Jesus is Lord of life

Readings: John 14:15-21; Acts 1:6-14; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

We took our readings this morning in chronological order – that is, Jesus prayed that his disciples would see his glory, that they might believe, that they would be protected, and that they might be truly one.

In Acts, the story of the earliest church, we have the story of Jesus returning to his Father, for it is resurrection Sunday, and next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday.  It is not for you to know things that only God knows, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses to the world.

Then Peter writes to a church suffering for their witness, for not bowing down and worshipping Caesar.  The devil prowls around seeking who he might devour. Peter says “Resist him and stand firm … after you have resisted a little while God will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Most surely this means that your suffering in this world is a short time compared to the eternal glory to which Jesus has called you.  Don’t let the suffering of this short time, whatever it might be, pull you away from the eternal future that has been opened to you by Jesus.

It was only on Friday night I heard it said that at the moment there seems to be a never-ending procession of people discovering they have, or may have, serious illness – either themselves or with those they love.

And it is true, and it can be overwhelming, and for some people all consuming.

My friends, God has not abandoned us – far from it.  The Spirit of God is still with us, contending for us.  But the first and greatest priority is not your physical wellbeing, but your eternal future with God.  We see what is in front of us; God sees a future that is mostly still hidden from our sight and understanding.

Yet there is the devil, not a popular conversation topic, roaming around seeking to destroy what your relationship with God.

Now what is the best way to do this?  To convince you that God doesn’t care, or that God isn’t real, or that God is untrue to his Word.

In our day I fear the best strategy for this is to attack our bodies, for we have been educated to think of ourselves as medically advanced and entitled to a long and full life.  It is only the unlucky few, or (if you’re a fan of Karma) those deserving of it, who will have their live cut short.

In our time and place it is quite politically incorrect to talk of the devil, and his unholy desire to destroy anything godly on this earth.  But the reality of that unholy work continues, and there is plenty of rational testimony to that available should you care to look.

It would be far better to look towards the goodness of God, to be sure, and that is what I’ve been told before when I’ve dared to raise this topic.  But it requires a grasp of reality to understand when things go wrong.

There is a short scene in the first chapter of Book 6 in the Harry Potter series, where the new Minister for Magic is talking to the British Prime Minister about the new threat because Voldemort has returned.  The British Prime Minister exclaims “But for heaven’s sake – you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out – well – anything!”  The minister for magic replies “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”

It is not an easy conversation, because we very easily get caught by the thought that God should be able to do anything, because God is – well – God.  Therefore sorting out the devil should be easy, or God isn’t really God.

When I read the Bible I get the strong impression that things are not so easy.  Life is a complex thing, spiritual life no less so than physical life. And the enemy can do stuff too.

You are perhaps familiar with the expression – pick your battles.  If you pick the right battles to fight and win them, you win the war.  There is no point in winning the battle but losing the war.

On the cross Jesus declared “It is finished!”  We are told that on the cross Jesus conquered sin and death.  This was the battle that God chose.  It was not the battle of flesh, in fact God chose to lose that battle so he might win the war.  The real war was against sin and spiritual death.

We desperately need to remember this, and then take it deep within our hearts and minds.

“We do not battle against flesh and blood,” wrote St Paul, but against spiritual principalities and powers.  Above all they seek to separate you from God, but they can only do so with your cooperation.

Who would choose to lose the greatest gain they could ever have?  Who would choose spiritual death over spiritual life?  Usually one who has been convinced it isn’t true.

Jesus is the Lord of Life – can you trust him with that?  You and I will die, but beyond that lies Jesus.  All our loved ones will die, before or after us, but beyond that lies Jesus.  Can you trust him with that?

The devil roams around seeking, above all else, to steal the lives of those who are followers of Jesus.  He wants to destroy what God has built.  Don’t let it be you.  But to resist the devil through these trials, you will truly need to trust him with the biggest deal of all – physical death.  Without that trust we are easy prey.

I know this isn’t a pleasant topic, but nor is the communion to which we will shortly turn.  It was death to Jesus, but he trusted God with his death.  We need nothing less for ourselves.