“Eat your greens, they’re good for you”
For the past week and a half I have come to know the local vet quite well. Our little puppy Koby contracted the “parvo” virus. A virus that is fatal without serious attention. Koby was in the animal hospital on a drip for four days and since coming home, we still have had to ring them, basically daily for advice, or take him down for injections. That know that saying when others are ill “I know how you feel” is easily reeled off the tongue and often not totally true, but ironically Koby and me do have a common distinction, that of both having being treated by a vet. Kobe, as mentioned and myself back in 1992. It was the morning of the football Grand final, and two nights before I had pulled my hamstring and was hobbling. The coach had given me right up to near the start to see if I good play. The two of us referred to the club trainer and the prognosis was not good. But our club trainer was no ordinary trainer; he also trained horses and offered me one of his horse tablets. I played and we won and lived to tell the tail and all was good in the world: except he had told me there would be no side effects, which I assume didn’t include the tongue lashing I received later from my fiancée and mother.
In many things we reminisce of the good old days, but medical treatments are not one of them. Medically, compared to centuries past, we truly do live in a blessed time. It is amazing of what can be done to us to keep our bodies physically functioning.
Yet, emotionally it can be a different matter. When physically ill we go and receive medication from the doctor (or in some cases the vet). Emotionally, sometimes we can tend to try and self-medicate to get rid of the pain. Anything, for a few moments of peace away from the pain and will do. George Best was a brilliant soccer player, yet searching for peace as seen in his words describing his journey of life, when he said: “Most of my money I spent on grog, women and gambling, and the rest I just wasted”.
We can self-medicate but in the end, the medication itself can become the problem. There is but one sure source of spiritual medication and unlike the others, it’s free and we don’t take it, we receive it. Every facet of our spiritual life with God is dependent on Jesus.
John chapter 15, verse 5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”.
Now I don’t know about you but as soon as I read the words “good works” and bearing fruit” I get a little edgy. Indeed I can relate to the Prophet Isaiah’s words that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”.
Sure some days we might spring out of bed, feeling full of the Holy Spirit, hearing the Word, full of love and good deeds: feeling like a Christian “should feel.” (and)These truly are blessed moments, just like the other just as blessed moments-Lord blessed moments that is, when we may feel at the other end of the scale.
Those vegetable moments when we know that reading and hearing God’s Word is good for us, but it doesn’t seem to taste as good or be so mouth-watering. When instead of being cheerful in Christ we are bored or worrying about the mortgage payments. When we cannot live up to that “real”
Christian life ethic. Where it’s a bit vague to us. Where we feel a bit like Prince Charles, who when asked on his engagement to Lady Dianna if he was ‘in love’ answered “Whatever ‘in love’ means”. In these moments we might not feel as we’re much of a blessing to others or ourselves. But the Lord is still blessing us.
But what is a “real” Christian anyway. Good works-producing fruit: certainly yes, these are good things that we should always endeavour to act on, just like non-Christians do.
Let’s go back to those previous verses: Firstly Isaiah, Now I reckon there’s a fair chance he was a “real” man of God:
“all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”. Two key words here, “righteous acts”. Not good deeds but righteous acts and there is a big difference. Good deeds are done in honour of our Lord towards his people, but they are not saving acts. Righteousness is to be right by God. Good deeds do not bring us righteousness, only Christ makes us right before God.
John 15: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”.
There we go again, “good fruit”. But let’s look a little closer. Jesus is the vine, the source of nourishment, the one that feeds us, the branches, not the other way round, not even a little each way-no all the feeding comes outwards.
“Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit”. While this sounds a little like the old ‘what comes first, the chicken or the egg’ scenario, it is far from it. “Abide in me and I in them”, seriously, I can’t even force myself to really accept rugby league never mind abiding in the Lord.
No, the key, the Gospel is Jesus: Jesus abiding in us. Jesus does all the work, in Jesus we are brought to faith and only in Jesus is there fruit.
This is so freeing, a release from thoughts of inadequacies spiritually and indeed of our lives. In Jesus we cannot go wrong. One day full of zest, the next tired, one person a novice pastor the other a brain surgeon in a city hospital-Jesus uses people, times and places to serve others and that they might even become Christians. ‘Real’ Christians that although they in themselves fail in deeds and thoughts, in Christ are they nourished, forgiven, saved and given life.
Real Christians like you.
In the movie Breaker Morant, Breaker an Australian soldier in the Boer war, has returning from his controversial court martialling and is asked by his colleagues how he went and sternly replied “Shot at dawn”.
While our bodies are attached by old age and illness, our spirit is strengthened, renewed and protected by the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
Martin Luther during the reformation was often attacked by the powers of darkness that would ask “Who do you think you are and you’re just a sinner: to which he would reply-yes, but I am a forgiven sinner who is a baptised child of God.
In our day to day lives, in our families, our home and work. When we rise in the morning or rest at night, whether we feel very saintly or not is not the issue. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once concluded it’s not what we feel, but what we think. I would go a little further, it’s not what we feel or think it’s what we know. In the strength of Breaker Morant when your backs against the wall and in sureness off Martin Luther you can proclaim it’s not what others think of me, it’s not even what I think of myself-it’s what the Lord has done for me, what he has told me:
These Words of the Lord be with you:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not onto your own understanding” Prov. 3:5
“For when you call upon God, the Lord will save you. He has heard your voice and delivered your soul in peace from the battle that was against you” Ps. 55:16-18
“For the Lord your God holds your right hand, saying fear not, I am helping you” Isa. 41:13
“Fear not, for the Lord your God goes with you and he will not fail you nor forsake you” Deut. 31:6, 8
“Your faith has come from hearing the Word of God” Rom. 10:17
“(and) being justified by faith, you have peace with God through Jesus Christ” Rom. 5:1
“(and) I give you eternal life, and you shall never perish and no one will pluck you out of my hand” Jn. 10:28
Yes, the Lord is with you. Amen.