Summary: The Holy Spirit gives us the assurance that we are believers. As Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. Only then can we have the inner conviction and witness of the Holy Spirit.
Three ministers gathered at the local coffee shop one morning, and the talk turned to a problem all three of them had in common-bats in their churches. One said, “I just don’t know what to do. I’ve called in exterminators and I’ve had the entire church sprayed, and the bats are still there”. Another minister said, “I know how you feel. I’ve used noisemakers and I’ve filled in all of the holes where they could come in, and the bats are still there”.
The third minister said, “I solved that problem. I baptized them and confirmed them and I haven’t seen them since.”
When you were children, did you ever play a game called “Follow the Leader”? Well, for those of you who didn’t, or for those of you who have never heard of the game, let me explain how it is played. First, you choose a leader. Then you follow him wherever he goes and do whatever he does. You stomp through puddles, climb over fences, or swing from a tree---all to stay in the game because no one wants to be a quitter.
The Gospel passage we heard from John 6:56-69 a few minutes ago is an example of people who did not want to play follow the leader. The passage marks the end of the “bread of life” discourse that we have heard for the last several weeks. Today, it reaches its climax. Jesus tells his followers that if they abide in him-that is, live in him and believe in him-he will always be with them. Jesus is the source of our life and our sustenance. We need to stay connected to him to be fruitful. Just as God gives Jesus life, Jesus in turn gives his followers eternal life if they believe in him.
The choice to accept Jesus is a difficult one. Godly people will still face difficulties in life, including persecution. God’s ways are not our ways, and that is why the Gospel message is hard to accept. It is costly because in order for us to accept Christ’s death and resurrection as the way to eternal life, we also have to experience our own form of death and resurrection. We have to die to our worldly way of life and rise to a new life in Christ. There are times when our faith in Christ will be harder than we expected. Each of us must answer the question, “Where can we go?” Jesus promises us eternal life. We face troubles in this life here on earth, but they pale in comparison to the joy of Christ revealed in us as mentioned in Romans 8:18.
Worldly life and godly life are always in conflict because they are so different. Worldly life always tempts us with the sinful desires of greed, envy, jealousy, sex, drugs, alcohol and other things. The Christian life calls us to live godly lives now in exchange for a heavenly life later-even if our present worldly life is full of pain and persecution.
Jesus wasn’t interested in whether he was causing offense or not. That does not mean that he did not care for the people he was talking to. On the contrary, he deeply cared for them. Because he cared for them, he preferred to speak the truth instead of speaking what was pleasing. Jesus wanted his hearers to know that what he is saying is the truth, even though it is hard to hear. In other words, Jesus used tough love, in contrast to some preachers who want to “tickle the ears” of their congregations.
Jesus did not try to talk unwilling disciples into staying with him, nor did he try to make things easier so that they would reconsider their relationship to him. He wants eager followers who understand the cost of following him. The Gospel message is not easy to hear and accept. The church is often tempted to soften the impact of the message by removing the offending parts or by preaching something similar to the Prosperity Gospel. Most people do not want to hear this message because it calls on them to change their way of life. It calls on them to give up the world’s ways in favour of a life that will lead them to heaven. The truth is so confronting and so painful that we are often hell-bent on hanging on to our sinful way of life. That does not mean that everyone will refuse to accept the message. Some, like Peter and the disciples, realize that Jesus is the key to eternal life. In return, he will give us the strength we need to be strong in our walk of faith. That strength will mean taking a stand for Christ and being counted. It will make a difference both in us and in the lives of everyone we come into contact with.