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Sermon January 29, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1287

January 29, 2017 John 6:35-40

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The Manner of Christ”

 

 

  • Worthy of the Call

 

We are in the midst of a series of sermons on living worthy of the call that we have in Jesus Christ. That call invites us to live in a manner that reflects the gospel of Christ and the promise is also given that God is with us to work out that manner of life in us. Thank God for that! Last Sunday we looked at scriptures that challenged us to transform our minds, our thoughts, to think like the Bible. Paul tells us that in Christ we have the mind of Christ. We are able to think in ways that are righteous and holy and faithful. It may sound like an unattainable goal, but with God’s help and our obedience to the word, we can change how we think and act through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today I want us to consider the manner of Christ. This is how he lived, his character, his activities that exemplified the way we are to live and conduct ourselves in prayer, in humility, in obedience, and in service. These are the four areas we will consider today. There are many more, no doubt, that I could have chosen, but these are some of the major ways Jesus lived and they help to form the godly life we seek to live worthy of the call.

 

 

  • The Manner of Christ in Prayer

 

Let’s begin with prayer. Mark 1:35 and following has been described as a typical day for Jesus.

Mark 1:35-39 35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them,  “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

 

It’s apparent from this text that Jesus was a morning person. I am not a morning person. I used to be much more of a late night person and would spend time late in the day praying and studying Scripture, but as I get older it feels like I don’t care much for morning or late night! Now I find other times throughout the day to practice the discipline of prayer or study. This passage is not a mandate for us to rise very early in the morning, but I do think it is a mandate that we pray daily. Jesus also prayed at other times, even late through the night. What we know for sure about Jesus is that he was a man of prayer. He prayed, he taught others to pray, and taught about prayer.

In this passage Jesus rises early before sunrise, goes away to a desolate place, and prays. He draws himself away from everyone. There are times when we need to draw away from everyone, but not just people, we need to draw away from society, from technology, from distractions, and from the worldliness that surrounds us. We call it retreat! That does not mean we have to retreat for a long period, but just an hour can open fabulous effects in our souls. Now, I would also recommend that we take a weekend from time to time and retreat for a longer time. Some people are known to take a week or longer. It’s like praying morning or evening, your retreat time and setting is particular to your desires and needs and goals. This was a daily practice for Jesus, we assume, and hopefully we all can find time daily to pray and spend time with God.

 

I want to jump to three short readings from Luke’s gospel in chapters 5,6, and 9.

 

Luke 5:15-16 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

 

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

 

9:18-20 18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

 

 

These three accounts stress the importance of prayer just by their repetition. When we look at the context of these times Jesus prayed it is often again that he was withdrawing from large crowds or simply going off alone to a mountain. I think that for Jesus is was as much about spending time with God the Father as it was about what Jesus might have said in prayer. Prayer was also a time of rest and refreshment. The crowds would have drawn lots of energy from Jesus and he just needed to get away and pray for a time of renewal and to regain energy. Luke 6 speaks of praying all night! Prayer for those kinds of nights might have included reciting Psalms or other parts of Scripture.

We often limit prayer to what we are saying in prayer, but I believe prayer is also about simply spending time with God. That time can be filled with Bible reading, worship, meditation, as well as spoken prayers. It should include listening, rejoicing, and singing. Just thinking about God can be a form of prayer. We are going to look in a moment at humility, obedience, and service, and these too could be considered reflections of prayer because in them we are demonstrating the characteristics of Jesus Christ and the will of God. When we humble ourselves, it is an offering of prayer. When we are obedient to the word, we are offering prayer. When we serve God and others, we are rooted in prayer.

Prayer was a major discipline in Jesus’ life. It was a manner of life. In the book Joshua by Joseph Girzone, the character Joshua is said to breathe God. The book is a modern parable of Jesus coming among us as a carpenter in modern times, and if I remember correctly the author says, “Joshua breathed God.” Jesus certainly “breathed” God. He knew the importance of prayer and scripture and worship and service and wisdom and doing God’s will. He breathed God in that everything in his life was aimed at reflecting God and God’s purpose. May we become so engrossed in prayer that we too might breathe God.

 

  • The Manner of Christ in Humility

 

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

This chapter begins with Paul's plea for unity. Unity is in Christ, through encouragement, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, affection and sympathy. Most translations render this beginning of chapter 2 with “So if then...” If these things have been experienced then we should have the same mind. If there is any encouragement, any comfort, and so forth. Some translators say that it could also be rendered “since”, since there is encouragement and comfort and participation...either way we know that there is indeed all these things in Christ. If we translate it as, “so then if”, I still think Paul is offering it as rhetorical like a rhetoric question. “If there is” means of course there is!
And since there is, there is nothing left but the deepest possibility for unity. These are things we share as believers. These are the things that bring us together in Jesus Christ, and so Paul tells us to have the mind of Christ, the mind, the thoughts, the attitude to look after others before ourselves. There is a great debate right now about what to do with refugees coming to America. One might argue that it is our Christian attitude and mindset to receive refugees because Christ not only received those on the margins of life but he also died for them. I know all the arguments about keeping the bad elements out of our country and we should certainly not lose sight of that issue of insuring safety, but we also cannot abandon the Judeo-Christian ethic of welcoming the sojourner and stranger. Have this mind among you. Have this goal among you in Christ. This is God's will and we are called to become obedient to his will.

We become humble by becoming obedient. Philippians 2:8 tells us that Jesus became humble by becoming obedient even when it led to his death. Humility is the result of obedience and obedience is the result of humility. They really go hand in hand with following Jesus day by day. Let's look more specifically at John 6 to see how Jesus was obedient.

 

  • The Manner of Christ in Obedience

 

John 6:35-40

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

 

Not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. That could be our life motto, “I will not do my will but the will of the One who saved me.” We owe our lives to God. We owe our existence to God. We owe our gratitude and love and everything, everything, to the One who loved us while we were still sinners. Jesus reveals God's will for him in verse, 39-40, that nothing would be lost that was given by God, that Jesus would rise again, and for us, that all who look on Jesus and believe would be saved and raised as well.

Obedience is not always our favorite concept. If is sometimes noted in a negative light. That might be because we don't want to be obedient. It requires submission, humility, and yielding our will to another. But that is not true in love. Obedience become a joy in love. We love to please one another when in love and the same is true of loving God, that it becomes a delight to be obedient to God and his word. When Jesus speaks of doing God's will in John 6, He appears to be a confident, willing, even joyful in His desire to follow, and indeed he was. But we know too that he struggled with this obedience if even for just a moment when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Still, Jesus humbled himself, obeyed God's will and gives us the same call to obey God.

We learn to to walk in the manner of Christ through prayer, humility, and obedience, and also through service.

 

  • The Manner of Christ in Service

 

Mark 10:42-45

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Jesus gives us an inverted view of greatness. Greatness is not achieved through dominance or authority or conquest. Greatness is achieved through service. The world does not see it this way. Imagine if all in public service took more seriously the word “service”. Some do, that's for sure, but it seems that many who are at the highest offices of service do not remember the attitude of service. We often criticize that those elected to serve the people end up seeking that we serve them. But Jesus turns that around and says that we become great in service.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. His service truly led to his exaltation. If we turned back to Philippians 2 we see the result of his service, 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

When Jesus washed the disciples feet in John 13, he told them to serve one another in the same way. Jesus was the prayer filled, humbly obedient servant who came to give us a new look on life. One that teaches us to look out for others first. One that spends time with God in prayer. One that practices a humble obedience and/or an obedient humility. In this we walk in the manner of Christ. We can take time to assess our lives in the areas of prayer, humility, obedience, and service. We can study the manner in which Jesus led his life among us in these areas and more. Then we will grow, with God's help, into the people he has called and makes worthy of that call. Amen.