A few years ago, while I was still farming, a salesman who sold frames for building machine shops and warehouses drove into our farmyard. This salesman was very good at what he did and I signed a sales agreement that very day to buy, at a cost of several thousand dollars, a set of frames for a machine shed. Within a day or so, I began to have second thoughts about buying these frames, but by then it was too late. I could not back out of the sales agreement that I had signed. I experienced something called Buyer’s Remorse.
Buyer’s remorse is a common experience. It happens when we buy a used car from someone and the car turns out to be a lemon. It happens when we buy an expensive textbook for a class that we end up dropping after the book return date has passed. It happens when we buy an extravagant gift for a friend for Christmas and then they break off the relationship two weeks after Christmas and keep the gift.
But these ordinary examples of buyer’s remorse are insignificant when compared to a much greater kind of buyer’s remorse that could happen in a human life. You see, each one of us has only one life to live and yet somehow, someway, we need to figure out what worldview we are going to “buy” and live with the one precious life that each one of us has been given. A worldview is how we look at the world, and we use our view of the world to guide us as we make decisions. A worldview is like a pair of glasses in that it helps us to see the world, and then the way that we see the world shapes how we live in the world.
There are many different worldviews available for you and me to buy, and most of them will work in the sense that they will help a person to understand the world and navigate through life. But that does not mean that all worldviews are equal. For example, it is impossible for two opposite worldviews to both be true. It one person believes that God exists and another that he does not, they cannot both be right. Or if one person believes that there is life after death and another does not, one must be wrong and the other right. And at some point, we are all going to find out which worldviews are true. Everyone who “bought” the right worldview will be vindicated, but everyone who bought” a different worldview is going to experience an overwhelming sense of buyer’s “remorse. And I don’t want you to experience that kind of buyer’s remorse. The dream that I have is that every person in the Lower Mainland would thrive and have the rich, full, abundant life that comes through having a faith relationship with Jesus.
So whether you believe in God or not, what I hope to show you today is that you can trust what Jesus says. You can listen to what Jesus says and believe it and you will not experience buyer’s remorse when all worldviews are tested at the end of time. Not only will you not have buyer’s remorse, but with the end of time you will begin to experience a quality of life that will be far beyond anything that you could every imagine and that life will never end.
So let’s continue our look at one of the biographies of Jesus, this one written by a follower named John. Today the passage we are going to look at is John, chapter 5, verses 16 to 30. In this passage, we see that Jesus is in conflict with the Jewish leaders because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and told him to pick up his mat and walk. This broke a man-made rule that was put in place to protect people from breaking the Commandment about resting on the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day.
In this passage, Jesus is making his case to the Jewish leaders and giving reasons why people who do not trust in Jesus should discard their current worldview and adopt a new worldview where God is the creator of all, Jesus is the Saviour of all, and time will end with the renewal of all.
Now to have any kind of productive conversation about worldviews, people need to start with common ground. Jesus and the Jewish leaders had a lot of common ground because they shared the same faith. So Jesus made his case based on what both parties already agreed was true: that God was the ultimate authority, that God was the source of life, and that, one day, God was going to make all things right.
But if you do not believe in God, Jesus’ arguments it will not make any sense. So I want to go further back to find some common ground and then work forward from there so that what Jesus says will make more sense to you.
And where I would like to begin, and I hope that this is common ground, is with the understanding that there are some things that exist, but we did not witness how they came into being. The best that we can do is look at things as they are now and try to determine the most logical explanation for how they came to be. We cannot prove definitively how things came into being, just like we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. But we can make a case for the most logical explanation for what we see around us.
And as we look at the world, and reflect on what we see, we notice that there is more to this world than just matter. There is an over-arching sense of right and wrong, there is order and beauty, and there is pleasure and joy. If everything came about by random chance over time, there is no reason for morality, order, beauty, pleasure and joy to be in this world. We would not expect them to be here. But if all that exists came into being because of the actions of an intelligent, creative, powerful, personal moral being who felt and appreciated pleasure and joy, then we would expect those things to exist in this world because such being would be likely to put those things in a world they created. And since those things do exist in this world, then the most logical explanation is that such a being is the cause of all that exists. And an intelligent, creative, powerful, personal moral being who felt and appreciated pleasure and joy sounds a lot like the God of the Bible.
And if such a being exists, then that creative, compassionate being would be motivated to intervene when the world that they created got into trouble. They would want to repair what was wrong and make the world right once again.
And when we look around at our world, we can see that we are in trouble. Example # 1: A week ago Saturday, a 15 year old boy was traveling through Vancouver with his parents when he was hit by a stray bullet. A few days later he died and so did the intended target of the shooting. Example # 2: The final figures are not yet in, but there may have been as many as 4,000 people who died in Canada in 2017 because of the opioid crisis. We need a special someone to come and to save the world, overturn the things that are wrong in this world and restore it to a state of goodness and wholeness. And God promised to send a special someone called the Messiah to do that very thing.
This is the common ground that Jesus and the Jewish leaders shared. And Jesus is trying to build on that common ground to show that he is the promised Messiah and that people can trust what he says and does. And Jesus builds his case in three very important ways that not only encourage us to trust that Jesus will save us, but also encourage us to trust that our heavenly Father can work in us in powerful ways in a similar way to how he worked through Jesus. And those three ways are:
- Authority through Identity,
- Effectiveness through Submission, and
- Life through Death.
Authority through identity – In verse 17, we read that Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (v. 17). Jesus makes it clear that he is the Son of God, and because he is the Son of God he has the authority to work on the Sabbath, just as his Father works on the Sabbath to support and sustain the world. Jesus has authority through his identity.
And something similar happens for us. We also have authority through identity. Jesus has given you a new identity when he brought you into the family of God through the waters of Holy Baptism. Now you are now a beloved child of God. And through your new identity you have authority from God to do several very important tasks. You have authority to combat evil in the name of Jesus. You have authority to denounce temptation in all its forms. You have authority to go to your heavenly Father at any time and ask for anything in the name of Jesus. You have authority to assure other people that they are forgiven. You have authority to tell people the Good News of eternal life that is available for free to everyone through Jesus. You have authority to baptize someone in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to give them a new identity too.
Effectiveness through submission – In verse 19, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth: the Son can do nothing on his own; he does only what he sees his Father doing. What the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19). Jesus is telling the religious leaders of his day that what he says and does is effective because he is not acting on his own accord. He has submitted his will to that of his Father and he only says and does what he sees his Father saying and doing. He People can trust Jesus and what he says because he is faithfully representing his Father to the world. In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul calls Jesus by his title and says “Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). So you can trust Jesus when he says, “I am telling you the truth: those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged, but have already passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
You can believe Jesus’ words not only because Jesus has submitted himself to his Father is faithfully conveying his message. You can believe that you have eternal life through Jesus because he also submitted himself in carrying out his Father’s mission. In Philippians, chapter 2, Paul writes these words about Jesus:
He always had the nature of God,
but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God.
Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had,
and took the nature of a servant.
He became like a human being
and appeared in human likeness.
He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
his death on the cross.
For this reason God raised him to the highest place above
and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. (Philippians 2:6-9)
You can trust in the effectiveness of what Jesus says because he humbled himself and carried out the mission that his Father gave to him of going to the cross the pay the cost of repairing all the brokenness of everyone in the whole world.
And what is true for Jesus is true for you. You and I will be most effective in terms of making an eternal difference in this world if we submit ourselves to Jesus. As we rest in Jesus’ love and let him live his life through us, God will make great things happen.
Life through death – Starting with verse 28, Jesus says, “Do not be surprised at this; the time is coming when all the dead will hear his voice and come out of their graves: those who have done good will rise and live, and those who have done evil will rise and be condemned.” (John 5:28-29a). You can trust in the words of Jesus because he gives us life through death.
First, Jesus gave us life through his death. Jesus did not deserve to die but he willingly died as our representative to defeat death for all people. To prove that death was defeated, our Father raised Jesus from the dead on the third day after his death. Jesus is alive, and he is with us here today. Everyone who believes in Jesus will live forever too.
Second, Jesus gives us life through our death. Because Jesus has defeated death for us, death has now become merely a doorway through which we walk with Jesus into a glorious life beyond where we will wait until the day of resurrection. Even though we die, we shall live because of Jesus.
Third, Jesus gives us life as we die to ourselves. We all tend to be curved in on ourselves. But Jesus wants more for us than to have a self-centred life. And just as a lobster sheds and discards its old exoskeleton so that it can grow and thrive, so also as we, with Jesus’ help, shed more and more of our rigid self-centredness, we are freed to grow and become more fully human, like Jesus, and thrive.
A bridge needs a firm foundation to support the stresses and strains of the traffic it carries, so construction companies that are building a bridge usually drive pilings deep into the ground to provide support for the bridge that will be built. A human life also needs a firm foundation to support it through the stresses and strains of life. That’s why you need a strong worldview that is anchored deep in what is good and true and real. Faith in Jesus is the worldview that you need. Because not only is Jesus solid, but his words can do what no other words can do. Jesus’ words have the ability to give life and help people thrive. You can trust what Jesus says. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on January 21, 2018.)