Monday, May 4, 2015

Why Abide in Jesus?

     Jesus says in our Gospel reading this morning “Abide in me as I abide in you,” and then He goes on further to give us the results of what will happen if we abide in Him.  This morning, I will attempt to do three things: 1) Answer the question of why we should abide in anything.  2) Show how abiding in anything other than Jesus will lead to disappointment and chaos.  3) Show why you should abide in Jesus above anything else.  It’s a rather large task before us, so let’s jump right in.

    The first thing we’ve got to deal with is why we should abide in anything.  Well, really we don’t have a choice but to abide in something.  The Greek word used by Jesus here is μένω which can mean several things: “abide”, “remain”, “to remain in a place”, “to stay in the house”, or even “to stay alive” or “to stand fast.”  And we all stand fast; we all remain; we all stay alive in something.  However, most of us don’t really take the time to think about where we abide; where we stand fast.  We are kind of like fish who are surrounded by water.  It is so natural for a fish to live in water, he wouldn’t know what it was like to live in anything else.

    So it is with how we live.  We simply go through most of our lives believing certain things we have been taught–things which are deeply imprinted within our hearts.  For instance, most of us, since we live in the U.S. have a deeply imprinted belief that if we work hard, do the right things, then we will achieve some measure of success.  We have a deeply imprinted belief that all people are equal and have certain inalienable rights.  We have a deeply imprinted belief that we are free to do as we choose as long as we do no harm to anyone.  These are so deeply ingrained that if we were taken out of our culture, we would indeed be like a fish out of water.  Many of us would have a very difficult time adjusting to anything else.  Why?  Because we abide in this particular worldview.  We stand fast in this particular worldview.  And even if there are those of you here this morning who question this particular worldview, you need to realize, you have a worldview of your own.  You have a way of looking at things that help you understand reality.  You have a way of looking at the world and dealing with all the information in the world that helps you cope with life and make sense of things.  We remain or abide in those worldviews most of our lives.  And it is very hard to change them.  Very hard.

    But sometimes we run into things that force us to deeply consider why we believe what we believe.  We run into things that force us to ask ourselves, “Is this where I want to continue to live?  Is this where I want to continue to abide?  Do I need to shift my thinking or change how I view the world?”  I have run into this more than a few times with folks throughout my career as a pastor.  Usually, these times occur when someone experiences deep sadness or loss.  If someone loses a job or a spouse or is faced with cancer, such questions usually arise.  I mean, if you have been taught that if you work hard and do good things, then you should be successful, then what happens if you lose your job or fall on hard times?  Were you not working hard enough?  Were you not good enough?  Do you see how this affects such a worldview?  I hope you can, because now we are getting into territory number two: the vast majority of worldviews will lead to disappointment or a sense of superiority over others where you hold others in contempt.  Let me say that again: the vast majority of worldviews will lead to disappointment and a sense of superiority over others where you hold others in contempt.

    Let me try and illustrate this by turning to recent events in Baltimore, MD.  Many of us have seen the images of rioters destroying property and burning buildings.  Many of us have seen the video of the mother slapping around her teenage son.  Many of us know the reason the riots have occurred is a reaction to what happened to Freddie Gray in the back of a police van and the accumulated distrust of a community toward law enforcement officials.  Pundits are pointing a lot of fingers and spreading a lot of blame, but let’s delve deep, very deep.

    Let’s begin with looking at those who blame the police for the violent uprising.  In a very real way, they hold the police officers in contempt because they believe the police have used their power and authority abusively.  This side believes they are continually victimized, and they justify the actions of the rioters by saying, “At some point all the anger and frustration boiled to the surface, and they lashed out at injustice.”  The folks are disappointed in a system which seemingly keeps them burdened and heavy laden without allowing them the freedom to escape poverty.  Many become hopeless, and I think it’s why these communities have a prevalence of drugs.  A lot of folks in these communities only live for their next fix.  Disappointment reigns as does contempt for those who they see as oppressing and abusing them.

    On the other hand, there are those who blame the rioters themselves.  There are those who believe if folks just followed the law and obeyed the rules, then they could improve themselves.  They tend to say, “These folks are just looking for an excuse to get something for nothing.  They are just waiting for an opportunity to do whatever they want, and they have no regard for the law; they have no respect for officers.”  The folks on this side of the street believe they are morally superior to those who are rioting, and they are disappointed with a system who will not crack down on such lawbreakers.  In reality, there is very little compassion being shown by this group, in my opinion.

    Now, I will say that this oversimplifies things a bit.  For we could nuance things very easily and say that there are more groups involved in this whole ordeal, but to keep time in mind, I will only deal with these two groups.  Can you see how the two worldviews lead to disappointment and contempt for others?  Can you see how the two sides are at great odds with each other?  Can you see how there is very little room for compromise or agreement on anything?  When worldviews like this clash, enmity and strife become the norm, and inevitably, worldviews will clash. 

    The question becomes: what is the solution?  Can there be any sort of resolution?  Can we just agree to disagree?  No.  I don’t think so.  The stakes are very high.  We need law and order.  We also need freedom.  We need to deal with those who break the law, but we also need to deal with the injustice of they systems which have kept people in poverty.  And more laws will not do it.  You see, people know they shouldn’t be breaking the law.  Cops know they shouldn’t abuse criminals–the vast majority don’t.  People know they shouldn’t riot–the vast majority don’t.  I mean, why do you think some cops try to destroy or appropriate cameras which catch them abusing others?  Why do you think many rioters covered their faces and hands and ran from cameras?  They know they are doing wrong!!!  We know we are doing wrong, even when our worldview tells us we are wrong, we still break the law!!! 

    I’ve outlined the problem, I think.  Hopefully, I was clear.  So, what is the solution?  Jesus says, “Abide in me.”  You may try and stop me here and say, “Well, why should I abide in Jesus. Aren’t there Christians who fall on both sides of those worldviews?  Aren’t they divided on those lines as well?”  Yes, Christians are divided on those lines as well, but if they are abiding in Jesus, they will not hold others in contempt, and they will not be filled with disappointment.  What do I mean by that?

    Well, I need to do a little bit of work here because we have to get to the heart of Christianity.  We need to see what distinguishes Christianity from all other worldviews–all other religions–all other philosophies.  Every other religion and every other philosophy will look at what is going on in Baltimore and say, “We’ve got to try harder.  We’ve got to follow the law better.  We’ve got to love our neighbors better.  We’ve got to work to overcome this division.  We’ve got to follow the tenets of our religion better.”  The emphasis is all on us.  We’ve got to do it!!  But as I pointed out earlier, we already know what to do.  Trying harder isn’t going to get us there.  It hasn’t throughout history.  It won’t now.  So what will?  Only a change of heart.  And how do hearts change?  How do hearts lose their contempt for others?  How do hearts turn from anger and hopelessness and disappointment to love and hope?

    Christianity says: Trust in what Jesus has already done for you, and to the extent you trust in Him–to the extent you abide in Him–to the extent you make your home in Him–to the extent you stand fast in Him–you will begin to love others.  You will begin to erase the contempt you once had for them.  You will no longer see yourself as superior to them.  You will not be disappointed, instead you will have tremendous hope which will give you abundant life.

    How is such a thing possible?  How does abiding in Jesus do this? 

    You have to realize what Jesus did for you.  You have to realize that when every other worldview says, “Try harder to be good, and then you will receive the rewards,” Jesus says, “There is no way you can achieve the standard that my Father and I set.  There is no way you can ever work hard enough.  There is no way you can be perfect.  You are and always will be a failure in this respect.  But I love you even if you are a failure.  I accept you even if you fall short.  I will never stop loving or accepting you.”

    “How can I trust you on this?”  You might ask Jesus?

    And His answer is the cross.  His answer is, “I died for you.”

            For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world may be saved through Him.

    You see, when you believe that Jesus died for you when you were a sinner; when you believe you were accepted when you least deserved it, you are humbled.  You cast aside your haughtiness and your self-righteousness because you know you didn’t measure up; but you don’t grovel in victimhood and self-hatred because you know you are accepted.  You can neither be too high nor too low.  And your heart finds peace.  Your heart finds itself longing to love even those whom hurt you.  Your hearts finds itself full of hope that there can be a better way and that reconciliation is possible.  And you have proof of that with the resurrection.  Because Jesus lives, you will live also–not only for eternity, but you will live with a lasting, assuring hope.  Nothing can ever take that from you.  There is never then an need to escape the world and live for the moment–you are now abiding in the True Vine.  You are now getting your identity from Him.  You are now getting your sustenance from Him.  You now have an unending source of love and hope and compassion flowing through you.  A love that makes reconciliation possible–not because of anything you have done or how hard you have worked, but because of what Jesus has done for you and even for the one who opposes you.

    Let us pray.  Lord Jesus, you abide in us even without us asking.  You died for us when we least deserved it.  You accepted us when we were failures.  You rose to give us hope.  May we abide in you.  May we trust you.  May we find our identity in you that our divisions will cease; that we may be reconciled to one another; and that peace may reign.  In your name we pray.  Amen.


Kathy Suarez said...

This is such distorted thinking that I must comment. When Jesus said: "Be perfect" he meant it. You cannot accept his words because you do not understand them. Jesus meant: Be complete; become who you were created to be, become a saint! This is the whole point!

You wrote: "Jesus says, 'There is no way you can achieve the standard that my Father and I set. There is no way you can ever work hard enough. There is no way you can be perfect. You are and always will be a failure in this respect....'" This is a terrible distortion.

At the end of your life, who do you want to be like? St. Francis or St. Catherine -- or Martin Luther, a grouchy old man? We have free will -- Luther said we don't -- so don't even try to be a saint. This is a terrible heresy that has done great harm to countless millions of Christians! Jesus wants us to ABIDE in him, to be holy and go to heaven! Just read the Scripture -- it is plain as day.

Unknown said...

Not exactly sure who or what you are referencing in your SERMON. Firstly I do NOT now Nor have I ever condoned violence or the destruction of property. I can understand the reason for The unrest, though I do not condone it.

Secondly, with all due respect "PASTOR" from my personal experience, I will wager that I know more IV drug users than you. You paint with a very broad/fear based RACIST brush.

So all unemployed BLACK people are addicted to IV Drugs? Kevin I personally know several IV drug users who do live for their next fix. Hey Kevin wake up, Deaths from IV Drug use are frequently in the News here in RURAL MN in a majority WHITE area but you don't talk about them and BTW Kevin Junkies, like Winos generally DON'T March or RIOT...

Your characterization focusing on "those people" (other than US good middle class educated white people) discount the moral vacuum which exists more widely in the Culture, and sometimes within even the Lutheran Church, I know of at least one IV Drug user who is not only white but also the progeny of a Lutheran Minister.

Your "It can't (or won't) happen here" attitude does a severe disservice to your message, and nicely separates US TRUE BELIEVERS from the need to put all of our trust in Jesus alone.

Your ignorance and prejudice discredits your message.

Maybe you need to come up north for a visit to an urban area.


Come on Kevin, you are Clearly a man of significant intellect, a seeker after truth, and a man of integrity, you can do so much better....


Kevin Haug said...

^^Perfect example of someone who can't grasp the main point because of a severe case of myopia.

Unknown said...

So Jesus is Racist?

Kevin Haug said...

"THE PASTOR SHOULD GIVE UP ARGUING WITH HIM, AND STOP TAKING HIS DIFFICULTIES SERIOUSLY. That will really be in the man's own interest, for he is only trying to hide himself behind them." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Unknown said...


Kind Sir The specious and Racist nature of your hypothesis severely detracts from any point you may have tried to make.






Kevin Haug said...

The fact that heroine abuse is rampant in Baltimore shows that you neither read the facts nor understand the point of the sermon. Your diatribes into race further show ignorance and you actually come across as a two year old who never quite decided to grow up. You see, sir, I have two daughters who are black. Let that sink in for a moment.

Unknown said...

Well, bless your little liberal cowboy heart.

I have a niece who was born in the Peoples Republic of China, one sister in law who is from Taiwan, and another sister in law from Mexico... as far as I am concerned any assumptions about my attitude towards any ethnic or racial group based upon these facts would be SPECIOUS!

My point is that unemployed Black people are NOT ALL JUNKIES. Whether you have 2 daughters who are black or not.

Let me ask you this one Kevin, having been fortunate enough to be born white and presumably middle Class, having been raised in a family where education and the value of academic study was likely encouraged, if not expected, having been afforded an advanced educational degree, OK so having been born on third base and through your own efforts, using your own brains, cunning and athleticism (yeah, its' all about you)making it back to home plate, you have little patience or understanding of those who perhaps with equal levels of athleticism and cunning never make it to first base.

Read the book of Job again Kevin...

Have you ever known desperation and destitution born of poverty and racism? Most assuredly some people have overcome such odds but maybe what makes their stories stand out is how unusual they are. What is the percentage of Black or Latino Alumni from your own dear TLC/U? And how about the seminary you attended? Is the percentage of Black, Latinos, low because of drug addiction?

Gosh, it might be interesting to check the racial demographics of IV Drug Overdose rates here in rural southern MN. Let me clue you in here Rev, there seem to be a lot of Them and there are lots more White people around here than there are Black or Latino.

B) Junkies of any racial group may Steal, but in my own experience they are generally so set on finding their next fix, they generally have no time or inclination to RIOT. They just want to be left alone with their fix.

Come on Kevin... I did find your sermons point to be intriguing but specious....


Kathy Suarez said...

Carl wrote: "I know of at least one IV Drug user who is not only white but also the progeny of a Lutheran Minister." Who do you think that is? The prolonged use of drugs can affect a person's ability to think clearly. Apparently it can also cause virulent anti-Catholicism. Yes, Carl, Bingo games are evil....

Kevin Haug said...

No. Not all unemployed black folks are junkies.

Never even mentioned that in my sermon. Mentioned there is a high percentage of folks who are on drugs in that area--that is backed up by facts. Doesn't mean they are all rioting either-made the point only a small percentage of those folks who live there are doing that as well.

You sir, are taking a nit picky point and making a giant mountain out of it because you do not like the Gospel. You do not like the exclusivity of Jesus, and you wish to remain in your own worldview without any sort of repentance or change. The problem with you, to quote Bonhoeffer, is your sin! This is why I refuse to take you seriously.

Unknown said...

Maybe the HEROINE epidemic in Baltimore is because all the HERO's have been killed by the repressive forces of evil. :-)

Homophones anyone?

Unknown said...

Kevin pardon me for what you might have been a sarcastic comment about Bless your little ... heart.

It was inappropriate and lends nothing to the discussion.

You seem to be making assertions and connecting dots that are not even in the Same picture. No problem Dear it is NOT ME. You see being The progeny of Lutheran clergy, And remaining within the Lutheran tradition I seems to be in a class where I meet other clergy progeny. I suspect that this is may be just a bit less common in the Roman Church.

Thanks for your concern.


Kevin Haug said...

Apology accepted. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Oh Dear, Kathy,
Bingo is Evil? Really, I guess I need to throw out my Rosary beads, and quit playing Bingo. I would go there to win money to support my IV drug habit! :-) I figured that if I won money to support my drug habit, Jesus must want me to be a junkie. NOT TRUE. As A matter of fact, the only IV drugs I have ever done were administered by medical professionals while I was a patient in the hospital.
I was just playing along with your little fantasy scenario.

I need to stop playing BINGO, I used to say the rosary while I was playing bingo. Burning up those rosary beads at the same time. Big time multitasking, But I figured by praying the rosary while playing Bingo improved my odds. And I would win. :-)

But now you tell me that playing Bingo is EVIL???? What If I would tithe on my Bingo winnings?

Have a blessed tomorrow! Kathy


Dennis Bender said...

Kathy, at the end of life the only one I want to be like is Christ Jesus. I cannot do that by trying to be perfect. The seemingly unending list of laws in the Old Testament teach me that. The law does not save, faith in the Saviour does. Romans 9:30-33, 10: vs.9: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." As a saved son or daughter of God, I am to "do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him" Colossians 3:17 "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips tht acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16) Finally "Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world...We love because he first loved us". I John 4:16-19. This is what it means to ABIDE in him. It is plain as God's Word to us.

Unknown said...

"My hope is built on Nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
No merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus' name!"

Have a Good Day!


Kathy Suarez said...

Dennis, we are essentially saying the same thing. Jesus is perfect and you want to be like him. John says: "By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment." Kevin Haug is badly mistaken because he is downplaying the second part of conversion: becoming holy. (Yes, we are saved by Faith, but we become holy by obeying the commands of Christ.) In my opinion, this is why the Lutheran Church is collapsing. Pastors like Kevin tell people just to believe and then they will automatically be good. Everyone can see that this is wrong. Luther did this. He assumed that if the people had his version of the "True Gospel," they would just be good Germans. This is heresy.

Pastor Kevin is trying to circumvent the catastrophic ELCA 2009 decision. He thinks that if he just says that we are all sinners and preaches "the Gospel" -- his simplistic John 3:16 version, belief minus effort -- that everything will be Ok -- that the people will be fooled.

This false gospel gives people a lovely excuse to remain in their sins. Carl's writings are a great example of this. The ELCA has almost no emphasis on repentance and confession -- it's all "believe" and "love." Distortion and heresy

Lutheranism survived for 500 years because people really did not practice it -- they were still more or less Catholic. Now Pastor Kevin is really trying to put Luther's false ideas into practice. He is telling people that they cannot become holy ("Perfect") because they do not have perfectly free will. This is pure Luther. It is evil. Also, Luther said each individual can interpret the Scripture as he pleases -- no need for the Church. People are also taking this seriously, and voila -- bye-bye Lutheran Church! Poof!

Unknown said...

Oh Dear
John 3:16 is oversimplified?
Is it not heresy and A sin to complicate the pure simple truth of the Gospel?

OK so Jesus says Believe and be Saved, The Pope says You are saved by works. I think I will stick with Jesus on this one. Thank you!


Kathy Suarez said...

Carl -- Your words and your massive ignorance and confusion speak for themselves.

Kathy Suarez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Lord Help me, an RC sister (who really should know) diagnoses me as being massively ignorant and confused. And just after I recite lyrics from Hymns.

Kathy are you sure I am not just wrong because I was deceived and likely brainwashed by that evil ex priest, Martin Luther?

I have asked this before Kathy and I will ask it again now... Why are you so vehemently anti Lutheran? Do you pursue other denominations for their theological falsehoods with the same vigor as you do us lowly Lutherans? Really Kathy?

And oh yeah, let me ask, How is that working for you? How many converts have you won? What is your reward for your DEFORMATION successes. do you get extra stars in your crown for every 10 Lutherans you convert back to the "ONE TRUE CHURCH"?

Gosh Kathy I know I am no psychologist, but sometimes Kathy, such behaviors of condemning others for their heresies and Blasphemy with such fervor seems to be rooted in some deep personal hurt or wound from earlier in life. Were you in love with a male Lutheran seminary student who turned out to be Gay? Kathy, it is OK. There comes a time to release those hurts, wounds and injuries. Just turn them over to Jesus, remember in the words of Groucho MARX "Time wounds All HEELS" I guess that quoting him makes me a MARXIST. well so be it.

Jesus will take away all your sins and your hurts and pains if you turn them over to him KATHY!

I know that letting go of your hatred will be a good thing for you in the long term KATHY..

In my massive ignorance and Confusion, Kathy I pray for you!


Kathy Suarez said...

Carl -- If you really want to know the answers as to why I am so passionate about these issues, you can look at my blog. I have been writing for several years........

Unknown said...

And so you think that calling people ignorant, confused, and Diluted is going to bring about a dialog that will persuade us Lutherans to join your little DEformation movement?

Really Kathy?

Remember: "Nobody Expects the SPANISH INQUISITION....Our greatest weapons are Fear, Surprise, and an Almost Fanatical devotion to the Pope."


Kathy Suarez said...

**sigh** Oh where is the Spanish Inquisition when you really need it?

Unknown said...

When Logic, dialog, reason and the Holy Spirit aren't effective in persuading others of the truth of RC Dogma, send in Pedophile priests and bring on the Spanish Inquisition!


Kathy Suarez said...

And yet, Mr. Unknown, I continue to write because I believe the Truth will prevail among Men (oops, I mean Persons) of Good Will.

Unknown said...

OK and So THAT TRUTH is only found in the RC Church?

I love the way you have put the infinite Omnipresent and omniscient in a little Box!

interesting, Very interesting....


Kathy Suarez said...

Exactly, Carl. The Catholic Church has the Truth. The Fullness of the Truth. That does not mean it has ALL the Truth, but it has enough for our lives, and Christ protects His Church.

Do you have children? If you do, wouldn't you want to give them the Truth? That is why I became a Catholic.

Unknown said...

And just how would you quantify the relative TRUTH Quotient for the dueling Denominations? With your comprehension of "TRUTH" how would you quantify the relative levels of "TRUTH" You know like between oh say The RC Church and The Various synods of the Lutheran Church. So If the RC church is oh say 99.9% pure like IVORY soap, how would you evaluate Pastor Kevin, or how about the LCMS? Does the ELCA have any connection to that "Truth".

Just asking because the future of my soul rest in the balance!!!



you and I both know that there is a lot of UnTRUTH out there. I am happy that you have found "Truth".

Cheers and Blessings!


Dennis Bender said...

Kathy, we become holy because we are washed in the blood of the Lamb.

God recognizes that I can not be obedient in all things. Jesus died on the cross because He knew it was the only way to return this disobedient person to Himself. He did what I cannot do. Does God ask us to be obedient? Yes Am I able to do that? No Only Jesus lived a fully obedient life.

Luther said, "good works do not make Christians, but Christians produce good works." There is a balance and a cause and effect. We are Christian because of Faith and Reliance (Trust) in Christ. We perform works of Faith because Christ does them in and through us.

The Church only exists, according to Luther, as long as it is Faithul and True to the Word of Christ. No one is free to deviate from the Holy Word of God and still claim to be part of Christ and His Church.

Any visible church may go "Poof" as you say. But the Christian Church will remain because Christ has already defeated Satan and His minions. Christ is the Victor and we are victorious in Him.

Luther believed in a "Christian" church. He never used the word "Lutheran". The church begins and ends in Christ alone. It is HIS.

I may be a grouchy old man (at times) but praise be to God, He loves me still!!