A recent sermon of mine…
Listen here: Sunday Sermon 23 May 2010
Or read it below:
Some people are fanatical about fitness and exercise. You can tell I am not one of them. But I do take comfort in the Apostles words to Timothy when he says: “physical exercise10 has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way”.
Exercise for some is simply about looks – it’s about having chiseled abbs and bulging muscles. However for the majority it’s about staying healthy. And we stay healthy so that we can live longer. In our minds Life and good health go together.
I am a big fan of the TV show “The Biggest Loser”. I don’t know if you have ever seen it, but they take people who are really over weight, move them into a special house and over six months train them until they become fit. All this is wrapped up as a game – at the end of the week, the two people who have lost the least amount of weight are put up for evicition and the rest of the house have to vote which one leaves.
The most recent season has had a guy on there who has lost, in six months, 204 Ibs – he has gone of over 508Lbs to 299LBs. He has gone from not being able to climb stairs to running a marathon in 6 hrs 28 mins. He and the other contestants have said over and over again, “I have my life back” – “I can live again” – “I am alive.”
But what is it that gives us life? What is it that makes us live? What do we mean when we say “I feel alive!” Ask a Doctor this question and you will get a lecture on the antomy and the fact that your heart is beating and your blood is flowing and there is oxygen in your body. Hence the emphasis on healthy living, diet and exercise.
But is this a good enough answer? Not from the Bible’s perspective.
This morning is Pentecost Sunday, and Pentecost gives us the answer to the question What is Life?
Life only comes through the Breathe of God – the Holy Spirit – the one who was at the beginning of creation; the one whom Jesus promised would come after his ascension.
Without the Holy Spirit we quite simply do not have life. We may be breathing oxygen – our lungs may be moving in and out, our heart may be beating but we do not have life because one day our lungs will give up, our heart will stop beating and we will die!! No diet, no amount of exercise will prevent this.
There are many, physically healthy people with sculptured abbs and bulging muscles who will not be in heaven.
Life – being alive – having life is more than just blood, bone and muscle and our bodies functioning well. In Genesis 2, God creates Adam from the dust of the ground. But Adam does not LIVE until God breathes his breath INTO Adam – The LORD God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
We see something similar in the Ezek 37. Ezekiel is shown a valley of dry dead bones. And God says to Ezekiel “Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 This is what the sovereign LORD says to these bones: Look, I am about to infuse breath5 into you and you will live. 6 I will put tendons6 on you and muscles over you and will cover you with skin; I will put breath7 in you and you will live. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
God’s breath – his Spirit – the Holy Spirit – gives life.
In our Gospel reading we have Jesus appearing before the disciples after his resurrection. He greets them and then what does he do? He BREATHES on them.
The disciples are seeing Jesus Christ for the first time in His new status as the Son of God who is victorious over sin and death. Paul tell us that Jesus is the first fruits from the dead (1 Cor 15:20). This is the Post-resurrection Jesus. And the disciples have now transitioned from knowing Christ re-resurrection to now living in the aftermath of Christ’s sacrifice and victory. And so when Jesus breaths on the disciples he is symbolically imparting to them the post-resurrection life that He has now made available for all who trust in Him. For many in that upper room, their bodies will be tortured, beaten and killed for the sake of the Gospel – their bodies will physically decay BUT they will have LIFE because in Christ death has been defeated death and paid the price for sin. Therefore the disciples will share in the resurrection life, eternal life, of which Christ is the first fruits.
This is also the beginning of the disciples new life – a new ministry. Jesus says, “Just as the Father has sent me so I am sending YOU.” What did the Father send Christ to do? Jesus defines his mission in John 18:37 – I came into the world to bear witness to the truth. They are to go forward in the resurrection life of Christ that they have received to continue the work of Christ in the world – that is, bearing witness to the truth and leading people to faith in Him.
This is what it means to live – to have life. It is to have the resurrected life of Christ in us. When we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of the Universe, we begin a new life – a life which is a LIVING life – a life which will last beyond this physically life into an eternal life with God in the new Creation.
But Jesus has not just given us LIFE – but he has also given us the POWER that comes with this life. Jesus inaugurates the mission of the disciples and then in Acts 2 they receive the POWER to go out and live this new life of being Christ’s witnesses to the whole world.
That this happens on Pentecost is not coincidental. Pentecost was the Jewish feast to celebrate the beginning of the harvest, which happened 50 days after Passover (Pentecost means fiftieth). How symbolic that Jesus, having breathed on them resurrection life now sends the disciples out into the world to begin the harvest of souls in the POWER of the Holy Spirit. The harvest has begun and the disciples are the first harvesters.
And we follow in their footsteps. As believers and as members of the Church, we too are sent out with the Life and Power of the Spirit to continue this work of declaring the Lordship of Jesus Christ and bearing witness to the truth of the teaching of scripture to a world separated from God.
We cannot harvest without the power of the Spirit, and we cannot have the power of the Spirit unless we have the resurrected life of Christ in us.
Only by having Christ do we have Life – apart from Christ there is no life.
John’s Gospel begins and ends with this these. John 1:4 says In Him (the Word, Christ) was life.
And Chapter 20:31 John says that the gospel was written so that people would believe and have life in his name.
Humanity was created for relationship with God. To NOT be in relationship with God is not to know what life is. To not be in relationship with God is to not know the true meaning of life. To live life without Christ is to be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. It is to live a pointless life.
How do we receive this life and power? By asking Christ to come into our life; by confessing that we have lived in our own way instead of his way and that we are sorry; that we will trust in him, in his promises, in his commands and that we will join in the harvest. And as we do that, as our epistle shows us, the Spirit will impart to us various diverse gifts to each person so that we can become effective harvesters for Christ
So, this morning, do we have LIFE? Do we have Christ? Are we harvesters going out to work the fields? Or are we dead people walking? Are we LIFELESS?
There is no middle ground. There is no fence. There is either LIFE or DEATH and without Christ, without the Spirit we are DEAD and we will remain DEAD.
This morning we can ask God to send his Holy Spirit upon us. We can ask for this LIFE. If you know that you do not have Christ then this morning you can receive LIFE and you can LIVE, not just now, but for.
If you now that you do have Christ, then let as ask that the Holy Spirit who dwells is us will manifest himself through us – that He might speak to us, to give us a fresh blessing, a new gift, a powerful sense of his presence with us, a deeper desire to worship him and a renewed urgency to do the work we have been given to do.
This is what Pentecost is about. Each year we can come to our God and say – THANK YOU FOR LIFE – the life and power of your Spirit that is poured upon all who trust you in you that you may be glorified in our life and in the world.
Let me end with the words of an old hymn:
O Breath of God, breathe on us now
And move within us while we pray
The spring of our new life art thou
The very light of our new day.