LIFE: WHICH WAY?
John 6:63 & 68.
ILLUS.: Recently while the children were away at camps and Janet and I were in Cornwall visiting friends, Dave and Tanya redecorated Vicki’s room. She need some more cupboard space and so about two weeks ago I bought some boards and put a cupboard together.
White finished boards that don’t need decorating – hinges that are easy to fit – an unlimited choice of ready-made handles.
As I was doing it I reflected on my first attempt at bedroom cupboards for my sister, Jayne, when I was about 14. They had to be made from scratch – the doors constructed, not ready-made. Piano hinges that seems to have a hundred screws.
All made by hand and no electric machines to work with.
What a difference today – flat pack-furniture that anyone with a screw-driver can put together.
DIY – there were no DIY store when I was growing up – no Homebase or B&Q or Do-It-All –
“Do-It-Yourself” – it occurred to me that we live in a world were many things are for SELF.
Even the Inland Revenue has climb on the Self band wagon with SELF ASSESSMENT Tax Returns.
1. LIFE THE D.I.Y. WAY.
In the past few decades the self industry has exploded – books, videos, course about self-actualization, self-motivation, self-assertion, self-esteem, self-image, the true-self, …. the list is endless.
ILLUS. Yesterday I looked at the list of books on the Internet at a Website called Amazon Books. Supposedly the largest selection of books in the world. I typed in the word SELF. Do you know how many Books have the word SELF in the title?? 27,125!!
Living for SELF, pandering to SELF, promoting SELF has become the philosophy of Western World.
When you go for a job interview these day you have to ‘sell yourself’.
Not every thing to do with SELF is bad or wrong – the Bible teaches a certain amount of care for self.
However what we have today is more than Biblical self-care under God – what we have moved to in many ways is self-worship apart from God.
The History of Self-Obsession.
In one sense the history of human self-centredness goes back to the Garden of Eden. BUT more recently in Western thought we can trace it back a few centuries.
During the Middle Ages life was lived with reference to the Transcendent God – God has spoken in Christ and in Scripture.
Since then there have been two major changes that have brought us to the present self-absorbed era.
Firstly, during the Enlightenment, it was no longer believed that God had spoken or that he wanted to speak and so “truth” was sought apart from God. Truth was looked for in the natural world and not in Divine revelation.
Reason it was claimed replaced faith. So began an Era of scientific searching, of reason, and God was sidelined. Faith in God was seen to be subject and without proof. Science and reason became everything.
Science and reason took on the force of Divine revelation – it promised to deal with the truth and find the meaning to life – it did not deliver. (The Romanticism of the mid 19th C was a reaction to Science and Reason)
Far from giving overall purpose and meaning to life it made life fragmentary – there was nothing to get people their bearings in life.
As David Wells puts it “… life’s experiences fall like confetti with no relationship to each other.”
The framework for life, moral behaviour, right and wrong, good and bad has been discarded in the name of science and reason.
During this time came industrialization. Traditional communities broke up – cities grew (vast communities of individuals who don’t know or relate to each other, with no commitment or accountability to each other).
Secondly, in the past few decades disillusionment with Science and reason has turn us away from looking to the external natural world for life’s meaning , to the internal world of the self.
Self and intuition has become the means of finding meaning to life’s conundrums.
But this understanding is more sensed that thought out. It is more about feeling than knowing.
ILLUS. Thus we see bumper-stickers that say: “If it feels good, do it”.
To quote David Wells again, “In the Enlightenment, the only unforgivable “sin”, apart from being religious was being irrational. Today, however, we traffic in the illogical and the irrational without any misgivings and have become suspicious of those who are concerned with logic and rationality. Indeed the irrational is often celebrated while the rational is denigrated.
Then, the life of the mind was everything; now, the mind is trusted far less than the emotions, claims to truth far less than intuitions. And in the absence of any external authority, the line between right and wrong gets lost in the mist of self-desire ….”
ILLUS. Do we not have a graphic illustration this week of the President of the Most powerful country in the world a victim to self-desire.
What is even more interesting is the diverse and conflicting opinions of the commentators.
Our technological, capitalistic society driven along by self interest has not left free to pursue their own happiness.
In fact quite the reverse!
People are less secure – there are more broken relationships, more suicides, more delinquent children, more criminals in prison on and on…. There are more people going to psychiatrist, psychotherapist and counsellors than ever before.
People are filled with disillusionment, disappointment, loneliness and a purposelessness in life … Epitomized by the Bumper sticker “Life’s a Bitch and then you die”
Self has become all important – more important than God – more important that community. The rights of the individual have risen above responsibility. We want benefits without accountability.
Coupled with this rampant individualism is Relativism. Having dispensed with God and reason we are left with every individual self deciding for him or her self or each group deciding for itself what is true, right and wrong (although it is politically incorrect to talk about right and wrong – but rather what is appropriate or inappropriate)
Where does all this leave us?
This individualism has led many to believe that each person is entitled to being left alone, to live in a way that is free from the demands and expectations of others – to being able to fashion one’s own life in a way that one wants to – to being able to develop one’s own values and beliefs in one’s own way – to resist all authority.
This kind of freedom, many think, is necessary to being a true individual.
Why then does it not satisfy? Why are people like us in the WEST who have more material goods than previous generations, more freedom to travel, more information about the world, better education, better health care, — Why then are we not the happiest and most fulfilled generation in history.
I believe we have the answer in Jesus’ discussion with his disciples in John 6.
John 6:63 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (NIV)
– the flesh counts for nothing- “Human effort accomplishes nothing” [nlt]
This does not mean that Humanity and human effort is worthless – after all Jesus took flesh – became a man. And he died to rescue Humans because he considered us of great value. BUT When it come to giving life and giving meaning to life Human effort alone has always and will always fail. “Because without God we can do nothing!”
2. LIFE THE D.I.C. WAY.
We live in an anti-authoritarian age. We have pushed the notion of individual rights, self, relativism – the notion of freedom so hard that we resist being accountable to anyone. We see this in almost every area of life.
“Noone is going to tell me what to do!”
YET at the heart of the Christian faith is a call to submission to Jesus Christ as Lord!!
We read John 6:25-59. Jesus the bread of Life. Basically Jesus is saying to the crowd “If you want life, real life, spiritual life, meaning in life then you must come to me accepting that I am the only one who can provide that.!”
The crowd didn’t want that! They wanted the benefits without the accountability!
They had seen Jesus in John 5 – 6 heal a lame man, feed the 5000 and walk on water and they wanted the benefits that he could bring but not the accountability.
The people wanted to come to God on their own terms and Jesus makes it quite plain that that is not possible. We come to God on his terms.
Accepting Life the D.I.C. way – (Done-in-Christ way)
ILLUS. In our Post-Modern age of individualism and self-sufficiency we tell ourselves that we are mature / independent / able to cope with every situation. We humans have the solution.
YET how many like the Lame Man have felt paralyzed and unable to move when faced with a loved one who is seriously ill / disabled in body or mind?
When we see famine or flood or earthquake we feel so pitiful and inadequate to help – no doubt like the disciples felt when faced with 5000 hungry men and their wives and children?
When tossed about on the waves of recession or political or social change do we not feel powerless to do anything about it.
Our proud boast of being independent seems rather pathetic when allied with our impotence.
Our resources are too inadequate – our will is too weak – our knowledge is too limited – and our power is too impotent!
We will find Christ teaching hard as the disciples did – John 6:60
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Jesus never promised that following him would be easy – that being a Christian would be a doddle.
BUT faced with the choice of Life the D.I.Y. way or the D.I.C. way the only sensible response can be the one that Simon Peter came to John 6:68
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (NIV)
When faced with the inadequacy and impotence of humanity to solves its own problems and give meaning to life submission to Christ becomes much more attractive. He is the healer, the creator, the sustainer, the teacher, the Lord.
He is the one who is able to change situations and people.
To submit to him is to become involved in his great work of caring, meeting need, of teaching, of serving – this is salvation in all its fullness.
We receive life the D.I.C. (Done-In-Christ) way BUT then we live life the D.I.C. way (Doing-It-Christ’s way)
We must accept Christ as LORD in order to become Christians BUT then we must live in a way that shows that Jesus Christ is our LORD.
To say “Jesus is LORD” presupposes a willing to obey his teaching?
Are we as Christians obeying?
Think carefully of the things the NT teaches.
– that I am committed to my marriage if I am married.
– that I am concerned and committed to my family
– that I am an honest and conscientious employee
– that I am a fair and reasonable employer
– that I am a considerate and helpful neighbour …… on and on
love one another
forgive one another
serve one another
pray for one another
accept one another
encourage one another
greet one another
offer hospitality to one another
bear one another‘s burdens
Peter, in his response, swears his allegiance to Jesus as LORD. John 6:68
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (NIV)
He will reaffirm his commitment to Jesus as Lord again and again throughout his life – his actions would not always match his allegiance BUT he had nailed his colours to the mast.
Like Peter we too will fail – miserably sometimes – but where is our heart? Is our hearts desire to serve-self // to rebel against the Lord’s authority?
OR Is our heart set towards Christ as Lord with an unswerving commitment to LIFE THE D.I.C WAY!!