Let’s begin, as we always do, with a prayer. We thank You, Lord, for our time together. We thank You for each person in this room and for the plan that You have for each person’s life here. We ask that You would cause us to pursue Your purposes for our lives and embrace the hope, the peace, and the joy that is made available in the in-Christ relationship. We pray in His name. Amen.
We are up to John chapter 16 and as we continue, we really have to go back to the end of John 15 just for a moment to see the experience that Jesus has been talking about. In that chapter we have the central teaching, in the Upper Room Discourse, that He is the true vine and we have this image, or allegory, of the vine. He is talking about the abiding in-Christ relationship; to abide is to draw your life from Him. Remember the analogy that we used of the vine and the branches, that the branches do not create life, but receive life? Then they display the fruit of that life. You and I can not create life. We can only receive the life in Christ and then manifest that in spiritual fruit, the fruit of character, and the fruit of the Spirit.
So, that life is not something we create, but we receive it, and then we are conduits to that life. That is an important principle, because then Jesus talks about this abiding relationship and how central for us to find a true, day by day, power and identity through that relationship that God has now made available in Him. And so, this is a central theme, and it relates to prayer and to a sense of peace. He talks about the idea of bearing fruit and, really, all of us here want to accomplish something that will go on forever. Isn’t that true?
Wouldn’t it be sad to go through life and then realize you just squandered your existence, and that there would be nothing but dust and ashes in the end? All of us have been created by God with a desire to accomplish something that is meaningful and that will really endure. I see this in my own life and in my own desire. I think it is wise for us to come in touch with deep that longing, because it is a longing from God. It is something that He tells us; if you do not use your time well and wisely, if you do it just to pursue the agenda of the world, rather than the agenda of the Word, you will miss out completely. What you will do is go for second things first and in doing so you will not only miss the first things, but you will miss the joy of the second things as well.
So, He goes on to discuss the idea that you can anticipate that with this message about Jesus, you are going to be encountering some strong opposition. Particularly, as you know, in the Jewish world, but you have to keep in mind that Jesus Himself was a Jew. The disciples were all Jewish. All the writers of the New Testament, with the possible exception of Luke, were all Jewish.
So, you can not say it is anti-Semitic. The central theme is that the salvation is from the Jews. But, it is true, however, that there is a term John uses, ‘Jews’ in the plural, and it refers to the temple establishment, and particularly the Sadducees, although the Pharisees were also hostile to Him. This is what he is referring to, the national rejection by the spiritual leadership of the people of Israel. However, keep in mind that in the early Church, all the believers were followers of Messiah, and ‘Yeshua ha Machiach’ was actually the fulfillment of the promises in the Hebrew Bible.
So, all of them were Jewish until some years went by and the real fundamental question is, what about the Gentiles? Can they get in? Today, we ask about the Jews, but the question has always been, what about the Gentiles? And, really, historically, it required the Acts 15 Council, in Jerusalem, in AD 50, for that to finally be resolved, and the Gentiles do not have to become proselytes to Judaism in order to have the right relationship with God.
So, you have this theme here, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. That was characteristic of the ministry in the Apostolic preaching and the Cross and the Resurrection in the Book of Acts. So, in seeing all of this, Jesus is saying to them that they can anticipate all these things. “They persecuted Me, they will persecute you,” and “They do this because they don’t know the One who sent Me.” Then He goes on to say, as we saw last time, that these people had not received the message that He had given them, and he says, “If I had not and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the work which no one else did, , they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.” The point here is that they have rejected this message and the fundamental sin is that of disbelief. That is really the ultimate issue. The one sin that God can not forgive, having sent His Son on our behalf, is that sin of rejecting the provision that God has made in Jesus. Remember, as we have said before, if I understand Galatians 2:21 correctly, he says, “If salvation were possible,” if righteousness were possible, “by keeping the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
If I understand what Paul is saying there, if it were possible, through some sort of works system, to arrive at a right relationship with God, then the death of Christ was a tragic waste. Similarly, the other side of that coin is, if the death of Christ is actually the means by which God brings us into relationship with Him, then He is our only hope. So, it comes down to this, and I have said it before, all the world’s religions that I have studied are work systems.
So, you have the uniqueness of this message, and that is it is by grace through faith. Of course, you always have the question of what about those who have not heard, and it always relates to the issue of the fairness of God. And, God is fair. If you want to know about God, look at Christ and look at how He related to people, and the issue is, those who seek will find; those who knock, it will be opened to them; and those who ask, it will be given to them.
So, this issue of whether a person is seeking God or avoiding God is going to be the fundamental divide. If a person seeks God they will find Him, and how God brings that about is up to Him. Furthermore, God does not hold people responsible for Light they did not receive. He does, however, hold us responsible for the Light we have received, and no one is ignorant of all that Light, because Romans 1 makes that clear, because from the internal and external witness of the created order, God has made Himself manifest to us. Romans 2 emphasizes the witness of our conscience, and how we also have a concept of a moral code.
Try as we may, in a post-modern world, to eliminate that idea, that morality of wrong and right, of truth and falsehood, of beauty and ugliness, try as we may, we just don’t live that way. I have yet to find a post-modernist who can live consistently with their view, that there is no such thing as right and wrong, or truth and falsehood, because they are very, very eloquent in trying to convince us in the truth of their relativistic position, namely that all truth is just something that is constructed by the community and really has no bearing on what is out there.
Then, of course, that raises the question of whether their own truth was something constructed by their community? It is a self-refuting system and is completely unlivable. But, that is where we are. We all know inside of us when there is something wrong. We are also aware that there is a power, an intelligence, a designer, that has made it all.
Now, we can avoid that or we can pursue it, and that is what it comes down to. But, the point is, and this is the issue, “They have done this to fulfill the word that is in their Law, they hated Me without a cause.” That is why Isaiah 53 describes Jesus, the suffering Servant, the Messiah, coming out like a root out of parched ground. There is ‘parched ground’, which is symbolic of the spiritual deadness of Israel in that context. It was predicted that this would happen. It was actually written that they would hate Him.
But, then He goes on to say, in verse 26, as He looks now, and focuses in on the powerful ministry of ‘the comforter’, the Holy Spirit, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”
So, what Jesus is saying is that those who wish to know, God is giving the power for it to become possible for them to know Him. There are three conditions in the human situation that, from a human point of view, are impossible to overcome. One is that we are spiritually dead. That is the first problem. From Ephesians 2, we are “Spiritually dead.” The second problem is that we are spiritually blind, as we see in Corinthians 4. We can’t see that Light unless God reveals it to us. The third problem is that we are held captive by the enemy to do his will. We are volitionally bound, as we read in 2nd Timothy 2.
Now, that is pretty tough. You are in slavery, you are dead, and you are blind. Try dealing with that. How can you possibly, on human power, overcome those things? You can’t; only the Spirit of God can break through that, and in His power convict the world concerning, as we shall see, three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment. Apart from that convicting power of the Spirit and His regenerative work, we have no hope whatsoever.
So, Jesus talks about this resource that will come when He goes to the Father. So, He says, “You will testify because you have been with Me from the beginning.” So, He is talking about the Apostolic Ministry.
So, as we look at this, then, we see that the Holy Spirit will encourage us, and work in such a way that, though the people who heard His Word and saw His works did not respond to the truth, yet there are those who will. It is the Spirit of God who will make that manifest. In chapter 16, now, again, if I were making the chapter divisions, I would have done it after verse 25. I sometimes can’t figure out what they thinking. That is why you must remember not to let the chapters keep you from reading what is right before and right after. Always understand that these divisions were not in the original text.
So, beginning with verse one, then, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he is offering service to God.” Isn’t that what Saul thought? When Saul was persecuting the Christians, what was he doing? ‘The followers of the Way’ it was originally called. They didn’t call them Christians until Antioch, and that was many years later. They were called ‘followers of the Way’.
The idea was that these followers of Jesus, or the Way, were now being persecuted, and Saul, as therapy, took particular zeal in pursuing them, all the way from Jerusalem up to Damascus and he got permission to do this. Jesus was predicting this would happen. They were actually thinking they were offering service to God if they persecuted them. In verse three, “These things they will do because they have not know the Father or Me.” Now, this knowledge is not just cognitive, it is relational knowledge. Frankly, it is possible to know God and not know God. You know what I mean? It is possible for you to recite the Creeds, but not know the Jesus to whom they point. It is possible to be a theologian, and know many things that are propositional truths about God, but not know God.
So, the issue is, what is the difference? One is cognitive, intellectual assent. Well, the “demons believe and shudder,” as James 2 shows us. The demons are actually more orthodox than most liberal theologians. That is a bit of an irony. Intellectual assent is one thing; personal reception is entirely another thing. Now we are dealing with the knowledge of the heart of a person, of a relationship, and God is a relational being and therefore He invites us to know Him in that way.
So, Jesus is saying they didn’t know the Father in this way. In verse four, “But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” He is preparing them in advance, because He is about to leave. Recall, Jesus well knows that it will be only a matter of a few hours before He will be departing from His disciples. He will then go through the horrors of the mission for which He was sent, but the glory that is involved. The Cross-, remember, is the lifting up of Christ, but it is also an image of the resurrection and the ascension.
So, there is dual picture here, that it was for this purpose that He has come. Still, He is preparing them now, because there is almost no time left. So, He says, “These things I did not say to you at the beginning because I was with you.” In other words, He didn’t need to tell them about this because He was with them, empowering them, and teaching them.
But, now He is going to leave them, and you can well imagine that the disciples were increasingly despondent at these words and it became more and more evident to them that Jesus really is going to leave them. They were sorrowing, they were confused, and they were afraid. Jesus is offering these words of power and comfort. By the way, this is the way God works in your life. He does not teach you something until it is needful for you to know that thing. He knows what you need and he gives each person what they need at that time. If you do not respond to the Light you have, He will not give you more Light. Only when you respond to the Light you have will He give you more illumination.
So, in verse five, “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going’? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” In other words, now they are afraid. They are scared to ask Him where He is going, because they already know the answer. It has finally dawned on them. He says, But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” He knew them well. He understood their character, their nature, and the love that they had for Him.
So, He says in verse seven, “But 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.” So, it is necessary, then, for the Holy Spirit to come because He is going away.
Now, they will be empowered by the ‘paraklet’, the ‘Comforter’, and so this is the purpose for which He will send the Holy Spirit. It will go along side them, in a universal way, and in the same way Jesus was physically along side them during His earthly ministry.
So, it extends beyond the actual visual and tactile experience of Christ to the spiritual encounter with Christ. Remember “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That is what the Spirit of God mediates, so that the presence of Christ on earth is not localized, but manifest, because, “I am with you always to the end of the age, where two or more are gathered together, there I am in their midst.” Now it is mediated through the power of the Spirit, who is not only with you, but will be in you. The rivers of living waters will then flow out of you when the Spirit comes.
So, He says, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” This is an interesting image, “sin and righteousness and judgment.” As to sin, the sin of unbelief is really the idea of refusing to embrace, not the commitment of individual sins as the ultimate issue, but the reality of refusing to believe. And so, the idea of sin is the thing that God has to convict us of, not to clean up our acts. A lot of people still suppose you have to clean up your act in order to come to Christ. You have to become a better person and then you can come to Him. My very point is that you need to come to Christ because you can not clean up your own act. You see?
Once you admit that, and understand that, then you really are now in a position to grasp your desperate need. So sin, the understanding of sin, the experiential awareness, is a grasp of your genuine need before God. That is really what it comes down to. And only the Spirit can convict in that way. My wife, Karen, and some of you know the story, took a year and a half, while I was in Seminary, to finally come to faith in Christ. She had an intellectual assent, but it was not a personal one, and part of the issue there was that she never grasped that she was a sinner. She thought she was a pretty good person. Let’s be frank, most people tend to compare themselves with other people.
The last one they are going to compare themselves to is Jesus. Most people, as you know, think they are above average. The problem you have is that half the people you know are below average, but none of them will ever say that. Take any area of life you want. Would you say you are in the top quarter of all drivers? Everybody will say they are at least above average. Very few people will think they are below average in that department. And so, the mistake is to compare yourself with other people, rather than to compare yourself with God’s standard. God’s standard is, in fact, the life of Christ.
So, therein lies the issue, and once we come to see that, we see that we fall woefully short and the infinite abyss between ourselves and God becomes manifest to us and we begin to realize that separation. I still remember my own experience of encountering this abyss. It was this ‘mysterium tremendum’, as Rudolph Otto calls it. He calls it this idea of the ‘numinous’, the idea of God as being someone who is powerful and transcendent, but also terrifyingly imminent, and there is a sense of desire for Him, but terror at the same time because of the terror of Holiness. You see the idea? Frankly, I was in a tight spot until I came to the understanding that the only way that is going to be overcome, and the grasp of that, was in a relationship with Christ. That is something that had to be revealed to me, otherwise I would not have known it.
So, He convicts the world of sin, first of all, and secondly, of righteousness. “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me.” Jesus was the standard of righteousness that was manifest. And so, unless people see Him, they will suppose they are better than most people and that is where religion comes in to play. Basically, the idea of religion is that God will judge on a curve.
The failure to see that Jesus is the One who lived perfectly and so He is the curve breaker because salvation is only available in two ways. One is to be perfect in thought, word, and deed all your life, or receiving the righteousness of the One who was perfect thought, word, and deed. You see the difference? So, this is the need for righteousness. God’s standard, the righteousness that God requires, as I have so often put it, is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require. In other words, God can not grade on a curve.
His righteousness is required by His own character. He can not have compatibility, or intimacy, or fellowship with that which is incompatible with His nature and character. What is the solution to this terrible dilemma, because no one can reach that area of perfection? The only solution is that for God to be the initiator, reach down to us, and to impute the perfect righteousness of Christ on our behalf, while He takes our sin and imputes it on His account. The key verse for that is 2nd Corinthians 5:21; “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
So, it is a double exchange, where He has taken our sin upon Himself and given us His righteousness, and that is what occurred on the Cross. Only in that way, then, can we be just, even though we are not perfect in our behavior, we are now perfect in our new nature. You see the difference? We are now participants in, and partakers of, His divine nature. 2nd Peter 1:4 illustrates that for us.
So, we have a new self that we didn’t have before and that new self is holy and righteous because it is the new self in Christ. Now, even though our practice is not perfect, nevertheless, your position is. That is the solution for how God, then, can embrace us as His beloved children, and accept us unconditionally, and at the same time satisfy His perfection in His character, in which He can not enjoy the presence of that which is sinful.
Now, in heaven, as you know, all of that will be removed. That is to say, the things that are still imperfect, which are in the deepest you, in your mind, your emotion, your will, that will be finally purified and what remains will be the real you. That is a glorious thought and a great hope.
So, we see Him saying that the third thing is judgment, “Because the ruler of this world has been judged.” And again, the popular phrase today is ‘stop being so judgmental’. You hear it all the time. Judgmental is one thing; that is a sensorial attitude.
But, to be discerning is a different matter entirely. You can judge according to truth. That is to say, you can discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. The issue that we have to keep in mind is that it is possible for us to embrace and love a person without embracing and loving what they say or do.
The world will tell you otherwise. We live in a world that says if you don’t buy what I say or do, then you don’t really buy me. That is not the case. A person can really love another without accepting their belief or their behavior. Understand, then, that it is not judgmentalism. Judgmentalism is a condemning and sensorious attitude rather than using simple discernment and truth. The point is that judgment will come. If Jesus is right, then, He is judged the Prince of this world by His death, as chapter 12, verse 31 makes clear, and He has overcome the world and the devil.
The only person, then, who can rescue us is Christ, but there can be no conversion without conviction. Let me stress this; there is no conversion without conviction. That is where the Spirit of God comes in. There is no conviction apart from the Spirit of God, who uses the Word of God to witness to another person. Usually He will mediate that through a person who takes the truth of the Word and communicates that to another person and the Spirit then empowers that witness and convicts them, and the conversion would follow.
But, all of this is the work of God mediated through His people. I regard the idea of sharing our faith, in a relational way, is a great privilege. We can be part of the idea of spiritual birth and we can participators in that process. In any case, as we go on, in verses 12 through 15 we see the vocal point is the Spirit as teacher, who will guide the Church and He emphasizes the idea of teaching as needful for them to grow.
So, in verse 12, “I have many more things to say to you, but you can not bear them now.” He stresses this point and in verse 13 tells them, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but what ever He hears He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” The Spirit of God, then, will break through and reveal things to you, as you need to receive them.
By the way, this is an important promise because if you compare this with chapter 14, verse 26, there is that promise again, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” There we have a strong promise that the teaching of the Apostles will be consistent with the teaching of the Lord. Therefore it is an intimation of the inscripturation process that will come through the apostolic witness. That is to say, the Apostles will now be inspired by the Holy Spirit to write God’s word and to communicate that truth.
So, He is predicting that they will receive it. In verse 14, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things the Father has are Mine; therefore I said He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” So, this idea of disclosure is one of intimacy. Remember He said, “A slave doesn’t know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends,” and they did know what He was doing.
So, this idea of intimate knowledge is something that reveals our true position before Him. Now, if you go to verses 16 through 33, the last portion of this chapter, what you now see is the conclusion of the Upper Room discourse. In chapter 17 we fin the High Priestly prayer of Jesus.
So, the discourse is complete at the end of chapter 16, then we listen in on this amazing prayer, as we will see at our next meeting. It is one of the most amazing prayers; especially in that what He asks for us has a tremendous bearing on our own identity and destiny.
But, what we have, again, in chapter 16, is His dealings with the emotions of His disciples. I find it intriguing that we see than as very real people with very real problems. I find it a wonderful comfort that He uses imperfect people. To be frank with you, the people He chose are not the folks I would have chosen. That is just the reality of it. That is meaningful, however, because it means that He can use us as well. You do not have to be highly gifted, in the eyes of the world, for you to be used in a powerful way. Instead, you need to be radically dependent. Obedience and dependence; trust and obey, to use the old phrase, is what will really make the cutting difference. The fact is, and we all know it, that some people have greater amounts of intelligence, or ability, or wealth, or influence, and surely that is true.
But, the divine equalizer is that reward in God’s Kingdom is based on faithfulness and opportunity, and not on time, talent, or treasure. Therefore, a very, very deficient person, as the world would define them, that is to say not educated or they are impoverished, has as much opportunity to be rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven as does a person who is a ‘mover and shaker’, even apparently in the Christian world.
Therefore, I believe there will be tremendous surprises at the judgment seat of Christ. You will see people who were the unsung heroes and whose faithfulness will give them that reward. That is a comforting word for us all. Speaking of comfort, there is also a recurring theme in this chapter. Look at verse 20 to 22. He says, “The world will rejoice; you will grieve, but you grief will be turned into joy.” Then He talks about the issue of joy that will come into the world, in verse 22, “No one will take your joy way from you.” Then, in verse 24, “So that your joy may be made full.”
So, He uses this theme of joy and remember, joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness depends upon circumstances, joy transcends circumstances. There is a big difference. So, we can be joyful in the midst of adversity, because of our perspective. That is why James says, “Count as all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing,” he says, “not that you are enjoying the process but because you know the outcome.” You can see that God will use this to mature you, to layer you, and to develop you. That brings us to an incredibly important principle, in verses 16 to 22, that I really want us to grasp. In my opinion, it can be a life changing principle if we begin to see it more clearly.
Let me read you those verses and let’s listen carefully to what Jesus says to His disciples. Knowing that they are concerned, and knowing that they are terrified of what is going on, He says to them, ‘“A little while and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’. Some of His disciples then said to one another, ‘What is this thing he is telling us, ‘A little while and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘Because I go to the Father’?”
So, they are totally mixed up. It was total chaos. If this was a forgery, if this were a fraud, would they really paint themselves as being so obtuse? It is amazing when you think about it. There is, clearly, complete honesty here; they were admitting that they were complete dumbbells. The reality is that they should have figured it out by now, but they had not. It simply illustrates that all of us are that way; we are all dense and we are all obtuse, unless the Spirit of God breaks through.
But, the text goes on to say, in verse 19, “Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, ‘Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while and you will not see Me, and again a little while and you will see Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor’,” and He uses this powerful illustration, ‘“She has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world’.”
Now He is applying that powerful image. “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” That is a very powerful thing and the principle I want to give you is this; God will bring joy into your life, not by substitution, but by transformation. Let me say that again; joy will come not by substitution, but by transformation. Let me explain what I mean by that principle. The illustration of a woman giving birth really makes it clear. The same baby that caused the pain also caused great joy. Instead of relieving the mother’s pain, what did God do? He transformed it. You see the idea?
The mother’s pain is not replace by joy, it is transformed into joy. You see the difference? It is not replace by joy, it is transformed into joy. If the mother always get a new toy for a child, each time a toy is broken, what will happen to that child? Every time something goes wrong the kid is covered. That child will grow up expecting every problem to be solved by substitution. That is to say, if something goes wrong, let me give you a new thing. So many people suppose, sadly, and often during a mid-life crisis, that a new wife, a new career, or a new car, all substitutions, will suddenly make things better. That is an illusion.
The point is this; God will not solve our problems by way of substitution because that is the way of immaturity. The way of transformation is the way of faith and that leads to maturity. You can not mature emotionally or spiritually if someone is always replacing your broken toys. And by the way, we typically use God. When we get desperate we will try to use God as a utility to repair our toys.
So, God is viewed as kind of a divine vending machine. Remember the phrase, from Larry Crabbe’s book The Pressure is Off? He says, “The sad part is that most Christians are more concerned with the better life of God’s blessings than they are with the better hope of God’s presence.” Let me say it again. The sad part is that most Christians are more concerned with the better life of God’s blessings than they are with the better hope of God’s presence.” What does the better life of God’s blessings look like? Pretty much what you want.
Fill in the blank; better health, better career, or more money. They see God as a cosmic utility who will help them bring that about, rather than what I believe is more Biblical, the way of transformation, namely, the better hope of God’s presence. I have just started a series on The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozier and in his first chapter he talks about the horrible problem of ‘God-hyphen-and’. In other words, we want God, and this. We are hoping not to have Him all by Himself, but also what He will provide, whatever that may be. And let’s be honest, we will have an ‘and’ that we want God to solve. Part of the terrifying, radical abandon is to finally abandon all those ‘ands’ and pursue Him only for Himself.
That is to say, pursue the better hope of His presence, whether the ‘ands’ come or not, and there is no promise that they will. Do not commit yourself, do not make your joy, depend on something God has not promised. If you do, you will be disappointed and embittered in the end. Never put your hope on something God has not promised. There is no promise that righteous living will lead to greater earthly prosperity. There is no direct correlation between that, or between un-Godliness leading to less prosperity. That is pretty obvious in the world. One of the first phrases a child learns is ‘it’s not fair’. We all have this hard-wired and built-in idea of fairness.
But, what we want is ‘fair for me’, not always what is fair for the other person. ‘God isn’t fair’, we say. If God were fair, we would all be in a Christ-less eternity. If God were fair, He would judge us according to true judgment and we would be separated from Him forever. God is more than fair, He is gracious, and that really leads to the issue of how we respond to Him. So, this is an important principle.
So, keep in mind this Scripture, “The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing,” from Deuteronomy 23:5. Remember when it talked about that idea? Think of Joseph’s brothers. Remember they sold him into slavery, he was put into prison as a criminal, and what does God do? He mutates it into joy. Not by substitution, but by going through the pain he discovers the joy of God on the other side because of his transformation. Egypt’s persecution of Israel just caused them to multiply and prosper even more. King Saul’s pursuit of David made him even more a man of God than he otherwise would have been. And, it actually helped create the Psalms.
If Saul had not pursued David, like a dog tries to scratch a tick on its back, many of the Psalms would not have been written. Think about the tremendous comfort and consolation that the Psalms have meant to so many people. That is the book I always turn people to when they are going through times of depression or despondency. Why? Because every human emotion is revealed in them. There is an honesty about that. One of the things I love about the Psalms is their incredible honesty about God. God well-knows our thoughts and it is never a smart idea to cover up your thoughts and think that God is not going to know what you are really thinking. That is a chapter in my book, People Must Think God is Stupid.
The fact is, though, that it is wise for us to see that the ultimate example of bringing joy by transformation, rather than substitution, is what? What is the ultimate example of joy through transformation? Is it not the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? It seems to me that He took the Cross, the symbol of defeat and shame, and He transformed that Cross into a symbol of glory and victory. Now, that is an amazing achievement.
So, when we think about that, people often focus wrongly on who killed Jesus, but there is another thing. Frankly, He laid down His life on His own initiative. Nobody killed Him, in that sense. He laid His life down. In fact, it was necessary, was it not, for Christ to suffer? Remember He tells the disciples, in Luke 24, verse 25, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory.”
Then He went into, “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” I would like to have been there to hear that message. What Scriptures would Jesus have chosen to illustrate prophecies concerning Himself? Some might surprise us. The point here is, though, “Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
The Scriptures clearly teach this. He is telling them that it is necessary, but the suffering is not the end. It is a doorway to joy. That is why it says in Hebrews 12, that Jesus, because of the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame. He did not look at the Cross as an end, but as a means to a greater end. So, the Cross was not the end, nor is death the end. It is not the last word. It is a doorway to the ultimate joy that we will receive in His presence.
So, returning to the text, in verse 20, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” Frankly, Egypt did rejoice when Israel departed and the world was glad when Christ moved off the scene, I promise you that, because the only response people would have, if they were with Him long enough, would be either antipathy or acceptance. Those were the only options. To ignore Him was not an option. If you spent much time with Him, He would produce those twin responses, which were so beautifully illustrated in the two thieves on the crosses on either side of Christ.
They illustrate the two basic responses, one of reception and one of rejection. He was flanked by those two responses. The point here is that there is a perspective we must embrace, whenever a woman is in labor, she has pain because her hour has come, but then she no longer remembers that anguish. In our concept of time, isn’t it true that it changes with your feelings? Frankly, if I am in a doctor’s office, it seems to go by very slowly. Then you spend a wonderful evening with your friends, and what happens? You are amazed at how the evening just whizzed by. Your perspective changes that.
A mother thinks that the birth is taking a long time, but actually it may only be a little while. What happens is that when the baby is born the pain is forgotten and it is transformed into joy. Keep in mind that the Creation awaits Christ’s return, does it not? In Romans 8:22, “it awaits its own transformation.” From Hebrews 10:37, “But in a little while, He who is coming will come.” To us it may seem a long time, but He doesn’t measure time the way we do. In 2nd Peter 3:8-9, “With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. He is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness.”
The fact is that from God’s orientation, it is just a short moment. The time will come, let’s call it a hundred years from now, and none of us will be here, but you will look back on this earthly life and it will be just a blip in time. Yet, it was the most important, because it has shaped your whole destiny. The choices you make here really do count in eternity. And so, our perspective must be one in which we see the joy because God will not substitute, but cause us to go through the pain and experience His transformation.
As we conclude our discussion on chapter 16 tonight, let’s now focus on verses 23 through 33. “In that day,” Jesus says, “You will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” Here is the point. While Jesus was with them, He always met their needs.
Now, He is going to go away, and He emphasizes this again and again, in chapters 14, 15, and 16, and it is the privilege of prayer and how God will be the One to whom they can turn, in the power of His Spirit, to meet their needs. He is not there with them anymore, but He will continue to meet their needs. In the early Church, in the Book of Acts, they believed in the promises of God and acted on those promises. There are many prayers about believing and acting, and also listening.
Remember, don’t limit prayer to a few minutes in the morning. Seek the skill of practicing His presence throughout the course of the day so that you engage in what is called ‘habitual recollection’, by which you recall, from time to time, His presence. Sometime I can mean just carrying a word with you and every so often letting your mind go to that one simple word, which can bring you to reflection. Prayer is a very powerful resource, as we all know, because it brings us into contact and union with Him. Continuing, now, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.
In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” In other words, He is not wresting things from a God who resists us. He is not twisting God’s arm to love them and give them good gifts. He Himself love them, and He Himself sent Jesus to them. It is the Father who wishes to know them and have intimacy with them. “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and believed that I came forth from the Father.”
So, the Father loves them because they loved Jesus. “I came forth from the Father,” and here is the key phrase, “and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” That is the first time He was absolute and unfigurative in His speech. Notice how close it is to the end. He is waiting until the eleventh hour because they were not ready to receive it until then. “His disciples said, ‘Lo, now you are speaking plainly and not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God’.”
That is a powerful thing and they finally got it. Think about the timing of God. He has been with them over three years and they did not get it until the last minute, in the Upper Room discourse. Again, it is my view that you never have to be in a hurry to do the will of God. He has given you just enough time on this earth to accomplish His purpose. He is the One who is going to fulfill it when the time is necessary. As you know, I have had a few close brushes with death. Each time I had to conclude that there was more stuff for me to do.
So, Jesus knew He did not have to be in a hurry. He knew the Father would reveal these things through the Spirit to the disciples when it was needful. As it happened, it was in the eleventh hour. Isn’t that the way God often answers your prayer? He seems to wait until the last minute. How would your faith ever be stretched if He gave it to you when you wanted it? Again, you would like the infant, wanting substitution rather than transformation.
So, now He says to them, “Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home.”
So, He predicts that they will betray Him. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. He knew this, and the Scriptures predicted as much. “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” You, in your relationship with God, never are alone. You have solitude, but you are not isolated. Do you understand the difference? You can have a solitude in you, but it is the solitude of God’s manifest presence and even when there is no one with you, you are in communion.
He tells them, in verse 33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” What a great line that is. Remember in chapter 14 where He is talking about a different sort of peace? In verse 27, “Peace I leave with you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled or let it be fearful.” Jesus is offering us a peace than transcends all understanding.
The key verses here are in Philippians 4:6-8. Many of you know it already. I want you to read and review that and see how those verses transmute and transform anxiety into God’s shalom and God’s peace. It is abandonment to God’s divine providence. This is a power and rich chapter and warrants great reflection and prayer and I encourage you read and review it on a regular basis, along with chapters 13, 14, 15, and 17 as well. Ask God to speak to you and listen to His voice when you do it.
Let us close in a prayer. Father, we thank You for this time we have and we have profited from looking into Your word and reflecting on these truths. Call us to transformation, where our sorrow will be transmuted and transformed into Your joy, as we look to Jesus, the author and perfector of faith. We pray in His name. Amen.