Again this month I write a long time before the appointed time. In a day of technology I could easily have written this while in PNG, but I realise that once we get there life will become filled with the essentials as well as the incidentals. It will be too easy to face visits from old friends and to find that the letter gets pushed further into the background until … If the usual pattern is followed this issue will be published on our first Sunday back in the pulpit, the Sunday that I hope we will consider our need to give thanks again for God’s faithfulness in providing food for us through his care and authority in nature.
In the harvest leaflet I quoted the Prodigal Son saying “More than enough bread!” and I want to connect that with Jesus’ words in John 6: 35 where he said … “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” This is a huge chapter, beginning with the feeding of the 5000, followed by Jesus walking on the water after which Jesus begins the teaching that He is the Bread of Life, the source of eternal life.
Jesus offers eternal life to all who will believe in Him and yet we read “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (Jn 6:66). They could not cope with the demands of discipleship, so ‘Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”’ (v. 67) Thankfully Peter, representing the majority of the disciples had the wisdom to say “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (68). Sadly today however we see many who once claimed to follow the Lord Jesus Christ turning away, because they find the demands of Christianity too great. It is good that they have reached a correct assessment of Christianity, because a genuine Christian life demands that we take up our cross daily and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. I was recently sent a link entitled “Christians: The world’s most persecuted people” (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/christians-the-worlds-most-persecuted-people-9630774.html). Today it does cost a great deal to be a Christian, but we know so little of it in our country.
I trust that none of us will have to live through the suffering of persecution, but we must understand that the cost of turning away from Jesus Christ is far higher. Peter had grasped the true perspective, faith in Christ results in eternal life; rejection of Jesus can mean only eternal death or judgement. We should not be shocked by the number of people who do turn away, because Paul stated “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” (1 Tim 4:1f), but oh how we need to take heed that we hold on to what has been offered us in Christ.
Peter was not only taking hold of Christ for eternal life, but was also making a commitment to follow Him in His ministry. We live in a day when there is a real danger of Christian ministry being reduced to another profession carried out by professionally trained men, but the work of God has always been driven forward by God taking hold of and equipping the most unlikely characters. Autumn marks the start of a new period of ministry and service in the church, are we each one doing all that we can to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in drawing others to Himself that they might enjoy and benefit from eternal life.
Grateful for eternal life,
Bernard Lewis October 2014