John 20, from May 16, 2013

Good morning, Ladies. I hope that you have had a rich time discussing the themes of seeing and believing the risen Christ this morning. I hope you enjoyed the blessing of seeing how many of the themes that we’ve studied all year came together in beautiful culmination here in Chapter 20.

I trust that most of us here, by God’s grace, have believed Jesus’s words and put our trust in Him for our salvation. We have not necessarily come to this John study to be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. Yet, I hope I can speak for many of us that we have had our faith in Him deepened and confirmed this year.

We have a historical, tangible, real and risen Savior. And so, today, I’d like to make some applications to us, to women who are believers in the Lord Jesus from John’s account of the Resurrection. I’d like to do this in two points: First, Christ’s presence. Second, Our purpose.

To start, I’d like to share a resurrection story, of sorts.

It was the late 1990’s in suburban Louisville, Kentucky. My husband was in high school, and one evening he was visiting a friend about a mile from his home. When it was time for him to go, he said goodbye to his friend and left on foot. Though the way was dark, the neighborhood was known to be safe.

So he’s walking along and a car passes by him. Shortly afterward he hears a loud POP and immediately feels a sharp pain in his stomach that doubles him over in pain knocking the wind out of him. The car continues on it’s way. As he stands bent over he quickly realizes to his horror that the hand holding his stomach is wet. He reaches the hand up toward a dim streetlight and it is smeared with bright red blood. The unbelievable thought occurs to him – I’ve been shot! Now, these were the days before high school students had cell phones so he looks around for help. There’s not a car in sight but there’s a house that’s not too far away with lights on and he thinks he can make it there. As he’s walking toward the house, he actually starts to gain strength. He thinks, I must be in some kind of shock, because getting shot really doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. A few more steps and he’s feeling even better. He’s thinking okay this is really strange so he works up the courage to lift up his blood-stained shirt and look down. It reveals a large pink welt on his stomach, but no broken skin.

He had been hit by a red paintball.

I’ll bet that night and for some time to come, Dan was glad he was alive. I’m sure you know of other “near miss” stories or even people who have been pronounced dead and brought back to life. You know of or can imagine the joy of such an event. The disciples here in John haven’t lost their own lives (yet), but they’ve pretty much given three years of their lives – their livelihoods, their reputations – to follow this scorned itinerant preacher named Jesus. In Jesus’s death it seemed like their investment and whatever belief they had in Him as the Son of God had gone to the grave with Him. But now here He is, he’s back in the resurrection flesh, just as He had promised. Imagine their joy: the joy that Jesus said back in chapter 16 that no one could take away from them. In 20:20 John tells us the disciples were glad to see Him. Their belief, their following, their trust has been rewarded. The reward was the presence of the Christ they knew and loved.

How about you? Is Christ’s presence your reward? This morning, are you glad that He is alive and that you are alive through Him? You know, Dan doesn’t wake up every morning just singing because 15 years ago he was shot by a paintball instead of a bullet and lived to tell about it. There have since been thousands of nights that didn’t include a perceived near death experience, and all those status quo nights have dulled the luster of being alive.

Our spiritual lives can be like this at times. It’s easy to take Christ’s life and being alive in Him for granted. To lack the desire to bask in His presence. To, as Mary talked about last week, feel cold when reading about even His death and resurrection. This should not be. Our hearts should be constantly warm and thankful and joyful and peaceful in Him, which will result in a life of love and obedience to our risen Savior. I know that I can stand to grow in this way, and you probably feel like you could too. And praise God for Jesus’ death even for the sin of our cold hearts. But also praise God that the Bible gives us means by which the Lord uses to fuel the fire of love for Christ in our hearts – by studying and marveling at His Word just like we are this morning and in our own quiet times, through seeking Him in prayer and by
gathering together with His people in church and in our homes. None of these are like magic bullets that will grow our gladness in Him overnight, but the Lord uses them to grow His people like vines grow. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, but surely as they leaf and bear fruit.

Let me be clear, joy in the presence of the risen Christ doesn’t mean we will always live on an emotional high. Our  eelings for Christ will ebb and flow. We will have quiet times and bible studies and church services that are like a Thanksgiving feast. But we will also have a lot of healthy breakfasts1. And those are good and nourishing too. So if you’re feeling cold, don’t give up. I pray that meditating on our risen Savior this morning will spur you on to love and good deeds. I pray it will cause you not to become weary in seeking His presence through ordinary days. Through cold hearts and dirty diapers. Through sickness and loneliness. We have dark days. These disciples had dark days, too, as Christ’s body hung on the cross and went to the grave. But they had their faith rewarded. And if you persevere, you will too – partially rewarded now as we enjoy his presence as through a glass dimly, and fully when we see him face to face. When we will be together with Jesus – and with His Father and our Father, with His God and our God. In the end, there
will be no cold hearts but only worshiping Him with perfect love all our days.

This perfect love and the peace with the Father we have through Christ leads to a purpose (point 2). There in 20:21 we see it. Jesus tells the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you”. As we noted in our study, the Father has sent Jesus to bear witness in word and deed about God and what He has done in sending Christ. He is sending his disciples and us to do the same. One of the ways John fulfilled that purpose was by writing this book so that people would believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life in His name. Sharing this Gospel is what we should want to do as well. It is encouraging as we read in verse 22 that it’s the Holy Spirit who enables us to live and speak of Christ.

But to be honest, that charge from Jesus, can be a source of discouragement in my life. I have been a Christian for 15 years now. Praise God for that. But in those 15 years, I have only seen two people (Two people!) come to believe that Jesus is the Christ directly because of my witness. And now in my life I have seemingly less opportunities to fulfill this commission than ever before. I stay at home with my little kids where I spend most of the waking hours of the day giving them almost constant attention. Since I have been a Christian so long, most of my friends are Christians. Well I’d like to offer a little encouragement today as I’ve thought of ways that we as women, especially if we have kids at home, can bear fruit in this way as part of His vine.

First, if you have young children at home, do not neglect these nearest and dearest unbelievers. As God has sent Christ into the world, he has sent you to be Christ to them. They are your primary witnessing responsibility. No one else can be their mother and no one else will have the influence you have to be Christ to them as they see you daily, hourly. Sometimes opportunities lost in sharing Christ to unbelievers outside your home are opportunities gained for giving undivided Christ-like love and attention to your children.

Second, notice here in Chapter 20 that the commission is given, not individually, but corporately – to the group of disciples. Even though I have only seen two people believe in Christ through my witness, I have seen dozens upon dozens stand up in churches I’ve been a part of to give testimony before their baptisms of how they have come to believe in Christ. Additionally, each Sunday I sit among 3-400 people here at Hinson who have been given eyes to see that Jesus is the Christ. This should encourage our hearts each week. We are one with Christ and with other believers. Whether people come to Christ through our witness or another’s, it is Christ’s victory and ours.

So it makes sense that we should also support our brothers and sisters in following Christ’s example to bear witness by prayer and humble service. Christ prayed that others would believe in Him through the words of his disciples and he set an example of humbly serving our brothers and sisters through foot washing back in chapter 13. Even if we don’t find that we have much opportunity to speak the good news to others ourselves, we can be praying and helping our brothers and sisters to be faithful and fruitful in this way. Here are a few practical ways that have worked for me to accomplish this. If any of you have ideas, I would love to hear them. Some of these pertain to Hinson specifically, but I trust even if you don’t go to Hinson, there will be parallels at your church, too.

 Find a time to pray daily through the Hinson directory. I do a page a day while brushing my teeth. You see, if you brush your teeth, you too can fulfill this commission! If you do a page or two a day you can get through the whole thing in a month. I pray different things for different people but one of my most frequent prayers is that my fellow church members would be like Christ in the world and bear fruit in evangelism and discipleship. You can request a directory from the church office or print one from the e-newsletter link.

 The directory and the church e-newsletter also include our supported overseas workers. We can pray for them that they would have opportunities to share Christ.

 Get on an email prayer/update list for one of our supported workers and pray for them. Every Monday I take a couple extra minutes, very brief, to pray for supported workers that I have a relationship with. You can get their information on our website, at the cards in the back, or by calling the church office. Also, when they send out an email update, I try to always write back, even if it’s just a sentence saying, Hey, I’m praying for you and was encouraged to read about some specific from your update.

 If you are able, come on Sunday evenings to pray together for Hinson and our overseas missionaries. Wasn’t it so encouraging this past Sunday night when Geoff asked anyone to come forward if they had evangelistic relationships for which they wanted prayer and men kept stepping up one after the other – 4 or 5 men. God is giving brothers and sisters at Hinson opportunities to share Christ. Let’s support them in prayer!

 Now for the practical. There are so many ways to humbly and practically serve the body of Christ in order to fulfill the commission of Christ, I could never name them all. But one of the broadest ways is by giving financially. The primary way that Dan and I do this is by giving directly to the body of Christ here at Hinson Baptist church. Hinson and churches like it everywhere exist to fulfill the commission of Christ, of being sent out to the world to do the work and proclaim the message that Jesus did. God help us if we’re not about that! The Hinson elders use the church budget to support evangelism and discipleship locally and globally. Some of our missionaries and even local organizations receive the majority of their financial support from Hinson Church. Dan and I could never match that for even one missionary, but by partnering with other brothers and sisters at Hinson, we can play a bigger part in Christ’s work going on through us, the body of Christ.

I hope this list inspires and encourages you. It is barely a taste of all the things I’m sure many of you are doing. Maybe you’re beating yourself up because you’re not sharing the Gospel with people but you are already doing things like these to support others in this commission. Meditate on these things, take joy in your participation in Christ’s work, and consider how you might even be more faithful in this work.

As a word of warning – is it possible to hide behind prayers, our family commitments and our giving because we are afraid to share Christ with others? Certainly. And we should beware this tendency because this may be evidence that we love the glory that comes from man rather than the glory that comes from God. Or maybe we feel we just don’t know how to share the gospel. In two weeks we are going to have a woman named Taylor Turkington come and give us some tools for sharing the gospel with others that we might be more confident in Christ and in sharing the Gospel ourselves. Let’s take those tools and pray that God would give us opportunities.

What I don’t want is anyone to feel discouraged by this – that maybe you’re not as good a Christian as someone else because you’re not always sharing the Gospel or praying or any other laundry list of to-dos. Christ would not have us proclaim His message or do the works that he did based on guilt or on some desire to boost our own spiritual self-esteem. If you are feeling this way, the solution is not to do more, but to abide more. Find gladness in his presence, gladness in the life he gives us, and the life he offers so freely to all who believe. Let’s pray.

Father, give us patience as you grow our love for you, but do grow us. Strengthen our belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection and cause grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge that we may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God. Cause the love that you have given us to bear fruit for your kingdom and to your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

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