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Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, October 3, 2021

The Glory of Christ Seen Through His Disciples

Part One

Text: John 17:20–25

When I was 10–11 years old I always seemed to have a project going on. I had a section of the basement that was mine to store my stuff and do whatever I wanted. It was there that I used my new chemistry set to make foul smells that permeated the house, and it was there that I took things apart to see how they worked and never was able to figure out how or to put them back together again. I had boxes of various parts of lawnmowers, clocks and other detritus destined for the city dump.

One of my projects happened after my father paid a few of his friends to build a recreation room in half the basement with a toilet and sink. Our house had around 900 square feet upstairs and one bathroom, so a toilet downstairs was certainly welcome, as well as the additional space. My father only had a limited amount to spend for labor and materials and he wasn’t very handy himself to offset the costs, so the building materials that were used weren’t top-notch. The new downstairs bathroom was very tight for space because it was built under the stairwell and the walls were made out of Masonite. Masonite can be described best as sawdust glued together with a paper overlay. Once the construction was finished there was a partial sheet of Masonite left over and my father let me have it, along with a few 2x4s.

I decided to build a wagon out of the Masonite and use the 2x4s for the frame. I used the wheels and steering arm from an old wagon. I don’t remember how I fastened everything together, but I know that I was actually unaware at the time of bolts and the importance of flat washers to add strength to the surface you wanted to tighten. When I finished, I stood back admiring my handiwork. I was so proud of this masterpiece and could hardly wait to try it out on Monterey Hill. It was a very steep hill that was a wonderful place to sleigh ride and I just knew that my wagon would likely fly down that hill.

Around the same time I found out that my father’s brother, his wife and my cousins, Joel and Marc, were coming from Greensboro and would be visiting us that weekend. Joel was 10 days older than me, and Marc was around 18 months younger than Joel or me. This would be epic, the three of us climbing on my wagon and rocketing down Monterey Hill. This would be good for stories to tell at later times, to impress others and clearly would lead to me being admired by all. I could just picture someone looking at the wagon asking who was the genius who built this? As it turned out they would have asked that question, but it would be sarcasm and ridicule.

The weekend and the cousins arrived, and the wagon was presented to them as a thing to behold. I told them about my desire for us to take a trip down Monterey Hill together and they were willing to try it. I noticed Joel eyeing the wagon cautiously, but he just shrugged his shoulders and off we went. However, when we arrived at Monterey Hill he looked at the wagon and looked at the hill and questioned me about the strength of the wagon. I assured him that it was fine and that we would never forget this moment, and I was correct. The three of us sat down on the wagon and pushed off on our journey that ended in about 50–60 feet. The wagon came apart and we flew in all directions.

Fortunately, we were only a little scraped up and dirty and, other than deep humiliation, I was just fine. I learned the lesson of how important it is to build with materials that would hold up and to test it before you use it. You see, the wagon looked fine and rolled very smoothly as we pulled it from my house to Monterey Hill, but it ended up not being able to bear the weight or to live up to the demands I was putting on it. Fortunately, it didn’t make it very far. I shudder to think of what could have happened if we had made it very far down the hill before the wagon flew apart. As it ended up, I was a much better salesman than a designer or builder. If most any adult had carefully looked at what I built and heard what I intended to do with it, they would have put a stop to it or showed me a better way to build it.

However, it's one thing when a 10–11-year-old builds something that won’t work as expected, but quite another when those in national leadership, in both political and religious areas, try to sell those they serve lies and deceptions designed to lead them in a direction they would never agree to willingly if stated truthfully. Their mistakes, lies, deceptions and misrepresentations have much greater and longer-lasting consequences. Today, on a national basis we are surrounded by a level of deception and outright lies coming from those who want us to believe that they have our best interest at heart and know how to lead us. It is coming at us from a majority of the political elite, a media that seems to be complicit and, unfortunately, from many leaders within major Christian denominations.

What they are attempting to lead us into is a culture without God and His word and it has already revealed—the insanity, disregard for the sanctity of life, extreme levels of sexual perversion, egregious fiscal irresponsibility, addiction, hopelessness and meaninglessness—that always follow any and every nation or people group who turn away from the God who created us.

They are promising a path to a better life but instead are leading those who follow into a culture of death, both now and in eternity. It doesn’t take long to see that the direction that we are going as a nation and as Christians will not bear the weight or burden that is being heaped upon us by those who claim to be the experts. According to many of the elite, truth is whatever they say it is and even common words in our language have been given new meanings making it difficult to interpret what is being said. They promise unity but create and engender disunity. They cause polarization between those who mindlessly follow and those who seek to expose their lies and demonic policies. Today, we as a nation are in serious trouble.

Os Guinness in his book Fool’s Talk makes this astute and timely observation,

If truth was once the stated goals of intellectuals, it is now easy to read between their scholarly lines and see the petty egos and the dirty ambitions behind their lofty aspirations for truth. Truth is finally undecidable, as the postmodern philosophers express it. At best, truth is simply the compliment you pay to sentences that you happen to agree with… Many of the celebrated makers of the modern world have been shown up for the devious handling of truth in some aspect of their thinking or their lives—including Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, Margaret Mead, and others. Yet these are the men and women of ideas who have risen up to overthrow the guardians of traditional Western Society, and who based on the brilliance of their minds are now trusted to diagnose our ills, prescribe our remedies, and direct the future of our children and for the world…. Many thinkers are truth twisters. For every thinker who desires to conform his thinking to reality, there are others whose desire is clearly to conform reality to their thinking.

Guinness quotes English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley as saying that truth was not his guiding influence at all. He said,

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. His philosophy of meaningless was far from disinterested. And the Reason? ‘We objected to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.’”

For every godless policy and every attempt to change the direction of our culture, there is an agenda that is hidden from those who are not really looking. If we allow this to continue the results will be catastrophic. There are two reasons that I wanted to lay this foundation at the beginning of my sermon this morning.

  1. We are seeing this very same way of thinking from many of those in leadership in our Federal and State governments, as well as major Christian denominations. At the same time, everyone listening or reading the claims made by others have the responsibility to decide what is true and what is a lie. How you determine between the two will always depend on where you believe truth is found. A good example is in the political arena, those who call themselves Progressives are by their own description, Socialist. For them to lie and deceive is at the core of how they gain power. History bears that out. That’s helpful to know when listening to their demands and claims. In the area of what is termed “progressive Christianity” it’s helpful to note that they, by their own claims, no longer believe that God’s word is God-breathed and therefore has no moral authority in our lives. We left a denomination that has gone that route and others have done the same thing. So what is the source of truth for them? Though they claim to be Christians they have redefined what that means, and Jesus Christ is no longer seen as the only hope and the only way to salvation. What is the source of truth for you? How will you decide what’s true and what’s a lie?
  2. This problem is not a new one, and the strategy used by our enemy is not new either. The issue as to what is true and what is a lie has always been at the foundation of every worldview and it certainly is today. The good news is that for the believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the solution to this very major problem is the same as it was from Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden, and will still be the same until the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God’s word is our only source to understand faith and practice. That will never change and those who have walked away from the authority of God’s word have chosen another god and sought to live in darkness because they hate the light that exposes their corruption.
  3. As we will see in our readings this morning, human beings are at the same time truth seekers and truth twisters. The Bible has much to say about the abuse of truth and concludes that it is always at the heart of unbelief.

This morning we read from Isaiah 28:14–18 where the prophet pointed to the example of Samaria’s fall as a lesson to be learned from those who were ruling over Jerusalem. Rather than repenting of their rejection of God they turned to Egypt to fight on their behalf so they could remain independent. By doing so they were turning their backs on the covenant they had with God that had begun with Abraham and continued throughout the wilderness experience and into the promised land. While wandering in the wilderness God reached out in such love and compassion for this wayward people. Exodus 6:7,

I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

Now in the Isaiah passage the prophet scolds the leaders in Jerusalem because once again they have turned away from God and appealed to Egypt to save them. Do you see what falling for lies can do to a nation or people group?

Listen to Isaiah 28:14–16 from “The Message”,

Now listen to God’s Message, you scoffers, you who rule this people in Jerusalem. You say, “We’ve taken out good life insurance.  We’ve hedged all our bets, covered all our bases. No disaster can touch us. We’ve thought of everything. We’re advised by the experts. We’re set.”

There are so many passages throughout the Bible that address the issue of unbelief, but I can’t think of any more to the point than Romans 1:18,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Paul makes the point that what can be known about God is clearly seen through all that He has made but that men in a determined act of their will decide to not see it. Again, they chose the darkness and sought to avoid the light at all cost.

I love God’s response to the leaders in Jerusalem concerning the steps they had taken to protect themselves. Listen to Isaiah 28:16–18 again from The Message,

But the Master, God, has something to say to this: “Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: a trusting life won’t topple. I’ll make justice the measuring stick and righteousness the plumb line for the building. A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies, and a flash flood will wash out the rubble. Then you’ll see that your precious life insurance policy wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Your careful precautions against death were a pack of illusions and lies.”

In his sermon titled Refuges of Lies and What Will Become Of Them, Charles Spurgeon lists six lies men try to take refuge in:

1. The lie that we are or can be good enough.
2. The lie that fate or predestination determines all, so there is nothing for us to do.
3. The lie that places confidence in new, false teachings.
4. The lie that religious profession is enough.
5. The lie that one can have a saved soul and an unchanged life.
6. The lie that trusts an old experience instead of an ongoing relationship.

It has been my experience that the longer I focus on the truth of God’s word the more apparent the lies of the enemy become. When the Holy Spirit is your comfort and guide, he will never guide you to a lie, and even when I head in that direction the Spirit lets me know there is danger there.

Jesus offers us life as it was meant to be lived but it is always based on the truth of His holy word.

Psalm 118, which we read this morning, was one of the Psalms sung at the celebration of Passover and could likely have been the final Psalm sung by Jesus and His disciples on His final night with them. It anticipated the suffering and glorification of the Messiah and part of the Psalm was shouted out in joy by the crowds in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In worship, the leader called on the congregation to praise God for His character and wonderful acts of mercy. It was a song celebrating the victory in battle. Jesus quoted verses 22–24 referring to Himself in Mark 12:10–11.

Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

It was also the fulfillment of the promise that God made through the prophet Isaiah in 28:16,

therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’”

As the disciples sang the Psalm at their final Passover with Jesus they had not yet picked up on the clues all around them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah and the very one celebrated in the Psalm.

Don’t you love how the Word of God fits together like an intricate puzzle? As the pieces come together the truth becomes more evident and irrefutable. Let’s look at another example from our epistle reading from 1 Peter 1:14–25.

Peter was writing to Christians who were undergoing persecution and he is exhorting them not to return to their former lives of unbelief and pagan practices, but instead to be Holy because the one who called them to repentance and faith was holy. Old Testament Israel was to be set apart from the other nations, in order to reveal what it meant to be a follower of the God of Israel, the Creator God who ruled over heaven and earth. The Christian motivation and standard are the same because our goal is to attain the moral perfection of God himself. This will never be fully accomplished on this side of heaven but is the motivation for those who had fallen in love with Jesus and want their lives to model His. Look at verses 24–25,

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Peter was pointing back to Isaiah 40:6–8, a prophecy that compares and contrasts the ordinary, short-lived human life with the promise of restoration after exile. The promises of God’s word are eternal, and even in the new creation will never pass away. In referring to “the good news that was preached to you” Peter identified the Christian gospel message with the prophetic word promising salvation after exile. This gospel announces the Good News that the promised Kingdom has come.

Finally, let's turn briefly to our gospel reading from John 17:18–26. Chapter 17 is referred to as the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. Next week we will continue to unpack this prayer but today I want to point out that this prayer lays the foundation of how God through Jesus reveals the truth of who He is and why that is the truth we must follow and proclaim.

In verses 1–5 Jesus is praying for His own glorification. In verses 6–19 he prayed for the disciples, setting them apart from the world as those who had been given to Him in a special way by the Father. He asked the Father to protect them and keep them distinct from the world. In verses 20–26 Jesus prayed for those who would later believe in Him, requesting that they be unified and one day be brought to be with Him. This applies to those who have come to saving faith since the original disciples. If that is you and me, Jesus had us in mind when He went to the cross just as much as the original disciples. He wasn’t simply praying that we would all get along and play well together but, “that they may be one, just as you Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.”

This unity is not just for spiritual unity between the believer and God but an outward unity that is evident to an unbelieving world. Indeed, Jesus says the purpose of this oneness is that the world may believe that you have sent me (v. 21). Such belief is the key response Jesus has received from his disciples, so this is a reference to those who are still in the world yet are becoming believers. To believe that the Father sent Jesus is to accept that the Father is as Jesus has revealed him to be and that Jesus is the one way to the Father. When Jesus repeats this purpose he changes the term from believe to know (v. 23), again echoing his earlier description of the disciples (v. 8). Because this knowing is parallel to believing, Jesus does not refer to some mere intellectual recognition of the fact that the Father sent the Son, but rather to the knowledge that is eternal life (v. 3).

Therefore, the disciples are sent on a mission just as Jesus was sent (v. 18), and the very purpose of their life together is to bear witness to the Father and the Son. This oneness flows from a common life that is characterized chiefly by love, and thus the world will see that the Father has loved the disciples as he has loved the Son (v. 23). In other words, the amazing transcendent love evident between the Father and the Son is not an exclusive glory that humans must be content only to admire from afar. The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love he has for believers, indeed for the whole world (3:16). The believers are to embody this love and thereby provide living proof of God's gracious character, which is his mercy, love, and truth. They will be an advertisement, inviting people to join in this union with God. The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel:

It doesn’t take long to realize that the truths taught in God’s word and particularly the gospel are incompatible with the demands of our culture that there are many truths and therefore many ways to God or gods. This is the foundation upon which Christianity is built. It is the only foundation that will bear the weight of our sin and provide the only way to salvation. Is that the truth upon which you are building?

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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