From the Pastor's Desk 

The Blessing is in the Doing

8-13-17

 

            Let's pray.

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            Contemporary society is obsessed with love.  There's almost always a movie out in the theaters that has something to do with love.  Even movies that may not specifically be a love story, still have elements of love in them.  The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are about space heroes fighting to save the universe.  Yet, there is also some romance between two of the characters.  If you listen to popular music on the radio (or at least it used to be the case music today isn't very good) you'll hear a very high percentage of songs that talk about romantic love.  Romance novels are very popular and they sell a lot of copies of them in the bookstores.  Romance is something that in one way or another dominates our lives. 

            Love may be the greatest aspect of life.  Our existence here on earth wouldn't be nearly the same if we weren't able to experience love.  Unfortunately, the world and our society have destroyed the meaning of love.  The modern world may be obsessed with love, but they don't truly understand what it is.  The modern world's version of love is unabashedly narcissistic, totally self focused and shamelessly manipulative.  It sees others merely as a means of self-gratification. 

            The Bible is also obsessed with love.  But many aspects of the love we find in Scripture are very different from the kind of love the world practices.  In sharp contrast to the selfish, narcissistic love we find in the world, the Bible teaches that love is self-sacrificial.  Instead of tearing others down, biblical love seeks to build them up; instead of first pursuing its own good, the love of the Bible pursues the good and interests of other people; instead of seeking to have its own needs met, God's love seeks to meet the needs of others.  The love of God is what truly makes our earthly lives worth living.

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            In today's passage in the gospel of John that we're going to look at, we're going to examine a great example of what it means to exercise biblical love.  Before we get to that passage, we need to remember where we are in the narrative of Christ's story that John is telling us.

            Things really began to move quickly after Jesus raised His dear friend Lazarus from the dead.  The Jewish religious leaders didn't like Jesus.  They saw Him as a threat to their power and to their authority.  They had been trying to arrest Him for quite some time, but weren't able to because it wasn't His time yet.  But they were determined and made plans to not only kill Jesus, but to put Lazarus to death as well.

            Six days before Passover, Jesus was in Bethany with His good friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  At a dinner party given in His honor, Mary anointed His feet with some very expensive perfume.  It wasn't too long after that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in what we call his triumphal entry.  Crowds waived palm branches and sang hosanna to Him, indicating their belief that He was indeed the king of Israel.  They were hoping that He would take over the nation and free them from Roman rule.  But that wasn't His plan and it wasn't why He came.

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            He came because of love.  Jesus came to the earth to physically manifest God's love for people and to offer Himself as the ultimate offering of love for us.  This morning, we're going to see that the blessing that comes from love isn't found in knowing about it; the blessing that comes from love is in the doing.  Let's continue on now and read John 13:1-17. 

            Jesus entered Jerusalem on Sunday.  Monday, He cleansed the Temple of the money changers who were desecrating God's sanctuary.  Tuesday was a day of conflict as the religious leaders sought to trap Him into saying something so that they could get evidence to arrest Him.  Wednesday is apparently a day of rest as there is nothing recorded in Scripture for us about anything happening that day.  On Thursday is when He met in the upper room with His disciples in order to observe the Passover.  That's where we are in today's passage.

            Jesus' entire life and ministry had been leading up to the time when He was arrested, tried, executed and raised from the dead.  On a number of earlier occasions, the Jewish religious leaders had tried to seize Jesus, but John tells us that they couldn't because His hour had not yet come.  Now, His hour had come.  It was time for Him to fulfill the role and purpose for which He came to the earth in the first place. 

            Jesus' death and resurrection was an act of obedience on His part to the Father's will.  God's plan from before creation was for Jesus, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, to pay the price for mankind's sins.  There needed to be a blood sacrifice and Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God who would shed His blood for our sins.

            What Jesus did was also an ultimate act of love on His part.  Everything Jesus did was about love.  His humble service to others that He showed during His life; His teachings that He shared with His listeners and finally His death all reveal the depth of His love.  His death and the shedding of His blood were sufficient for the sins of all of mankind, everyone who ever lived.  But it would only be applied and only is applied to those who are saved born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

            For those who are His, it says that He loved them to the end.  That could refer to a couple of different things.  For one, He showed the full extent of His love.  Jesus couldn't have loved us anymore than He did.  He paid the ultimate price of death, but suffered much more than that.  He suffered the pain of separation from God on the cross and He took on Himself the sins of the world, something that no one else ever could or would do for anyone at anytime.

            In another sense, Jesus loves us to the end by loving His followers all of the way to the end of His life.  In fact, His love would actually extend beyond the time of His life here on the earth.  He never gave up on the disciples; His love and His work in their lives never ended even after the events of the cross and empty grave.  He will never give up on us, either.  His work and love in our lives will never end.

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            The event recorded in this passage took place as the Passover meal was being served.  Of course, the Passover feast was celebrated in commemoration of God's delivering the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  After 400 years of being in Egypt, God finally led His people to the Promised Land.  The Passover is the night when the Hebrews were instructed to put animal blood over their doorposts.  When the death angel went through Egypt, he would pass over the houses with the blood and the people would be spared. 

            It was a significant event in the history of the nation of Israel.  It was also a prophetic peek ahead into the role the Messiah would assume in forgiving people of their sins through the shedding of His blood.  This Passover that Jesus and His disciples participated in was the last divinely authorized one.  After that, a new memorial recalling the blood of the Lamb of God would be celebrated.

            By the time supper rolled around, the devil was already at work in Judas to betray Jesus.  In fact, days earlier, Judas had worked something out with the Jewish authorities for him to hand Jesus over to them.  Now that plan was about to be put into action.  Here it says that the devil was prompting Judas, later on in this chapter it says that he actually entered Judas.  (v. 27).  Even in all of this, we need to keep in mind that God was in control of all events leading up to Jesus' death.  In full awareness of what was going on, Jesus carried out a very significant act of ministry:  He washed the disciple's feet.

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            Foot washing was a necessary step of cleansing in first century Israel.  People wore open toed sandals for the most part and there were no paved streets.  So their feet would get very dirty walking from place to place.  Typically foot washing was done by a servant.  When a master of a wealthy household returned from a journey or came home from working a day of labor, a slave would wash his feet.

            It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest's feet.  It was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it.  Wives would often wash husband's feet and children would sometimes wash their parent's feet.  Most people, of course, would wash their own feet.  Apparently there was no servant available for Jesus and His disciples to have their feet washed.  The disciples were unprepared and unwilling to carry out this menial service for one another, so Jesus does it Himself.

            You can just imagine the scene.  While they are all reclining at the table, Jesus gets up and takes off His outer robe.  Jesus then ties a towel around His waist in order to wipe the disciples feet after He washed them.  As Jesus begins to wash their feet, I am guessing that the group would have been deathly silent.  I would also guess that these 12 disciples, followers and friends of Jesus were pretty embarrassed by what was happening.  They were all probably sitting in total silence, until Jesus came to Peter.

            As always seems to be the case, Peter spoke up and no doubt shared what all the rest of them were thinking.  In that culture, the master did not serve the disciple, it was supposed to be the other way around.  Peter was appalled that Jesus would carry out such a menial service.  He virtually forbade Jesus from washing his feet.  His response was somewhat commendable.  At least he recognized the inappropriateness of a disciple allowing his master to wash his feet.

            Jesus corrects Peter and then Peter swings to the other extreme.  "If I must be washed so that I can have a part with you, then wash me all over."  Peter, nor any of the disciples were going to fully understand any of what was going on until after the events of the next few days were over.  So Jesus then takes another opportunity to teach these men a valuable lesson.

            What Jesus isn't saying here is that you need to be baptized to be saved.  What He was saying is that unless He washes your sins away by His anointing death, we have no relationship with Him at all.  Jesus is the water; the work that He does in our lives is the cleansing.  Cleansing rituals were a common part of life in NT times.  People who arrived for a dinner party wouldn't have to have a bath, they simply needed their feet cleaned. 

            When we're saved, we are bathed all over and our sins are washed away and forgiven forever.  1 Cor. 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7.  However, as we continue to walk and live in this world, we will continue to sin.  When we do, we don't need to be bathed all over again; we simply need to have that defilement cleansed away.  1 John 1:9.  We don't need a bath; we just need our feet washed.

            As Christians, our union with Christ is a settled relationship that cannot and will not change for any reason, ever.  However, our communion with Christ depends on keeping ourselves clean through repentance.  If we permit un-confessed sin in our lives, we hinder our walk with the Lord:  that is when we need our feet washed. 

            We need to keep in mind as we read and look at this passage, that Judas was part of this group.  Jesus knew what he was about to do, Jesus knows everything.  He said that they were clean, but not all of them.  Judas was also present; his feet were washed; he too would eat the Passover meal; but he was not clean.

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            After washing their feet, Jesus helps them understand what He's saying, but He also makes an application of it to their lives.  The disciples were going to need to follow His example.  Even in difficult times or in situations that they considered beneath them, they must follow Him and seek to serve other people.  They were given a job as messengers for God to the world.  That should humble them.  They were not equal to Jesus in any way, but the very Son of God was going to empower them for the work they were called to perform. 

            What they were called to do was to meet the needs of other people in a self-sacrificial manner.  It wasn't that they were going to be required to literally wash the feet of other people, although that might be reasonable and appropriate.  But Jesus wasn't making foot washing a church ordinance.  He was stressing inner humility.

            When Jesus said to them that they rightly regarded Him as their Lord, He implied that they were beginning to realize that He was much more than a person deserving respect.  He deserved their obedience as well.  If it was not beneath His dignity to wash their feet, then it was not below their dignity to do the same for one another.  There are always ample opportunities to demonstrate humble service. 

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            It's one thing to know what we should do; it is another thing to actually do it.  The blessing comes, not with the knowing, but with the doing.  James 1:22-25.  God blesses His servants not for what they know, but for what they do.  Our happiness comes through obedient service. 

            We do need to receive God's Word with the proper attitude and mindset, we need to have an attitude of submission towards it, but it also has to be more than that.  Obedience to the Word is the most basic spiritual requirement and is the common denominator that all true believers share.  The spiritual life is not a feeling of compliance; it is not a commitment to anyone or anything.  It is long-term obedience to Scripture.

            Those who consistently disobey God's Word give evidence that they are without His life within them.  Those who consistently obey the Word give evidence of the life of God in their souls.  James put it very clearly:  be doers of the Word.  A more literal translation should be "keep on striving to be doers of the word."

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            What do you know?  What is it that you could explain to someone about what God's Word teaches us about our lives and our walk of fellowship with Him?  I think that most of us have at least a basic understanding of what Scripture says and of what God expects of our lives.  We know where we sin and where we fall short, and in what areas we need to improve and do better.

            The Word tells us that it is important to pray.  In Mark 1 it says that Jesus got away early in the morning for a time of prayer with God.  You may know that it's important to pray, but are you actually praying?  God tells us how important it is for us to be reading and applying His truths to our lives.  You may know that you should be reading the Word, but are you actually spending any time in it?  Is the Word of God changing your life?

            I think that it's common knowledge that we are supposed to be in church regularly.  Worshiping God is a vitally important spiritual discipline that we need to be engaged in.  You are all here of course this morning.  But what is your level of commitment to being in God's house on a regular basis?  What is it that keeps you from being here?  Are those legitimate excuses?  When you come do you actually worship or are you just going the motions?  Attending church isn't necessarily worshiping.

            God is clear that He expects His followers to be witnesses for Him in the world.  There are many different ways for us to share the good news of the gospel with a lost and dying world.  It doesn't so much matter what exactly you're doing or how you're doing it; it matters that you are somehow and in some way witnessing for the Lord.  You know you're supposed to, but are you actually doing it?

            What about tithing?  Everyone loves a good money related application, don't they?  We know what God says to us in His Word.  In Malachi, He accuses the people of robbing Him and they don't know what He's talking about.  Then He tells them that they are robbing Him by not bringing the tithe to the storehouse.  Then He tells us, for the only time in all of Scripture, to test Him in that.  Commit to tithing, and test God that He will faithfully and abundantly provide for you.  You think you can't, but you're wrong.  You have the knowledge that you're not only supposed to give that way to the Lord, but that we have been commanded to do so.  But are you actually tithing like God wants?

            I think by now we get the point.  Head knowledge is good, we need to begin there by understanding and knowing what God is saying to us.  But it can't stop there.  We need to take that knowledge and apply it by actually doing what He tells us to do.  The blessing of the Christian life is in the doing.

            As our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to start doing the things that you know God is calling you to do.  If there is some public profession that you need to make in regards to anything God is doing, we invite you to come now and share that with us publicly as we stand and as we sing.

 

            Prayer.