Sermon for the Sunday After Ascension, May, 2018. 1133 W. Orvilla
Hatfield, PA 19440
(215) 453-7452
Rev. Robert T. Tufton - Rector
Deacon, Gregory Gibson
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alt Fr. Tufton

In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus was speaking to the disciples for the last time before going to the cross. During the conversation, He promised them the coming of the Holy Spirit, told them what they were to do after His ascension, and warned them that they and the Gospel message would not be very popular. Jesus understood their desire for acceptance and love, BUT He wanted them to know that they would not find it by seeking the approval of men.

It is important for us to note that…as Christians we aren’t called to be popular – we are called to bear witness. When we try to do the popular thing, rest assured that it won’t reflect the way of God’s kingdom. If we want to be proper witnesses for Christ, what the world thinks about us cannot be our primary concern. Instead, Jesus said we need to be realistic about how others will respond to our faith in Christ.

In the eight verses that precede today’s text, Jesus told the disciples what to expect as a response to their professing their faith in Him. (John 15:18-25) “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…”

So, you see the first thing Jesus wants us to know is that, we will be hated - because the world hates Jesus. As Christians, we may not like to hear it, but hatred is a given. We can do everything right, and still be hated. We will receive what Jesus received because the world hates Jesus. Because the servant is NOT greater than his Lord, we will receive the same rejection and will receive the same persecution. We can spend a lot of time and effort trying to get the world to love us, but it will be a wasted effort. And the effort is not only wasted, it is also misguided: misguided because in order for people to love us, we’d have to act like people we are not. And as Christians, we can’t go there because when we decided to follow Jesus, our values, our priorities, our goals and our view of the world changed.

Therefore, we must expect the hatred, because we refuse to conform to the world. It is why you often hear the complaint that Christians are narrow-minded and intolerant. Our very lives, when we are true followers of Jesus, expose the sin of others. And it is NOT a matter of us pointing fingers. In fact, we don’t need to do that. We expose sin by living righteously. We expose sin by displaying heaven’s standards to our present world. We expose sin when we acknowledge that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 We expose sin when we profess: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Sadly though, people do not want to be rescued, except on their own terms. Brethren, the world hates the claims of Jesus, and when they see or hear His name, some even become angry. Why, because they don’t want a Savior. In their pride, THEY want to be the way, the truth, and the light. They believe that the way they live is good enough. They believe that their sin, if there is such a thing, is their own business. Because of their pride, they miss the simple truth of the Gospel: which is - that Jesus exposes the sin of the world in order to restore it from the captivity of sin.

NEXT, in verses 26-27, Jesus promised the disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit to help them bear witness to the TRUTH of the Gospel. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

Those verses tell us that The Holy Spirit will help us when it comes to speaking the truth. The Helper, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit comes from the Father. And it is His, the Holy Spirit’s, responsibility to testify (to speak) about the Son.

And He doesn’t do it just once, but rather, He continually does so. And He is our example: for we too are to bear witness of the Son. We don’t have to be perfect in doing it, but we are to do it. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to have all the right answers to the tough questions. But we are to share what we do know. And we are to keep speaking about what we know in a loving and gracious manner. In fact, scripture teaches us a lot of things about how we should speak. We are to bless those who persecute us, and never look for revenge.

We are to live by the principle of overcoming evil with good. We are to keep living the truth and keep telling others the truth of the Gospel. Not to annoy them, but to bless them because we know that following Jesus is the only way to live a life of joy and abundance. Therefore, we are to lovingly bring people to belief in Christ. The world is lost and Christ has commanded us to tell them the truth about the danger of living a life of sin. We are to teach them that all sin is hatred toward God, that the world is guilty in its rejection of God, and that there are eternal consequences for sin.

But we are also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to tell them about a miraculous cure. The cure is accepting the sacrifice that Jesus offered on the cross on our behalf. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world - rose from the dead - and ascended into heaven where He continues to make intercession for us. By His intercession, Jesus offers to wrap everyone in His righteousness and promises them the gift of eternal salvation and fellowship with God.

The third thing Jesus does is to remind the disciples that He has told them what to expect, so they won’t lose their faith. (1-4) “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended (fall away). They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” Here Jesus wanted to make sure that the disciples would not be overcome by rejection. And neither should we! Jesus tells us these things so that we aren’t surprised or disheartened when we are cast aside in the pubic arena.

We should not be shocked when the Supreme Court prohibits the posting of Ten Commandments (1980), observing a moment of silence (1985), and praying at school graduations (1992). We should not be stunned that science wants to live with its assumptions of a godless creation, and push Darwinism. We should not be taken aback when the entertainment industry ridicules Christianity. These are things we should expect. We will be recipients of hostility. Remember that every disciple faced persecution.

Tradition tells us that all the disciples, except for John, met with a horrifying death. They were physically tortured, whipped, killed by the sword, beheaded, and crucified. Persecution was the way of the world, and remains the way of the world.

Today Christians are suffering all around the world. ISIS is beheading Christians if they don’t deny their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. In many countries of the Middle East professing to be a Christian, is at the risk of your own life. And although it is to a lesser degree for the moment, persecutions are beginning to happen here as well. It could be coming to a city near us.

But note this…If we are persecuted for righteousness sake, we are in good company. We are with the company of martyrs who have stood and died for Christ. Let us understand this…We are not after the applause or approval of men.

The world cannot supply what we are looking for and is incapable of giving us acceptance and love. Instead, the path for the Christian is much different, and more difficult, because it is the path of the cross. So, we must keep living the truth. We must keep reaching out and speaking the truth about God’s love to the people that hate Him. And by the grace of God - we must not give up!

We are faithful, because our hope is in something eternal, way beyond the value of the acceptance of men. We seek to hear the eternal words, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Don’t be surprised…don’t be shocked when opposition comes your way, it is natural. Instead, be determined to be faithful regardless of what the response is to the truth.

Don’t shy away from being a witness…follow the direction of the Holy Spirit who will help you to speak the truth, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Don’t chase after the approval of men…don’t chase after popularity; instead pursue the eternal, for that is where the victory is won and true joy exists. AMEN

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