complex computer program to which we are plugged into. The hero gets unplugged, and finds reality, and begins to set people free from the illusion. Sometimes we need to draw the curtain aside in our own lives, to be reminded of what it is all about. In Jesus’ conversation with His disciples before He was crucified, He did just that. Let’s have a look at three truths jesus reminds us of in this passage of John 15.

John 15:18 There is a world force with its own agenda. Don’t expect things to just work out. One of the funniest videos on AFV we have seen involves this little kid and a cat. In the first part you see the child being somewhat rough with the cat. Then you see the kid coming towards you down a path. Suddenly this cat jumps out of a bush onto the kids head and they both go flying off the screen. The cat had an agenda, and while it may have been based on poetic justice, the fact is the kid was bowled over. Have you ever been bowled over by life? The world system is in cahoots with the devil. The world system is not for you. It has an agenda of its own that focuses on destruction and hurt and pain and confusion. Some of us have been through a lot more than others. I have been working with a grandmother the last few weeks trying to help her teenage grandson who was living on the streets in Saskatoon. At the same time, she had a son missing in a large city in the US. She was stressed out and doing whatever it took to help find a resolution to the issues. I am glad to say that both the grandson and son are in Ontario and are getting some of the help they need. Do you wonder why finances are always tight, or why your job doesn’t seem to be worth it, or why some relationships are sour? You have to work at and fight for the things that are worth something in your life, because the world is opposed to you having it. Satan would have no greater joy than seeing you wallow in the problems and pains and distractions of life. His agenda is counter to what God wants for you. When you sign up to follow Jesus, you put yourself in the world’s way, and it will try to harm you. Jesus came that we might have abundant spiritual life. You can have that regardless of what is happening around you, because it is rooted in who you are in Jesus, not by how much stuff you have, or how people treat you. As you run this race called life, then, focus on that upward call of God found in Jesus, of becoming like Him in thought, word and deed.

John 15:21 The world’s agenda is intentionally anti-Christ and anti life. In other words, it is personal. Satan is actively trying to keep you down, to knock you off the course you are on with Jesus. Think of it as a game of football. Right now you may be in the second quarter, or fourth quarter. The game isn’t over until you see Jesus face to face, and it is not until then that you will be able to really stop this struggle. If you take the analogy of the game you understand that there are time outs and half times, where you can catch your spiritual breath per se. There are times when you get in the huddle and talk about the next play, but remember that the opposing team isn’t interested in playing fair. They are going to try to cheat you and hurt you and do anything within their power to set you up to lose. The times you have to gather together and worship are times to get encouraged and energized for the fight. These are times for you to better understand who you are and what God is doing in and through your life. The other team is going to be pushing all your buttons so you get distracted from the game and get your focus off of the goal. Have you ever seen a hockey player bug and chip away at another player, trying to goad him into taking a bad penalty or start a fight? He is simply trying to neutralize that player, and he is successful if the gloves drop and that player is looking at a major penalty. Life is doing that to you. It is trying to draw your eyes from the task of becoming more like Christ so as to neutralize any ministry you may have. Don’t give in to that - stand strong in the grace of God and focus on the task at hand.

John 15:24 The fight is about Truth, about the character of God. One of the reasons we don’t fit in the world is because we have morals, a sense of ethics that is beyond ourselves. That moral code is the character of God. Holiness is who God is, and what the work of the Spirit is doing in our lives. The easy way out of this battle is to avoid the battle. Ben has started wrestling with the Saskatoon Wrestling Club. It is bringing back a lot of memories from my high school days. In wrestling you are in the middle of a ring about 20 feet in diameter - just you and your opponent. You can win by pinning your opponents back to the mat, or by accumulating more points than the other guy by the end of the match. I remember watching a match where one guy was obviously outclassed. He spent the whole match backing away from his opponent and was called several times for leaving the circle, with points awarded to the other guy. In this thing called life we may find ourselves choosing that same route. We bob and duck and weave and just try to avoid being involved. We think we can survive better because we have no confidence in what we can do. Often that hesitancy gets us into more trouble than it solves. I have the dubious distinction of being in one of the shortest matches that I ever saw. I was up against a guy by the name of Allan Muir. He had a really strong upper body and I knew I should stay away from his arms. I didn’t have confidence in doing anything else, so right from the start I went to lock up his head and arms up high. All he did was grab me coming to him and flipped me over his hip and I was down for the count with no way out of his grasp. My hesitancy and fear of what might be overruled any sense of what I should and shouldn’t do. The fact is I had some skills, I was taught the moves, and at the very least I should have made him sweat before he won.

We have the truth in the Gospel, in the Holy Spirit as our Counsellor and Coach. We have strengths and gifts given to us by the Creator of all that is around us, and yet so often we think we can’t do it. We are afraid to even speak about our faith. What is at stake, though, are the lives of those around us. When we get into that avoidance and delaying pattern in our spiritual life, the people around us don’t see or hear the Gospel through us. They don’t see the divine as something tangible, something that can touch their lives. The world doesn’t want people to recognize the Truth of God. Satan doesn’t want people to recognize there is a morality, a code of ethics that is rooted in our creation. Because we were created in the image of God, that moral code is imprinted on our souls. People will deny it and do whatever they can to silence that still quiet voice from within, but part of the task you and I have is to uphold and promote that character of holiness. That is why I get upset with people who live with sin and don’t struggle against it. It is why I get so upset with myself when I blow it and get drawn off of what I should be and should be doing. Hold up the standard of holiness, the character of God, and rally to that. Don’t be swayed from that, whether the road seems easy or hard - never back down, never surrender.

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