A Love That Will Stop At Nothing
Those of you who have done a little traveling would know that much of your time is taken up with explaining who you are to people. Or in many instances trying to prove that you are who your passport photo and tickets say you are.
I have always found for example that immigration authorities seem to move to great suspicion as I stand helplessly trying to look as identical as possible to my photo.
It reminds me of the 19th Century lawyer Daniel Webster who often had difficulty identifying people by name, so when he wanted to give the impression that he remembered someone he couldn’t he would ask, ‘Well how is the old complaint?’ Nine times out of ten it would work as he gathered enough information to identify the person.
The L.A. Times once ran a story on the problems a judge had when a Luther Wright and a Hermann Rongg contested ownership of a patent. The judge said, ‘Well one of you must be wrong.’
‘That’s right,’ declared Mr Rongg, ‘I’m Rongg, and I’m right.’
Then Mr Wright interrupted, ‘He’s wrong your honour, I’m right and Rongg is wrong.’
The judge’s final ruling was that Wright was wrong and that Rongg was right.
In the Gospels, and in particularly John’s Gospel, John spends a lot of time explaining who Jesus is to people, and so we have all the ‘I’ sayings in John. ‘I am the good shepherd’, ‘the resurrection’, ‘the life’, ‘the door’ and so on. He is happy to speak of who He is to those who deeply want to know.
Today too, it is those who are seeking to make more discoveries about Jesus who are growing in faith and understanding. Those who are asking questions, and are thinking of the relevance of Jesus in every area of life, but mostly in how a living Jesus can change our hearts, our values, our relationships and our purposes for living.
The seeking person discovers Jesus is as relevant to the wedding day as he is to the hospital bed, to the overtime as to the holiday, to the worried child as to the enthusiastic graduate, because Jesus comes to us and says who he really is.
‘I am your shepherd’, ‘your comforter’, and ‘your Lord’, and in John 15 He says to us ‘I am the vine.’
Isaiah tells us in chapter five that God’s vision for Israel was that it be His vineyard. He planted it to be a vineyard in the world of paganism, child abuse, slavery, oppression of women, and false religions. His vision was for His people to bear the fruits of faith and justice as a light to the nations.
In this vineyard, verse two tells us, God himself had dug it up and cleared it of stones. Some of you will well know what it is like to pick stones. It was a part of my premarital pilgrimage down at Mount Gambier. Stone picking is the task that makes the children of farmers resolve to become accountants.
So Isaiah in verse two tells us that God also planned the choicest vines, and then that he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded bad fruit.
Or as verse seven says, he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed and cries of distress.
How many cries of distress will we see in our land this year because of a report from a joint parliamentary committee? Despite the teaching of history, studies from the Australian Bureau of Criminology, the admissions of offenders, and the degradation of all persons involved, a Federal Parliament joint committee decided to allow the continued sale for profit of X-Rated and other destructive videos in Australia. Our leaders had some opportunity to redress the slide into moral anarchy these films herald, and yet on the basis of the stale old libertarian rhetoric of the sixties, they failed.
And Christians should write to them in protest. Those who supported such actions should be unseated. They are out of touch with what 75% of Australians of all political persuasions want in our land; freedom from the kind of person abuse which affects viewers, actors and children who are increasingly exposed to the undisciplined use of video recorders. I urge you to be involved in action which can improve the moral climate of our land. Write letters and pray for God to remove such blind guides from our national leadership.
For God has looked, as verse four says, for good grapes, and received only bad.
I wonder at times after each year’s moving ANZAC March if those who fought for freedom and democracy think it all worthwhile when they see the misuse of that freedom, expressed in regressive leadership and cultural decline.
For apart from the downgrading of our values, we expose ourselves to the historic judgment of God when as a nation we do not pursue righteousness.
Billy Graham once said, ‘God will owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology if he does not judge us similarly.’
This all helps us to get a clearer picture of what Jesus means when he says, ‘I am the true vine’, or the word can mean, ‘I am real, genuine vine.’ He is the only ultimate truth and reality amongst all the weeds and thorns of life, amidst obsessions like the new age movement where people seek to fill their spiritual needs not with the diamonds of the Gospel, but with limestone of illusion.
On the ABC the other day, an announcer was having a serious conversation with an earnest young woman about new age beliefs. She spoke of the power of crystals, and how sitting under them, carrying one and looking through them channeled vibrations into her.
One of our congregation was on a bus recently when she overheard two girls seriously discussing their astrological cycle for that day and what they should and should not do.
It was Fyodor Dostoyevsky who said, ‘the tragedy is not that he believes in nothing, but that he believes in anything.’
They get trapped by the undergrowth and thistles that are not part of the vineyard God has planned for them.
You are invited to bear fruit which feeds, not berries which poison. In verse four, Jesus says that no branch can bear bad fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. And the sap of that vine is love.
You probably know by now that there are four words form love in the New Testament. Here Jesus uses the highest form of love, agape. It is love not affected by the unworthiness of the recipient, it is God’s unique love.
In verse nine, Jesus says ‘remain in my love’. That is His gift to you.
Do you know today that you are loved? Despite what anyone has said to you this week, despite what you might have felt about yourself – you are loved.
The Cross is the proof of a love that will stop at nothing. Why? Because verse eleven tells us, ‘That your joy may be complete.’ God wants us to know joy in our hearts, our homes and workplaces.
Joy is more than happiness, which depends on our tax refunds and the weather, joy is that state of being which includes happiness, but goes beyond it. And verse eleven says that it is a part of our life as well.
By George Robert Iles