Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Turning Back

John 6:60-69

Would you agree with the following declarations as the standard for a Christian Spirit filled life?

• A believing Christian should not be killing people in their neighborhoods just because they are angry?

• A person who truly believes in Jesus Christ must be forgiven and forgiving toward others.

Now this is getting hard, I don’t know if I want to go on…

• A true believer in Jesus Christ as Lord should never be drunk.

• A true believer in Jesus Christ should contemplate fornication or adultery but be faithful to the one they declare their love.

While many can agree with the basics of the faith there is usually a line where we find it difficult to continue to make a stand for Christ. We call this the point of no return when we decide that we are fully committed no matter the cost. Many would be believers in Jesus Christ only follow the Lord until they come to this door of no return. They know that if they go beyond that point they will not be able to back out and change their minds.

The odd part of this ‘door of no return’ is that the standard has been dropping over the years. I remember as a youth the door of no return was the day you gave your heart to Christ for salvation from your sins. Many of my friends were reluctant to be saved because they just knew God would ask them to go to the mission field or do something else they didn’t want to do right then. To even repent and claim to be a Christian was the point of no return.

Today we think that there are degrees of commitment and we don’t need to be hard core Christians. We can agree with the basics but keep our appetite for booze and sex out of the relationship we have with Christ. We will attend church occasionally and even talk about God to our friends but we are not eager to press people with the urgency of salvation in the light of the ultimate and terrible punishment to come in the fires of hell. We may not be even sure if we believe in ‘hell’, evil or sin…but grateful to be saved from them just in case.

Into every would-be believers life comes a day, a day like to day, when the Lord confronts us with a hard truth that we must accept on faith, or reject in self preservation. This point of no return is critical in our lives if we are going to be counted among the true followers of Christ and not among the pretenders that hang around in great numbers until the going gets tuff.

Our Bible passage today is taken from the gospel of John when Jesus confronts him and the other followers with a door of no return.

60. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61. Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62. What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
John 6:60-69

The door of commitment is marked with God offending us with His unreasonable demands. When I raise the issue about drinking and being drunk there are many so called believers who think I am being unreasonable and judgmental. When I raise the issue about sexual restraint before and after marriage once again I am accused of being unreasonable, and judgmental. In other words I ‘offend’ people by suggesting or insisting that God’s standards are much higher than our own and we would be wise to make sacrifices in these areas to please the Lord.

Christ will often ask of us a sacrifice or an act of obedience that we find unreasonable and those who are no ready to accept Jesus as Lord will be offended. One of the most common complaints I hear is how people are offended by the Bible, by Christ and His teachings. They are so offended many have worked hard to change the words in the Bible, or our teaching about the Bible, or even our understanding of Christ. We are more offended today by all of this that we have banned it from the schools and the public arena. We have placed all our modern problems at the feet of the Bible, Church and Christ claiming that these offensive institutions have caused all the wars and discrimination in the world.

What we failed to grasp is that we have turned back from the test that God has placed before us to move forward by faith rather than backwards through fear. The Response that Jesus Christ gives to our outrage is simply a question: “Does this offend you?”

What offends you will tell you where your commitment lies. Where you are offended is also your opportunity to change. Today we are so often offended by anyone telling us what we can and cannot do it matters little if it’s about drugs, alcohol, or sexual behavior. We are offended by any constraint on us like what day to worship, how to dress, or whether we even read our Bibles. We are offended by the suggestion that Christ would insist on governing anything in our lives and this is why we fail to be true followers of Christ. He calls us to follow, and obey and we reply, “Who are you to ask for such a thing?”

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

The offense of Christ is the price we must pay to gain the life the Holy Spirit want to breathe into us. If we follow our offended spirit and refuse to obey then we are in the realm of the flesh and it will die on its own.

If we are going to know a better life then we need to change by surrendering the very things we though so important to gain a real Spirit filled life under the control of the Spirit.

64. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
John 6:60-69

The enemy is whispering in the ear of every person who hears this message that they don’t need to listen to such old fashioned preaching. I know he is telling you that because the same voice whispers in my ear every day. Hell it self is offended by this claim of Christ, that we are to pay the price He asks because He asks.

Jesus already knows who is willing to pay the price and who is not but we don’t know who we are because we have avoided the decision. We make compromises and muddy the waters with degrees of faith so we never come to the door of no return.

To accept the offense of Christ and to bow to His unreasonable demands is to enter that door when you will not turn back. I would push you through that door but I can’t. Each person must go willingly.

4. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5. you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6. For this is contained in Scripture:
“ Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
7. This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“ The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
8. and,
“ A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
1 Peter 2:4-8

At some point you may have accepted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and His forgiveness of your sin. You may have received miracles from His hands and taught you great spiritual truths. You may have enjoyed worship and felt His presence around you but until we are offended by His claim on our life, we have not passed the point of no return in our relationship with Him.

There are many today, like the large crowd that followed Christ around, who thought they were true believers but only realized they were not when they stumbled over His offensive words of Lordship over their lives.

To believe in Christ means to build on Him as the cornerstone, fully relying on Him as the foundation of your life. Many of us who have been following Jesus like to think that is what we are doing but until we come to the audacious claim of Christ which offends us we will never be sure that we really believe. Could you and I give our lives, our fortunes, and our families for the Kingdom of God? Is that asking too much?

The truth is that our faith only goes so far and then we begin to doubt. That place of doubt is where Christ will offend us or gain our trust and obedience. We either stumble at that moment or say with others…

… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

How far can Christ go in our life before we begin to think He is going too far? When do we become offended and turn back to our own self controlled lives and away from a Spirit led life?

66. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:60-69

The moment that Christ goes beyond our expectations and offends us is the turning point in our faith. We grow or we fall back but to offend our self rule with His rule is the only way any of us make any progress.

Shall we evaluate our faith? Would that offend you? How shall we measure the depth of our faith in Christ? Many who walked away from Christ that day were real disciples of Christ. They were willing to accept his leadership and follow Him as long as they received what they were promised. Yet they stumbled over the offense of the cross. What is the offense of the cross and why is it a measurement of our faith?

Our faith is not measured by what we choose to do for Christ or by what we choose to give to Christ. That is a very small thing and leaves us in control of our lives. Rather our faith is measured by our willingness to give Christ what He asks of us, when He asks us. Obedience at any cost is the measurement of the cross and it’s offense. Christ was measured by the cross and found not to be wanting in His love of Christ because it is this kind of love that is not easily offended by the requests of God.

I have been asked by God to surrender many things that I did not want loose. Each time I was tempted to be offended at the unreasonable demands of Christ. Satan is always there to whisper the self justifying offensive words into our ears. But each time I decided that my only hope was in obedience my faith grew and became stronger.

27. Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Matthew 19:27-30

We can follow Christ to gain more and see our sacrifices as an investment in a distant future but that would be a weak faith. There are many now who claim to be apart of a ‘faith movement’ that names and claims their hearts desires. They give to the church and others in order to receive. But what greater faith would it be to give to God without expecting anything in return except the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

To love God is to set aside an offended Spirit and to surrender all no matter the cost. We do this for we want to live by the Spirit and not die by the flesh. That turning point of no return is the offensive requests of Christ. Will we obey and follow or turn back.

Has Christ offended you recently? Did you swallow your pride and accept His correction and surrender what He asked of you? If you did then passed through the door towards a full commitment and only the love of God can do that in your life.

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