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Living the Gospel

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We have been going through the Gospel of John, and today we travel through a section that happens before the crucifixion during that Passion Week. And I want to share with you out of John, chapter 12 a message just entitled, Living the Gospel. Taking the gospel message and transforming it in our lives. Using this Easter, this spring, this time of awakening and new life as an opportunity for all of us to begin to live out the meaning of the gospel. Not just to know it, not just to study it and then put it on a shelf, but what Paul says when in Galatians 2:20 he said, "I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Jesus Christ now lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who gave Himself for me."

The apostle Paul puts in such succinct language what should be true for all of us. The crucifixion is something we follow. We follow Christ, and we are where He is. He said in our last lesson, "If it's suffering, we suffer along with Him." Paul said, "I want to know the fellowship of the suffering. I want to know what it is to so give my life to God that I can rejoice even in times of suffering. That that becomes a fellowship only believers can understand."

Jesus is talking to a crowd that is gathered. In that crowd are some Greeks that have come by way of Phillip and Andrew to see Jesus. They wanted to talk to Him personally. They perhaps were on that road at Palm Sunday. They perhaps had heard about His healing of Lazarus sometime earlier. They want to know about Him.

Jesus really begins a broader conversation and we pick up on that. He mentions that unless a grain, a single little grain of wheat dies and is buried, that it really doesn't do anybody any good. But when it is buried, it grows and it produces fruit. And so too He must die because without His death, all He has done is really just a small thing. But the resurrection, the crucifixion, the death, the burial…it makes all the difference in the world.

So Jesus…in today's text in John 12, verse 27…reflecting on His coming death, His coming burial says, "Now My soul is troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour." You know, all of us can follow in those footsteps as well. We can't just be fair-weather believers who are willing to call ourselves Christians as long as being a Christian is popular, as long as it brings success, as long as it brings fair weather.

But we have to determine in our own hearts even in the difficult times, even in the moments of suffering, even those times when claiming the name of Jesus means it is going to be dark times, means we will not have the friends. We will not have the popularity, maybe not even the financial success we might otherwise have. We question our hearts and we say, "Father, does it have to be that for me? Do I have to so follow Christ that I have to suffer embarrassment, I have to suffer humiliation?" And then we realize it's for this purpose that Christ has brought us to whatever the situation is in our life. It's for this purpose that He would be glorified that you're having the difficulty you're experiencing today.

It's not that God has forgotten about you. It's not that God is so busy with the world affairs that He doesn't have time to deal with your individual problem. It is that God has brought you to this point. If you were with us a couple of weeks ago we talked about, "The hour had come." Jesus says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." And sometimes those dark clouds are our hour for God to bring His glory through our life.

You know that word glory, doxa in the Greek…we get the word doxology from that and so forth…but it's probably a word we could think of like the word spotlight. For God to get glory in your situation, your difficulty, whatever you may be going through in life, it's as though a spotlight is shined. And you are the focus of attention, but it is God who will get glory through your surrender to Him in that condition, in that situation.

So that when that bad diagnosis comes for you or a loved one, when that promotion doesn't come your way, rather than a pity party you let that light shine and you reflect the light of God. And you let God be glorified to others in your lack of response, your lack of despair, the fact that you can still have joy and His song on your lips. Jesus said, "Do I want to try to get out of this? No. This is why I came." Jesus never thought for a moment that the predicament He was walking into was because God had somehow neglected, or forgotten, or ignored, or failed to take care of Him. He knew the perfect will and plan of God.

Well, after He makes this statement, in verse 28 He says, "'Father, glorify Your name." Let the spotlight that's going to fall on the Cross bring glory to You. And for the third time a voice from heaven came saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." But notice: "Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered; others said, 'An angel has spoken to Him.' Jesus answered and said, 'This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.'"

Isn't it interesting? The voice of God speaks audibly. Now a lot of people say, "Boy, if I could just hear the voice of God speak audibly, I'd never miss a service. I'd always obey. I'll begin to give twice what I give now and then add $5 to it…so what's that…$5 in total. If only I can hear God's audible voice." But listen to what happens. You know that you can hear the voice of God and not understand it? You can hear the voice of God and misconstrue it.

The disciples…now listen to me…heard Jesus say time and time again, "The Son of Man must go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the Pharisees, be crucified, die, be buried, and rise again on the third day." He said that very succinctly. He said that very clearly. It wasn't buried in theological jargon. It wasn't with complicated words only an educated mind would understand. It was in a very simple, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. He just spoke very plainly, and they never understood it because they had their minds set on another kind of Messiah.

They had their minds set on an earthly kingdom. They saw in Jesus a Messiah, and their preconceived notion…they way they had learned, the baggage they bring into this conversation…causes them not to understand any difference, to not to see the truth because they have a preconceived notion, and that gets to us.

We have preconceived notions, do we not, of how God ought to act? How God ought to respond: God ought to make me better. God ought to send money in the mailbox to cover my problem. God ought to send me a spouse. God ought to take care of my children's problem. And when God doesn't do that, when God speaks to us…now listen…in a different way, we don't understand it. We think it's thunder or maybe an angel speaking to somebody else.

God sometimes speaks very clearly to us through the circumstances, through His Word, and we sometimes…because of our preconceived notion of how God ought to be…don't see Him. Maybe the Lord is speaking very clearly in your difficulty today. And He says, "I am here. I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will bring you through this dark valley like a Good Shepherd brings His sheep. All you need to do is to follow Me…to follow Me. While you have this opportunity, let the spotlight shine on your situation so the Son of God, so the Father is glorified. And I will take care of you."

And you need to see that the answer is not what you're thinking it has to be. It is nonetheless a powerful answer; nonetheless a powerful work of God. But the people who stood by and heard it, they didn't understand. They had on their mind an earthly Messiah. And even the clear voice of God sounds garbled when you have your mind already made up.

Now not everybody was that way. Obviously John who writes this Gospel, he knows what the message is. He writes it down for us. He clearly understood. But so many times, two people can hear the same thing, and it will be two different messages. Two people can see the same circumstance, and see two totally different scenes before them because we don't listen to the voice of God.

So they…in verse 29, "Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered; others said, 'An angel has spoken to Him.'" But, "Jesus answered and said, 'This voice has not come because of Me, but for your sake.'" Then verse 31, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." And then notice verse 32: "And [in other words, the ruler is going to be cast out, Satan is judged] And I, if I be lifted up from the earth [if I am crucified, if I am nailed to that cross, and that cross lifted and set into place], will draw all peoples to Myself.' This He said, signifying by what death He would die."

He said, "Judgment has come. I have come not to suffer death, but to conquer death. I have come not because Satan has been more powerful than Me or Satan has struck Me, but I come because I have come to defeat him. I've come to conquer and I will conquer by being lifted up from the earth. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I'll draw people to Me. The very moment of darkness, if I let God shine His light on My tragedy, people will be drawn to Him. He will be glorified even by the humiliating death of the Cross."

And again let me say, "What is true of Christ can be modeled in your own life." Don't wait until the clouds part, and the sun is beautiful, and the bluebirds are singing, and then you're going to tell people about Jesus. Live the gospel now. You're not living a fake life if you try to live the gospel while you are suffering pain, while you're suffering financially, while you're suffering emotionally. It is really then that you can live the gospel.

That's not the time to hide as so many people do. When difficulties come into their life, they don't go to church. When they've had divorce, when they've had financial set back, when they've been laid off, they don't go to church. "Oh. I'm not good enough to go," for some reason or another they evaluate, "I need to wait until my life is more proper and then I'll return to church." No! Living the gospel…if it is anything…it is letting God's light shine on you during your difficulty. It is coming, and being ministered to, and let His love overflow into your life. And let your circumstance (which is common to man by the way) have a spotlight put on it.

Jesus says, "If I'm crucified, I'll draw all people to Myself." Isn't that what the Messiah was to do? I mean, the Messiah, the King, the Anointed One, the supreme model of what God desired of people? He was to draw these people to Himself. That is what Israel was to be. And Jesus says, "I will accomplish the Father's will through the Father's plan which is crucifixion." And then the people answered Him in verse 34: "We have heard from the Law that the Christ [the Messiah] remains forever. And how can you say the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"

"Our teachings have always been that the Messiah is going to set up an earthly kingdom and then once He comes, He'll be here forever. But you keep talking about the Son of Man. The only Son of Man we know about is from Ezekiel, and a couple of other places in the Psalms and so forth, and we've always thought the Son of Man was the Messiah. But You keep talking about the Son of Man being lifted up." And they know what He means, don't they? Being crucified. "So, what Son of Man are You talking about?"

I feel the same way when I talk to people who just have a marginal contact with God, because they see God as this great-grandfather, this super ATM who is going to answer, who is always going to give, who doesn't really expect anything out of our lives. But He is just always there to patch things up. And when we speak of a holy God, of a God who is just and righteous and terrible (in the sense that the wrath of God is nothing we want any part of), some people say, "What God are you talking about? What God is this who would send His only Son to die? He is here to help us, not to crucify. Who is this Son of Man?" Jesus.

And the key part I think of this whole text…He responds to them in such a broader way than they had asked. He said, "A little while longer the Light is with you." And they want that Light to be there forever, but Jesus says, "A little while longer the Light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. He who walks in darkness does not know where he is going."

That word walk…peripateo in the Greek…is a word that means to walk around. This is a compound word. But in its usage it also has the idea, and I think in this case, the usage is to behave in a certain manner. It's not literally just walking in other words, but what He is saying is, "While you have the Light, you need to behave according to the Light. You need to live your daily life in a continual fashion. You need to continuously live according to the Light because if you go out and you live according to the darkness, you're not going to know where you're going."

You know, when you choose the darkness, when you choose to set aside the Light of God's Word, and you choose that which is not God's Light…man's philosophy, the world's prerogatives, your own intuition, your own common sense, whatever it might be…when you choose to go against the way of God in this situation that you're in…in this particular difficulty you're in…you know what the Word of God says, but you are going to go ahead and worry right now. You know what the Word of God says, but you're going to go ahead and complain right now. You know what the Word of God says, but you're just going to go ahead and indulge in this sin just for a little while.

Jesus says, "You don't know where you're going. You're lost. You're lost, and you are like somebody trying to walk out their door in the pitch-blackness of night and get to another town. You can't get there. You want to go there. You think you are headed in the right direction, but you wind up not knowing where you are going."

And here is the gospel, the Light of Christ. Here is the Light of God's will and plan for your life, and you need to behave your live according to the Light of God. We need to walk according to God's will, and God's plan, and God's purpose for us. Because when we choose our own path, invariably we get lost along the way. Invariably, we come up short of what our life could have been.

Oh, it's tempting to go after the seemingly bright lights of peer pressure, the seemingly bright lights of career and the world's lures, the siren call of the world to you for success and happiness. Those things are powerful draws, my friend. And it seems as though you can't miss if you go this way, dress this way, act this way. But the reality is the end of that way is destruction. The end of that way is emptiness and it's shallow.

Jesus is telling these people, "You need to quit focusing on the baggage you've brought, and the political insurrection you desire, and the temporal pleasures you would like to have of not being under Roman taxation and Roman control. What you need to do is look to the truth and behave yourself according to My teachings so you can see where you want and need to go."

In 35 He says, "Walk while you have the Light." In 36, He said, "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, that you may become sons of Light." To become a son of Light is a metaphor meaning to reflect the light of Christ. And the way you reflect the light of Christ is by living the gospel. You live it in your daily life. You live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for you. You no longer look to yourself, but the life you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God.

Jesus said, "While you have the Light, while you have the opportunity, believe in it. Trust it. Follow it. Don't look to your religion. Don't look to your traditions. Don't look to all the baggage that you want to bring. Don't listen to the darkness of this world and the siren calls of this world. The Light is there. Follow it while it is there."

Now Jesus was speaking in very literal terms because in a few short days, He would be crucified. A month and a half later, after resurrection, He would ascend into heaven. But He sends the Holy Spirit to shine that light in our hearts. But you have to take advantage of it while it's there…while it's there.

God allows us to drift off the path, doesn't He? He allows us to slide down the hill away from His plan and purpose for us. But, there come times when God shines His light in our life: When a grandmother says some simple phrase that quickens your heart. When a Christian friend puts their arm around you, and offers to pray for you, and you just seem to fall apart when you just held that hypocrisy together for so long. When a song is played, and you may have even heard it a hundred times, but you're hearing God professed and proclaimed in a way that just touches you deep in your soul. The Light is shining.

You come on an Easter day, maybe with every other intention but drawing close to God, and yet the Light is shining. It's saying, "I want you to get back on the path. I want to show you how to be in the center of My will." My friend while the Light still shines, believe in it. This time, believe in it.

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