Thursday, July 21, 2011
Developing True Community (Part 5)
Jesus and the Believer
In part 4 of this series, we briefly looked at how Jesus addressed those who were not yet reconciled. At this point in our discussion, we will look at Jesus' interaction with those who have placed their trust in Him for eternal life. In this chapter, we will look at two types of people, those who have been reconciled with God, and those who have been reconciled with God but whose lives do not reflect that reconciliation.
Jesus and the Reconciled
One of the themes of the Gospel of John is the idea of being in Christ. In John 14, we see a discussion between the disciples and Jesus. Jesus is preparing the disciples for His departure, and He makes the statement that you already know the Way. This is a clear inference that they are reconciled, because they already know and believe in Jesus the only Way to the Father (John 14:6). On hearing this, Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father, and here is how Jesus answers Philip;
"Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father." John 14:9-12
So what is Going on here? Jesus is leaving, His work is complete, and He is returning to the Father. He tells the disciples that they are not going with him, that His work is complete, but that theirs is not. In fact, He even tells them what their work is going to be; an extension of His work of revealing the Father. Just as Jesus is IN the father, the Disciples are called to be IN Christ and to reflect the Father to the world around them.
Jesus and the Reconciled Not Living in Reconciliation
Out of all the characters in the New Testament, one of my favorites is Peter. Peter was quick to react, quick to speak, full of zeal, and pretty much always in the middle of whatever was going on. Peter had plenty of failures, but he also had plenty of faith. No one else left the boat to go walk on the water with Jesus. How much faith must you have to take on an armed Roman detachment and a group of temple guards with only a short sword. Here is a man who really trusted in the power of his God, at least sometimes. Everyone who has ever been in a Sunday school class can probably tell you the story of Peter's denial of Christ. Here is a guy who really understood what living in relationship with the living God through faith was about, and he is hiding his true identity from a servant girl.
So what is going on; well, life got hard, things didn't work out with the messiah, like Peter and the others had hoped. A few days later, after Jesus was resurrected, we find Peter and some of the disciples heading out to go fishing. When life gets hard, and things happen that do not look like the life we expect, we return to the places where we have found life (even temporary life) in the past.Peter returned to his fishing, his life before Jesus. In much the same way that those of us who have been delivered go back to where we found life before Jesus when our lives become difficult.
So how does Jesus deal with Peter after his failure to live out the truth of his identity. Jesus invites Peter to get back into doing the work of the kingdom (Feed My sheep), and he does it not once, but three times. As if to say "for each time you deny Me, or fail to live up to your identity, I will invite you back", what a wonderful thought, the invitation to get back to kingdom work is always open.
So is there a pattern here that we can look at in dealing with others who are believers, even those who may not be looking or acting like believers? I think that there is; in dealing with the believer, Jesus says "you know the way", let me give you the mission. He doesn't focus any longer on eternal destiny any longer than that simple statement. Then He explains His purpose in the world, and calls the disciples to carry on the work of revealing the Father. In Peter also we see a pattern, Jesus does not go back to the question of eternal destiny. Belief and love are not synonymous, Jesus is not saying do you believe in me, that has already been settled. Jesus is saying do you love Me, do you desire relationship with Me, do you want to abide IN Me? Just a few chapters before, he has already explained what being IN Christ looks like.
I believe the pattern for our lives is the same. Eternal destiny is important, the most important thing, but once a person has believed, we treat them as a brother, always challenging them to reflect more of the Father. And when they fail, as we all will, we invite them back to abiding IN Christ, and living out a life that reflects the Father. We keep doing this no matter how many times they fail, no matter how badly they fail. We keep reminding one another of our mission, and keep inviting those around us to come along.
I think that in our next installment we will begin to look at the implications of what we have discussed so far on living in community.
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