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Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, July 18, 2021

Life With Jesus is Real Life

Text: John 5:19–26

In the late 80s Teresa went back to college to get her degree in Broadcasting. While in college she worked as a disc jockey for WKBA, 1550 AM, a southern gospel radio station in Roanoke. She can tell you some wonderful stories about working there. The manager of the station was Barry Weeks who is now a very successful record producer, songwriter, and mixer who has had multiple Grammy and Dove award nominations, and BMI Awards.

At that time Barry was a part of a gospel group named “Holy Wind” who themselves put out three albums. Whenever they were performing locally, we always tried to go to the concerts. It wasn’t because Barry was Teresa’s boss but because these guys were quite amazing. They were anointed and almost everywhere they sang the Holy Spirit showed up.

One of my favorite songs they performed was “Arise My Love” made popular by NewSong in 1987. You may remember that it’s a song about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s one of those songs where everyone would jump to their feet at the last verse and chorus. They just couldn’t help it. See if you remember this:

Sin, where are your shackles?
Death, where is your sting?
Hell has been defeated
The grave could not hold the King

Arise, My love, arise, My love,
The grave no longer has a hold on you
No more death's sting, no more suffering
Arise, arise, arise!

I don’t know how many times that we heard Holy Wind perform that song but every time I jumped up with all the others, hands held high to heaven and tears streaming down my cheeks.

God brought back the memories of those times this past week as I considered this message. I’m so glad that he did because I knew exactly why we jumped up each time we heard the last verse and refrain of that song. It was the cry of our hearts, and our greatest source of hope. We were celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death that was brought about by the love of the Father for the Son — and for those who would be his followers. Each time there was the image imprinted on our hearts of the Father, with joy crying out to the beloved Son, “Arise my love, Arise.” Every time we heard that it was the best news ever.

The question that I pondered this week, was why did the joy of that truth so quickly fade away as we left the concert and went back to our regular daily grind? I think I know the answer to that as well. More on that later.

For the past month we have been considering what it means to be a Christ follower. In recent sermons we discussed the evidence within the scriptures that God is willing to manifest himself to those who follow after him. By manifest, we mean that God will up show in such a way that we have no doubt as to who he is, and we respond accordingly.

Also, we saw that God is our only true source of real, lasting joy and the scriptures tell us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” We have been created in the image of God, but that image has been marred by sin. Jesus came to restore that image so we might be reconciled to God and have new life in him. We also said that the only way to be reconciled to God is to die with Christ, and those who have done so are a new creation and should model the example of Christ in how they live and what they reveal about God through their lives.

We are to be ambassadors of the God who was making an appeal for peace to those who had rejected his authority and dominance. Even though he is God who is unlimited in power, and doesn’t need anyone for anything, he has chosen to accomplish his mission through his children, his ambassadors.

In addition, we saw that Jesus promised that his followers would do greater things than he did while on earth. We saw that the “greater things” were not greater miracles or simply a greater quantity of miracles. When Jesus made the promise, he had yet to accomplish the greatest miracle of all. What was accomplished through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension back to the Father was the sign that sin and death had been defeated. Satan no longer would be able to totally deceive the nations or accuse the people of God.

So when Jesus and the Father sent back the Holy Spirit at Pentecost it was to equip the disciples to continue what Jesus had begun. They were set free to follow in the footsteps of their Master. Even Jesus in his humanity needed the help of the Father and the Holy Spirit to accomplish all that the Father sent him to do. It would be the same way for his disciples, and they would be equipped to move in the authority of the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. The good news of the gospel was that those who would turn and embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord would participate with him in his death and but also be resurrected to new life.

The trademark of the followers of Jesus would be their dependence on and obedience to the will of the Father. This was how God’s love was to be expressed but how would this be accomplished? Jesus promised to send his disciples another helper. John 14:17,

“…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

This would be the source of power needed to continue the work begun by Jesus, but the only way to access that power was to walk and live in the same way as Jesus, in dependence on the Father and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Last week I asked you to reflect on two questions:

  1. Are you actually walking in the way of Jesus? In other words, are you seeking to live your life in loving obedience to the Lord? Is that your passion?
  2. How do we access the power that is ours if we are walking in the way of Jesus?

I believe that it first requires us to assume that if we aren’t experiencing the power of God in our walk with Christ, we may not be following the way he is leading. Because if we are the power will show up as needed.

Last week we saw walking with Jesus through the lens of Psalm 1 which contrasts the “way of the righteous” with the “way of sinners.” Those who delight in the law of the Lord are compared to a “tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all he does he prospers”.

In contrast, those who reject the way of righteousness and embrace the way of the wicked will perish in the judgment of God. We must understand that salvation is best described as “life” — not an escape from death but new life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”

This week I want us to continue looking at what it means to enter into life with Jesus now, not just in the age to come. I think one of the problems that I have had over the years is a failure to think about my life with Jesus in the present but instead looked forward to being with him in the future, in the New Heavens and the New Earth promised in his word. One of my favorite portions of Scripture is Hebrews 4:14–16,

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I have found great comfort in the truth that when I pray to God it is not an inconvenience to him, but instead I can approach the very throne room of God expecting grace and help in my time of need. The problem is for all the comfort that this verse had brought me I found it hard to take it literally. Instead, I assumed it meant that God heard my prayers because Jesus loved me but surely approaching the throne of God was a metaphor or like the book, Pilgrim's Progress, an allegory for our spiritual journey. The truth that God Almighty was offering intimacy with him now, was much too hard for me to conceive of.

The first and most compelling reason that changed my understanding was when I read that Jesus invited his disciples to address the Lord God Almighty, Creator, and Lord of all the universe as Father, Abba. In Luke 11 Jesus’ disciples see him praying and ask him to teach them to pray. This was not an unusual request from a student to his rabbi or religious teacher. However, Jesus introduced them to an entirely new way of approaching Jehovah. A first-century Jew who was a faithful student of Torah would never dream of calling Yahweh, Father or Abba, as a matter of fact, they wouldn’t even say his name or spell it out fully. They were afraid of breaking the third commandment of not taking the name of God in vain. I’ve often wondered about that because it seemed that God invited Israel into a very intimate relationship with him.

I love Deuteronomy 32, called the Song of Moses. It’s 43 verses in its entirety but listen again to verses 3–4,

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
          ascribe greatness to our God!
The Rock, his work is perfect,
          for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
          just and upright is He.

Moses wrote down this song so that Israel might learn it and that future generations could sing it too. This would assure that they would not forget the goodness of God and the covenant that he established with Israel. They were to sing a proclamation of the name of Jehovah and ascribe greatness to Elohim.

Psalm 68 is a song of joy for the covenant community to sing in celebration that their God is a warrior who fights on behalf of his chosen people. God’s victory over his enemies depicted in this Psalm foreshadowed Jesus’ victory over the forces of Satan at the time of his ascension back to the Father. Everything in their worship directed them to bow down before their God in awe and reverence. They had seen first hand the intimate relationship that God had with Moses and the signs and wonders that God performed on their behalf in Egypt and the wilderness wanderings. They saw it again through the relationship that God had with Joshua and God moving in power on their behalf defeating their enemies that they might inherit the land first promised to Abraham.

Do you find yourself wondering how Israel could turn their backs away from the God who manifested himself to them so completely? I have, but I guess the question for me becomes, “Have I responded with praise and worship of God in light of all that He has done for me in Christ?” Is my life a reflection of his image and glory?

I don’t believe that this line of questioning should be attempted apart from a time of prayer with God. One thing I am certain of is that the enemy wants to whisper in your ear that you have been a complete failure in your walk with Christ. That is never the way of the Holy Spirit. When I ask these kinds of questions I don’t ask myself, I ask God to open my eyes to his answer to the question and to also place his desire for what he wants in my heart.

Let’s consider how Jesus lived his life as an example to us. Turn to our gospel reading this morning from John 5:19,

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

This statement from Jesus was answering the accusation from the Jewish leaders that Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years, but he did so on the Sabbath. To compound the problem Jesus told the man to take up his pallet and walk. He was now free to go wherever he wanted, but in carrying his pallet he was violating the Jewish tradition and interpretation of what could be lawfully done on the Sabbath. In their eyes Jesus was guilty of healing on the Sabbath as well as telling the man to stand up and take his pallet and walk away. However, it was Jesus’ answer that really threw gas on the fire (John 5:17–18),

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

This is why the Jews were trying to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

It’s important for us to remember that John’s Gospel was written 25–30 years after the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The major emphasis of this Gospel was the divinity of Christ because that had come into dispute within the early church from outside sources.

This section that we read this morning is vitally important because John is establishing the relationship that Jesus has with the Father which will, in turn, make sense out of everything Jesus says or does throughout John's account.

Jesus begins his defense by saying “the Son can do nothing of his own accord; but only what he sees his Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” (v. 19). He is completely dependent upon the Father. By his obedience and dependence upon the Father Jesus is telling them two things about himself. He is the model of what an ideal son should be but also that he is the unique Son. The Son is distinct from the Father (or he would not be the Son), but he is not autonomous. He always has been and always will be in complete agreement with the Father, and never acts independently from him. In John 1:18 in describing the person of Christ, the living Word writes, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.”

Dr. Rod Whitacre in his Commentary on John writes,

Therefore, when Jesus says the Son sees what his Father is doing, he is not saying that he makes rational deductions regarding God's activity from what he can observe in Scripture or history or nature. Rather, since Jesus is at the Father's side (1:18), totally at one with the Father (10:30), he sees God differently than anyone else ever has (1:18; 6:46). While he is referring to his human experience, as the next verse makes clear, he has a sensitivity beyond human experience to God's voice, because his intimacy with God is unclouded by sin. This sight, then, refers to his constant communion with his Father, and thus the actions he refers to are not some special signs done now and then to illustrate what the Father is like. Rather, Jesus' whole life, everything he does, is reflective of what he sees the Father doing. According to this verse, such is all he, the Son, can do.

Though Jesus is the unique Son, who alone has seen God, he is also the model of what it is to be truly human. Jesus came to us in human form to fulfill the role that Adam failed to fulfill. Unlike Adam, Jesus is the perfect example of what it is to be thoroughly open to God, humble, and doing nothing of his own.

In John 3:3 Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. Jesus is pointing to this birth from above that makes us children of God, and the way that we share in the same sort of relationship through the Holy Spirit that we see in the Son with the Father.

Let’s read John 5:20,

“For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.”

Remember this is Jesus sharing the truth of how things really are. He wants his disciples to know the Father as he knows the Father. If they are to accomplish what Jesus is doing after he is gone, they need to know the source of their strength and where it comes from. It will not come from their own righteousness, strength, or craftiness. Jesus points them to where he finds strength, wisdom, and power in his humanity.

The Father’s love is the heart of everything. It was God’s love for the fallen world that led him to send his Son so we may be able to share life with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. In this we will be able to see more clearly the Father’s love for the Son and why this eternal relationship is the way that leads Jesus to do all that the Father shows him. We see in John 5:20 that the Father was the initiator of all that the Son came to do, he is the source of all, he is in control of all things. The Father held back nothing from the Son, but showed him all that he was doing.

God's love for the world (3:16) leads him to send the Son so we may be able to share through the Spirit in the Father's love for the Son (16:27; 17:23). This eternal relationship is the source of Jesus' activity for it leads the Father to show the Son all he does. We see again in verse 20 that the Father takes the initiative; he is in control, and he is the source of all. This passage also emphasizes that the Father has held back nothing of his activity from the Son. All that God does is revealed to Jesus, and Jesus passes everything on to us. Why? Because we are going to need to know how to live in the way of Jesus.

As we said earlier the whole conversation with Jesus and the Pharisees began when Jesus healed the man who was an invalid for 38 years and encouraged him to take up his pallet and walk on the Sabbath. The miracles that Jesus did were amazing, the authority he had over the demonic was thrilling and his teaching had an authority that had not been seen in the lives of those living in the 1st century.

All these things were done so that people would know that Jesus had been sent by God, but they were not the most important revelation. The greater works that God would bring about through the Son would change the lives of all that recognized them for what they were. The greater work of the resurrection, the Ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would enable them to recognize the Father in the Son, because the miracles actually revealed the identity of Jesus and the character of the Father. This was life-transforming.

The longer that I follow the Lord Jesus, the more I am amazed at the love, mercy, kindness, and holiness of God, and the more that I desire a greater intimacy with him. The difference between the disciples and most of the religious leaders was that the disciples saw Jesus for who he was and wanted more of what he was offering, whereas the opponents of Jesus, did not see him for who he was, and rejected his offer of life. I think this distinction is still true today. To truly know Jesus is to have the direction of your life and the desires of your heart radically changed. Religion will not do it. Church membership won’t either. Only coming to Christ in repentance of sin and embracing him as savior and Lord will do.

So what is the takeaway from this message today? The first thing that we should notice concerning how we walk with Jesus through this life is to understand his dependence on the Father. After his baptism, the first thing that the Holy Spirit did was lead him into the wilderness for 40 days of prayer and fasting. He was living with whatever the weather was and wild animals. No food, no water. There was nothing there to provide comfort, only the love of the Father. This was how he began his ministry. Throughout the Gospels we find many examples of Jesus going away by himself to pray to the Father,

Matthew 14:23 “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…”

Luke 6:12, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”

Prayer and devotion to the Father was an essential part of Jesus’ life here on earth because in his humanity he suffered as we do, he hurt as we do, he bled when cut, he suffered from cold or heat just like us, and he was tempted, tried, and tested like we are. Hebrews 5:7–9 gives us a glimpse into this part of the life of Christ,

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 
8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

Even now the scripture teaches us that Jesus continues to make intercession before the Father on our behalf. Why? Because God is our only hope both now and throughout eternity. Romans 8:34,

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

I encourage each of us to be intentional about spending time alone every day with the Lord in prayer. Get away by yourself and invite God to meet with you as you bow down in praise, adoration and supplication.

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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