Last Supper, Last Words (2 of 5)

Swaney

Please take a moment to read John 14:15-31 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV (1984) for my research.

If you’ve been watching the Olympics for the last EIGHTEEN DAYS, you’ve been treated to some pretty amazing athletic performances.  However, the biggest controversy may be over an Olympic skier who became an internet sensation for her horrible performances.

Hungarian freeskier Elizabeth Swaney is the subject of some angry athletes’ social media posts, accusing Swaney of “scamming” her way into the Olympics.  Under heavy criticism about her qualifications to even compete in the Olympics, Swaney told CNBC on Wednesday she was “striving to achieve” the level of an Olympic skier.  Swaney became a sensation when she came in last place in the women’s ski halfpipe for Team Hungary.  She was unable to complete even the most basic tricks but did succeed in not falling down.

In an interview Swaney said she is capable of landing tricks on waterski ramps, but “I just haven’t been comfortable enough yet to land those tricks on snow.”  Swaney’s grandparents are from Hungary which allowed her to compete for that team.  That’s one loophole in the rules.  The other loophole was that Swaney “competed” in World Cup events and by finished in the top 30 by only going to events that had less than 30 competitors! <Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/21/olympic-skier-elizabeth-swaney-i-did-not-scam-my-way-into-the-games.html on 2/23/18.>

Let me tell you some good news: there will be no “scammers” in heaven.  There are no loopholes to exploit, no way to cheat, and no fooling God, who knows our hearts.

Everyone in heaven will be there because they walked in Jesus’ footsteps.  They received His gift of salvation by faith.  Having been adopted into God’s family, we show forth God’s love, following the guidance of God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives us leadership in loving.

  1. Our love FOR God is manifest in obedience. (14:15, 21, 23-24)

Jesus started this section with the word IF.  “IF” is a little word with big implications.  With it Jesus effectively says, “You can claim to love me, but those who really love me will obey my commands.”  Obedience is keeping God’s commands to love.  Remember them?  Love God first, others second, self last.  Easy to say, harder to do, yet it is the doing – not the saying – that really counts.  God gives us the Holy Spirit to encourage, empower, and guide us into keeping these commands.

  1. The love OF God is manifest in the Holy Spirit.

We get the Spirit through our faith-connection with Jesus = “I WILL ASK THE FATHER…” (16).

We understand the Holy Spirit Jesus by studying what Jesus told us about Him.  For example, there are five things we can learn from this passage.

First, the Spirit is ANOTHER COUNSELOR (16).  The Greek word for COUNSELOR is paraclete.  It is such a rich word in the original language, it is difficult to translate into English and do it justice.  It means “a person summoned to one’s aid,” but can be translated as “Comforter, Helper, Advocate, Teacher, Mediator, Legal Advisor, Intercessor,” and “Friend.”  All that means the Holy Spirit is our greatest supporter and our most capable assistant all rolled into one!

Why did Jesus refer to Him as ANOTHER Counselor?  There are two reasons I can think of: because He continues the work of Jesus in the world.  Also, so we can see all the members of the Trinity expressed in this passage: God the Father sent God the Son into the world.  When God the Son returned to heaven, God the Spirit was given to help Jesus’ disciples.

Second, because He is the SPIRIT OF TRUTH (17).  The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth but unfortunately, not all people will accept that truth.  In fact, our culture is increasingly hostile to two assertions that are central to our faith: one, that absolute truth exists and two, that God has revealed it to us.

Third, because the WORLD cannot know Him (17).  Jesus – the first Counselor – came to us in a physical body.  Because of that, He occupied time and space and could be perceived by the five senses.

The Holy Spirit – the second Counselor – exists as a spirit.  As such, He is not limited to a single time or space and cannot be perceived by the five senses; this is one reason the WORLD cannot know Him.  The WORLD only trusts what it can physically perceive.

There are more than eyeballs and ears involved here.  In John’s writings, the word WORLD refers not to this planet, but to the system that pervades all worldly cultures and is contrary to God. Satan is identified as the “PRINCE OF THIS WORLD” (30) and he exerts his influence to oppose God and His people.  However, Satan has NO HOLD on Jesus because three years earlier, Jesus endured Satan’s temptations and stayed faithful to God.  It is only by faith that any of us can perceive God.  People who love the WORLD have rejected God and thereby will not/cannot see Him.

Fourth, because He lives in Jesus’ followers (17).  “BUT YOU KNOW HIM,” Jesus said.  As we have faith in Christ, we have the Spirit.  Jesus declared, “HE LIVES WITH YOU AND WILL BE IN YOU.”

God has chosen to partner with His people in order to share the good news with people who have not yet believed.  The Spirit will guide and help us; this news is too good to keep to ourselves.

Fifth, because He WILL TEACH YOU ALL THINGS and REMIND YOU OF EVERYTHING I HAVE SAID TO YOU (26).  The word TEACH implies the Holy Spirit helps us understand Jesus’ teaching, eternal truths.  The word REMIND makes me think this isn’t knowledge for its own sake but it must to be applied to our daily lives, helping us make godly choices.  The word EVERYTHING means that this promise of the Spirit is unconditional.  The Holy Spirit will provide us with all we need to keep God’s commands.

  1. Jesus comforts us with His promises.

“I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU AS ORPHANS,” he declared; “I WILL COME TO YOU” (18).  This promise will be completed at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Instead of being ORPHANS or treated like orphans, we’re adopted into God’s family.  More than that, we are one with God as Jesus described in v. 20.

“YOU WILL SEE ME” is such an important promise, it gets two mentions (19, 28-31).  Verse nineteen is a promise set in Jesus’ day.

He said, “BEFORE LONG, THE WORLD WILL NOT SEE ME ANY MORE.”  Jesus lived in the world 33 years.  After His death and Resurrection, He went back to heaven.  It is to His Resurrection and Ascension Jesus referred.  “BUT YOU WILL SEE ME,” Jesus promised. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 we are told Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers after His Resurrection!

On a broader scope, this is a promise for us (28-32), referring to the Second Coming when we will all see Jesus (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  In these verses Jesus comforted His disciples saying His departure is good news because He is going to God the Father.

This is a reference to Jesus taking the seat of honor and authority in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father (see Romans 8:34).  From that advantaged point Jesus acts as our Mediator, speaking to God the Father on our behalf.

“I HAVE TOLD YOU NOW…SO WHEN IT HAPPENS YOU WILL BELIEVE” (29).  – This statement is virtually a word-for-word repeat of 13:19, which we read last week. When things get repeated, we should pay close attention.

One of Jesus’ aims in His Last Supper teachingswas to prepare His disciples so that when events unfolded as He predicted, they would keep their faith in Him.  But His intended audience was much bigger than those eleven men: “THAT THE WORLD [would] LEARN THAT I LOVE THE FATHER AND DO EXACTLY WHAT MY FATHER HAS COMMANDED ME” (v. 31).

Here is a third fantastic promise: “BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU WILL LIVE” (19).  In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul identified Jesus as the FIRSTFRUITS of the resurrection of all who believe.  Jesus’ statement here establishes a link between Jesus’ Resurrection and ours.  Because Jesus won victory over death and lives forever, so will we who are in Him.

We are promised fellowship with the Father (20).  The word “Trinity” is the name the Church has given to the three-part nature of God.  Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons in one personality.  It is not a doctrine we have embraced because it is easy, but because the Bible affirms that Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, but there is only one God.

The point is, being three-in-one, God exists as a community within Himself.  His very nature is to be in relationship.  Jesus

invites us to join Him in this close relationship, the ultimate version of community.

Jesus promised, “I WILL LOVE AND SHOW MYSELF” (21).  Love is the divine standard and brings us into relationship with God.  Love was the reason Jesus came to Earth and did all He has done for us, including giving us the Holy Spirit.

Verse twenty-seven is a classic promise, one that through the ages, has uplifted people of faith: “MY PEACE I GIVE YOU” (27).  Jesus’ PEACE is contrasted with what the WORLD calls “peace.”  Jesus’ PEACE is lasting and independent of circumstances.  It is a PEACE that banishes troubles and fears from our HEARTS.

The Holy Spirit gives us leadership in loving.

Jesus spent the last hours before His arrest preparing to live in a world that was going to be turned upside down.  He predicted the events of the next few days so His disciples would be ready to trust Him to fulfill all God’s promises.

Today these words serve a similar purpose for us.  Jesus speaks to prepare us to live in the WORLD, in a system dominated by evil that is hostile to the truth.  The best thing we have to counter this system is love.  The best source of love is the Holy Spirit.

Let us live in love by living in Jesus and following the Holy Spirit.

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A New Year’s Resolution: Yes AND No

Please read Titus 2:11-15 in your Bible.  Me?  I use the NIV.

A lifetime of godly change is a sign of salvation.

Many years ago an accomplished organist was giving a concert.  His music was so masterfully made, it seemed to come from heaven itself.  In spite of his usual better judgment, the organist was excited by his own performance and the audience’s enthusiastic appreciation.  Departing from his usual method, he addressed the people and spoke at some length about his giftedness, experience, and mastery of the organ.  With a triumphant smile, he said, “And now I shall play for you my final number, my magnificent opus!”

With a flourish and to applause, he seated himself on the organ bench.  He adjusted his music, then the stops, and finally struck the keys and pedals.  Nothing happened.  The organ was silent.

He repeated this process, all of it, with the same result.  His face was red with embarrassment as he called out a name angrily, “George!”

In those days pipe organs were powered by a backstage assistant who pumped large bellows.  This voice of this assistant, George, was heard from behind the organ, “Say ‘WE!’”

After the organist made this concession to teamwork, the mighty pipe organ thundered through the final number.

And so it is with each church.  All God’s people serve God’s purpose.  He has called us out of the lonely, divided world to become a cooperative people of faith.

  1. Say “Yes!” to God’s offer of salvation (11+14).

Though God’s offer of salvation is universal, acceptance of it is limited (11).  Paul’s letter reveals three parts to God’s offer.

First, the word APPEARED, which may also translated as “offered.”  This word points specifically at Jesus’ life offered up on the cross and generally to His Incarnation.  It is translated from the Greek word epiphanea, from which we get “Epiphany,” which means “to become visible or apparent.”  This word has been used as the name for the wise men/magi’s visit to the infant Jesus.  January 6th is Epiphany day.

Second, the word GRACE.  GRACE is defined as “unmerited favor” and may be remembered as an acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and His victorious Resurrection are the supreme examples of God’s GRACE.

Paul wrote that this GRACE has APPEARED TO ALL PEOPLE.  That is true in a spiritual sense; when we witness to our faith in word and deed, the GRACE of God makes yet another appearance in us.

Third, the phrase TO ALL PEOPLE.  The word “for” may be a better translation of the Greek; FOR the benefit of ALL PEOPLE.  As the New Testament affirms in other places, SALVATION is offered universally (FOR ALL PEOPLE), but it is not accepted by all people.  Those who refuse it are self-condemned.

Salvation changes us from putrification and petrification to purification (14).

“Putrification” is a process of decay.  Generally, living things decay when after death.  Those who refuse God’s grace are decaying spiritually but unaware of it.

“Petrification” is a process of fossilization or turning to “stone.”  If you go to the Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, you won’t find anything growing there but the grass; everything else has turned to stone.  This is a picture of a person who resorts to legalism and works in a mistaken attempt to earn salvation.

Paul explanation of purification is two-fold.

It is redemption.  He wrote that God offers SALVATION to REDEEM US FROM ALL WICKEDNESS.  Redemption speaks to freeing slaves by buying them from their current master.  In the case of persons who have not yet accepted Jesus, they are mastered by their sin nature.  In the case of persons who have put their trust in Jesus, they have to power to gain mastery over sin (see RMS 6:14).  The word WICKEDNESS can also be translated as “lawlessness,” defying God’s commands.

It is identification: we are identified as the children of God.  Paul explained that God intends to PURIFY FOR HIMSELF A PEOPLE WHO ARE HIS VERY OWN.  To PURIFY someone is to wipe away every trace of the dirty mark of guilt which every lawless person deserves.  Biblically, this is all of us.  God is pure & His people must also be pure.  The problem is, we can’t achieve that purity by will or by law, so God graciously gives it to all who will repent and trust His salvation.  This gift entitles us to be His people: HIS VERY OWN people.  This word means “reserved for himself” and referred to the spoils of war that the king reserved for his treasury.  (Think of it!  You are a treasured possession!)

  1. Say “Yes!” to good and “No” to evil (12+13).

God’s salvation TEACHES US (12).  The word “teach” refers to training or bringing up a child.  In the Greek it describes an ongoing process.  We always have more to learn.  It is also comprehensive of all methods of teaching; instruction, encouragement, discipline, correction.  The term is further defined in 2:1, where it is written that true teaching must be IN ACCORD WITH SOUND DOCTRINE.

But this training is not just about learning doctrine and Scripture; it must result in an improved moral life and in good works.  We do not do good works in order to be saved, but we do good works because we are saved.  There are two general responsibilities that accompany salvation.  They are our new year’s resolution: to say “YES!” and “NO!”

First, we must say “NO!” to evil.

– Say “NO!” to UNGODLINESS, which begins with a lack of respect or reverence for God.

– Say “NO!” to WORLDLY PASSIONS; caring more about material things than we care about God and/or His people.

Second, we must say “YES!” to good.

– Say “YES!” to being SELF-CONTROLLED.  This is an inwardly-directed mandate.  It is to be in control of one’s passions and attitudes.

– Say “YES!” to being UPRIGHT.  This is an outwardly-directed mandate.  It is to be in control of one’s words and deeds.

– Say “YES!” to being GODLY.  This is an upwardly-directed mandate.  It is to look to God for direction and strength in our daily living.  We don’t do good on our own, we do it by the Holy Spirit and prayer.

In fact, we must be EAGER to do good (14).  The word EAGER can be translated as “zealot” or “enthusiast.”  We ought to feel grateful for God’s grace and demonstrate our gratitude by our eagerness to do good.  This means we aren’t content to sit around waiting for opportunities to come to us, we look and pray for opportunities to do good and make it happen.  Verse twelve described three aspects of good deeds; self-control, uprightness, and godliness.

Paul addressed another motive: anticipating Jesus’ Second Coming = WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE BLESSED HOPE (13).  We are to say “NO!” to evil and “YES!” to good while we are awaiting Jesus’ second and final return to earth.  Any day now Jesus will appear and call His people to His side.  Having this hope means we want to

be found doing good when He appears, that we want to please Him, and earn rewards that we can return to Him in triumphant worship on that greatest occasion.

  1. Say “Yes!” to godly leadership (15).

Leaders are to exercise authority and followers respect authority.  In verse fifteen Paul summed up the teaching of 1:1-2:14 by commanding young pastor Titus to TEACH, ENCOURAGE, and REBUKE WITH ALL AUTHORITY.  As Titus was in the right, his leadership was to direct his church to right living.  In the Church, authority is to be invested in the elders who lead t church, including the pastor.

Paul gave command DO NOT LET ANYONE DESPISE YOU because despising godly leaders and refusing to follow direction, are signs of a heart not committed to Christ.  As we conclude, allow me to offer some advice on the care and feeding of church leaders.

Be a friend.  Influence without intimacy is merely intimidation.  Get to know the leaders of our church by spending time with them on a person-to-person level.

Be a cheerleader, not a “jeer-leader.”  There’s no place for negativity in this relationship.  Use constructive criticism if criticism must be used at all.  It takes 10 compliments to offset a single critique; earn the right to criticize by doing ten positive/uplifting things first.

Be the right kind of volunteer.  Don’t volunteer unsolicited advice, pass on criticisms, or insistence on following the “good ol’ days.”  Instead, volunteer your time and other practical means of support.

Be a brother/sister in Christ.  Pray daily for our leaders.  Encourage them in their service.  Share Scripture with them.  If it is hard to respect the person, at least respect the office.

Feed them.  We all appreciate being appreciated.  Small tokens and treats that express our thanks mean a lot to a leader.

Protect them.  Show some discernment.  Not all complaints or concerns need to be passed on.  In fact, if it’s something you can fix on your own, do it yourself.  As Jesus said, “Your Father sees what you do in secret and He will reward you accordingly.  Protect the leader’s reputation by not sharing in gossip or slander.

Let us be resolved to say “YES!” to God and “NO!” to Satan.

Overcoming the Dark Side – A Review

Dark Side

(Disclaimer: If you’re a Star Wars fan and have come here looking for more fuel for that fire, turn away, my young padawan: it’s not that “dark side.”)

A BOOK REPORT ON

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership

(Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima)

by Brett Best

June 2017

THE USEFUL MAIN THOUGHT

Whatever it is that makes a leader effective is a two-edged sword; those who are not careful in wielding it may cause self-inflicted wounds on the backswing.

THESIS STATEMENTS

“It was during this research that it became clear that a paradox of sorts existed in the lives of most of the leaders who had experienced significant failures: the personal insecurities, feelings of inferiority, and need for parental approval (among other dysfunctions) that compelled these people to become successful leaders were very often the same issues that precipitated their failure.” (p. 13)

“Because it is a part of us that we are unaware of to some degree, lurking in the shadows of our personality, we have labeled it the dark side of our personality.  However, in spite of the foreboding mental image the term dark side creates, it is not, as we shall see, exclusively a negative force in our lives.  In almost every case the factors that eventually undermine us are shadows of the ones that contribute to our success.” (Italics by the authors, p. 28.)

“The aspects of life that push us in a positive way toward success can also exert a negative pull, destroying our effectiveness.” (p. 33)

“In short any behavior that seems to overpower us, as well as any urge or motivation that seems to uncontrollably drive us, is a possible sign indicating the presence of our dark side.” (p. 71)

“Though expectations are necessary to a degree, they can also be a two-edged sword in our lives.  These healthy expectations can motivate the people toward whom they are directed to behave and achieve beyond their current level.” (p. 185)

QUOTABLES

“We live in a culture obsessed with both having and success.  True success is a state of being not having.” (Italics by the authors, p. 19)

“For, all too often, when the lessons of the dark side are never learned, it drives even successful leaders to make unwise, impulsive, unethical, or immoral choices that may ultimately lead to the forfeiture of the very success it created.” (p. 91)

The authors quoted Abraham Lincoln: “All human beings have their weaknesses, but not all of us realize them, come to grips with them, or offset their negative impact.  As a group whose primary endeavor is interacting with other people, leaders must accomplish the paradoxical task of managing their darker sides.”  (Italics in text, pp. 150-151.)

“The purpose of examining the past is not for the assignment of blame, but for self-understanding.” (p. 174)  I chose this quote because it is the sole balance against repeated exhortations to engage in the dredging of one’s past for the purpose of finding where the corpse-like seeds of self-destruction may lie.  It read to me like a call to psychotherapy.  As we live in a culture predominated by lawyers and therapists (evidence of our national self-destruction), I found myself wishing for more balance.  Blaming dad and mom can serve as a mechanism for not taking ownership of the person we’ve become.

“Our legalism is well-intended; nevertheless it is also quite repressive and destructive for those who must live and lead under its weight.” (p. 184)

“We must come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power we wield.  Rather, our worth exists independently of anything we have ever done or will do in the future.” (p. 213)  This is the best quote in the book and should have been in the introduction.

MY OPINION: PRAISEWORTHY PARTS

The authors precisely identified their aims and assumptions in the opening sections of the book.  They numbered them and set them aside to make them obvious instead of making use delve into the text to mine them or discover them by accident.  I appreciate assisting the reader by making the important bits obvious.

I read the revised version of the book; the original was published in 1997, the revised version in 2007.  I mention that because that time frame overlaps the rise of popular study of “emotional intelligence” in our culture.  Although the authors reference little or none of the fruits of this research, they ran on a parallel track.  Students of “EQ” will recognize the strands of thought shared with psycho-social observers of the time, purveyors of emotional sophistication in our intellectual processes.  In fact, with repeated references to Maslow and Jung, the greater portion of their teaching is based on social sciences than Scripture.

It is helpful to identify leadership styles and explore the light and dark sides of each.  A “Cosmo”-style self-evaluation is offered as a means of identifying one’s predominant leadership style.  Of course, the names assigned to the styles are negatively-oriented to their dark side: the Compulsive Leader, the Narcissistic Leader, the Paranoid Leader, the Codependent Leader, and the Passive-Aggressive Leader.

A five-step program is offered to aid leaders in overcoming their dark side, whichever form it may take.  If employed, I can see where this basic level of organization may help someone whose score in any of the dark sides was eight or more points.

MY OPINION: SHORTCOMINGS

The authors too frequently resort to generalizations like “many in the Christian community.”  How many?  What statistical data or anecdotes or other evidence can you offer to support such a contention?  To me, this is not scholarly; it is a lazy kind of writing that asserts as truths non-facts that are unproven and probably unprovable.  While I trust McIntosh and Rima as observers, it is simply not helpful to toss these sweeping generalities around as if they were self-evident.

This is a book on leadership among thousands.  It makes a point that may be examined in a more scholarly fashion elsewhere, but it is an important point to be made.  My concern is that the authors have given us an inoculation but not the cure.  The book successfully alerts the reader to the important point about the double-edged nature of leadership qualities, but, in spite of its length, does so superficially.  I would advise the reader who is concerned about their own dark side to turn to more competent sources of information on emotional intelligence.

The self-evaluation is an example of a double-edged nature.  While it is the backbone of the book, there is no more science here than one of the hundreds of quizzes on Facebook.  Science would establish a database on responses to these questions and create a sense of how commonly each aspect of the dark side occurs.  Science would trace connections to discoveries about emotional intelligence and explore linkages between these components of the dark side and established mental illnesses.

Having said all this, it would appear that I’m arguing that the book needed to be longer, to include more information.  Actually, my biggest concern about the book is that it is too long because it is filled with the wrong kinds of information; the author’s summations, generalizations, and exercises of imagination that stand in the place of genuine research.

To me, DARK SIDE is an example of a “padded book.”  There is enough new and useful information here for a journal article.  The rest is padding added to increase it to book length.  The authors make profuse use of historical/biblical examples of leadership meltdowns.”  While anecdotes are useful rhetorically, in this case their profusion indicates a shallowness of substance.  Another example of padding is extensive use of quotations.  It amused me to see multiple quotations from Sue Grafton.  I was under impression she is known as a popular author of fiction.  Is leadership theory part of her publishing resume?  The book is simply a mile wide and an inch deep.

MY OPINION: FINAL GRADE

If I wanted to be cute, I’d give DARK SIDE a “D” for “dark.”  Instead, I’m giving it a “D” for the shallowness of scholarship and the addition of too much padding to stretch a viable journal article into a salable book.