By Simon ManchesterSunday 20 Dec 2015Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterChristian LivingReading Time: 15 minutes
I want to take our few minutes to speak on Christmas for the dissatisfied. I don’t know how easily pleased you are but it seems to me that for most people Christmas gets a little more dissatisfying every year. And if you are a little person I know that when you are little to get 15 presents on a sudden day of the year which is not your birthday, is no bad thing.
But when you get to age 20 or 30 Christmas starts to come a nice day, an OK day. And then when you get to 40, 50 or 60 you are hoping that you get through the crazy stuff of the day. And when you get to 70, 80 or 90 and you are sitting with the paper hat on your head and you are trying to get a cracker to break into two, you must begin to ask yourself at some stage whether there is more to it? And you must begin to ask yourself whether Christmas like the Emperor possibly “has no clothes at all”.
So I don’t want to be a cynic tonight, I don’t want to be a grumpy old man but there is a limit isn’t there to how excited you can get about Santa as the years go by. There is a limit to how excited you can get about music, Christmas music in the shops and in my opinion there is a limit to how excited you can get about ham!. Ham is nothing to get excited about on Christmas Day and I don’t understand ham at all!
Even the Minister who lives at the church it seems to many people doesn’t really get that excited at singing “O Come Let us Adore Him” for about the 93rd time, does he?
And so what I want us to do today is to face the question, is there anything about Christmas which is truly satisfying? Or is it just a fading kind of dream?
Now it may surprise you to know but it shouldn’t surprise you to know that Jesus faced the issue of dissatisfaction and he answered it many times in the New Testament but a good example is that little paragraph you have got which was just read for us from John chapter 6. Because, and you will know the story, on one occasion he fed a crowd and he fed a crowd miraculously – it was a huge crowd – and he fed the huge crowd with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. I think it is the only miracle that is recorded in all 4 of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And he fed them until everybody was absolutely stuffed! And we know that everybody was absolutely stuffed because there were 12 baskets left over. You can imagine in a kind of environment in which Jesus did that miracle – it’s possible that the disciples went around to the crowd and said “anybody like a little more? There is a little more left over – little bit of fish left over, little bit of bread left over, anymore? And these people were out in the desert and are poor people and the whole crowd says “we have had it, we do not want anything more, and we are absolutely full”.
And the next day they are hungry and they are chasing Jesus down for more food. And he used this particular miracle of the day before to teach them a lesson which you will see – it’s a very personal lesson and I cannot think of a more important lesson. And the lesson goes like this –
Friend – you will always be dissatisfied if you miss out on Jesus Christ because it doesn’t matter what you aim for – it will slip out of your fingers.
And you will never be dissatisfied if you know Jesus Christ.
So two quick things this evening I want to draw your attention to from the passage –
The first thing is that Jesus is the God of Substance and the second is that Jesus is the God of Distance.
The first point – Jesus is the God of Substance – chapter 6 verse 35 “I am the Bread of Life” says Jesus – “if you come to me you will never go hungry, if you believe you will never be thirsty”.
Friends there are two types of bread – there is the loaf of bread and I am just echoing Jesus tonight. The Loaf of bread and you need it, you need its equivalent to get you through day by day. Yes you do and I do too. But there is also another type of bread and that is Jesus himself – and you need him if you are to know God and you need him if you were to live through the grave. I would not say this to you this evening if he didn’t say it himself.
There are two types of bread –
There is a bread which you need to live day to day.
There is a bread called Jesus Christ
And he says you need him
if you are to know God and you are to live through the grave.
Now granted you like the first. There isn’t anybody here who doesn’t like the first. That’s fine – bread, food and all the stuff you enjoy – that’s fine.
Now Jesus’ question is – why do you settle for that? That is his question you see to his contemporaries and that is his question to every generation. And I am repeating his question to you. I am repeating to you his incredulous question –
Why are you so good at living?
Why are you SO good at living?
You know how to make money, you who have come here this evening
You know how to have a good time
You know how to plan your holidays
You know how to plan your travel
You know how to solve things like getting your car fixed
You know how to solve things like what schools to eventually send your kids to
You know how to get the right gadgets into your house –
You are a genius!
Now the question – why are you so bad at organizing a hundred years from now?
Why are you so bad at organizing a thousand years from now?
Do you think you will be extinct in a hundred years’ time?
Listen to Jesus in the chapter before – John chapter 5. “A time is coming when everyone, those who are in their graves” says Jesus “will hear my voice and will be welcomed or condemned”.
Now I would never say that but he says that. “A time is coming” says Jesus “where I will give the word and everybody will get up and they will stand before me and they will be welcomed or condemned”. And I just want to say humanly that’s ridiculous to say that but he just happens to be the greatest person the world has ever seen and the best person the world has ever seen and he has gone through the grave and he is entitled to say it.
Listen to John Piper who I think is one of the best Christian writers today. And I don’t think I could write anything as well as this. He says this beautifully –
“You will exist forever,
You and God are both in the Universe to stay –
Either as friends on his terms or enemies on yours.
Which it will be is proved in this life
and life is a vapour – 2 seconds and we will be gone”.
Do you think you will be safe in 100 years? Are you absolutely sure you will be safe in 100 years or 1000 years? Listen to Jesus in the passage we have read – John 6. You’ll have to have come to him – you will have to have come to him if you want to be safe in 100 years because he is absolutely crucial, he’s the only one who can give you life that lasts, he’s the only one who can raise you, that’s what he says. No Christ, no safe future.
And do you realise what happens if you just live for day to day stuff which many do, just live for day to day stuff. What happens is you become pretty empty like day to day stuff and you become a lightweight and then you die and then you meet him and you’ve missed him.
We have not been made by God to find our life in our work –
you’ll never arrive if you just go for your work.
You have not been made to find your life at the gym or with your food or with your money or with your pleasure. If those things are top priority for you – just look at the people who make them top priority – they end up being very shallow, empty and regretful people. They are people of no substance. They are a warning to us – you would never say to your kids “follow those people” and the fact is we actually become like the thing we live for.
And if you live for work – that’s what you become like.
And if you live for your looks – that’s what you become like.
And if you live for your fun and if you live for your success –
You are moving to a vapour and a disaster.
And that’s why Jesus warns us because he likes you, he cares about you and he says ‘if you come to me here and now you will come to the God of substance’. He is not just day-to-day stuff, he is not just a loaf of bread, he is not even just a one day thing but you will find when you come to Jesus Christ, you will be connected to the person who is Bread forever.
Now friends, I don’t know if you realise how substantial Jesus is. In that first little sentence he says “I AM” and then he goes on to say something – Bread of Life. And it’s the little phrase that he uses 7 times and I don’t know if you know this but that little phrase “I AM” is the phrase that God uses in the Old Testament to define himself, to describe himself.
“Who are you”? Moses said. God said “I AM,” I exist, I am real. It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks – it doesn’t matter about anybody’s opinion. I am real – says God – I exist – I rule – I am independent – I am transcendent – I am there. And that’s what God says.
And then Jesus here says “I AM” 7 times – I am, I am, I am……….. So you see he is claiming to be God and the people of his day picked that up and that’s why they got so angry. On one occasion they went to stone him for talking like this. But he claims you see to be God. He claims to be the one who made the galaxies, he claims to be the one who sustains the galaxies, and he claims to be the one who organises every detail in the universe. There is not a single thing which happens without his permission – He is God.
And then he says (look at verse 38) “I have come down from heaven”. Nobody says that, do they? Nobody when they are shaking hands with you says “Hi, I’ve come down from heaven”. We don’t talk like that. There is no religious leader who says but Jesus says that “I’ve come down from heaven”. And what he means by that – I am not a product of the world, I am not part of the creation, says Jesus, I am independent of the creation, and I am behind the creation. And he had to come down of course because no human can get up!
There is not one of us who can get up, not even Mother Theresa can get up to God. So Jesus had to come down recognising you see that we are unable to get up and we are unfit to get up – he came down to solve the problem. And he took everything that will keep a person down and he took everything that will take a person down and he took it on himself and down – down – down he went, didn’t he at the cross into hell itself so that people who believe in him would be set free and rise.
And all the lying which we have done and all the cheating that we have done and all the secret things of our life that only we know about but God knows about and especially the dismissal of Christ and the pretending that Christ is irrelevant and the pretending that Christ is harmless – he took that all on his back down – down – down he went in order that you might be set free by putting your trust in him and rise.
Well he is substantial, he is substantial beyond measure and when you’ve seen this, you will never say what’s in the last verse – see verse 42 what the people of Jesus’ day said “we don’t believe this, we do not believe this, they said, we think you are the son of Joseph and Mary. That’s all they would do and they missed it all.
The second point this evening – Jesus is the God of Distance. You see what he said in verse 40 “you may have eternal life”.
I was reading an Article this week about displays at the checkout queue. I don’t know if you have ever studied the displays at the checkout queue but they are very cleverly designed and they are very effective and they are designed to catch you in a particularly boring moment and to offer you two things – a sugar hit and a highly intelligent magazine as well.
Now a highly improbable magazine – and I am not now thinking of the porn magazines which solve nothing, I am thinking of those popular magazines which promise that they will solve everything for you. You will be rich in a week and you can look like a model in a day – and all that’s sort of thing. And of course the magazine says if you buy the magazine and if you follow the steps you too can be sexy, you too can be beautiful, you too can be rich and you will be just like the celebrities in the last few pages of the magazine who are a walking disaster – a walking time bomb.
And this is what the article said –
”The checkout line has confused the incidental for the essential”.
And I wonder whether perhaps the major reason why the Western world for all its plenty is so empty and so unhappy and so lost is that we are listening all the time to passing celebrities and we are not listening to the person of proven character. And there is no one who has proven character like Jesus Christ – there is no one like him.
You see what he says because he is the God of Distance. He says when you come to me (chapter 6 verse 35 – the Bread of Life) you will never run out of life. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? When you come to me, says Jesus, you will never never never run out of life. The loaf of bread – well that will take you perhaps to tomorrow but Jesus will take you for ever. He will never lose you (chapter 6 verse 39). I have come down to do God’s will and God’s will for me is that I will not lose a single person who comes and trusts me. That’s the wonderful thing, you see, you go to Jesus Christ and you say “I am helpless, I am needy, I am trusting you” and suddenly you are embraced by him and your security is bound up by him and your safety is bound up with him and your future is bound up with him and it’s got nothing to do with your performance – it’s got to do with his faithfulness. And you will have (chapter 6 verse 40) eternal life – he will one day raise you to heaven.
Now we have lost this you see in Australia – we have lost the peace and joy of eternal life. You read the Obituaries in the paper – 99% of them are without any hope whatsoever. They are all history. Go to funerals in Australia – what are they? Celebration in the present, reminiscence in the past and then there may possibly be a throwaway line, some vague hopeful and fanciful line that the person will live on somehow. And there is absolutely no reason, no proof and no guarantee and no assurance and no encouragement. The only person who can give that is Jesus Christ who went through the grave.
Well when you face this, when you face the fact that Jesus lived, died and rose you are facing the facts and he gives a promise and you can hang your life on this promise –
“To those who come to me” says Jesus
“Those who come to me in faith here and now,
Those who go home from this meeting and get down on their knees and say to him
‘I want to come to you,
I am taking you up on your promise,
I want to come to you and I want to belong to you –
I want you to help me with the past; it needs to be forgiven,
I want you to help me with the present, I need to be yours
I want you to help me with the future.
You are the only one who can look after me”
When you have got up from your knees you have been welcomed and you have been welcomed forever and one day he will raise you to be with him.
There was a missionary called John Patton and he went out to the South Sea Islands – what we call Vanuatu – back in the 19th Century. He was a young man going to be a missionary and one of the men in his church said this to him –
“You – young man will be eaten by the cannibals”
John Patton said “your own future, sir, is soon the grave – there to be eaten by worms. I confess to you that if I can but live and die serving honouring the Lord Jesus it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or worms and in the great day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer”.
Would you like to have that sort of confidence in the face of the future? because it’s not an exclusive club. He speaks on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ – you can live on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ. Australians however have lost the confidence; they have lost the distance because they have turned away from Christ. And we think, don’t we that we can beat the grave by our diets, and going to the gym and our surgery and we give ourselves now in Australia to short term things, don’t we?
The new gospel is the climate
The new needy are the animals
The new heaven is retirement
All good things but none of them are eternal.
In the United States you can actually have now a pre-death funeral. Why miss it? Organise it. Be there. You can be the MC. Have people get up and speak about you. The pre-death funeral.
There is a company in United States called “Life Gem” which will turn the cremation remains of your loved ones into a gem stone which you can wear on your finger!
Great grandfather on the left hand, a couple of great aunts hanging from the ears! It’s desperate isn’t it? Its’ absolutely desperate. It’s the bizarre alternative that people come to when they have no hope. But friends if you are a sensible person I do beg you this evening, I beg you. Not because it all matters to me so much but it’s important for you. Listen to Jesus Christ – a person of proven and unbeatable character. He is the God of Substance. When you worship him you will be a person of substance. He is the God of Distance. When you belong to him you will go the distance and his invitation in chapter 6 verse 37 in that little paragraph includes you – “whoever comes to me I will never turn away” says Jesus. You will be accepted whatever you have done. You will be forgiven and you will be one day raised.
But his warning in the verse before (verse 36) says there are many people who are absolutely beyond hope. You see there were people in Jesus’ day who saw everything. They saw the miracles, they heard him, the best person who has ever lived they saw all the proofs and they turned away and said ‘no, no we are not having anything to do with him’. That could be you! You could be the sort of person who says ‘I’ve heard it, I’ve heard it and I’ve seen stuff and I’ve been told and I’ve got stuff and I am turning all away’.
Well do your best because you are a vapour and it will all be over very soon. But to belong to Christ, to be given life eternal and to be deeply satisfied, do do business with Jesus Christ – he outweighs the whole of the world and he will deeply satisfy you.