Monday, October 29, 2012


Shalom! John 14:25-31
Introduction: The recent presidential debate focused on foreign policy which in itself is enough to remind us that the world is a decidedly un-peaceful place. The mid-east, Israel in particular, is a key topic of discussion and dispute. Ironically, “Jerusalem,” at the center of it all, actually means “City of Peace”! In modern Hebrew the term “Shalom” is used as a simple greeting or farewell, “hello” and “good-bye,” with no consideration of a deeper, biblical meaning. Paul used it (in Greek translation) in many of his letters, “Grace to you, and peace…” As the term is used in the Bible it is looking toward that “peace” that we can experience in our new life through faith in Christ. If we look at the news and consider the world today, it would be easy to conclude that “peace” has alluded us. But that observation is nothing new. This week our Wednesday night devotional was on Psalm 10. It begins with a cry of pain and frustration from the psalmist at He looks out at the apparent injustice in the world: “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Ps 10:1). Does it sometimes seem that way?
The Big Idea: Taking God at His Word is the Way to peace and real joy in a hurting world.
I. Jesus offers truth: He taught the disciples while He was with them knowing that the Holy Spirit would reinforce and continue His teaching after His departure (14:25-26). There was a television series named “House” that portrayed a character with a very abrasive personality. He had a skeptical view of people in general and one of his oft repeated lines was “Everybody lies!” You might feel that way during this political season as well. After the debates there is always a discussion of who did more twisting of the truth (or outright lying!) in terms of the facts. “Fact checking” is necessary because people lie! The problem is, even the “fact checkers” twist what was said to fit their own agendas. Pilate will ask Jesus, “What is truth?” The reader of John knows the answer: Jesus is. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Though humans will fail us, His word is true, it’s absolutely reliable.
Jesus was the Word incarnate.
He is truth. The idea that God would reveal Himself to humans was evident from the beginning. God walked with Adam in the Garden and spoke to him. He used language to communicate in a way that humankind could understand and relate to. He called Abraham and spoke to the patriarchs, he revealed Himself to Moses, first in the burning bush and continually as He brought His word to the people. He spoke to the people through prophets who called them back to covenant faithfulness. Then finally, as the writer to the Hebrews says, “God spoke in times past to the fathers through the prophets has in these last days spoken in [his] Son” (Heb 1:1). The God who is, has spoken, and His Word is absolute truth (In contrast to humans who will stretch the truth, bend the truth, twist the truth, hide the truth, shade the truth… you get the idea!).
Jesus, the One who is the Truth, spoke truth to his followers.
The disciples didn’t necessarily take extensive notes! But the Holy Spirit would remind them of Jesus’ words. I believe we have to be careful about what this is saying. It is not a promise of “on going revelation.” The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of what Jesus taught, bringing His words, supernaturally, to their remembrance. He would lead them into His truth as they taught the early church and proclaimed the gospel and wrote the documents that would become our New Testament. The writers were inspired, so the documents they wrote were the Word of God. We read for example in 2 Pet 1:21
“…for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved (carried along) by the Holy Spirit.”
Again Paul said in 2 Tim 3:16-17
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
What we have in the Bible is the very Word of God. True, absolutely reliable, trustworthy. GOD has spoken! Yet so many fail to even hear what He has said. In our country, many professing Christians take the Bible for granted and hardly pick it up except on Sunday. One of the biggest excuses for not reading the Bible is the people think its too difficult, they can never remember anything they read. I like the response of one pastor: “If you run water into a sieve you don’t collect much water, but at least you wind up with a clean sieve!” John Wesley once wrote “…God himself has condescended to teach us the way. He has written it down in a book. O give me that Book! At any price, give me the book of God!” That should be our attitude! After all, taking God at His Word is the Way to peace and real joy in a hurting world.
II. Jesus offers peace in a troubled world (14:27).
John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Jesus started this chapter with the admonition, “Let not your heart be troubled…” Here He tells us that rather than the anxiety that could so easily overwhelm us, and the fear that could effectively paralyze us, He offers us peace, HIS peace. One of the titles He was given by the prophet Isaiah was “Prince of Peace.” Yet there is so much turmoil in this world – war – earthquakes – hurricanes – famine and sickness – peace? Ron Hodgecraft told this story:
“The occasion was a city-wide art contest. They were told to paint paintings entitled "Peace." While the judges were understandably attracted to this beautiful pastural scene that a local painter had painted. It was a green pasture. It was the puffy white clouds and the beautiful blue sky and a little boy going by with a fishing pole over his shoulder and a quiet brook and some birds. That got second place. First place - well, the picture was of an angry, stormy day at the sea shore as the ocean was beating against the cliffs and the cliffs were stark and dark because of the darkness of the storm. The sky in this painting was angry and black, green and purple. You had to look twice to figure out what in world this had to do with peace. But if you looked halfway up the cliff these little baby birds were nestled underneath the wing of their mother, and they were sleeping totally oblivious to the storm that was howling all around them.”
He is our shelter in times of storm. It’s not that God promises us an absence of turmoil, conflict, or hardship in this life. But He does promise peace, even in the midst of storm and tempest, peace that passes understanding. Peace that comes from the presence of the Prince of Peace in our lives. It begins by believing God, taking Him at His Word. That is the Way to peace and real joy in a hurting world.
III. Jesus offers Joy: Jesus’ return to the Father (and promised return for us!) should be cause for Joy (14:28).
John 14:28 "You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I.” We have a couple of reasons for rejoicing here:
First, Jesus is now at the Father’s right hand.
He is our Savior, and our mediator. John put it this way in his first letter: 1 John 1:4 “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” Then again in 1 John 2:1 we read, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” He is there, on our behalf, at the Father’s right hand.
He also promises here that He is returning.
That’s not a threat, it’s a promise! He said in John 14:28 “You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice…” Salvation is motive for rejoicing to be sure – but the promise that God is sovereign and that His plan is unfolding on the stage of human history is in itself motive for thanksgiving. The psalmist said, in Psalm 30:5 “…Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” A little further on in this discourse in John we’ll read in John 16:20, “…that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” The promise of His presence, His place at the Father’s right hand interceding for us, and assurance that He is returning is cause for rejoicing! Taking God at His Word is the Way to peace and real joy in a hurting world.
IV. Jesus gives us a reasonable basis for faith (14:29).
John 14:29 says "And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” Herman Bavinck’s theology in English translation is called “Our Reasonable Faith,” and that title reflects the truth that God has not called us to blind, baseless trust. He has revealed himself in history. He has given us a basis for our trust. By predicting his betrayal, death, resurrection, and the pouring out of the Spirit, He gave His disciples a reason to believe: when these things began to be fulfilled, they could know that He was who He claimed to be. In the OT the Jews were not to believe everyone who claimed to speak for God. Dt 18:22,
"…when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
Jesus is saying that his predictions concerning his betrayal, arrest, being denied, crucified, and resurrected would serve as evidence that He could be trusted, that His Word (and His promises!) are true. Since these things happened exactly as He said they served to confirm his identity. And so we can believe Him, and taking God at His Word is the Way to peace and real joy in a hurting world.
V. Jesus modeled obedience as He fulfilled the Father’s plan (14:30-31).
Jn 14:30-31 30 "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” Jesus said that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments. He modeled obedience while showing His love for the Father (and for us) by his willingly carrying out the Father’s plan. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on the cross.
What is God saying to me in this passage?
Taking God at His Word is the Way to peace and real joy in a hurting world.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?
Are you in the Word? If not, why not? Do you believe it is God’s Word? Do you believe it is true? Do you trust that it is God’s map, showing the way? We are nearing the end of the year and some of you have been reading along with us in going through the entire Bible in 2012. But its never to late to start. The key is to be in the Word daily. To read the Bible systematically. The God who made you wants you to know Him, to trust Him, and to experience the peace and joy He designed you for. Think about that! Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2012

There is more, much more! John 14:15-24

THERE IS MORE, MUCH MORE! (or, To Know Him is to Love Him; To Love Him is to Obey Him) John 14:15-24 Introduction: One of the themes that we have seen repeated in this Gospel is that Jesus came to offer “life” to humanity. This life is referred to frequently as “eternal life” and so our tendency is to think ahead to Heaven and the idea that through faith in Christ we will spend eternity with Him. That is a true, correct statement. But it is not all that He means when He says that He came to offer us “life.” Remember that Jesus made a provocative statement in John 10:10b,
“…I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly…”
That’s what He wants you to experience. Jesus is interested in presenting to humans the one true way to life, though faith in Him. But He wants more for us than simply knowing we are saved: He wants much more, He wants us to experience the abundant life. Believing God, knowing Him, and loving Him are the key to experiencing what God intends for us. Love is not just an emotion; it is a commitment, a choice. If we really love Him, it will be a joy to obey him. We overlapped a little with last week’s Scripture since v.15 introduces a key idea in this paragraph: If we love Jesus, we will obey Him, v.24 frames the same truth from the opposite side: If we don’t love Him we won’t keep His word. One of the most recent commandments He gave, toward the end of chapter 13, he called a “New Commandment,” i.e. that we love one another. Someone might say “I love God, it’s people I have a problem with!” John will give us God’s thoughts on that in I John 4:20, 21, “If someone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this is the commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As we come to know God we will love Him and have intimate fellowship with Him as we walk in obedience to Him.
The Big Idea: We can have a vital, intimate, relationship with the Father through the Son that results in obedience in the power of the Spirit.
I. The Spirit is Present: The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit empowers us to love God and to live in obedience to Him (15-17). The truth reflected in this verse is that obedience flows out of loving Jesus: “If you love me, [or, “you will”] keep my commandments…” The question may be, in light of the context, “how can we do that?” If Peter is going to deny Him, Judas is going to betray Him, and He is going to be delivered up by His own people to be crucified, where does the capacity for living above the struggles and temptations of life in this world come from? What hope is there for any of us? The point is not that we love Him and so must obey Him. The language is clear: “If you love me… you will keep my commandments…”
Listen, the Christian life is not only difficult, if you think you can live it in your own strength you are wrong—it’s not difficult, in our strength is impossible!
But it is not our strength, but His presence and power that is the answer. As the Lord said through the prophet Zechariah, “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord…” (Zech 4:6). We introduced the answer last week: the Comforter, our Counselor and Helper, the Encourager called alongside to help, He will enable us. The idea of a transformed life is not a threat, it’s a promise! We know that the Holy Spirit is connected with the idea of powerful Christian witness. Talking of the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost Jesus will say,
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses…”
We see that exemplified in Acts as the apostles, threatened, arrested, and beaten, continue to boldly proclaim Christ. Even as their own lives are in jeopardy, their response was “We cannot stop preaching what we have seen and heard.” This is true. It’s changed our lives. Jesus is God and He died for us was raised the third day. They were saying this to the very leaders that delivered Jesus to Pilate to be crucified! And its not just power to witness… More generally, the Spirit gives us the power of God’s presence, enabling us to live a life that is different, changed by His grace. He is in us, and He guides us. Paul said in Rom 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. …” In Galatians Paul talks about the “fruit of the Spirit…” which is “…is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). “Fruit” indicates something that comes forth, results, from the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. We can have a vital, intimate, relationship with the Father through the Son that results in obedience in the power of the Spirit.
II. The Abiding Presence of the Son: The Coming of the Spirit would follow the unfolding story of the Gospel: the death and resurrection of Jesus (18-20).
Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you” (v.18). On the one hand the connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is so vital, that the Spirit can be referred to as the Spirit of Christ. We read for example in Romans 8:9,
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
The Holy Spirit can be called the Spirit of Christ. We also read in Acts 16:6-8,
“They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them…”
Here the Holy Spirit (v.6) is called “the Spirit of Jesus” (v.7). So there is a sense in which the unity within the Godhead, here between the Spirit and the Son, is such, that when the Spirit is present, so is Jesus. But remember that the sending of the Spirit on Pentecost is connected to another event that happened fifty days earlier: the resurrection of Jesus. I think the main point here is that Jesus is looking ahead to His death and resurrection. The “little while” in v.19 is the time until the cross, and His death and burial. The Cross was coming, the “hour” that He had been moving toward, the hour for which He had come. But the disciples would see Him soon after, three days to be precise, when He defeated death in His resurrection. Look ahead to 16:7,
“It’s to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away the helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you…”
The cross, resurrection, ascension, and coming of the Spirit on Pentecost are all connected. So the Spirit is with us and in us, and the Son, as He promised, is with us always. We can have a vital, intimate, relationship with the Father through the Son that results in obedience in the power of the Spirit.
III. The Promised Presence of the Father, Leading us Deeper into Life in Christ (21-24).
The language here reflects a deepening, intimate relationship with God. Rev 3:20 speaks of this kind of intimate fellowship when it says, Revelation 3:20 20 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” He is talking to the church in Laodecia, and inviting them to move ahead from their lukewarm state into the kind of living, vital relationship He wants with them. We Baptists often practically connect “food” and “fellowship.” The word “fellowship” means communion or sharing. When Jesus spoke in Rev 3:20 of “supping” or “dining” with those who open the door and let Him in, He is speaking to that near Eastern idea of intimate fellowship together. We read in John 14:21-24
21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
If we love Him we will keep His commandments. That is the evidence, the demonstration of authentic love for Him. “Love” is not just a word that we speak, its not just a feeling or an emotion, it’s a commitment to a person and a relationship that shows itself by actions. Then N.B. what it says: “I will disclose myself to him…” Loving Jesus will enable us to receive deeper revelation of truth. The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. This is the difference between knowing about God, and knowing Him personally. It’s one thing to be able to state correct facts of theology, repeat the doctrinal statement of the church, its another to have a growing relationship with Him as the Spirit guides us into a deepening understanding of His word. Those outside of faith in Christ simply don’t see, they are blind to the truth. Here we read that
“…Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him…”
Obedience shows our love, and the Father leads us deeper in our living, vital, relationship with Him. And the promise is that that living relationship will lead us deeper:
“…and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me…”
The word “abode” here is the same word that Jesus used in 14:2, “dwelling place.” We were discussing this in our last small group meeting and a couple of our ladies made a good observation: Jews in the first century would have thought of the Temple when Jesus spoke of “his Father’s house.” John has been making the point that Jesus himself is the presence of God (e.g. “tear down this Temple and in three days I will raise it up…” (2:19-21). He is the ladder the heaven that the angels ascend and descend on in Jacob’s vision at Beth-El [i.e. “House of God”] (1:51). The point here is that we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to experience this kind of intimate fellowship with God. Because of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, we are “in Christ” and by faith enter the Holy Place, the very Presence of God. He makes His abode with us.
What is God saying to me in this passage?
Does your life feel empty at times? Or do you perhaps feel overwhelmed by the daily grind? Jesus came that you may life, and that you may have it more abundantly. We can have a vital, intimate, relationship with the Father through the Son that results in obedience in the power of the Spirit.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?
If you have trusted Christ as Savior, you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. God is here—with you and in you! If you love Him, you will keep His commandments. One of those was related in this context, at the end of chapter 13, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…” Our “vertical” relationship with God will show itself in our “horizontal” relationship with one another, and with our neighbors. [By the way, a good turn out here on Wednesday afternoon for Gloria’s memorial service will be a testimony to the family: see how they love each other!]. Walk with the King today, and be a blessing! Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Knowing our Triune God - John 14:7-17

Knowing Our Triune God John 14:7-17 Introduction: Many Sundays we sing the Doxology as we just did:
“Praise God from whom all blessing flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…”
We are praising the Triune God when we sing that. When we are talking about God there are some doctrines that we can state, but hardly understand. The word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible. Yet the biblical teaching is that there is only one true God, and that He exists eternally as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Knowing God as He is, as He has revealed Himself to us, is the foundation of the New Life He wants for us: In John 17:3 Jesus will pray,
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
We come to the Father, through the work of the Son, in the power of the Spirit (the promise of the Holy Spirit comes center stage here). Its not too surprising that some religions misunderstand what we are saying when we talk about the Trinity and assume we must be polytheists—people who worship more than one God. The Bible is clear that God is One: Deuteronomy 6:4, “The LORD is our God, The LORD alone…” (my translation). One God. One Divine Essence. Yet the Father is called God in distinction from the Son. John started off saying “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…” The language relates two persons in face to face relationship. Of course the next phrase introduces the tension: “…and the Word was God…” Jesus has affirmed several times in this Gospel His unique relationship with the Father. Now as he anticipates his departure the revelation reaches another level. It was hinted at back in 7:39 in John’s editorial comment explaining the teaching of Jesus in the preceding verses:
“But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet [given], because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The glorification of the Son is approaching, the cross drew nearer, and that would be the precursor to the giving of the Holy Spirit. John wants us to know God as He is, in His tri-unity. The Big Idea: Through the Son we know the Father, and by the indwelling Spirit we have communion with Him.
I. Seeing God—The Son reveals the Father: Like Father, Like Son! Jesus reveals the Father through His works and words (14:7-11).
How could humans know a transcendent God? He needed to reveal himself in some tangible way that we could understand. Remember the story of the child, afraid of the dark, not wanting her mother to leave her bedside. “Don’t be afraid, God is here.” The reply came, “I know, but right now I need somebody with skin on!” To really know God, He had to make Himself known to us. So Jesus, the eternal Son, could say, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Jesus reveals the Father (Read, John 14:7-9 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." 8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?”). John gave a summary statement of what we see revealed throughout in the Gospel in 1:18,
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him [i.e., “He has made Him known…”].”
Or as Paul said in Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation”, and again in Colossians 2:9
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily…”
GOD became a man, in Jesus we know the Father and have seen Him. How is it possible for humans to know a transcendent God, a God so immense, omnipotent, awesome (that was our theme Wed. nite, Ps 8, “Awesome God; Amazing Grace!”). Eternal God, the Son, took upon himself a human nature. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14). In Paul’s words, “…he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men…” Jesus words come from the Father and His works reveal the Father. John 14:10-11
"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.”
If the Words alone were not convincing the works that Jesus did could leave no doubt. Yes, it’s through the Son we know the Father, and by the indwelling Spirit we have communion with Him.
II. Following God—The Son is an example to His followers: Like the Master, so His disciples (14:12-15).
Through faith in Jesus we carry out His mission in the world: 12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” What is Jesus talking about here? Consider the miracles that He did in this gospel, the signs that revealed and proved Him to be the Messiah! What greater works could his followers do? When we turn to Acts we see miracles done at hands of the apostles, in the name of Jesus. The works confirmed their authority to bring the Word of Christ. We read in Acts 14:3
“…they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
Through Him and because of Him we can pray to the Father. We read in 14:13,14,
"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
We’ll talk more about prayer as we continue through the Upper Room discourse, but it is clear that Jesus is not saying that God has given us a blank check, we can name it and claim it and its ours. If we pray in His name we are in fellowship with Him, praying according to His will, not necessarily our wants. When He taught His disciples how to pray, He said pray like this: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…” His will become important to us when we know Him. Because we love Him, we obey Him. We’ve all heard the saying, “to know you is to love you!” Well, when God is the object, knowing, loving, and obeying are parallel, virtually inseparable ideas. Jesus said, 15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Obedient Christianity is normal Christianity. *** Through the Son we know the Father, and by the indwelling Spirit we have communion with Him.
III. Indwelt by God—The Son asks the Father, who sends the Spirit, who will be with us and in us always (14:16,17).
Here Jesus introduces a topic He had alluded to earlier. At one point John, the writer, explains the meaning of Jesus words: John 7:37-39,
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Even in this context Jesus alluded to His impending departure, that where He was going they could not follow, but promised something new, God present in a new way, filling them and coming out of them so that because of him they become like a fountain of life in a thirsty world. Now the hour was at hand, Jesus is preparing His disciples for a major transition: they would have to carry out His mission without Him being physically present. But He would not leave them as orphans. He promises to send “another Helper.” Using Greek or Hebrew words in a sermon doesn’t usually help much, and it could confuse the message. Like the Sunday School teacher who was questioning her students about the image of a bird used in Scripture to describe the Holy Spirit. She had in mind the Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove at His baptism. But the student shouted out, “A Parakeet!” When she questioned where that was found in the Bible the child said, I heard the pastor say Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit as our Paraklete, but I think he meant to say ‘parakeet’”! The actual word, Parakletos, one called alongside [to help]. “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper…” The translations struggle to find an adequate English translation: Helper, Advocate, Counselor, Encourager, Comforter… all of these terms reflect an aspect of what the Comforter is and does for the people of God. “…that He may be with you forever…” Think about that! You are never alone… He is with us, not to condemn us but to help us, to comfort us, to give us counsel and guidance. He is here when we come together to celebrate his presence, He is with us when we are tired and alone and could easily despair, He is there when the enemy would taunt us and tempt us to choose sin over worship and submission to Him. He is with us always, He will never leave us or forsake us. And that is not all… Notice what Jesus promises in v.17,
“…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
If you have believed in Jesus, that is, if you have turned from sin and turned to Him in faith for salvation, God’s Spirit lives in you. He lives with us and now, since Pentecost, He dwells IN us! This is the idea that Paul tried to get across to the Corinthians when he said in I Cor 3:16,
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Then again in in 6:19 of I Cor,
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
When the Hebrews left Egypt under the leadership of Moses they were instructed to build a Tabernacle which traveled with them through the wilderness wandering. It was the place of God’s presence in their midst. When they took the land, it was finally Solomon who was permitted by God to build the Temple in Jerusalem, and that became the new place of God’s presence among the people. Jesus of course came and He himself was the presence and revelation of God. Now get this: we are the body of Christ, and we have become the temple, the dwelling place, the place of His presence! God is with us, and in us. • When we are tempted to sin, remember God in His holiness is with you and in you! • When we repent and come to Him with a contrite heart, God in his grace and mercy is already here, waiting. • When we feel alone and abandoned and unloved, the One who so loved us that He gave His only Son, is with us and in us. • When we feel overwhelmed by opportunities and needs that are before us, remember the God who spoke and created the universe lives in us, and is with us.
What is God saying to me in this passage?
Through the Son, and because of Him, we know the Father, and by the indwelling Spirit we have communion with Him.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?
Have you come to the Father through the Son? If you have, do you realize that the Spirit of God dwells in you? How should you then live? Think about that! Amen.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Way is Peace for Troubled Hearts - John 14:1-6

The Way is Peace for Troubled Hearts John 14:1-6 Introduction: It is easy for us to be troubled, to feel overwhelmed in the face of life in this fallen world. Jesus spoke of the “signs of the times” in His discourse in Matthew 24 (Mark 13). I believe he was telling his disciples that those fearsome events he describes would be part of life in this fallen world until He returns: wars and rumors of wars, famines and pestilence, earthquakes in diverse places (that sounds familiar, recall the testimony of Yoshito Kato a couple of weeks ago). People look in a lot of different places for comfort and hope in this troubled world. Psychology, meditation, yoga, self-help books, TV gurus, sometimes to substance abuse that at least dulls the anxiety. Jesus knew what His disciples would face after His departure. He knew the challenges that the Church would face through the centuries. He knew the challenges that you would face as well. He knew every one of the prayer requests that we have listed in our bulletin. He knew the needs that we mention at our Wednesday prayer meetings. He knew the personal struggles and crises that you faced last week – He knows the biggest concern in your heart right now. His word to His disciples is a word to each one of us: “Let not your heart be troubled…” It’s a tender scene, like a parent comforting a child, preparing them for his impending death. In this context Jesus addressed his disciples as “little children” (13:33). It’s not a common word in the NT. Jesus uses it here, later John in his old age will use it himself as he writes his first letter. In their anxiety He promises peace (14:27) and that they will not be left as orphans (14:18). The Big Idea is that we can have peace in a troubled world because through faith in Jesus we are citizens of Heaven.
I. We can have peace because we know Him: Faith in Jesus is the answer to our anxieties (14:1).
Jesus begins, “Let not your heart be troubled…” Remember the context. What was happening in chapter thirteen? The disciples may have begun to feel uneasy about what Jesus was saying to them. He was going away? Where? Could he be talking about dying? He would be betrayed? Even Peter would deny Him, not once, but three times that very night? Peter was the “rock,” they probably viewed him as the strongest of the group, if he would fail what hope was there for any of them? How could this be? What did it mean? Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled….” We’ve seen this word before in John, in fact its an emotion that Jesus himself experienced. We see him At the tomb of Lazarus, seeing Mary (and Martha) weeping, mourning the untimely death of her brother,
“…when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” (John 11:33).
After His triumphal entry in John 12, as He anticipates the passion, possibly feeling already the weight of the sin of humanity crushing down on Him, He says
"Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
Finally as he predicts his betrayal by one of His own disciples we read in John 13:21,
“When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’"
Jesus can sympathize with our struggles, and He is the Prince of Peace.” The same word is used here John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled…” and again a little further on we’ll see it in John 14:27 where Jesus says,
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
We don’t need to be troubled in our hearts, He was troubled for us: He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. We read that very thing in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows…” He took our sins, and the consequences of our sins in His own body on the cross. We don’t need to be troubled in our hearts, because Jesus, our High Priest can empathize with us, He himself “bore our sorrows and carried our grief.” You remember the story of the little girl terrified by a vicious thunder storm. Her mother assured her she needn't be afraid, she was right in the next room, and Jesus was right here with her, and He never sleeps. She asked “Are you sure he never sleeps?” That’s right, the mother replied. “I guess I can go to sleep then, there is no use both of us staying up!” He knows your pain, your heart aches, your struggles. As we sang one of our songs today I could imagine in my mind’s eye Jesus, walking down this aisle, one by one putting His hand on our shoulder, looking into our eyes, saying “Fear not, Let not your heart be troubled…” He knows you, personally, intimately, and He promises to be with you always. The second part of v.1 can be translated in different ways, in this case based on the context I like the NIV which takes it as parallel imperative statements: “Trust in God. Trust also in me.” We needn’t be overcome with anxiety in this troubled world, because we know Him, and He is trustworthy. He is bigger than any crisis we might face in the world or in our individual lives. Our hearts needn’t be troubled, we don’t need to be afraid. Because we know Him, we can have peace in a troubled world. After all, through faith in Jesus we are citizens of Heaven!
II. We can have peace because our future is sure: Assurance of Heaven gives us perspective in difficult times (14:2,3).
The translations struggle a bit with v.2 and we could get bogged down in the details, but the main idea is clear enough: the is more than enough room in Father’s house, and Jesus is making ready a place just for you if you know Him! Warren Wiersbe said in his Bible commentary on this passage:
Some years ago a London newspaper held a contest to determine the best definition of “home.” The winning entry was, “Home is the place where you are treated the best and complain the most.” The poet Robert Frost said that home is the place that, when you arrive there, they have to take you in!
When we were appointed as missionaries we had to leave behind our home in NJ and move to a house in Brazil where we lived for a year, then moved to an apartment, then to another. When we had a furlough we came back to the US and lived somewhere else. Sarah grew up in that context of international moves and often wondered where home was. Mary Ann told her if we were there together, it was home. The idea here is that we are all citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20,21). We have another home, a permanent one, prepared for us by the King himself! Heaven is your home if you know Jesus (Hey, you all are from away too)! We have a room reserved in Heaven, and either we will go there through death, or Jesus will take us there when He returns for the church! Think about it: this world is temporary and so the problems of this world are temporary. Its like the old time Bible teacher who said one of his favorite phrases from the Bible in times of crisis is “…and it came to pass…”! By that he meant that whatever the crisis was, it didn't come to stay, it was temporary, it came to pass! Well that may not be good hermeneutics, but it is right theology. A song says, “Who could mind the journey when the road leads home?” The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus, “…for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Heb 12:2). Perspective! As Paul wrote, “…the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us…” (Rom 8:18). We can have peace in a troubled world because through faith in Jesus we are citizens of Heaven.
III. We can have peace because we know the Way home: The One who is truth has given himself as the Way to Life with the Father (14:4-6).
This is one of the great “I AM” statements of this Gospel. I think the phrases go together, qualifying and complementing one another. He is essentially saying that He is God the Son, the true and only way to life with the Father. Vv.4,5 show that the disciples are still struggling along to understand: Jesus said, "And you know the way where I am going." 5 Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" • “I AM…” For the reader of the Gospel there is no question, 23 times in this gospel Jesus uses the phrase, each time revealing a bit more about who He is. From the self-revelation to the woman at the well as she spoke of the coming messiah, “I AM [he]”, to his word to the disciples as came walking on the water, “Fear not, I AM…”, to his response to those who came seeking Him in the garden in John 18, He is the great I AM, Yahweh, God incarnate. Immanuel. • “…the Way…” This evokes in me the image of Jacob’s vision which Jesus alludes to in John 1 as He speaks with Nathanael. The angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Jesus is the way, the only way to the Father. • “…the Truth…” The question of absolutes is challenged today. We see it all the time when we present the Scriptures to people, especially the unsaved. Well that’s your interpretation; this is what it means to me… Later in this Gospel Pilate will ask, “What is truth?” Today the world wants to deny absolute truth. Like is or not, there are absolutes in the Bible. Right and wrong. True and false. [Some would argue today that marriage should be reinterpreted, that God’s design as revealed in the Bible was for a different time, a different culture. God’s revelation is true. He designed marriage for one man and one woman, period.] Jesus came to reveal the Father and make possible our salvation. We can trust Him, because He is the Truth. • “…and the Life…” – He said at the tomb of Lazarus that he was the “resurrection and the life.” He is speaking about eternal life, the abundant life God wants for His people, life with meaning. • The only Way to the Father: “No one comes to the Father but by Me…” That is an exclusive statement and it is an offense to many people. It’s not my view, it’s God’s Word that matters. As Peter would preach in the book of Acts, “There is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” None. Only through faith in Jesus, recognizing who He is, trusting in what He has done for us, can we approach the Father.
What is God saying to me in this passage?
We can have peace in a troubled world because through faith in Jesus we are citizens of Heaven.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?
There are a lot of uncertainties in the world. For many of us, we can easily despair about things that are beyond our control. Politics. The economy. Terrorism. Health… Do you know Jesus? You can trust Him, implicitly. Your future is secure. That is a reason for peace on our hearts! Think about that. Amen.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A New Commandment John 13:31-38

A New Commandment: Love one another as I have loved you! John 13:31-38
Introduction: We return this morning to the upper room with Jesus and His closest followers. Jesus the Master Teacher, is preparing his disciples, equipping them for what is about to happen. John 13:1 said, “Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” What does that mean? “Love” is a popular topic, it’s the subject of books, movies, and music, but what does it look like? The world has its own superficial ideas. Love is a feeling, an infatuation with a person. So the feeling fades and the relationship is abandoned. “I don’t love her anymore” or “Don’t I have a right to be happy?” The idea of commitment, much less sacrifice, is lost. Jesus said: “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.“ John said in 1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren…” and in 1 John 3:18 “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Paul said in Eph 5:2, “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.” Sacrifice, as John 13:1 said, “He loved them to the…” telos, to the end, NIV, “He showed the full extent of his love.” Context: In our last study in John we saw two weeks ago that we should examine our hearts to be sure we know Him and then live in such a way that it is evident that we do! This passage shows one important aspect of the Christian Life. It’s a life defined by love. The Big Idea: Jesus showed us what love looks like. As we choose to love one another we show the world that we know Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
I. Jesus showed His love by being willing to lay down His life. He knew that God was being glorified as the Gospel story unfolded according to plan (31-33).
The glory of God has been a major theme in John’s gospel from the start, but it will be increasingly emphasized as the cross draws nearer. The first 12 chapters of John are referred to by scholars as the “Book of Signs,” as the emphasis is on the miraculous signs that Jesus did. The signs were revelation, they “revealed his glory,” to those who had eyes to see. But the next part of John, the second half, is alternatively referred to either as the Book of the Passion, as it emphasizes the cross, or, the Book of Glory, as it shows the full revelation of God’s glory in the cross of Christ. Here we see the glory of the Father intimately connected to the glory of the Son: We read in John 13:31-32
31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 "If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”
That is fascinating in light of the Old Testament teaching that God’s glory is exclusive and personal, He doesn’t share it with anyone. We read in Isaiah 48:11 “…I will not give My glory to another…” Then He says again in Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another...” In John we’ve seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus. We see here the unity of the Father and the Son: God will not share His glory with another. This is one more evidence that Jesus is God, the eternal Son, One with the Father and the Spirit. The Father, the Son, the Spirit, three persons, One God. TriUnity. We can state it, but do we understand it? Probably not! Jesus alludes to his imminent death in 13:33, “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you.” He uses personal language, calling them His “little children.” His love and care for His own echo in that tender phrase. But how would Christ’s death bring glory to God? Let me highlight three ways: • First, it would reveal God’s faithfulness. God had promised a redeemer, One who would crush the serpent’s head and provide the means for sinners to be reconciled to him. God revealed His plan in the Old Testament prophecies and promises and the fulfillment of those promises brings glory to His Name. He is the Faithful One. • Secondly, it revealed his Holiness and His justice. How could God be just, and justify sinners? Paul treats this question in Romans 3:22-26 (NLT)
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for He himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
Finally, and even more relevant to this context is that the cross brings glory to God, because it showed us His love: 1 John 4:9 “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” A song says “love was when God became a man.” Jesus showed us what love looks like. As we choose to love one another we show the world that we know Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
II. Jesus modeled love and calls us to love one another as a testimony to the world (34-35).
We see here what we are to do, how we are to do it, and why we are to do it. What we are to do: Love one another! John develops this idea in his first epistle: 1 John 4:7-8 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. How we are to do it: As Jesus has loved us! In John 15:13 Jesus will say, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples He said that He was giving them an example, they should do for each other what He was doing for them. Remember the start of this chapter, “He loved them to the end…” i.e., “He showed them the full extent of his love…” All the way to the cross. Paul said, in Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” By the way husbands, in another context you are specifically called to love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. That means putting her needs, her good, her happiness before your own. Why we are to do it: As a testimony to the world! Our love for each other will testify to the world the reality of our relationship with God through Christ. “By this men will know you are my disciples…” As we love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, the world will take notice, they will see that we are different because we know Jesus. What does that look like? How does it work out practically? Francis Schaffer in his book “The Mark of a Christian” suggested that one mark of love is being willing to apologize and seek forgiveness from those we have wronged. Jesus used the example of leaving one’s sacrifice at the altar as we go and seek reconciliation. The flip side of that is being willing to forgive. The NT word has the idea of releasing from a debt, letting go. Are you holding a grudge? Do you frequently “get historical” with someone, reminding them of a past offense? LET IT GO. Forgive. After all, consider what Christ has forgiven you! Jesus told a powerful story that gets to the heart of the matter, How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Jesus said in Matthew 18:23-35:
"…a certain king …wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 "And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents [According to one source, a talent was about 15 years wages for a working person!]. 25 "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 "The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; [a denarius was about a days wage for a worker] and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 29 "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 30 "And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 "So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
That’s an embarrassing story, maybe because it is so easy to find ourselves exactly in the middle of it, holding on to a debt, a grudge, after we have been forgiven a debt that was a million times greater, a debt we had no hope of paying. Think what you have been forgiven! “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Forgive. LET IT GO. That’s love. *** After all, Jesus showed us what love looks like. As we choose to love one another we show the world that we know Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
III. Despite our failures Jesus showed us love by choosing to lay down his life, and so has made our future sure (36-38).
Jesus knew what was coming—for Himself, and for his disciples. Including Peter. Still, He loved him to the end, He showed the full extent of His love. He was willing to die for Peter knowing that Peter would deny him three times that night. He was willing to die for you and me knowing that we would willfully choose to sin. In Romans 5:7-8 we read,
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Similarly in 1 John 4:10-12 it says
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
I’ve had people say, "I don’t think God could forgive me, not after what I have done." Have you heard that? Have you said that? He forgave Peter, He forgave the thief on the cross, He forgave those who drove the nails into His hands. He will forgive you if you turn to Him in faith and receive the salvation He purchased in His blood.
What is God saying to me in this passage?
Jesus showed us what love looks like. As we choose to love one another we show the world that we know Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?
How can we practically show Jesus to the world by loving one another? Forgive… serve… Paul said “I beseech you, walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph 4:1). He wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 “ kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” Think about that. Amen.