John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 14

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Now we come to John Chapter 14.  Still in the quiet, intimate presence of Jesus in the upper room with His disciples, friends, sharing one last meal before His death.  How blessed are we to share these last moments with the Christ and the disciples.  The words spoken in this room are full of importance and hope.  In Chapter 13 Jesus had ended with some troubling news, “one of you will betray me” and “where I am going you cannot go”.  Yet Chapter 14 begins with some encouraging words: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 ESV).  Jesus knows that the coming events are going to be world-changing and not at all encouraging, at first.  He wants to encourage the apostles.  The word here in the Greek is tarasso. The word means “to be agitated, shaken, to allow one’s calm/peace to be taken away”. This is in contrast to verse 27: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  What the world gives to us can be taken away from us.  The peace Jesus gives, cannot be taken away.

The end of verse one gives them the “how” of the “let not your hearts be troubled”: “Believe“.  We can allow other things in the world to crowd in and cloud our peace, but nothing can steal it from us if we believe.  Believe in God and believe in Christ.  So much water will be under the bridge before the disciples meet with Christ again and Jesus wants to encourage them to remain faithful in spite of current appearances.

And what is encouraging to the apostles here has and will encourage so many others throughout the years. When times are troubling, we don’t have to let our hearts be troubled either.  Our solution is the same as it was for the apostles, “believe“. Our faith in God and Jesus can be our strongest weapon when battling the woes of life and our strongest hope in the storm.  God is faithful and will not forsake us. And the peace of Jesus is ours.

Jesus then tells the apostles that He is going to prepare a special place that the apostles may come to dwell with Him.  Jesus dwelled with us for a short time, a few decades, but in the place Jesus prepares, we will dwell with Him for eternity.  Interesting thought, Jesus prepares a place for us and then he prepares us for the place.  How blessed are we to be allowed to walk with our Savior through life toward the place He prepares specially for us?

Verse 6 gives us the statement that kind of wraps up the “how do we get there” question:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:4 ESV).

Let’s break this down.  Jesus is the way to the Father.  There simply is no other way.  No works, no faith, no great holiness or righteousness.  Nothing or no one allows us access to the Father except Jesus.

Jesus is the truth.  Any other gospel preached is a lie.  Any other hope of eternal life is false.  Jesus is the only way and the only truth.

Jesus is the life.  Only God can give life.  In the garden, God breathed life.  Jesus died for life.  Eternal life.  Only the eternal God can offer eternal life.

Then, follows the “what do we need to do” question. The answer to this question is so important that Jesus repeats it at least 4 times, and we have already discussed that if something is repeated in the bible, we better pay attention.  Especially, if it is God Himself repeating it.

  • Verse 12 says “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do”
  • Verse 15 says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
  • Verse 21 says “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
  • Verse 23 says “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”

Notice a theme here?  Belief, faith, in Jesus isn’t just in word.  Lip service will not get us to the place Jesus left to prepare.  Jesus wants us to do what He says.  As a parent and you give a command to your child, you expect it to be followed through.  If you are a boss in an office and you give an employee a task, you expect it to be done.  Jesus is no different.  He expects His disciples, His followers, to follow.

But what is maybe unique to commands Jesus gives as opposed to those you may give to a child or employee, Jesus doesn’t ask anything of us that He did not do Himself.  Christ was the ultimate example.  Everything He commands of us we can look in His life and see the fulfillment and execution of those commands.  He doesn’t ask us to endure anything that He Himself was not willing to endure.  Isn’t that comforting?  Isn’t it much easier to walk a path if we know that someone has already tread that path and know he made it safely to the other side?  And, as a final example, Jesus says “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31 ESV).  How does the world know His love, our love?  By obedience. Not words. Deeds.

And not only do we have the peace of Jesus to guide us, Jesus promises a Helper.  The Advocate. The Counseler.  There are many names He goes by. But whatever His name, His job is clear.  The Holy Spirit is sent to help us.  And oh do we need help!!  This is huge!  Only because Christ came and left do we have God dwelling among us again, not only among us but in us!  The Holy Spirit, God, comes to dwell within us.  We know of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament through the prophets, but never has He come to dwell in the hearts of all His people.  People like you and me.  We may never do great feats like Moses or Elijah, but we will never be insignificant because we have God Himself living inside us and God never does anything slight.

Chapter 14 ends on a dark note just as Chapter 13 does: “the ruler of this world is coming” (John 14:30 ESV).  Jesus knows that the “end” is coming, but we know that the end is just the beginning.  Even so, Jesus gives His apostles hope, something to looks forward to in the future when it seems hope has come to an end.  Jesus acknowledges Satan as the “ruler of this world”.  Never underestimate the power of Satan here on this earth.  But equally so, do not underestimate the overwhelming power of our Savior.  Jesus says “He has no claim on me” (John 14:30 ESV).  Satan never took anything from God that God didn’t allow Him to have, including His Son.  None of the events that we are leading up to would have happened if God had not allowed it to happen.  When it seems that evil has the upper hand in your life, always remember, your Savior is stronger.  Your Savior is alive and well in spite of what Satan tried to do to Him and it is He that fights for you, alongside you.  You are not alone.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

Amen. Amen.

 

Multiply: The Spirit of God

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Here we are for another week.  This week we get to delve into the Spirit of God (a topic I am considering as the next series on Fellow Imitators).  Come join me as we continue in Part V: Session 3: The Spirit of God. Multiply!

How often do you think about our need for the Holy Spirit?  Do you think about Him much, or does He just kind of fade into the background, taken for granted?  The Holy Spirit is actually vital to our salvation.  Without Him, we cannot know God, we cannot understand God’s word and we cannot defeat the sin in us.  He is our true source of spiritual power.

In studying the Old Testament, we confirmed that humanity cannot succeed at the task of following God faithfully without help.  In Ezekiel 36, God declared that Israel had a heart of stone, a dead spirit.  What they need was a spiritual transfusion, a complete transformation.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:25-27)

God’s people weren’t going to receive just any old spirit, they needed the Spirit of God.  Transformed from the inside out by the power of God.

Jesus told His disciples of the Spirit’s coming, but this was not to imply that the Spirit did not yet exist or that He was  not already at work in the world.  Genesis tells us that the Spirit was active in the creation of the world and He had a hand in guiding those called by God.  In the New Testament, however the Spirit was to begin working through man in a new and powerful way.

Discussion Question #1: Take a minute to consider the significance of the promise of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel 36:25–27. Explain why this promise is so important in the history of redemption.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Yes, the Holy Spirit is a “who” and He is fully God, just as Christ is fully God.  This concept, called the Trinity, is referred to when the Bible speaks of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Each a distinct person, yet each clearly God.

When we acknowledge the Holy Spirit as a “who”, we need to realize what this means in the way we interact with Him.  He is a person who can act, who can be grieved.

Discussion Question #2: How should seeing the Holy Spirit as a person and as God Himself change the way you relate to Him?

The Spirit in the New Testament

The New Testament is full of the Spirit’s work in the lives of God’s people.  We see that John the Baptist and Jesus, Himself, are filled with the Spirit as they carry out their ministries (Luke 1:15 and 4:1). Time and time again throughout the Gospels, we are reminded of the Spirit’s work through Jesus.

In Acts 2, the Spirit makes a very dramatic entrance.  Jesus had given the apostles an impossible (for man) mission and then told them to go to Jerusalem and wait.  The Spirit makes His grand entrance and suddenly the apostles are proclaiming the “mighty works of God” in many different languages.  Peter explains that this indwelling was prophesied in the Old Testament.  Israel had been waiting for the empowerment by God’s people and suddenly the day was here.  God’s Spirit was working in His people.

Discussion Question #3: Read Acts 2 carefully. As you read, pay attention to two things: (1) references to Old Testament truths and promises and (2) references to the Holy Spirit. What references do you see in Peter’s sermon to some of the key concepts you studied in the Old Testament sessions?

Discussion Question #4: What does this passage say about the Holy Spirit? How was the Holy Spirit working at this significant moment in redemption history?

The Spirit of God and the Word of God

Our Bible, the Scriptures are a direct result of the Spirit’s workings.

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 ESV).

The Scriptures are not the work of man alone, but by the direct inspiration of God.

The Ministry of the Spirit

When Jesus rose from the grave, the disciples probably expected Jesus to carry on with His ministry and grow His kingdom, and yet He left.  In fact, He told His disciples that it was better that He was leaving.  How could it be better?  Well, Jesus explains that if He didn’t leave, the “Helper” would not be able to come and empower God’s people.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7 ESV).

The Holy Spirit is the “Helper” Jesus promised.  The Spirit is God’s gift to all people to enable them to do the work that Jesus started during His ministry on earth, that is to establish His kingdom.  It is only through the power of the Spirit that we are able to walk faithfully with Christ.  “So great is our need for the Spirit that we are commanded to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), pray in the Spirit (Jude v. 20), and put sin to death by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13), among other things. The Spirit secures our faithfulness till the end” (286).

Discussion Question #5: Read Romans 7 and 8. What does Paul’s comparison of these two ways of living say about the role of the Holy Spirit and our need for Him?

The Spirit in God’s Mission

God’s plan of redemption marches on and His work is accomplished by the Spirit as He works in the lives of His people.  We cannot accomplish all God wishes to do through us with the power of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot fulfill the Great Commission without the Spirit.

In our pursuit of the Spirit, however, we need to be sure that we are not lead away from Christ.  “Like a spotlight, the Spirit focuses the attention on Christ and His salvation. Therefore, we should not separate the work of the Spirit from the work of Jesus (or God the Father, for that matter)” (286).  The Spirit can do amazing things, but we should not seek Him for a supernatural experience.  We have to trust that He will reveal His the power the way He wants to.  “More often than not, the Holy Spirit guides us by shaping who we are. He gives us new desires so that we gradually begin to live with the goal of glorifying God in all of our decisions. Though this doesn’t look as dramatic as healing the sick or foretelling the future, it is every bit as miraculous” (286).

Discussion Question #6: How have you seen the Spirit of God working in the life of your church? If you are having trouble identifying the work of the Spirit, why do you think the Spirit’s work isn’t being clearly seen in your church?

The Spirit of God in the Church

The Spirit not only dwells within us individually, but He dwells in us collectively as the church.  God wants us to function as a community united in purpose and the Spirit does His best work when we are just that, united.  Each of us has a gift that the Spirit bestows to us, teaching, leadership, encouragement, and others.  We are meant to share these gifts with each other so that the entirety of the church may be blessed.

Discussion Question #7: How are you partnering with other members of the body of Christ to be used by the Spirit in fulfilling God’s mission on earth?

Discussion Question #8: Spend some time in prayer. Thank God for the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit. Pray that you would be empowered to pursue and rely on the Spirit’s power in your life. Pray that God would work through the life of your church to bring healing, hope, and change to the world around you.

Thank you again for joining me this week. I hope you will spend some time getting to know the Spirit this week and start noticing His work in you. God bless!