No matter how hard we try, we can’t always keep setbacks and struggles at bay. And sometimes, just when we thought we had this whole “life” thing figured out…everything falls apart.
That’s how the first followers of Jesus must have felt when he was arrested and crucified. But Jesus knew everything that was coming…and before it happened, he taught his followers a series of crucial lessons about living with hope and courage when everything falls apart. Join us for a life-changing look at these lessons found in the Gospel of John.
Welcome to our first week of our new series, When Everything Falls Apart. We’re going to be taking a verse-by-verse journey through a particular part of the Gospel of John that scholars sometimes call the Farewell Discourse of Jesus. Now, that’s kind of academic talk for Jesus’ Goodbye Speech. Join us today as we look at choosing peace by investing in who, not where.
Woman: In just a few short weeks, the news I had always dreamt of, ended in the dreaded word “miscarriage.” Through a tear-stained pillow I thought, well, we got pregnant. At least we know it’s possible. Possible turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. Four years later, we had the hope of help from a fertility clinic. They would run some tests, come up with a plan, and soon this nightmare would be over. Next came the call I never expected. On the other end of the line — there’s no point in trying. It will only end in heartbreak. You are in premature menopause. What? I’m only 31. How is this possible? In that moment, my world fell apart. My dreams of a family shattered. It took months to process. I felt broken, less of a woman, shameful, confused. As we came out of the fog, we experienced God’s love through the community of people that He surrounded us with. Hope slowly reemerged. Fast forward seven years. Our home is filled with laughter, squealing, diapers and tantrums, and it’s our dream come true.
A baby girl, now four years old, brought into the world through embryo adoption. Frozen as an embryo four years before I carried her in my womb. She was always God’s plan for our firstborn daughter. Then our one-year-old son, born of another woman’s womb, but given to us sacrificially and lovingly. He is our second miracle. Today, I am a mother — not my plan, but Gods. The day my world fell apart has become my greatest gift. It brought me to greater faith in Jesus. I got to experience firsthand his love and provision through his church body. I also have the privilege of walking alongside other women through an infertility support group that my friend and I formed here at Mission Hills called “As We Wait.”
And of course, my greatest gift, my two little miracles who call me mama.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills in all of our campuses, including those of you watching from Church Online. Really glad you are with us today. Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible maybe from around you, or get one on your phone and make your way to the Gospel of John 14. We are starting a new series today called “When Everything Falls Apart.” I’m really excited to see what God is going to do in your life. He’s already beginning to really work powerfully in mine as I prepare for this series. What we are going to see in John 14 is a beginning of a very clear section of the Gospel of John, a section scholar called “The Farewell Discourse of Jesus,” which sounds like what a scholar would say, right?
The Farewell Discourse of Jesus, what that means in everyday talk, it’s Jesus’ last speech. It’s his goodbye speech, and the reason he gave it is because about four years before this, Jesus kind of burst on to the scene, and in everyone’s awareness, he performed miracles, he taught incredible things and he had attracted a huge group of followers, but he had 12 guys in particular that he drew around himself that he was pouring into 24-7, and these guys were pumped, okay? They were so excited about what Jesus would do, and they began to understand that Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher, he wasn’t just a powerful prophet, but that he was the Son of God himself, and he was the Messiah. He was the Savior. He was the one that they had been waiting for, for so long, and he was going to come and deliver them from all of the difficulties that they were facing.
It was at the moment of the pinnacle of their excitement about everything that they thought that God was going to do that Jesus kind of dropped a bomb into their lives. John 13:33 he said this, he said My children, I will be with you only a little longer, and that rocked their world. Because right in the midst of everything getting ready to launch, as far as they were concerned, they were just getting started. All of these things that God was going to take them to and all of a sudden Jesus said, I’m not going to be around here a lot longer. My time here is short, and they went, wait a minute. The things we know you are going to accomplish. The things we know God is taking us toward, you can’t pull that off in a short time, so what do you mean, and their world really kind of fell apart at that moment.
And what Jesus teaches over the next several chapters that we are going to be in for the next couple of months, he begins to teach them a series of lessons about things they needed to know and things they needed to do to be able to get through it when everything falls apart. Not just to get through it but to come out of the other side of it with momentum. He began to teach them not to fall apart when everything around you falls apart. The very first thing to be able to do that, John 14:1 he said Do not let your hearts be troubled. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. When everything around you is troubling, don’t be troubled. Don’t let everything fall apart. Just don’t do it. There you go. We are good, right? Anybody else feel like it’s a little trickier? The real question is like how do I do that, right?
And I think it’s so interesting that the word that he uses here, the Greek word that’s being translated here as troubled, it literally means upset or agitated or kind of swirly. It’s the word you use — I don’t know if you have ever done this, you take a big rock and throw it into the puddle. When you do that, the waters, the puddle, they get upset. They get agitated. They get troubled. They are splashed around. They are swirly, and that’s exactly the word, and that’s exactly what happens in our hearts, right? Something troubling happens and we get troubled by it. Something upsetting happens and we get upset. Our waters aren’t calm. They are not peaceful. We are agitated, we are disturbed, we are troubled, and Jesus gives a command here, he says don’t let that happen.
Which is interesting because it’s the natural consequence, right? When something troubling happens to you, you get troubled, and he basically says don’t let that happen. Interrupt the natural flow of things and just don’t be troubled. It’s a command. What I think is interesting about that, it begins to suggest something incredibly important, which is that maybe the natural way that things play out so often, maybe that’s not the way they are supposed to be. Maybe it’s not the way they have to be. What Jesus seems to be saying is that difficulty is inevitable. Difficulty is inevitable, but despair is optional. Difficulty is inevitable, but despair is optional. He’s actually going to say a little bit later in this section of John, he says in this life, you will have trouble. Not that you might. Not occasionally, it might happen. It’s a distant possibility, but he says in this life, you will have trouble.
Troubling things are going to happen. Difficulty is inevitable, but despair is optional. What is happening around you doesn’t have to dictate what is happening in you. That just because everything around you is falling apart, you don’t have to fall apart. You can make a choice. You can choose peace. What is significant about that for me, I hear him say that, and he seems to raise this genuine possibility that you can choose peace. You say, I need to know more about this. Anybody else? Because that’s not me, normally. When troubling things happen to me, I get troubled. I get upset. I do things I wish I hadn’t done. I worry. Anybody else? Any other worriers? Some of you are afraid to put your hand up because you worry what people think about you. I know. I understand.
I worry. I get anxious. There are things I don’t do that I should do. I’m not grateful in the way that I should be. I don’t sleep well. All of these things happen when I’m troubled. My waters aren’t calm. They are agitated. They are upset. They are troubled. Jesus says, difficulties are inevitable, but despair, that’s optional. Okay, I need to know a little more about this. How is that possible? He says in the next part of this verse, to his disciples who are troubled, but I don’t want that to happen. Choose peace. He says, You believe in God; believe also in me. He says, you believe in God, believe also in me. I’m reading the New International Version. It translates the group there as you believe in God. That’s a statement. That’s true of you. You believe in God. Now it comes to a command. I want you to also believe in me. Not just intellectually, but put your trust in me.
You trust in God. Now trust in me. If you are reading a different translation, you may see that the words are slightly different there in some translations. Some translations translate both of them as a statement. You do believe in God, and you do also believe in me. Some translations translate them both as commandments. Believe in God. Trust in God; and also trust in me. Or believe me. The reason that happens, the Greek word here can mean a statement or a command that has the same form no matter which way you go so you are going, does this matter to me? Is there a quiz later on? Do we care? The answer is, we really don’t. It doesn’t really matter how we translate, but I want you to be aware that translations vary. The core idea is the same where it’s a statement or it’s a command. The core idea is very, very clear. It’s this idea that our belief in God and His Son Jesus is the starting point for choosing peace. Do you hear me?
Our belief in God, our trust in God and our trust in His Son, Jesus, two sides of the same coin, our belief in God and Jesus, that is the starting point for choosing peace. That if we don’t have that faith in God and in His Son Jesus, we can’t actually choose peace. We can’t do what Jesus says here which is do not let your hearts be troubled. The belief in God is the starting point for that. Why? Because of what He has done for us. In verse 2 it says, My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you that I’m going there to prepare a place for you?
It says In my Father’s house are many, many rooms. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in church. I don’t know if I was taught this directly from this verse, or I kind of picked it up, or I got it from some of the songs we sing, but here’s what I thought it meant. I thought Jesus was going away to build me a mansion in the sky. Anybody else? Yeah. That’s what I was — I got this idea. I don’t know if I was taught it, or if I just picked it up. The idea was like, Jesus has gone aware to prepare a place, to build me a mansion. I remember as a kid thinking, he’s been gone a really long time. It must be a really big house, right? Then I thought, no, no, no. I mean, he’s got to build a mansion for everybody. All of the believers get mansions. He has to build all of them, so I guess that would take a while. Then I was like, yeah, but he flung the stars across the sky with just a word. Is he doing it brick by brick? I don’t understand what’s taking so long.
It wasn’t until years later I really read this verse and I realized that’s not what it’s saying at all. He’s not building us mansions. Notice what he’s saying, he says, my Father’s house has many rooms. He’s only talking about one house, whose is it? It’s the Father’s house. He’s not talking about my mansion. My Father’s mansion, my Father’s house, he says, has many rooms. What’s interesting, in the ancient world, the picture is really clear. What would happen is the father, especially if he had resources, and they longed for the family to be together, what the father would do, he would start adding rooms to his house, and they would curve around the central courtyard, and what would happen, when his kids got to be old enough, to have their own families, they would move into these rooms, but they were able to stay close to their father. They would stay in close proximity, and they would live life together kind of in that courtyard.
Which is interesting, because the picture he’s painting here is somewhat different than the one I got growing up. I thought I was getting my own mansion. I was like, I kind of hope it’s in the woods. It’s going to be a gate around it, a key code for entry. It like this private, estate sort of a thing, and the exact opposite picture is being painted, not that you get your own mansion, but that you move into a room in your Father’s house so that you can stay in close proximity with Him and do life together. It’s a relationship thing. That’s the image. And then the other problem is this, my Father’s house — what’s that word? Say it with me, my Father’s house “has” many rooms. He didn’t say it’s going to have many rooms. He didn’t say my Father’s house will have many rooms once I get them built. No, it already has them. They are already there. The room’s already built. The place is already prepared. Your room has been waiting for you from the beginning.
He doesn’t have to go away to build it. He doesn’t have to go to add on to it. So why does he go away? He says I go away to prepare a place for you. Where is he going, and what is he doing? Here is part of what the problem is, most English translations do this, I’m not actually aware of any English translation that doesn’t. Most English translations add a word here. The word is “there.” If you see I put it in brackets. If that was not so, would I have told you that I am going [there] to prepare a place for you? The way we read that, and understand the reason that most translators do that is it feels natural. In my Father’s house, are many rooms. That’s Heaven. So I’m going. We go, I’m going — there, to prepare a place. But the word” there “isn’t actually there. Jesus didn’t actually say I’m going there. He said I’m going to prepare a place for you.
Wait a minute, then where are you going and what are you going to do if the house is already built? The answer is very simple. What he’s saying is, I’m going to the cross to open the way to my Father’s house. I’m going to the cross to open the gates of Heaven. Here’s the problem, as much as God loves us, as much as the Father wants to be in proximity to us and in relationship with us, we haven’t loved God back. In fact, from the very beginning, the story is pretty clear. We looked at God and we said, I appreciate the life. I appreciate everything you have done, but I’ll take it from here. I’m make the decisions. I’ll call the shots. And we have a word for that. We call it sin, but another way to think about sin is basically saying to God, I think I’ll take over your job in my life.
I think I’ll be god of my own life. Here’s what happens. Think about a magnet, right? A big magnet, you have a north pole and a south pole. You have a little magnet and it has a north pole and a south pole too. What happens if you try to put the two north poles together or the two south poles? What happens? They actually push away. That’s kind of what happens when we sin. When we say I’m going to be god on my own, when we become little g gods, we can’t actually join with the big G God. We can’t have a relationship because we are being repulsed by our own sin. Sin doesn’t just separate us from God. Sin creates a barrier and a desire. The Bible says no one seeks God, not even one. Our sin actually drives us away from God. So Jesus said, I’m going to the cross. The cross, I’m going to beat the power of sin. I’m going to destroy its power in your life so when we put our trust in what he’s done, not only are we forgiven of our sin, he transforms us from the inside out so we stop trying to be the little g gods and we start trying to be the capital “C” children that we were meant to be, who are drawn to our Father as He is drawn to us.
Jesus said, that has to be taken care of first. He’s not going away to oversee a construction project. He’s going to the cross to open the way to the Father’s house to the rooms that have been prepared for us from the beginning. He says this, he says, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back, and I will take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. He says if I go to do this, you can be confident that I’ll come back. That’s a promise. If I go to the cross, you better believe I’m not going to leave you languishing in your sins, and languishing in the state of separation from your God your Father who loves you so much. He says, no, if I go to do this, you can be confident that I’m coming back. That’s a promise. There’s also a principle here. I think we overlook the principle sometimes.
There’s a word. It’s maybe the most important word in this verse, but we often overlook it. It’s the word “if.” If you have a Bible, I would love for you to underline or highlight the word” if.” He doesn’t say I will go away and will do that come back. He says if I go away, then I’ll come back. In other words, what I am going to do, is a necessary part of being able to do the second part. If I don’t go and do this, he says, I’m not going to be able to come back and do that. And here’s what’s really interesting, remember what it is that he’s going to go do. He’s going to go to the cross. He’s going to be arrested. He’s going to be beaten. He’s going to be crucified. He’s going to die. For his disciples, everything is going to fall apart. For his disciples, what Jesus is talking about is a moment of tremendous difficulty.
Here’s the thing we think of when we think about difficulty. We tend to look at difficulty, and we go, that’s going to derail God’s plans, right? When hard things happen, when things fall apart, we go that’s derailing God’s plan. That’s derailing the progress. That’s derailing the movement toward what I thought God was going to do. We look at difficulty as if it derails God’s plans. Jesus is challenging the disciples, and he’s challenging each of us right now to go, maybe you need to think differently about difficulty. Maybe — maybe difficulty not only doesn’t derail God’s plans, but maybe difficulty is what God uses to accomplish his plans. Jesus says, if I don’t go to the cross, I can’t come back and take you into that house and that room that’s prepared for you. He’s challenging us to think differently about difficulty. What he is really saying is this. We can choose peace only when we remember that difficulties don’t derail God’s plans. You hear me?
Jesus says, do not let your hearts be troubled. That is an impossible command to obey unless we remember difficulties don’t derail God’s plans. In spite of the fact that it might feel like that, it’s never true. Some of us have been walking with Jesus for a long time. We can look back and go, the moments I experienced the most difficulty, the moments when I felt everything was falling apart, those are the moments I experienced the most growth. Those are the moments when God revealed His much better plan. Those are the moments when I actually leaped forward with my relationship with Him in shaping my character and molding who I am in a way that I am so grateful for. How many of us have had that experience where difficulty has actually moved us forward into God’s plans?
A lot of hands went up there. How many of us every time a new difficulty comes along remember that, that’s probably what’s happening? I’m not seeing quite as many hands go up there. It’s so easy to forget, isn’t it? It’s not natural. Difficulty always feels like it’s a derailing. Several years ago my brother-in-law and his wife decided to take Coletta and I on a trip with them. Coletta’s brother Shane, he’s a scuba diver, and so they really wanted somebody to go scuba diving with them and so they paid for us to get scuba instructions. And I found out when I was getting scuba instructions, I don’t like water all that much.
I was okay swimming around and that kind of stuff, but then they wanted me to do this ridiculous thing. They pushed me under water and said, breathe. Like everything in me went, no. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have hair. I’m completely aware when I’m completely submerged. I’m completely under water. They are going, breathe. That’s not what we do when we are under water. That’s not natural. I went through this really difficult moment of going, I’m going to choose to trust what I know, not what I feel at this moment. I’m going to take a breath. That worked. There’s still air coming into my lungs. There’s oxygen flowing into my body. I’m not dying. Honestly, every single time I put on the gear and I go under water, there is a moment where I have to go, do what you know, not what you feel.
Difficulty is so often like that, right? We can know from history how often God accomplishes His purpose by things that we think are going to derail it. We can look back and go, if he hadn’t gone to the cross, we wouldn’t have hope. It looked like difficulty. It looked like derailing to them, but it actually accomplished God’s purposes. No matter how many times we have experienced that, the next time the difficulty comes, we have to choose to trust. We have to choose to act on what we know and not on what we feel. Jesus says this, he says you know the way to the place where I am going, and Thomas — and I love Thomas. I do. Thomas said to him, Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?
I love Thomas. Like, that’s what I would have said, right? I mean Jesus says, hey, I’m going away. They are like, what’s going on? It’s okay. You know the way to the place that I’m going and Thomas is like, I don’t think I do, because I don’t know where you are going, Jesus. You haven’t explained it, so where is it? Here’s what Thomas is doing. I think it’s so interesting. Thomas is speaking out of a reality we all live in. We naturally think that where is the key to everything, don’t we? We naturally think that where is the key to everything. Like in the physical world, right? If where I’m going is New York, then I have to head east from Colorado, and if where I’m going is Los Angeles, then I have to head west from Colorado, but it’s not just true in physical terms, it’s also true in life, right? We have the ideas where we are going with our family, where our life is headed, where our career is headed, all of those kinds of things.
We go, if that’s where, then the way follows from that. If I’m going there, I do this, this, this and that’s how I get there. We naturally think that where is sort of the key to everything, and Thomas goes, Jesus, I don’t know where you are going, so how can I possibly know the way to get there? And Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. He says I’m going to the Father. There’s your where, Thomas. Honestly, that’s not going to help. Where, listen to me, where isn’t as important as you think it is, because just knowing where isn’t actually going to get you there. Where isn’t as important as you think it is.
That’s hard. Because we put so much weight on where, don’t we? I was — when I was a little kid I grew up in a military family. We always seemed to be near bases that flew F-15 fighter squadrons out of them. That was my where. I was going to fly F-15s. I put so much of my hope in that day that I was going to fly F-15 fighters, and then one day I was in class, and they brought in this weird machine. They made us put our head on it. They were like weird little pictures. There was like an apple. Where is the apple? Is it here or here? I thought this is a weird test. It’s there, and apparently that was the wrong answer because they gave me a follow up test.
They sent me to the nurse’s office, and she had this chart on the wall. She was like, what’s that letter? I was like, that’s an “E.” What’s that letter? That’s also an “E.” What’s that one? I think that might be an “E.” What’s that one? That’s not a letter. That’s a smudgy spot. It turns out I didn’t have perfect vision, which is really important for flying fighter jets, and I get that. You don’t want to put people in charge like missiles who are like, enemy plane — or maybe one of mine. I’m really not sure. Like, I get that, but what you need to understand is — I was devastated by that because that was my where, and I lost my way to my where, and everything kind of fell apart. I remember that vividly. It was a long time ago, and I remember the devastation of that realization.
Then, I picked another where. I decided I was going to go into quantum physics. I know I went from top gun to top nerd. You don’t have to point that out. I get it, but that was my new where. That’s where my hopes were. And then I took calculus. Yeah. It turns out I was not that good at math. I did okay, but like my second or third “C” in the class on the test, I realized I’m never going to be a player in the world of quantum physics. I’m just not good enough at math. It was devastating because I had lost my way to my where.
That’s how it often works, isn’t it? We have this where. It’s my career. That’s where I’m headed, and we don’t get into the college program or we don’t get the promotion, or we start our own company and it goes bankrupt and it fails, and we lose our way to our where and everything falls apart. Or our family. We have the idea, that’s where I’m headed. My family is going to look like this, and then we can’t find the husband or wife to go on the journey with us, or maybe we do and they decide to leave to abandon us, or we can’t have kids or the adoption doesn’t come through, or how about this? You do have kids or the adoption comes through, and it turns out they didn’t read the script, and we lose our way to our where and everything falls apart. We have our where. That’s where I’m headed. That’s what my life is going to look like. I’m going to do these things, and then health challenges come into our lives.
We lose our way to our where, and everything falls apart. So we think that where is the key to everything. Thomas says, Lord, I don’t know where you are going. I need to know where, and Jesus says, no, you don’t. Where isn’t as important as you think it is. What you need to know is Who. Because the reality is, listen to me, that everything falls apart when we put our hope in where. Everything falls apart when we put our hopes in where, but not when we put our hopes in Who. Jesus looked at Thomas. Thomas is going, Lord, I just need to know where. Jesus said, no, you don’t. You need to know Who. I — am the way. I — am the truth. I am the only way and the only truth to the only life worth living both now and forever. Stop worrying about where.
Who matters more than where. So much more. Now when Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the life, one of the things we have to recognize, he’s making an exclusive claim, right? He’s making an exclusive claim about himself as being the only way, the only truth that leads to the only life worth living both now and forever. He doesn’t say he’s one of the ways, and one of the truths and that leads to one of the lives worth living. He says I’m the only way, the only truth that lives to the only life worth living both now and forever. It’s an exclusive claim. I realize in our culture, that kind of exclusivity is not really popular right now, but I think it’s important that we recognize that even those that exclusivity is an obstacle to people, it’s a reality that we have to deal with. We are actually going to talk about the problem of the exclusivity of Christianity after Easter, we are going to go back to “The Problem with God Series” for a few weeks, and we’ll deal with that issue then.
For now, you just need to understand that the exclusivity of the Christian claim of salvation is being in Jesus alone, that’s not something that Christians came up with after the fact. It’s baked into the very fabric of Christianity by Jesus himself. Jesus says I am the way and the truth that lives to the only life worth living now and forever. There are no other options. There are no other ways. You can reject that claim. What you really can’t do is accept Jesus and reject his claims he made about himself. It doesn’t work that way. It’s an exclusive claim, but just as important and I think often overlooked in this, Jesus is telling us an incredibly important thing about life which is that Who matters more than where.
If your hope is in where, it’s inevitable that everything is going to fall apart at some point. Who matters more than where. This is a lesson that God began to teach me. I was fairly young, and I’m so, so glad that He did, because it’s changed the trajectory of my life in so many significant ways. I gave my life to Jesus when I was about 12. I think that was the salvation moment, but it wasn’t until I was about 18 that I began to invest in Who rather than where. I began to invest in Who, and I’m glad that I did because the reality is that my life has taken a lot of abrupt right turns. I thought I was going to be a Christian recording artist.
Every service has laughed at that. I don’t know what that means. But Jesus said, yeah, that’s not where we are going. I went, oh, okay. I thought I was going to be a youth pastor for the long haul. Jesus said, no, that’s not where we are going. Oh, okay. I thought I was going to be an influential Christian professor and scholar. Jesus said, no, that’s not where we are going. I said, oh. I thought I was going to be the president of a significant Christian nonprofit. Jesus said, no, that’s not where we are going. I went, oh, okay. It’s like my new motto in life. Oh, okay.
There’s been a lot of abrupt right turns in my life, but please hear me, none of them have been devastating because my investment for a long time now has been in Who not where, and that changes everything. There is a truth that Jesus has embedded in my soul that goes back to the time I was graduating high school, I began to realize this, and this truth has taken root in my soul. And I’m not saying that I never get off, because the reality is that I do, but here’s the incredible thing, this truth is like a plum line, and because it’s there, it’s buried so deep in my heart and soul, I always have it to be able to look back and say, oh, I have gotten off track from that. I have gotten off center, I have gotten off plum because it’s there, and as a truth, it needs to be embedded in your heart and soul and the truth is just this, we choose peace by investing in Who not where.
Jesus’ command is do not let your hearts be troubled. How is that possible when troubling things happen? The answer is, it’s possible when we invest in Who not where, because honestly, the where is probably going to be different than you are expecting, but it’s going to be better. I promise you that. The where Jesus is taking you is so much better than the where you have managed to come up with. If your investment is in your where, everything will fall apart at some point. If your investment is in Who it’s never going to happen. I want to challenge you to try to bury this in your soul this week. We could spend a bit more time talking about this, but I don’t want to clutter the landscape.
This very simple truth is so important that we grab a hold of it, that we choose peace by investing in Who not where, so I want to give you two questions to wrestle with. The first one is this, what is my hope invested in? What is my hope invested in? What I want you to do this week is I want you to do a hope audit. I want you to go, okay, what am I investing in? What is my hope? Where is my peace? Where is all of that stuff? Is it in a where or a Who? One of the ways you can do that is you can ask some follow up questions. What am I most worried about losing? Or what am I most worried about ever not getting? That is a great question to ask. What you are going to find is that our answer to that question often signals that, that is a place where we are investing our hope. What am I most worried about? What makes me most anxious? What do I most fear losing or not getting? Those are follow up questions around the same idea.
We are trying to figure out, where is my hope invested? And the second question is this, what concrete step will I take now to invest my hope in Jesus because peace is possible only when we invest in Who not where, so what are you going to do this week to begin investing your hope in Jesus more than it’s invested right now? I say what step are you going to take now because I don’t mean next week. I don’t mean next month. I don’t mean next year. I realize we have passed the bar for new year’s resolutions. If you are thinking, I’ll wait for next year to get the new year’s resolution around. No, no, no. Don’t do that. Now, today, what step are you going to take to invest in Who not where? Invest your hope in Jesus, some examples of thing also you might decide to do. You might decide to join a group.
Maybe you have been trying to do the Christian walk alone, or trust that I go to weekend worship services and those are good, and I hope that’s true, but do you have relationships with other people that spur you on? At Mission Hills we are passionate about groups. Our groups look to do three things. They look to love each other, help each other become like Jesus, and help each other join Jesus on mission. If you are not part of a group, I really encourage you when you head out today, when you go by the lobby, look at the groups that are out there. There’s life groups. There’s men’s only groups. There’s women’s only groups.
We have groups that go on with no end date. We have groups that begin at a certain time and end at a certain time so you can try them out sort of a thing. But if you have never been part of a community that’s doing that, then maybe that’s the investment you need to make to invest in Who not where. Maybe it’s to decide to start serving. May have been attending for a while and you haven’t got plugged in serving. At Mission Hills, we want everybody serving in the church and as the Church, being on mission in the church and as the Church. One of the best ways to be a mission as the Church outside the church walls is to be on mission in the church walls. You are getting practice here. Maybe you go out and talk to the Welcome Center. You say, I think I might have a gift for working with little kids. Maybe I should get connected with the kid’s ministry. I could work with the parking team or greeters to help people get in and find their seats so they are not stressed and hurried and troubled, so they can experience everything God has for them.
Maybe that’s how you start serving, or junior high or high school team or there are so many ways to start serving. Maybe that’s the investment you need to start making. Or maybe it’s an investment in your relationship with Jesus in a new way that you have never done before. Maybe you have been kind of part of the Christian life for a while. You have heard people say that you should be reading the Bible on a regular basis, and praying on a regular basis, but that’s never been part of your life. You said okay, I’m going to make that a new part of my life. Today I’m going to start a new habit of investing Who not where by reading the Bible and praying on a regular basis.
I adopted a new habit this year along those lines. It’s certainly not the first time I have read the Bible and prayed on a daily basis, but I wanted to bring fresh life into it, so I got advice from a guy. He said you know the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters. That’s at least one chapter for every day of any month. So what I start to do now is, every day I look at the date — today was January 20th. When I got to the office, I read Proverbs 20. Super easy because it’s nuggets of wisdom from God’s Word, real easy to read. I read chapter 20 on the 20th, and I write down one of them that captures my attention that day. I think the Lord is directing me to it. I write down one of them, and I take a couple of minutes praying about it. It’s just a new habit I have made to invest in Who not where.
Maybe you do that or something like that. Maybe it’s something totally different. Maybe the Lord leads you to something completely different today. That’s fine. But the question is, what concrete step will I take now to begin investing in Who not where? Because Jesus says do not let your hearts be troubled even when troubling things happen. Difficulties inevitable. Despair is optional. How? By investing in Who not where. Would you pray with me?
Jesus, as one of your followers and on behalf of your followers I know are listening right now at our campuses and online, I have to confess to you that I have too much invested in where. I know there’s nothing wrong with dreaming. There is nothing wrong with hoping, but when my hopes are invested in those where, I’m setting myself up for a fall. So Lord, on behalf of all of your people, we confess our need to be invested in Who, You, and we ask for your strength to take whatever steps are necessary to take a new investment, greater investment day in and day out in Who, instead of all of those wheres. If you are a follower of Jesus, I would like you to begin praying right now for the people around you, the people watching online that may not know Jesus as Savior because I think on all of our campuses and Church Online, there are people that are going, I think for me, the concrete step, the next step is just to put my faith in Jesus.
I have been playing around with it. I have been dancing around it. I have been investigating, but I haven’t actually put my trust in him. As we saw from the Word of God this morning, our belief in God, our faith in God and His Son Jesus, that’s a starting point for choosing this peace that we all want so desperately. If that’s you, if you don’t have that relationship, and you are realizing right now that you need it, and you are ready to put your faith in him, would you just put your hand up right now? That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. If you are watching online, just click that button right below me. Wherever you are, this is your next step. Just say this to God, say this to God in your heart say, God, I have done wrong. I have sinned, and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming and going to the cross to pay for my sin, to forgive me.
I believe you rose from the dead to prove that you had done it, and that right now you are offering me forgiveness and new life, a relationship with God and peace. I accept you. I put my trust in you. I receive these gifts from you. Jesus, come into my life. I’m yours. For now and forever. Amen. Can we just welcome those who just came into the family of God for the first time today? That’s awesome. If you made that decision, I want you to do something for me. On the seats in front of you, there is a card that says “I Said Yes.” I would love for you to grab that card, do whatever one of those options on there is most comfortable to you. Give us an opportunity to come alongside you and help you in this new relationship with God and this investment in a “Who” not a “where” that allows us to have peace. God bless. See you next week.
SPECIAL GUEST | MIKE ROMBERGER
When things are falling apart around us, it’s easy to think, “if only [fill in the blank], that would be enough for me.” In fact, one of Jesus’ disciples expressed a similar sentiment in John 14:8. Join us as we look at Philip’s request of Jesus, and the powerful lesson we can learn from Jesus’ response.
Man: “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” John 14:15. “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15. I knew all of these things, but I was not living them out in my day-to-day life. I professed faith in Jesus, but he was not the true Lord of my life. My life looked successful, under control, and even godly, but truth be told, I was living a lie. Over the course of five years as CFO of a company, I paid myself $1.4 million in bonus payments without my partner’s knowledge or authorization. All that time, I went to church, and I served as if nothing was wrong. The Holy Spirit convicted me every Sunday, but come Monday morning I was back to my foolish ways, disobedient, prideful, foolish, isolated. I was lost. The weight of my sin was crushing me, and everything was about to fall apart. On Super Bowl Sunday February 1st, 2009, I confessed to my wife what I had done. I told her I planned to turn myself in.
I said, you need to divorce me as fast you can and get as far as away from me as fast as you can. She just sat there in silence. Then my wife looked at me with her blue eyes and said, I don’t have any Biblical reason to divorce you. Did you hear what I said, I said? We are gowning to lose everything. I’m going to prison, and you will be better off financially, if you divorce me right now. She replied, I have peace about this. Everything is going to be okay. Then through tears, she said to me, you know, it was not until our eight-year-old son got leukemia that I finally realized why God gave you to me as a husband. Now you will find out why he gave me to you as a wife. Wow. But you know what the worse part of this is, she said? You have dishonored the name of God.
There are a lot of people that look up to you, and you have betrayed their trust and dishonored God, and truth be told, until that very moment, I never thought about dishonoring God. Shame, guilt, despair, remorse, fear, all of those things raced through my mind, and I remember staring at the floor crying, trembling, broken. When I looked up, my Godly wife with those beautiful blue eyes said, well, I have peace about this.
So before my sentencing, a detective friend of mine took me to see a guy that served almost two years in prison for a white-collar crime in the late ’80s. That guy was now working in a church, ministering to guys like me that had messed up. He told me how Jesus talked to Peter in Luke 22:31-32. Jesus said, Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Then he looked me in the eyes and said, you know, prideful, arrogant, self-sufficient guys like you and me need to be sifted. God will use all of this to work on you, but ultimately, he will use this for his glory. If God can use Peter, after he disowned Jesus multiple times, he can somehow use guys like us. Then he said, make no mistake. God only allows Satan to sift you to test your faith. Is it real, or is it fake. Then he said, take care, my brother. So on January 11th, 2010, by God’s grace, I was sentenced to 20 years in community corrections, not prison. I spent a couple of weeks in the Jefferson county jail, and over a year in a half way house. Since February 7, 2011, I have been allowed to live at home, but with many well-deserved restrictions. With good time, I may be done with all of this by 2023, but face a lifetime of restitution payments as a convicted felon.
My foolish sin has many consequences, but by God’s grace, my wife and I can now minister to those facing divorce and dealing with the legal system. Our 23-year marriage is strong. Our faith continues to grow, and God is gracious beyond our ability to comprehend. So here’s my word to you. Don’t let pride or shame or isolation keep you from being real. Especially when things are falling apart. Be real in your messy so Jesus can make you new.
Mike Romberger: No, no, no. Good morning. Good morning. It is such a joy for us to be here with you this weekend. My name is Mike Romberger. I had the privilege of being the lead pastor before Pastor Craig from 2001-2015. A year and a half after we left, I became the director of a camp out in California called Mount Herman Christian Conference Center. It’s a place I have been going to since I was a six-year-old boy. It’s a place that’s really affected my life in a great way, and it’s in the Santa Cruz mountains, in the redwoods a few miles from the water. We would love to have you come some time and visit. But about a year and a half after we left, I was back in Denver. I was in town for a few days. I came mid-week into the church to say hi to the staff here. Jon Roberts and I were walking down the office area, and he wanted to introduce me to a new staff member, so we went into the staff member’s office, and Jon introduced me.
This individual said to me, Mike Romberger. Mike Romberger — I have heard your name somewhere. I looked at Jon. I said, oh, that did not take very long, you know? A year and a half. It is a joy for us to be here, and see what’s going on here. Jane is here somewhere. I don’t know if she’s in the room. She has already heard me preach a few times this weekend, and enough already. Hopefully, you will see her in the lobby or out front afterwards or whatever. Our family is doing well. When we moved here in 2001, our kids were ages 10, 8, 4, 2. August of this last year, we became empty nesters. We are living in four time zones as a family. Our son Caleb, our youngest now is a freshman at Liberty University out in Lynchburg, Virginia. Our daughter Noel is a third-year student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
Two of our daughters are out of college now and live here in Denver. One is married, and we are in California. Four time zones, so it’s crazy as we are all over the place. We are getting adjusted to the empty nest, but it’s pretty nice overall. We are enjoying it quite a bit. We are deeply grateful for what God is doing here. My goodness, I’m so proud of what you guys are doing, and how Craig is leading. Pastor Craig and I have become really good friends. We talk on the phone from time to time. That doesn’t always happen between present pastor and past pastor, but it has for us, and we have become really good friends, and Coletta and Jane, and sometimes we get to spend time with each other. I love the big vision you have to reach this community with Christ, the whole Front Range to hear the Gospel. It’s so compelling and exciting for us to hear that.
I love how Craig puts it, you can’t follow Jesus without following him on mission and how much on mission that you are here, it’s just tremendous. And — I love what you’ve done with the place. It looks great. It’s very exciting to see God’s movement here. I could talk about all that kind of stuff all morning long, but I’m here to preach God’s word, so let’s pray and bring this time to the Lord.
Lord, thank you so much for this morning that we can be together to worship you, to lift your name on high, to be with other people who love you, and for those here trying to figure out who you are. Thank you for this church and the mission that you have put this church on to reach so many people for you, Lord. Thank you for Pastor Craig and the staff and the elders and the other people so involved here, Lord. Lord, we pray right now as we turn our attention to your Word that you would do what only you can do in a time like this, that you can infiltrate us from the inside out to encourage us to comfort us, to convict us. Whatever it might be, Lord, that we might need from you today, I pray that you would do in your life. We open our hearts to you during this time. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
I invite you to please take your Bibles and turn them to the Gospel of John 14. John 14. It’s in your New Testament, four books in, Matthew, Mark, Luke, then John. I think it’s interesting the church we attend in California, the series that they are going through right now is called “Defame Fear.” Next weekend I’m preaching at a church and their series this time of year is “Overwhelmed.” Here at Mission Hills, it’s “When Everything Falls Apart.” It’s like, what’s the deal with 2019? Defame Fear, Overwhelmed, and When Everything Falls Apart.
I had the chance to watch Pastor Craig’s message online, and what a great passage that this is, and what a great pastor you have to present God’s Word. He mentioned that this was Jesus farewell address or discourse. It’s, if you will, his goodbye speech he gives to the disciples, right before he’s arrested and goes to the cross. This is the Upper Room. This is the Last Supper. This is it until after he is resurrected to be with his disciples once again. This is a critical moment, and the things that he said are, of course, life alter, and he shared with his disciples what they needed to know to get through hard times. His first words we see in chapter 14 is “Do not let your heart be troubled.” Do not let your heart be troubled.
I love some quotes Craig gave last week. He said difficulty is inevitable, but despair is optional. That’s so good. He also said, we need to think differently about difficulty. We need to think differently about difficulty. I needed to hear that. Our 2018 was a difficult year, like no other year that we had before as a family. In particular with health needs. God has blessed us with good health almost every year besides colds and flu and things like that. 2018 hit and it was a different story for our family. We went seven different times to the emergency room in 2018. For some of you, that’s a normal month. For us, that was a big deal. We had two hospitalizations in 2018 and other challenges that came our way throughout the year that weren’t even health related. It was a difficult year in many different ways. When we got to the end of the year, 2018, I said to the Lord, enough already. Enough already.
So I chose to have a word for 2019. Jane and I, she chooses a word and I choose a word for ourselves, and we have that as our theme for the year. My word for 2019 is “embrace.” To embrace, because to be honest, I didn’t embrace very well 2018. I didn’t embrace a lot of things that came our way. I wanted to push those things aside. I resisted a lot of the things that God put into my life in 2018, truth be told. I wanted to embrace what was going to come our way 2019. Not long after 2019 started, Jane came down with a severe flu. In 31 years of marriage, it’s the worst I have ever seen her. Being the loving wife she is, she passed it on to me. We are no longer contagious, but we still are recovering from that. I’m trying to embrace 2019.
Let’s look at the passage from last week. We are going to go from there. Let’s look at verse 1 of chapter 14 where Jesus says these incredible words to his disciples. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus answered, I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
And in this Upper Room, in this Last Supper, in this final discourse, Phillip, one of the 12 disciples is tracking with all of Jesus words. He speaks up, and he says some things beginning in verse 8. Phillip, a not all that well-known disciples. In the Gospels of Matthew, the only listing of Phillip is the list of the 12 disciples. In the Gospel of Mark, the only mention of Phillip is in list of the 12 disciples. In the Gospel of Luke, the only mention of Phillip is in the list of the 12 disciples. Until you get to the Gospel of John, and then there are four additional vignettes, snippets into Phillip’s life, and chapter 14 is one of them along with chapter 1 when Phillip goes to a guy named Nathaniel and says we have found the Lord, and Nathaniel comes to Jesus and says, you are the Son of God. That was Phillip. He says come and see this Messiah we have found. Phillip did that. In chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is the feeding of 5,000, that great miracle Jesus has done with all of these people.
And in the midst of all of that, before he does the great miracle of taking the five loaves and the two fishes and feeding all of these people, he has a question for Phillip. I think it’s worth looking at. In John 6, it says, ”When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Phillip, where should we buy bread for these people to eat. He asked this only to test him for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” He knew he was going to take five loaves and two fish. He knew he was going to do that, but he was going to test Phillip and his faith. Phillip answered him. “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.”
Phillip doesn’t pass the test of faith. He says, we would have to have a ton of money, and even then, maybe everybody would get a bite, that’s what we would have to do to feed all of these people. He doesn’t even think that it’s possible that maybe Jesus is going to take care of it himself. So, in John 14, Phillip is in the Upper Room. He is fully engaged in the topic at hand. Jesus had told him he was leaving them. He told them he’s going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them. He tells them only through him can one get to the Father and get to heaven. He tells them that if you really know me, you will know the Father.
In fact, let’s look again at verses 6 and 7 of this passage. In verse 6, Jesus answered and said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Phillip speaks up, probably wishes afterwards that he had not. Phillip said, verse 8, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us. Or as the Living Translation puts it, show us the Father and we’ll be satisfied or as the Good News Bible puts it, show us the Father and that’s all we need, or Eugene Patterson’s “The Message” puts it, show us the Father. Then we’ll be content. He says show us the Father, and that will be enough. Here’s what Phillip is saying: He’s saying, Jesus, if you can produce before our eyes the physical evidence of who your Father is, we’ll fully believe in you.
But on your own, you are not — enough. You’re not enough. Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us. Now, you may say in defense of Phillip, hey, he’s trying to figure out. Jesus is a human being. He’s deity. It’s hard to figure that out. Okay, except this is the “Last Supper.” This is not the supper median point a year and a half into this. This is the final discourse. He’s been with Jesus morning, noon and night for three years. He has watched Jesus do miracles on a daily basis. He has heard Jesus teach, including about the Father. He has seen him pray, been in the room when that’s happened, to his Father. By now, he should get this. By now, he should know this.
But even after all of that, Jesus is not enough — for Phillip. It’s not that Phillip hadn’t heard the truth about Jesus. I mean, for instance, in John 5, he says “For this reason they tried all the more to kill Jesus. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” Phillip knew that. He was there for that. John 10, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one. Again, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him. Jesus said to them, I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me? We are not stoning you for any good work but for blasphemy because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Phillip knew that Jesus claimed to be God. John 12, “Then Jesus cried out, whoever believes in me does not believe in me only but in the one who sent me, the one who looks at me seeing the one who sent me. If you believe in me, you believe in the Father.” Phillip was taught this from Jesus. But he still wasn’t enough for Phillip.
The truth be told, maybe this is you. You have been curious about Jesus. You have dabbled in Christianity. You are here today. Maybe sang some songs. Maybe you read the Bible from time to time. Maybe you pray. Maybe you read Christian literature. You have conversation about Jesus, but — he’s just not enough for you. One of the reasons he’s not quite enough for you, because not everything in your life is going according to how you would like it to go.
If he was all he says he is, and if he’s enough, then obviously, things would be going a little bit better for you. So, you would say things like, Jesus, if you would just save my marriage, then that would be enough for me to believe in you. Or Jesus, if you would just let me into that college that I really want to go to, then you would be enough for me to believe in. Jesus, if you help me close that business acquisition that I need so badly for my career, then Jesus, I would you are enough for me. Jesus, if you would heal my cancer, then I’ll believe you are enough for me. Jesus, if you give me that mate I want so badly, then I know you will be enough for me.
You think, I’ll believe that Jesus is enough if he makes my life go according to my plan. If it goes according to my plan, he will be enough because my plan is always — the best plan. Hmm, hmm. Am I wrong? I mean, who knows what’s best for you better than you? Hmm, hmm.
But what if life doesn’t go according to your plan? Which it often doesn’t, by the way. Then is Jesus enough? So what does Jesus say to Phillip? To understand these next few verses, we have to dive in and go deep and look at other passage in the Gospel of John and a few other places. Hang in there with me, but it’s really important that you understand what we are going to look at here. So let’s look at verse 8 and go from there. Verse 8 said, Phillip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us. Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you for such a long time. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, show us the Father? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. The words I say to you, I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me who is doing his work.”
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. At least believe in the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father, and I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Verse 9 is a rebuke. I wish I could have a video. I wish I could see Jesus face and hear his tone. I think we can get a pretty good idea, verse 9. Jesus answered Phillip. He said, “Don’t you know me, Phillip? Even after I have been among you such a long time. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, show us the Father?” The Apostle Paul said this about Jesus relationship with his Father. He said in Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. He’s the image of God himself.” The writer of Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. He reflects his glory and represents him in his being.” Or as the Message puts it, “The Son perfectly mirrors God and is stamped with God’s nature.”
Jesus asked Phillip, ”Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, show us the Father? “ You can just hear Jesus frustration as he speaks about this. Phillip has seen it all and he still didn’t get it. Jesus continues by saying to him, don’t you believe, verse 10 – “Don’t believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me. The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, rather, it is the Father living in me who’s doing his work.” Here’s what Jesus is saying, get this, about his relationship with the Father. He’s saying, my words are his words. My works are his works. My words are his words. My works are his works. Phillip should have known this because Jesus has taught this many times before.
Let me give you a few quick for instances, like in John 7 — again, this is all in the Gospel of John. It says “The Jews there were amazed and they asked, how did this man get such learning without having been taught.” Talking about Jesus. Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Then in John 12, Jesus says this: “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life, so whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” He said my words are from the Father. I represent his heart, his thought, his very words.
Then he says this in verse 11: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” He says to Phillip, if you are not going to believe the words that were given to me by my Father, at least believe the evidence, believe the works that I do that show that I come from the Father, and that the Father is within me, and I am the very Son of the Father, I am the very Son of God. The Gospel of John 10, Jesus says this, “Why do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said I am God’s Son? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
You might not understand all of the words or agree with them all, but at least look at the works to know, I come from the Father. Let’s face it, how do blind people see, deaf people hear, dead raised from the grave, the hemorrhage stop bleeding, how does that happen without God the Father in the middle of it? Phillip, the words you have spoken are from my Father. The works are from him too. Why do you think you need to see the Father to give me legitimacy?
Now get this. This is pretty major. It’s pretty amazing. As Jesus shares that he’s about to leave them and go to the Father, he lets Phillip and the others know that this great out pouring of God’s power is now going to be released through them. Through them. Look at verse 12. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” They are going to do these things and even greater things. You are like, what? No way. Greater things than Jesus did on this Earth. Is that true? Did that really happen?
Well, the Apostle Peter who walked with Jesus in the Book of Acts says this, it’s crazy. Acts chapter 5, “People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on the beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” Think of that, they literally laid the sick on mats on the side of the road, you know, this person’s deaf. This person’s blind. This person has a demon. This person has a hemorrhage. This person’s lame. They can’t walk. Peter walks by and just by his shadow touching them, they are healed.
Greater works you are going to do than me, Jesus said. Then there’s the Apostle Paul in Acts chapter 19, “And God did extraordinary miracles through Paul so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.“ Seriously? Paul just touched handkerchiefs. He touched aprons problems, and when they were taken to the sick, they would be healed. Greater works, you’re going to do. In fact, Jesus told his disciples when he was here on this Earth, it’s to your advantage that I go away because if I go away, I’ll give you the helper, the Holy Spirit that will be with you. You say, that’s not an advantage. Wouldn’t you rather have Jesus by your side?
Jesus is like, no. That’s — it’s better for me to go because I am God with you, but this is going to be God within you. God’s power. God’s wisdom. God’s words. God’s works within you. As I go to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come upon you. It’s to your advantage that I go away. Incredible. Then we get to verses 13 and 14, which is the last two we’ll look at this morning. Jesus said this, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” And you read these two verses and you say, A ha. I knew it. There is lies in the Bible, right? Come on. Has everything you asked of God come true. Has every time you asked Jesus to move, has he moved? So let’s figure out what this really means.
When Jesus healed and did miracles, he’s very clear that he did those by the will of the Father, according to the will of the Father, and in order to bring the Father glory. The will of the Father, he would make sure that the healings were in alignment with God’s will, and that it would always bring God glory. Is everything that you and I ask for fit that category? In the will of God, and to bring him glory. It’s the same principle for us. If we ask for what is in accordance with the will of God and to bring God glory, it appears there is a promise here that Jesus will do the work. But our request must be in the alignment with the will of God, and to bring him glory.
James 4 says this, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motivates that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” God, you want you to do this. I want you to do that. I want you to rub the genie lamp so that I will get what I want from you. He says you don’t get what you ask for, because you ask for your own pleasures. I John 5, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God. That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Maybe you are in a place in your life where things are not going as you had hoped or planned. You are not getting what you have asked for, and you saying to Jesus, enough already. Enough, already. This is too much for me. In order to believe, you are going to need to see more because just putting your faith in Jesus for you is not enough. It’s not enough because everything around you is falling apart. This was tested for me just last month. Our daughter Noelle, who is a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago came home for Christmas break. It was great to have her home. A few days after she was home, she had abdominal pain. Jane took her to emergency. They gave her meds and diagnosis and back home she went. The next day I got a call from Jane. I can hear Noelle screaming in the background in pain. She says, you have to get home right away. We have to take her to emergency.
We drove fairly quickly to emergency. They put her into an ambulance, eventually, and took her an hour over the hill over to Santa Clara in the Silicon Valley where she ended up being for 14 day. Her appendix had ruptured. The things that came out of her appendix began to cause infection and inflammation on the other organs around it so that they couldn’t just go in and take out the appendix. In fact, they still haven’t. There is surgery still to come, so she’s taking a semester off to be at home to heal up, so there goes the empty nest. It was nice for a little bit. They say about the empty nest, it’s like those fake birthday candles. You blow them out and they come right back.
When we get back to California, she’ll have a C.T. scan and see if everything is healed up, and then they can go in and take the appendix out, so she’s still vulnerable, although she’s doing really well over all. She was here last service. She got to travel with us. Day three in the hospital was what I have referred to now as the day from hell. You know, you can use that word in church because it’s in the Bible. I’m not the pastor, so —
So you know who to write your letters to. Anyway, it was a terrible day. It was a horrible night. All of her numbers were going in the wrong direction, and I began to fear that she wasn’t going to make it. The doctors never said that, but that’s where I went as a dad, that she might not make it. In the middle of all of that, our daughter Megan called from Denver to see how things were going, and I just blubbered and shared my heart, and she was crying. It was a terrible day, and even a worse night. And it’s in moments like that, you have to ask a serious question. Is Jesus enough? I have been teaching that he’s enough my whole life, but it’s in moments like that where you really have to ask, is he enough, and if something did happen to her and she didn’t live and he didn’t answer my prayer because of what I wanted for my life, would Jesus still be enough?
I decided that although I can’t even imagine the pain that would be to lose our daughter, and some of you have gone through that and know what that pain is like, yes, he’s still enough. He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one gets to the Father but through me. None of us are promised a perfect life or easy life or that we are going to live forever on this Earth because the mortality rate is still 100% around here. None of us are guaranteed a number of years. Is he still enough in the dark times? The truth of the matter is, Jesus is all I will ever need. Although sometimes I want more. Or I want some kind of a manifestation. I want some kind of a show me something here, and then that will be enough. Jesus says to Phillip, and he says to you and me, I’m enough. I am fully God. I am the very Son of God.
I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one gets to the Father — no one gets to heaven, except through me. Jesus is enough already. He’s enough already. I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me. Maybe you are still on the fence about Jesus, and you haven’t taken that leap of faith, and you are waiting for something else to come in to make it enough. He is enough in and of himself. He is who he claimed to be, the very Son of God and the way to eternal life, and he has made it so easy for us to have eternity, to have him. It’s to ask for the forgiveness of our sins as we acknowledge that he is indeed God.
And he will forgive us of our sin and clean us up completely no matter what we have done and who we have hurt along the way. He will give us eternal life, and upon our death bed, we do not need to fear. He is enough. I mentioned that we had two hospitalizations in 2018. One was Noelle. The other was me. I had been to hospital quite a bit in my life. As pastor, I may have visited some of you at times, but I had never been a patient. I had a fever in April that got so high when I went to the doctor to see what was going on, the doctor said to me, you are a very sick man, and I’m worried about you. That is not what you want to hear from your doctor. I was sweating profusely. My fever at that moment was 103.5. They had me go to emergency. They gave me one of those little gowns which is why I think they have that medical term I.C.U. They caked me with ice and all of that.
I ended up having pneumonia. I was in for four days, nothing compared to what Noelle went through. It was in the midst of that when you are completely dependent upon God, and I was supposed to be on the east coast. I was supposed to be with some other camping leaders. We were supposed to be in a hunting lodge in Maryland. It was going to be a great few days together, hanging out together. Instead, I’m in this hospital room, and I’m listening to worship songs, and I’m having this amazing, close, intimate time with the Lord in that room that I would never have had in a hunting lodge in Maryland, and though I would like to not repeat that experience, and one night in particular I woke up, and I was so hot, I was so discombobulated. I couldn’t remember where I was or why I was there, and I put in worship music, and there is a song that became very special to me in those four days, and it has been ever since. I asked Danny to close our service with it today.
It’s called “Do It Again,” by Elevation Worship. In the middle of these great words it says, Jesus is still enough. It was those four words in the hospital that helped me more than anything else. I played it over and over again. Jesus is still enough. He’s still enough. He’s still enough for you. Let’s pray. If you have never personally given your life to Jesus Christ, you can do so right now by praying a prayer to acknowledge that he’s enough for you. I’ll say the words, but it can be from your heart. Dear Lord God, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and is who he claimed to be. He is enough. That he is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to you, Lord, except through him. So I want to come to you, Lord, through Jesus. I ask you to please forgive me of my sin, and to clean me up of all I have done that’s been wrong. Wash me clean and make me new.
I invite you into my life, Lord Jesus, and it will be my privilege to live for you for the rest of my days. Oh, Lord, it’s like your very favorite prayer, someone embracing your Son as enough. Lord, there are some in this room that are doubting today. May they not doubt anymore, you are enough for them. Don’t let the circumstances around them get them all twisted about who Jesus is. Lord, I pray that you would help them through this time, and you would be enough for them. Lord, may we know that you are enough, and we are grateful for that truth. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
Today we continue our look at Jesus’ “farewell discourse,” his goodbye speech to his disciples, to teach them – and us – what we need to know so we don’t fall apart when everything around us falls apart. Part of what he’s trying to help them understand is what we see as the end of something great is often the start of something greater…if we can leave it in God’s hands.
God has provided Steven with many volunteers from shoveling snow to making his home handicap-friendly. One door God opened is when a friend sent one of Steven’s inspirational writings to Channel 9 news. Within a few hours, they contacted us about doing a feature on him. This video has provided him with a platform to share his ALS and faith journey to thousands across the country.
>>ESL teacher Steve Martin —
>>Steve: I feel like a healthy 99-year-old man.
>> — kept the students and staff at Prairie Crossing —
>> The meetings aren’t the same.
>> Of course not.
>> — on their toes for 16 years.
>> Steve: My voice isn’t doing so well. I hope I can get through the whole speech. It’s about 45 minutes long.
>>It’s clear — there will be a void in these hallways. He’s an important part of Prairie Crossing, and always will be. Especially since the retirement party was so unexpected.
>>Steve: I’m a little disappointed my retirement’s not going to be exactly how I dreamed it might be.
>>Steve worked until ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease wouldn’t let him work anymore. Steve has a pretty good idea of what’s coming, and he’s — mostly, okay with it.
>> Steve: I’m ready to die at any time because I know that I’ll be in heaven. I’ll be with God. The hard thing is thinking about my family and leaving them.
>> Death to Steve is not the end. It’s part of the experience, for him and his family.
>> It’s not fair that you should outlive your kids, but he’s taught us to have — sad as it is, a peace about the journey.
>> All of the teachers are going to be better teachers because of him. Every student that leaves here will be better because they knew Mr. Martin.
>> That’s not to say what’s to come won’t be sad, but why think about tomorrow when you still got today left to truly live.
>> Steve: Things like happiness and health are wonderful. I wish I had more of those, but those are all temporary things. Things like faith and hope and love are eternal, and there is no person, there’s no circumstance, there’s no sickness that can ever take that away from me or from my family.
[end of video]
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills, including those of you joining us on Church Online. So glad you are with us today. Let me just tell you right up front, we have a lot of ground to cover. I thought really seriously about breaking this message into two separate messages, but I didn’t feel I could honor God’s Word properly by dividing it artificially, so we have a fair amount of ground to cover. I’m going to talk really fast. I’m telling you right now, it’s your job to keep up. You have been warned. The good news is, that all of the ground we are going to cover leads to one very clear truth, and it’s one really powerful truth I believe God is going to use significantly in your life.
Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, make your way to the Gospel of John 14. Let me give you a quick reminder that this entire section of the Gospel of John is Jesus’ goodbye speech. The reason he gave it is because he had this group of followers who were so excited about who he was. They were so excited about everything God was about to do. They had this really clear picture about everything he was about to accomplish, and then right in the midst of that, at the pinnacle of their excitement, Jesus kind of dropped this bomb. He said, I’m going away, and their world really sort of began to fall apart, and what Jesus is doing in this speech for them and us, he’s telling us what to know and do so we know what to do when everything around us falls apart. One of the things he’s going to try to make very clear in this message today is that what we see is the end of something great is often the beginning of something greater.
What we see as the end of something great is often the beginning of something greater — if, and this is a real big if. There is a lot of weight on those two letters, if, we can leave it in his hands. But the problem is that’s not our temptation, right? Our tendency is not to leave it in his hands. Our temptation is, when things are going especially well or we are on the verge of something, or we are excited about where God is taking us, if it looks like it’s changing, if it looks like it’s coming to an end, our temptations go, well, thanks for getting me this far, God, but I’ll take it from here. I’m not going to trust this in your hands because you don’t seem to be managing it right. You’re not doing it right because I don’t like where you are taking it, so we have a tendency to want to take it back.
Even if we don’t have that tendency, the question of how do I leave it in God’s hands, how do I move forward through whatever difficulty I’m facing, how do I do that in the way that he calls me to? And Jesus begins this part of the message, John 14:15 with a really clear teaching on how we leave it in his hands so what we call something great isn’t coming to an end, it’s actually the beginning of something greater. He says this, verse 15. He says, if you love me, keep my commands. That’s what you have to do. If you love me, keep my command. Now, you have to understand that, that was a shocking thing for Jesus to say. It’s really easy for us to miss how shocking it was, but the reason it was shocking is because that’s not the first time the disciples of Jesus had heard those words.
They had heard those words all the way back in the book of Exodus 20 when God the Father spoke to the Israelites and he said this, Exodus 26, he said he was the kind of God that would be known for showing love to a thousand generations of those that love me and keep my commands. Sound familiar? It’s almost word for word what Jesus says in John 14. He says if you love me, keep my commands. Notice, he didn’t say, if you love God, keep his commands, because God said that. He says if you love — who? Me, keep whose commands? My commands. You understand in modern terms what he’s just done, he retweeted a God quote as his own, right?
That’s not okay. I — there was a — I used to kind of make a living as an itinerant speaker, and I was working this one conference once, and I told the story of this weird rollercoaster ride that I had gone on and I related the spiritual truth. I built up all those emotions and tried to draw the kids in. Then I didn’t go to that conference for a couple of years, and like three years later, I came back, and one of the conference organizers said, yeah, it was the weirdest thing. Last year we had a different speaker, and he told your story. Like word for word, and apparently what had happened, it got captured and put on YouTube. This guy like saw it. Like, that’s a great story. I’m just going to tell it like it’s my own. I’m like, dude, that’s not okay. That is so not okay. But Jesus is basically done that right here.
He’s like, oh, those are good words that God had. I’ll just take them and make them my own, right? That’s why this was shocking, but you need to understand is that Jesus has already told the disciples, I and the Father are one. God and I, we are one. We are the same. The Father and the Son, we are one. What he’s trying to help them understand now is this interesting thing. He’s basically trying to say, it’s actually hard to tell where the Father ends and Jesus begins. Does that make sense? It’s hard to tell where the Father sort of stops and Jesus starts. Not only are they one like we are unified in purpose, and we have the same agenda, but, no, no, no. There’s some kind of sense in which it’s actually hard to make a clear distinction. It’s hard to tell where the Father ends and Jesus begins.
So he’s kind of making that point, and we are going to put a pin in that idea because he’s going to come back to a very similar idea over and over again in this message. But then the next question we want to ask, of course, he says if you love me, keep my commands, and then of course the question we want to ask is, which ones? Because you know, especially if he and the Father are so close, then his commands are the Father’s commands, and the Father gave a lot of commands. Like, in fact the Jewish people in the first century, they had gotten together, combed through the Scripture and decided there were basically 613 commands in the Old Testament, and they ran the gamut. They ran from do not murder. We all good? If you are not, talk to me afterwards. They had that, then they had stuff like, don’t weave cloth from two types of fabric. How many of you today are going 100% cotton today? Like toe to top? I’m not seeing a lot of hands. That means you are all sinners. You have all broken one of the commands of God.
Of course you are going, wait a minute. I didn’t think we had to do those. I thought the New Testament said we are not under the Law. Well, yeah. That’s true. We are not under the Law, but Scripture also says in the New Testament all Scripture is God breathed. It’s useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training up. If we don’t have to follow all of those commands, then why does Jesus say, if you love me, keep my commandments. Which commands is he talking about? Is it all 613? I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think it’s all 613 commands is actually a conversation I want to take you to in Matthew 22. Jesus is talking to an expert in the commands. He’s talking to an expert in all of these laws.
Matthew 22:35 says one of them, an expert in the Law of the commands tested Jesus with this question. He said, Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? What’s the big one? Like if you only had one, what’s the most important one, and Jesus replied, love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. Love God with all that you are. That’s the greatest command. He said this is the first and greatest commandment.
Now understand that what Jesus said there was not shocking. Jesus said a lot of shocking things. This is was not one of them because it was pretty widely agreed in the first century that, that was the greatest command. He wasn’t saying anything that was radically new at that point. He said the greatest command is to love God with all you are. The teachers around him would have said, good answer. You nailed it. That’s great. Then, Jesus continued. He didn’t stop. I don’t know about you, but what’s the problem I have with Jesus. He just never seems to know when to leave well enough alone in my life, right? He gets me to this point and I’m like okay, this is good. I get it. Then, I’m like, oh, really? You are going to push into my finances? You are going to push into the way I’m talking to my wife? Can’t we just work on that thing back there? He just keeps moving on.
So he says, and the second one, he said, is like it. I don’t know how shocking that was, but I suspect at that point they were like, wait, the second one? Like there are 613 one of them, dude. You are going to rank them all? We are going to be here for a while, right? Jesus said, no, no, no. It’s only the second one I’m interested in. The second one is like it. It’s love your neighbor as yourself. All of the Law and the Prophets, that’s a way of describing all of the Old Testament, all of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. He says two, love God. Love others.
And I’m pretty confident that when Jesus says, if you love me keep my commands, he’s saying, these are the two commands that you need to be paying attention to. If you love me, you will love God, and you will love what? You will love other. Love God and love others. All of the other commands, here’s the way I think of all of the other commands, I think, all of the other commands in the Bible shapes our love, do you hear me? All of the other commands in the Bible shape our love. It helps us understand what it looks like when we are loving God. It helps us understand what it looks like when we are loving others. It directs us. It points us in the right direction.
But there are only two commands he’s really interested in. Love God. Love others. On some level, that feels like good news, doesn’t it? Until you realize that these two commands are ridiculously hard to keep. Here’s the thing. I was a pole vaulter in high school. I was a decent pole vaulter. I was jumping at about 13 feet. And then the Summer Olympics happened, and there was a Russian pole vaulter who jumped over 21 feet, so one day I went out to the pole vault pit, and I put the standards up at 21 feet, and I just stood there, and I was like — that’s never going to happen. Like that was so ridiculously far up there, it’s like that’s never — and Jesus is kind of doing that. He says just two commandments. Love God and love others, and what he did was radically reduced the number of commandments that we are sort of beholding to, but he really raised the bar of the standard that we are responsible for, didn’t he?
At that point you are like almost like, can we go back to the 613? Like a whole bunch of those, I can check off. Like one of them says, do not boil a baby goat in its own mother’s milk. Right? Like, anybody? You are like, I’m good at that one. That never occurred — I don’t know why we would — right? There’s almost an attraction at that point to go, hey, can we go back to the list? I can check off most of those, but this standard you have given me, it’s insane, Jesus. All I have to do is love God and love others. I have to honor God and — oh. I don’t think I can get over that bar, Jesus.
So Jesus says, verse 16, he says don’t worry about it. He says, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to be help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth. He says he’s going to give us another advocate. Now, the word advocate basically means somebody who does for you what you can’t do for yourself, okay? Hopefully, this is not true for you, but maybe it might be true for a few of you, or maybe you have heard it on T.V., if you find yourself in the legal system, which is a very complicated system, they’ll say something like this. You have the right to have an attorney, if you cannot afford one, one will be — will be provided to you. You need somebody to help you navigate that really complex system. You need somebody to help you do what you cannot do for yourself, so Jesus says, the Father will send you another advocate.
Why does he say “another?” Well, because he’s the first advocate. He’s the first one that does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Jesus, he went to the cross. He paid the penalty in his own blood for our sin. He offered us complete forgiveness and new life that if we just trust in him, we can have a relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever. We couldn’t do that. We could never be good enough. We have all sinned. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. So Jesus died in our place. He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He says, I’m not the only advocate. There is another advocate, the Spirit of Truth, or the Holy Spirit. What he says is, the Father is going to send the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
The Holy Spirit will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. That standard that went up there? Like there’s no way I’m going to get over that by myself. He says, don’t worry about it. All you need to do is set your sails in the right direction. Love God and love others, and the Holy Spirit is going to come along and move you to where you could never get on your own, get you over the standard, get you to that place you could never be on your own. He says this, he says the world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. This Holy Spirit, and the power of it, he says it’s not for the world. He’s only for the followers of Jesus, but you know him for he lives with him and will be in you. He says, you know him for he lives with him and will be in you. Here’s an interesting thing, technically, that’s wrong. Historically, that’s wrong. Theologians have battled over what Jesus is doing here because here’s the thing.
In the Old Testament, we certainly see the Holy Spirit, but in that era of history, the Holy Spirit didn’t live in people. He would come upon them. He would give the gifts, but he would move around. He wasn’t a permanent part of their lives, and when Jesus is speaking, that’s still true. The Holy Spirit is not a permanent part of them. The Holy Spirit doesn’t live in them. That doesn’t happen until something we call Pentecost. Jesus died. Three days later, He rose from the dead. 40 days later, there is a big festival called Pentecost, you can read about it in the Book of Acts. And at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus, took up residence in them, began to transform them from the inside out and lived with them permanently, but that happened at Pentecost.
Jesus says here, you are going to recognize him because he lives with you. Theologians have been like, what is Jesus talking about, because it doesn’t seem to happen for quite a while still, so what does he mean you are going to recognize him because he lives with you? And this — this is subtle, but it’s really powerful, and it’s really important that we understand kind of what he’s getting at. The Spirit doesn’t live with them yet, but who is living with them? It’s Jesus. Here’s what’s going on. He’s already said, it’s actually kind of hard to tell where the Father ends and the Son begins. In the same way, it’s actually hard to tell where the Son ends and Holy Spirit begins, so no, the Holy Spirit doesn’t live in you yet, but I’m right there with you. We are so close, the lines are so blurry between us that the reality is that it’s hard to tell where Jesus ends and the Holy Spirit begins, so you are going to recognize him because he’s basically me. Basically me.
He says, I will not leave you as orphans. You think I would abandoned you? You think I would call you to something that you don’t have the ability to do or that I don’t give you what you need to have the ability to do in no, he says, I will come to you. Theologians go, what does he mean? Is he talking about the resurrection? He’s coming back from the grave? Is he talking about the second coming, or the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and the answer is — yeah. Yeah, but — he’s probably first and foremost talking about the Holy Spirit. He says the Holy Spirit will come to you which means I am coming to you, because it’s hard to tell where the Father leaves off and the Son begins. It’s hard to tell where the Son leaves off and the Spirit begins. He says, I’ll come to you in this Holy Spirit.
Verse 19 he says, before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. I’ll still be with you. Because I live, you also will live. The Holy Spirit will actually begin to awaken you to the life. Remember he said, I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the only way, the only truth that gets you to the only life worth living. He says the Holy Spirit will continue, though, because it’s awakening you to this life that God always intended you to have. Because I live, you will live. He says on that day, you will realize that I am in the Father, and you are in me. I am in you. Wait a minute.
That day you will realize I am in my Father and you are in me. Wait a minute. You are in me and I am in you — like, what? Here’s what he’s doing. This is so powerful. He says it’s actually hard to tell where the Father leaves off and the Son begins. It’s hard to tell where the Son leaves off and the Spirit begins. When the Holy Spirit comes to you, it’s going to get hard to tell where you end and I begin, where I end and you begin because that’s what the Holy Spirit is going to do in you. Because of the Holy Spirit working in us, it’s going to be hard to tell where Jesus ends and we begin and where we begin and Jesus ends and — the lines get blurry. The lines get blurry.
Just think about that for a second. I think this is so powerful. The earliest followers of Jesus after the Resurrection, after Pentecost, they had a name for themselves. They called themselves “The Way.” Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, so that’s us. We are on the way. The Romans came up with a new name for them. The Romans looked at the followers of Jesus, and they were like, you guys are adorable. Like it’s so cute how you are trying to be Jesus, how you are trying to continue his ministry. How you are trying to be on mission with him and continue the work. Almost like — it’s almost like you are little versions of him. That’s so cute. They came up with a really insulting thing to call them. You know what they called them? They called them Christians, which is Latin basically means,” little Christs.” It was a derogatory term. It was an insulting term. They are like, gosh, you guys are crazy.
Just pretending to be little Jesus’ running around. The Christians went, that — that’s actually really good. That’s exactly what we are. That’s exactly what we are about. They took the derogatory term and said that’s what we are going to be known as from here on out. We are little Christs because that’s what Jesus was saying. It’s hard to tell where the Father ends and the Son begins. It’s hard to tell where the Son ends and the Spirit begins, and because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, it’s hard to tell where we end and Jesus begins or where Jesus ends and we — it’s all kind of packaged together.
He says, verse 21, whoever has my commands — which commands? Love God and love others. Whoever has my commands and keeps them, that’s the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love them, and I’ll show myself to them. I love this, verse 22. And then Judas — and John says, not Judas Iscariot. Judas Iscariot, that’s the one who betrayed Jesus. Judas is a pretty common name, and so he wants to make sure we are not confused. He says, not that guy. Just get that out of your minds. And Judas said, but Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not the world? It’s a really interesting question. It’s a perfectly natural question. Jesus says, I’m going away. I’m going to send the Holy Spirit to you. I’m going to come to you in the Holy Spirit, the Father’s going to love you. I’m going to love you. We are all going to be together, and I’m going to show myself to you through the Holy Spirit.
Judas goes, I’m confused. Why are you going to yourself to us but not to the rest of the world. This need to know who you are too. They need to know what you are all about. Why are you going to show yourself to us and not the world? I picture it — I picture Jesus going, [sigh] really? All right, let me try again. So Jesus replied, okay, I think he probably talked really slow. Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. You know, that I and the Father are one, I and the Spirit are one, and because the Spirit is in you, you and I are kind of one and my commandments set yourselves to loving God and loving others. Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching, and my Father will love them — I have already said this, guys. And I have already said this, but let me say it again, and we will come to them and make our home with them, okay?
God, right? Father, Son, Spirit, the Trinity. I know it’s confusing, but don’t try to tease it all out. The Son is this and the Father — trying to get it all in nice little buckets. No, no, no. You are missing the point. See, it’s hard to tell where the Father leaves off and the Son begins. It’s hard to tell where the Son leaves off and the Spirit begins. It’s hard to tell where the Spirit leaves off and the Son leaves off and the Father leaves off and where you begin because you understand, it’s one. He says, we will come and make our home with them. He says, verse 24, anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. They are not going to be one with me. They are not going to be setting their sails toward loving God and loving others, but guys, do you get it? He says, these words you hear are not my own. They belong to the Father who sent me, right?
We are one. These words are not my own. That greatest commandment business, that wasn’t my own. God said that. That second commandment love your neighbor as yourself, God said that too back in Leviticus. My Father said it, but I kind of said it too and the Spirit —
Do you get it? We are one. You understand that what happens is, we are going to come live in you. Because of your faith in what I have done on the cross — they don’t know about it yet, but it’s about to happen, because of your faith in what I’m making possible, the whole power of God is going to come into you and start transforming you to make a home in your heart. Do you get it, Judas? You want to know why I’m not going to show myself to the world? Did I say I’m not going to show myself to the world? No, I’m going to show myself to the world — through you. Through you. That’s what he’s saying. Jesus is going to show himself to the world — through us. The work of Jesus doesn’t come to an end. The work of Jesus continues. The ministry of Jesus continues. The mission of Jesus continues through all of his little Christs. All of his people being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit so they can do the work that Jesus began.
Jesus is going to show himself to the world. Judas is like, why aren’t you going to show yourself to the world? Jesus is like — I am. Dude, I am. Through you. That’s the plan. That’s been the plan all along. Verse 25, he says, all of this I have spoken while I was still with you. But the advocate, the one who will do for you what you can’t do, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name that means as my representative, continuing my work. He will teach you all things, and he will remind you of everything I have said to you. I know you are freaking out because you are thinking Jesus, if you go away, I don’t know how to continue your work because I don’t remember everything you said. There are situations you haven’t covered yet. I don’t know what it looks like to love God in this way in this circumstance. I don’t know what it looks like to love others because people are difficult, right? Like that’s the big problem with loving others, isn’t it? They are difficult, and they keep coming up with new ways to be difficult.
And you are like, God, I don’t know — when my kids suddenly decide to do this, I don’t know what it looks like to love them. You didn’t cover it. I have been through it. You did not cover anything about Snapchat. It is nowhere in here. I don’t know —
He says, don’t worry about it. I got this. The Holy Spirit in you will teach you what you need to know what it looks like about loving God and loving others when you find yourself in those circumstances. He will remind you of things. He was talking to a pastor friend of mine recently. He said, I had this weird experience last week. I was praying for this woman. All of a sudden I thought of this Scripture, and I quoted that, and it was really what she needed to hear and it was really powerful. And he said then afterwards, he was like, I did not know I knew that Scripture. He said, I know it’s a Scripture, but I don’t know where it is, even. He actually had to go look it up. Pastors do that, actually. We do that. He looked it up and it was like in Samuel. Isn’t that interesting?
I didn’t even know I knew that, but that’s what the Holy Spirit does. I have had that experience on occasions, maybe some of you have as well. He brings out those things that you need to know that he’s taught you when you need to know them. Sometimes he teaches you new things. He’s like this is what it’s going to look like to honor God with your life. This is what it’s going to look like to love others in circumstances that I didn’t cover yet but it’s okay. I got you covered. I didn’t cover that issue, but I got you covered, because I’m going to give you my Holy Spirit, and he will take care of you and give you what you need. He says, you understand, I’m trying to give you some peace. Verse 27 he says, peace I leave with you.
The Holy Spirit is peace. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I don’t give to you as the world gives. This is really important. See, in Rome, there was something called the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. They were very proud of it. The Roman Empire was very proud of the Peace of Rome. They were bragging on it all the time. They would tell people, do you guys know how lucky you are that we conquered you? You are so fortunate that we conquered you because now you have peace. The strength of the Roman Empire, we have managed to keep all of those invading armies out. You don’t need to be worry about being invaded by another one because you have been conquered by the most powerful army. You don’t have to worry about all of the other ones. No, no, no. Maybe you don’t have mercy and justice and sovereignty and all of those things, but you have the absence of conflict. That’s what peace is all about, right? It’s the absence of conflict.
Jesus says, that’s not my peace. That’s not what I’m talking about. Jesus says, I don’t give you peace the way Rome does. I don’t give you peace the way the world does. I don’t give you this fake false peace that says, oh, you are at peace, aren’t you so lucky because you managed to avoid conflict? Jesus says, no, I’m sorry. That’s not the way it works. A little bit later he’s going to say, in this life you will have trouble. You will have conflict. There’s going to be hard things. Difficult things are inevitable, but despair is optional. Because he says, my peace is not like the world’s peace. It’s not the absence of conflict. What he says is, Jesus’ peace isn’t the absence of conflict, it’s the ability to face that conflict with confidence, to know that you will be okay. To know that what you see is the end of something great is actually the beginning of something greater if you can leave it in his hands. If you set your sails towards loving him by honoring him and by loving others, you are going to sail through that. You are going to get through it.
It might be really hard. It might be very painful, but there’s always light at the end of that tunnel — always. I don’t give you peace the way the world does because it’s not really peace. They say you have peace if you managed to avoid conflict. That’s not true. Peace is the ability to face conflict with confidence. That’s — that’s what I’m offering you, he says. He says, do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid. Conflict is coming, but you can face it with confidence. You heard me say, I’m going away, and I’m coming back to you. You heard me say it, guys. If you loved me, you would be glad that I was going to the Father for the Father is greater than I. That might seem like a strange line because he’s kind of hammering, the oneness, right? It’s hard to tell where the Father ends and the Son begins where the Son ends and the Spirit begins, where the Son ends and we begin because of the work of the Spirit. There’s all this oneness, so for him suddenly to say the Father is greater than I might seem a little surprising, but what we need to understand is this.
He’s not talking about a greatness of essence. He’s not saying that God the Father has more knowledge or more power or anything like that. He’s saying something that we find described throughout Scripture that even though the Father, Son and Spirit are equal in their essence, they have chosen from eternity pass to operate in a particular way where the Son submits to the Father. He trusts in the Father, and the Spirit submits to the Son and to the Father, trusts in the Spirit and the Father, and in technical terms, to throw a bone for you, those that like this, we call this ontological quality with a functional subordination. Amen? Yeah. Sometimes you have to justify the fact that I went to seminary, and I paid a lot of money for it. What it means is — what it means is the Father, Son and Spirit are equal in their essence, but they have chosen to act in a particular way.
They have chosen to subordinate themselves to submit in terms of the Son submitting to the Father and the Spirit to the Father and the Son. Not because he’s better, but he’s the one in authority. So what Jesus is going here. This is very important. Jesus is modeling for us the trust that he’s asking from us. He’s modeling for us the trust that he’s asking from us. See, Jesus — not long after this, he sat in the garden and had a conversation with his Father where he said, Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me. Like, what I’m going into is conflict with a capital “C.”
He knew what it was going to cost him to set us free. He knew about the beatings and the scourgings and he knew about the mockings and the spitting. He knew about the nails and the cross and the spear and the pain. He said, I don’t want to do that. Is there another way to pull this off? Father, if it’s possible, can we do this different way? Let this cup pass from me? But then he said the all-important thing, but not thy will but thine be done. He submitted. He chose to trust his Father even when it felt like everything was falling apart. He chose to trust. Now he’s saying I have to submit to my Father. He’s modeling for us the trust that he’s asking from us. He’s saying, would you trust me?
He says, I have told you, verse 29, I have told you now before it happens so when it does happen, you will believe. He says, I will not say much more to you. For the prince of this world — a euphemism for Satan — the prince of this world is coming. Conflict is coming, but I face it with confidence. He has no hold over me. The conflict that I face in this life has no bearing on my relationship with God. It has no bearing on the power of God at work in me. It has no bearing on what is going to end up on the other side of this conflict. He has no hold over me, but he comes — listen to this. He comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father, that I trust him, and I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. He says, what you see as the end of something great is actually just the beginning of something greater.
Then he says — these are so powerful — five really powerful words, he says, come now, let us leave. And historically, at that moment, he appears to have gotten up and he moved forward. He moved toward conflict. He moved toward the cross. He went from a place kind of peace. They are likely in the garden right now. They are having an intimate moment, this conversation, and he gets up and says, I can’t stay here. Come now, let us depart. Let’s leave. Let’s move forward. He moves forward toward conflict, but he moves forward toward conflict with what? With confidence. He knows who he faces that conflict with. And these are powerful words. They are not just historically true words. I think there is a challenge in them. There’s a challenge in them for me. Because I can get stuck. I can get stuck so easy.
Sometimes I can get stuck because things seem to be falling apart. It’s not working out. I’m not making the progress I thought here and here and here, maybe our family and leadership or whatever. It’s like, I don’t know what to do. Jesus is like, come now, let us depart. Just move forward. Just trust me. Just take the next step. Set your sails toward loving God and loving others. Let’s move forward. Sometimes I can get stuck when things are good. Maybe that’s more you. You are looking around, and you are like, I like my life. I love the way my family is. I love the way everything is. That can become terrifying, because you are like I don’t want to mess it up, right? I don’t want to move forward. I don’t want to introduce anything new in my life. I don’t want to take any steps of faith. I don’t want to move because I might mess it up. He says, come now. Let us depart.
Yeah, I might lead you into conflict, but I will lead you through it to better things on the other side of it. Come now, let us depart. I wonder what those words mean in your life right now? What is he calling you to trust him with, to come now, and let’s move forward. He says, here’s how you do it. He started off the whole thing with the very simple instruction, here’s how you do it, just set your sails toward loving God and loving others. That’s what you do. That’s how you point your direction. Set your sails toward loving God and loving others, and he will take care of the rest.
I was on vacation a couple of years ago with Coletta. We were at the beach, and she wanted to take out one of those little sail things? A Hobie Cat they called it. I didn’t like it. I prefer a kayak — like, I’m in control. I didn’t like the Hobie Cat because I was like, I can’t even make this thing move. I had the rutter. I was like maybe I can make it move it really fast back and forth and it will generate — that’s not happening. The frustrating thing, I could feel this wind blowing, but I didn’t know how to catch it, and it took a long time to sort of figure it out. There was this moment where we had the sail set in the right direction. We had the rope in the right place. We got it in the right direction and all of a sudden the wind grabbed this thing and it leaped forward. It was actually terrifying. Like, how do we stop? Are we head today the Bahamas now, like what’s going to happen?
But that moment when the wind grabbed it and we began to leap forward through no power of our own, it was a really powerful moment, and I realized that all I had done was set my sail in the right direction. So Jesus says, set your sail in the right direction. It’s very simple. Set your sail in the direction of loving God and loving others. He will take care of the rest. So let me ask you this question. What is one command of God that you have the hardest time obeying? Maybe you can think of the big picture. Maybe it’s loving God. Maybe it’s honoring God with your life. Maybe that’s the one you struggle with. Or maybe it’s the other big one — it’s loving others. Maybe it’s a specific command from Scripture that helps shape that love. Maybe when you think about loving God you realize, I don’t think I’m loving him with my finances. I’m not loving him with any generosity, or I’m not loving him with my sexuality, I’m not loving him with my relationship with my husband or my wife, or there is some way that I’m not loving him because I’m not obeying something that he’s taught me.
Maybe it’s others. Maybe it’s a specific one, like the Bible tells us we are supposed to speak the truth in love. Maybe you are really good at speaking the truth — not so good at the love part. If we don’t speak truth in love, it’s hard for the truth to land, right? Or maybe you are really good at the love part, but you are not so good at the speaking truth part. Honestly, if we claim to love, but we don’t speak truth, we are not loving so much as we think we are, so maybe that’s it. You know, let the Holy Spirit do his work, but what is one command of God that you have the hardest time obeying? And then, this is the question for you, the really impractical one, what will I do to set my sails in the right direction this week? What will I do before the day is over, really?
What will I do to set my sails in the right direction, because if I set my sails toward loving God and loving other, Jesus promises, he guarantees, he will take care of the rest. He will get you over the standard you could never reach. He will fill your sails and move you through conflict to better things to better things beyond it to things you could not accomplish on your own. So how are you going to set your sails this week? What’s one concrete thing? Let’s take this before the Lord. God, we thank you, as your followers, who have our faith in you and have received the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Lord, we thank you for this truth that we are not called to check off boxes and follow all of these rules and regulations, but we are simply to set our sails toward loving you, toward honoring you and toward loving others, and Lord we thank you that when we do that, the power of the Holy Spirit will move us forward in ways we could never accomplish on our own?
Lord, would you help us to rest in that truth? Would you speak through the power of the Holy Spirit and convict us in ways that we are not setting our sails in the right direction, that we are really not seeking to honor you or to love others. Convict us of those, Lord. Give us the courage — give us the clarity to set our sail in the right direction by seeking obedience in that area, and Lord, will you fill our sails? Will you move us forward? Lord, I — it’s on my heart that I think there are probably people listening right now. That they are hearing this good news, and they recognize, that is good news. To have that kind of power, that’s awesome. They also recognize that they don’t have it. They don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit because they don’t have a relationship with you. They have never put their faith in your son and what he did for us on the cross. I’m going to ask all the followers of Jesus right now, would you begin praying for the people around you, the thousands of people watching online right now?
For those that don’t know Jesus, don’t have a relationship with Jesus, and they don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit. If that’s you, there is no reason for you to leave here today powerless. There is no reason for you not to have this power. If you know that you don’t have a relationship with God, not a personal one, and if you know you are trying so hard on your own and you are not making the progress that you want, you know that you are not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit filling your sails, and if you are ready to surrender your life to him, to receive forgiveness and new life and power, if you are ready for that, if you are ready to put your trust in Jesus, would you just lift your hand up right now?
That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. If you are watching online, just click the button right below me. Just say this to God, it’s so easy, but it’s so powerful. Say God, I have done wrong. I have sinned, and I’m sorry. I know I can’t keep trying to do this on my own. I need you. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to forgive my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and that you offer me forgiveness and new life and power through your Holy Spirit. I need those. So right now, I accept them from you. Jesus, I accept new life. I accept forgiveness, I accept the Holy Spirit and his power in my life. Jesus, I put my trust in you. I’m yours for now and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today we’re digging in to John 15, which begins with Jesus’ analogy of the vine and branches. Jesus says he is the “true vine.” Why would he say that? Because there are a lot of things that we’re tempted to connect ourselves to, thinking that they’ll give us life but in reality they won’t…they don’t have it to offer.
Man: The darkness starts slow — barely noticeable. I’m just tired, I say, or I just have a lot on my plate. Low energy. Low motivation. Everyone struggles with that from time to time, right? Soon, though, I realize it’s been going on for a few days. No energy. No patience with my kids, and no hope that it will ever get better. Soon, it’s hard just to get out of bed. Shame, guilt and fear flood my mind, and I feel the need to hide from anyone that might cross my path. For me, depression inevitably leads to panic as I realize all of the things I’m not able to do, all of the people that I’m letting down. Anxiety turns into tension, and suddenly, I’m gripped with fear that won’t let me go. Curled into a ball, unable to move, unable to release my grip, all I can do is cry out for help in an overwhelming, deep, painful groan.
But God is good. Over the last few months, I have embraced my battle with depression and anxiety, and I have experienced God’s promise that the truth will set you free. I’m trusting in God’s truth now, that he knows me. He loves me. He is with me in the midst of my darkest episodes when thoughts fill my head that I’m not good enough, that I’m alone, that my pain will never end, I remember, I am chosen. I am loved. I am an adopted child of God.
Craig: Good morning. Mission Hills, all of our campuses, including Church Online, so glad you are with us today for what I really think is going to be a powerful message from God’s Word. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel a little bit like this lamp right now, meaning, like I know what I exist for. I know what I’m supposed to do, but sometimes I don’t feel I have it in me. As a father, as a husband, as a pastor, as a preacher, I kind of know what I’m supposed to do, but I just feel a little depleted, a little dry. Anyone else ever feel like that? Yeah. Yeah, well, God has really powerful things to say to us today because here’s the thing that I have realized over several years. There are a lot of causes for feeling dry and depleted, a lot of causes, but there is only one cure for it, and that’s Jesus. I only got one amen out of that.
How many of you know the truth of that, that there is a lot of causes for feeling dry and depleted, but there is only one cure, and his name is Jesus. Can we just celebrate that fact? Can we just do that? Yes. Because whether you are feeling dry this morning, or just know there may be other periods of feeling dry, there is a cure, and a cure that is available to us in actually remarkable easy ways to connect to, and so why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible and make your way to the Gospel of John 15 where Jesus is going to tell us right off of the bat the one all important thing we need to know so we don’t fall apart when everything around us is falling apart, that we can still continue to function in the way God’s called us to function even when we are feeling dry and depleted because this is what he says, verse 1, chapter 15 of John he says this, I am the True Vine. I am the True Vine. That is such an important truth.
He says, I am the True Vine. Now I don’t know what you think of when you think of vines. Sometimes we have a tendency, I think, to picture like pumpkin vines or squiggly things on the ground, but he’s talking about grapevines. Grapevines actually look a lot more like a tree. I think we have a picture. Can we pop that picture up? This is a grapevine. What he’s talking about is really what we call the trunk of that tree. His point is pretty simple. He’s just saying that, you know, all of the life that you see in the branches and ultimately in the grapes that are produced, they all depend upon their connection to that vine, that trunk, right? The fruit, it’s a consequence of their connection to the vine. Nobody’s ever gone — you can drop that off now. Nobody’s ever gone to the grocery store and bought a bunch of grapes and taken them home and laid them on the counter and forgotten about them for a couple of weeks and came back and find that you have bigger grapes, right?
Has that ever happened to anybody? Because if so, that’s what we call a miracle. We would like to know about it, but that’s not normally the way it goes, because the moment you disconnect a bunch of grapes from the vine they stop growing, and in fact we would say they start what? Start dying, although that’s not technically true. The truth is once you disconnect a bunch of grapes from the vine they are dead. It’s just a question of how long it’s going to take for the appearance to catch up with the reality, and sometimes people are like that, right? Sometimes people do pretty good. Sometimes you and I do pretty good at put up the appearance of getting disconnect, we don’t have life flowing into us as we should, but we have managed to perfect the appearance of life even though we don’t have the substance of it, but inevitably what is going to happen, appearance will catch up with reality eventually.
The reality is that the moment you disconnect a bunch of grapes from the vine, they are on their way, inevitably to becoming raisins, and raisins are worse. They are. I know, some of you like raisins. I just need to speak a pastoral word into your life today and tell you, you’re wrong, okay? You are wrong. Raisins are not better, and I know that because I have never ever bitten into a grape and immediately spit it back out, but I have spewed cookies that I have bit into thinking I had a chocolate chip cookie only to discover that it was a raisin cookie and my brain is like, get it out, get it out, get it out. I have spewed cookies all over tables for years because raisins are not as good. They are not. They are just not. I want you to look at the person next to you and say, I don’t want to be a raisin. Go ahead. Right?
So how do we not be raisins, right? The answer is, we stay connected to the vine. I love it. He’s the True Vine and I think that’s significant. Because what he is clueing us in that there is a lot of false vines out there. They claim to give life but in reality, rather than giving life, they are sucking life out of us. Sometimes they are good things, but they are not able to live up to their hype. There are a lot of things we connect to that we think, this is going to give me life. It might be a career. It might be money. It might be possession. It might be experiences. There are a whole lot of things that we connect to thinking if we get connected to this, life is going to flow into me, but in reality what happens is those things don’t give us life. They end up pulling life out of us. They are drying us out. They are depleting us constantly, so one of the questions we need to wrestle with on a regular basis is this, what false vines have I gotten tangled up in? It’s an important question and we have to do it on a regular basis because we are constantly in the process of getting tangled up in false vines, so we need to go, what false vines have I gotten tangled up?
We have to ask the Lord to show those things to us so we can begin to deal with them because Jesus says he is the True Vine. He is the only one who is actually giving life instead of taking it out of us, and he says this. He says this, I am the True Vine and my Father is the gardener. We should say right now, I don’t know what you think about when you think of gardeners, my temptation is to think of someone who is obsessed with pretty, right? That’s what gardeners do, they make sure everything is prim and proper and pretty, right? So I think of people that are obsessed with pretty, but that is not what he’s actually saying here. His Father is not obsessed with pretty. His Father is actually obsessed with something very different. It’s kind of interesting. What he’s going to go on to say is that he is not obsessed with pretty. He is obsessed with fruit.
He says this, he says, he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that he will — what is that word? Fruitful. God the Father is obsessed with fruit. He is not obsessed with pretty. He’s obsessed with production producing fruit. That’s God’s obsession, and he has a couple of tools in his arsenal. The first one he says he looks at a branch and says, hey, does this produce fruit? If the answer is no, there’s no fruit coming from that branch, he cuts it off. This is big picture work, by the way. This is chain saw work. So he looks at us. We have all of these branches in our lives. We have got our career, we have certain kinds of relationships, and some of these big things he looks at he says I don’t see the fruit coming out of that thing. It never is. We have to get rid of that thing, so — all right. That’s fine from his perspective. From our perspective, that’s what we call painful, right?
It’s done because he is good. He longs to see good things in our lives, better things in our lives. So sometimes, he brings an end to relationships. Relationships can be a big branch. Sometimes he brings it into jobs. Sometimes he brings it into whole careers or dreams and aspirations because they are the wrong dreams. They are the wrong aspirations. These are big-picture branches that he says, there is no fruit that is going to come out of that good enough for my child, so this thing has to go, and he cuts it off. He also says he prunes. And that’s more like little work, like snippy snip work. I don’t know what the technical gardening term for that is, but he has these little tools where he looks at a branch and he go, yeah, there’s fruit coming out of that. That’s great, but I want better fruit because God’s obsessed with fruit. He never looks at some fruit and says, well, that’s good enough. He’s like, we can make better fruit there, so he trims off these little branches.
By the way, these little things that come off of a branch that is producing fruit that a gardener snips off, they are technically called “suckers.” I kid you not. Suckers. They are sucker branches because they are sucking resources up that could be going to fruit, and they are never going to be producing fruit, so it’s a focus issue and comes, and he’s like, we have to get rid of this. We have to snip this off, and he cleans the branch off so all of the resources are flowing so he can produce the most fruit, okay? So the point is that God is obsessed with fruit. Now fruit is an interesting thing. It’s an interesting metaphor for Jesus to use. I love that he used fruit. When we go, what fruit is he talking about, if you go to church, if you have been going to church for a while, you might immediately think, there’s a verse in the Bible, it’s in the Book of Galatians. Chapter 5. Some of you are nodding. You have been in Sunday School. You know exactly what I’m going to say. There is a verse in the Bible and it says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, forgiveness, self-control. I think I got all of those right. I might have missed one or two, but you get the point.
There are signs of godliness that we are becoming like Jesus, and he says the fruit of the Spirit is the production of those things, and that’s absolutely true, and I think that’s partly what Jesus is getting at here, but what’s interesting is that fruit is a sign of life, but it’s also a source of life, right? Fruit is both the sign of life and the source of life. It’s not just a sign that there is life coming to that branch that it’s connected to the vine, but fruit is what continues the work of the vine, right? Because fruit is what allows the vine to spread further and farther and to start new vines and those kinds of thing, right? It’s not just a sign of life. It’s also the source of life. I love that because at Mission Hills we recognize that we exist for the purpose of helping people become like Jesus and join him on what? On mission because we think they are two sides of the same coin. Becoming like Jesus always means also means joining him on mission. Because what Jesus is, as he molds us into his image, he’s on mission. So as molds us, we join him on mission. So I love this fruit thing. Fruit is the sign of life and also the source of life.
He says that’s what God is committed to producing in you, the signs of life but also that you would be a source of life to others. That God would not only be working in you, he would also be working through you. He would be making a difference in the world through you. That’s what God’s committed to. He says to his disciples, his followers, verse 3, you are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. I love that. He says you are already clean. And there is a little bit of a play on words because in the Greek the word for pruning and the word for cleaning are the same word, so he says your Father prunes, and you are already clean, you are already pruned because he says because of my word, in other words, because of who I have told you that I am and because of your choice to trust in my word of who I am, you have begun a connection to me. You have plugged into the vine, and now, he says, you are positioned and you are primed to begin producing fruit.
That’s both the sign of life but also the source of life. He says, that’s already been done because you have this faith in me. He says in verse 4, he says, remain in me as I also remain in you. He says, you are plugged in. You have faith in me. Now all you really have to do is you have to remain. You have to stay plugged in. He says no branch can bear fruit by itself. It doesn’t work that way. It must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. He says, I am the vine. You are the branches. He shifts the metaphor a bit here. I think that before he was talking about the branches being part of our lives, he will cut off or prune so they produce the most fruit, the most good things for us. Now he shifts the metaphor and says, I’m the vine and each individual Christian is the branch. He says, if you remain in me you will bear much fruit.
I love that. He doesn’t say it’s a possibility. He doesn’t say if you remain in me you might someday. He says if you remain in me you will bear — not just fruit, you will bear much fruit. He’s got big things he wants to do in you, big signs of life in you, big sources of life through you. He says you will bear much fruit if you just remain in me. Verse 6, he says if you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that’s thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned. Immediately people say, is that a reference to hell? You know, is he saying if I don’t produce fruit I’m going to be thrown into hell, get kicked out of the family, going to lose my salvation?
That’s not really what he’s trying to get at. He’s just kind of making a practical, very common-sense statement. You know how it work, right? A branch is connected to the vine with a gardener working on it, it’s going to produce fruit. But a branch that’s not isn’t going to produce fruit, and that branch isn’t good for anything. It’s not providing a sign of life or a source of life, and it’s not good for anything. It’s not really a threat as much as an invitation to what; to stay connected to the vine. He says, you don’t want to be like that. You want to be somebody who is actually producing signs of life and being a source of life. He says, stay connected to me. The question becomes then, how do we do that? He says it several times here.
He says remain in me. If you don’t remain in me, these will be true. If you do remain in me, this will be true, so remain in me — he says it a bunch of times here. Remain in me, so how do we do that? The good news to recognize, is, he’s kind of simplifying it. We saw this last week. We don’t have to follow 613 commandments, we just have to follow two which is to love God and love what? Love others. That reduces the number of commands, but it raises the standards. Now he boils it down even further. All of this is possible if you just do this one thing which is to remain in me. How do we do that? Well, the Bible is pretty clear. There are basically three categories of things the Bible teaches us to do to remain in Christ.
I think it’s important to recognize that we are not doing these things to connect to Christ. We are doing these things to maintain the relationship. I think that’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about it sometimes. Sometimes we think, I have to do this, this, and this, and I have to not do this, this and this so that God will love me, so that I can connect to him, but really, it’s about a relationship. There are certain things we do in a relationship. I’m married. So, I communicate with my wife, right? We spend time together. We sacrifice for each other. These aren’t what make me married. These are what I do to nurture the relationship. I don’t get to the end of the day and go, let’s see, was I married today? Let’s see, did I do that? Yeah, I think I was. That’s not how it works.
You wake up in the morning, because I’m married today, I’m going to do these things to nurture that relationship, so the Bible teaches basically three things to do to nurture that relationship that we have to remain in him. The first one is this. How do we remain in Christ? We consistently take the next step of obedience. Consistently taking the next step of obedience. Now, I’m going to use the word “consistently” in all three of these. There is a very simple reason, and it’s this. Craig Groeschel says, and I think he’s absolutely right, he says that successful people do consistently what others do occasionally. That’s good wisdom. Consistent people — successful people do consistently what others do occasionally. Everybody can do the right thing every now and then. But people who really see progress in life actually are consistently doing the things that others do occasionally.
What God calls us to do is take steps of obedience. One of the ways we remain connected to Christ is we consistently take the next step of obedience. I think this is really important. Sometimes we have this tendency to think about Christian faith in term of perfection, and we always think we fall short. Anyone else think you fall short? Like Jesus says, you know, the fruit of the Spirit is patience, and then I have kids, and I’m not as patient as I should be. We go like, this is patience. My day was like this. We just feel like a failure, right? There are so many ways that if we think about perfection, we are always going to feel like we are falling short, like we are failing, but I think God, he celebrates progress even when it doesn’t immediately produce perfection. Did you know that?
Did you know that God celebrates progress in your life? That every time you take the next step of obedience, when you are in a conversation or you are dealing with your kids, and you take one step of patience, God goes, yes! And he celebrates that. When we find ourselves in a situation, and we go, I kind of know what God wants me to do here. It’s this thing. It’s this next step. God celebrates those next steps. The reality is this, small steps in the right direction will take us to places we never would have thought possible, do you hear me? We look at distant, distant destinations, perfection and kindness and all of these things and think, I don’t know that I can ever get there? All you have to do is go God, what’s my next step of faithfulness? What is my next step of obedience? In this relationship, in that relationship, in this situation, what is my next step? When we are consistently taking the next step of obedience, whatever that is, we are remaining connected to Christ.
The second thing we do to remain connected to Christ is we consistently choose to worship. Consistently choosing to worship keeps us connected to Christ. Worship is a big word and we tend to make it really small. Worship is the songs we sing. That was a great song, but I didn’t know the words, so I really couldn’t sing it, so I really couldn’t worship, and you know, I really wasn’t in a good mood, plus the people around me were really loud today, and the woman behind me wasn’t singing on key, so that really threw me off, so I guess I didn’t worship today. But see what’s happening, we are taking a big concept and making it really, really narrow in its definition, but worship, listen to me, worship is — it’s a submission to God. That’s really the heart of it.
Worship is a submission to God. It’s basically saying to God, you are God, and I’m not, and I’m going to live accordingly. There is a lot of different ways we do that. Singing can certainly be that way. In fact honestly, one of the most powerful moments of worship for me is when I don’t feel like singing. I know that’s a shocker to hear. Like I’m the pastor. You always want to worship, right? No, I don’t. Sometimes, just the choice I’m going to sing this song because I know that these words are true, and these words say to God, I know who you are, and I know that I’m not. I’m going to submit to that, and I’m going to sing. Sometimes just that choice to sing is an act of worship. Sometimes just the choice to come to church is an act of worship.
I hope you all came here today because you couldn’t wait to see what God is going to do. Some of you are like, I guess I should go. Maybe you come and feel, I’m not really worshiping, but honestly, the very choice that you made to come even though you didn’t feel like it, that’s an act of worship. It’s saying you are God, and I’m not, and I’m going to live accordingly. There are a lot of different ways we do that, but when we are consistently choosing to submit to God whether that is in song or church attendance or step of obedience, there are a lot of different ways it works, but that’s worship. Gratefulness is an act of worship. Thanking God for what he’s done, even when we have things around us that we wish he would do, gratefulness is an act of worship. That’s how we stay connected to Christ.
The third one, we stay connected to Christ by consistently participating in Christian community. Let me ask you this, how many of you have ever seen grapes growing? Even just pictures of grapes growing? Come on? Okay, here’s the real question. Have you ever seen at the end of a grapevine or a grape branch, have you ever seen one big fat juicy grape? No, it doesn’t work that way. They all come in what? They all come in bunches. The Christian life is supposed to be like that too. The Christian life is best lived in a community with other believers. It’s one of the reasons we push groups so hard at Mission Hills. What you really want is for everybody who participates in Mission Hills, we want everybody to be connected to a smaller group where they can have three things happen.
Number one, that’s the group that is going to love you. That sets the foundation for helping you become like Jesus in practical ways and helping you join Jesus on mission. In groups, we challenge each other. We encourage each other. We love each other so that we can become like Jesus and join him on mission. We have Life Groups. We have men’s only groups. We have women’s only groups. We have hope groups. We have a lot of different groups, but all of them are designed to create a Christian community where real growth and fruit is produced because we believe that, that is the way that God often works. We think what we do in worship is really powerful, but really, unpacking that power in lives and beginning to see difference, that often takes place in a much smaller group.
We often push hard on groups because we want people participating in Christian community because that’s one of the ways we stay connected to Jesus, and it’s so important to stay connected to Jesus because incredible things happen. Look what he says, he says, if you remain in me — this is verse 7, if you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you can ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Like does that feel too good to be true? Yeah? It probably is, actually, in the sense that we fixate on the you can ask whatever you want. I really want a Maserati. I really — you know? But there is a really more important part. He says if you remain in me and my word remains — if you stay connected to me, you can ask whatever you want because here’s the thing. Have you ever seen a grapevine and a grape branch and an apple hanging off the end?
No, it doesn’t work that way because grapevines connected to grape branches, they produce grapes. Like I know, this is deep theology right here, but that’s the way it works. What happens is, when we are connected to Christ, an important thing begins to transform in us. Remaining in Christ transforms our desires. You hear me? Remaining in Christ transforms our desires. As we are connected to Christ in the ways we have talked about, what we begin to long for, what we begin to wish for, what we begin to hope for and dream for, becomes more in line with who Christ is, so we begin to long for the things he longs for. We begin to hope for the things he hopes for. We begin to wish for the things that he wishes to see, and so as our desires come in line with his, he says, yes, the lid is off. Sky is the limit now. Whatever you wish for is done, but sometimes there has to be a transformation of the wishes first — because he’s good, and often times, when we are not experiencing that transformation, we are wishing for things that are really not healthy for us.
I would like a Maserati, I mean if anyone is looking to get rid of one? Donation to the church — or whatever, you know — I’m kidding. That would be fun, but it wouldn’t be healthy for me. He says, I’m connected to Christ. What I’m beginning to wish for, I wish more and more these days, I wish for the church to be unleashed. I wish more and more that Mission Hills would become a place that people are becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission in the world. As I find the transformation of my wishes and my desires, more and more I see God answering that. It’s done, I hear stories everyday of crazy things you guys are doing to be on mission with Jesus and what God’s doing through it, and it’s just awesome, and I can go back to yeah, it’s what I have been praying for it. Now I see it. That’s awesome.
But as we are connected to Christ, as we remain in him, there a transformation of our desires, so it’s so important that we be connected to him. And he says in verse 8, this is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit. Not just a little bit of fruit, but much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples. As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now, remain in my love. It’s not just a technical connection. It’s a love connection. He says, I have loved you, and I want you to remain in my love. I want you to experience my love more and more, and that’s what feeds this fruit. Verse 10, if you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and I remain in his love.
We just saw this last week. What commands is he talking about, two big ones. Love God, and love others. If you do that, if you set your sails to loving God and loving others, we talked about it last week, the Holy Spirit will fill you and move you in ways you never would be able to accomplish on your own, fruit will begin to come out of you. He says and I have modeled it for you. Just as I have kept my Father’s command, and I have loved him and honored him, and I have loved you, loved others, and he’s going to the cross now to make all of this possible. He says, verse 14, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete, and be I love that because last week we said he was telling us about loving God and loving others and trusting him to do the rest so that we would have peace, that’s what he said. I want you to have peace. Not peace as the world gives it. Not an absence of conflict, but the ability to face that conflict with confidence.
He says I want you to have peace. Just because things are falling apart around you, you don’t have to fall apart. Your waters don’t have to be troubled because you know that I am with you, and you know what’s going to happen on the other side of this, but now he kind of ups it. He says it’s not just peace, he says, I actually want you to have joy. I want you to have joy. I actually want you to have the ability to face difficult circumstances with happiness, with a sense of not only confidence but with a sense of pleasure that God, as the Bible says, God works in the midst of all things bringing what? Good. Bringing good for those that love him and are called according to his purposes. That whatever you face, it’s not just something you will get through with his help, but it’s something you will get through on the other side and there will be good things accomplished that wouldn’t have been accomplished otherwise. And so we can begin to look at difficult circumstances and go, God’s going to do a great thing here, and I can’t wait to see what it is.
I’m anxious. I’m excited to see what good thing God brings through this. Yes, this is hard. I don’t want to do this, but, at least I know that good things are going to come out of this. He’s going to bring good. He says, I don’t just want you to have peace. He says, I want you to have joy. I have told you all of this is possible. He says in verse 12, he says my command is this, love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this but to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friend if you do what I command. He says, I’m asking you to remain in my love, but understand, that I am loving you first. I am giving you the greatest possible love. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus is saying this probably just days before he goes to the cross, before he dies in our place, before the man who had no sin became sin so that we could have eternal life, so that the wages of win as we all get as a natural consequence of our sin, death, is something we don’t have to pay for. Jesus will pay for. That’s his demonstration of love is that he lays down his life. He says all I’m asking you to do is to just love one another.
He says, you are my friend if you do what I command that you love one another. Verse 15, I no longer call you servants because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you. He says, I’m not going to call you servants anymore. Yes, he’s still the master, but he says the word “servant” is no longer an appropriate term for our relationship because the thing is, a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. He doesn’t know what the point is, so if the master tells the servant, jump, the servant’s only question is? How high. Yeah, it’s how high. He doesn’t ask why. He says, how high? But a friend, think about this. Try this. Do this today. Go up to a friend of yours and say, give me your wallet.
My guess is there is going to be a hesitation. They are going to want a little more information. They are going to want to know, why do you want my wallet? See because friends want to know what you are about. They want to know what the purpose of this is. He says, I’m not going to call you servants because I’m bringing you into my circle of confidence. I’m going to tell you what the game plan is. I’m going to tell you what this is about. I’m going to tell you what God’s plan is. God’s plan is to bring fruit in you that’s both a sign of life, but also a source of it. He says, I’m going to make it so you not only receive life, but that you radiate it out. I’m asking you to love God and love others as part of the plan for God to literally change the world. He said, and we have seen it throughout the goodbye speech so far. He says, I’m going away, but the work I’m doing is nowhere near done. I’m going to keep showing myself to the world, but I’m going to do it through you. He says, I’m letting you in on what you are doing. In that sense, you are not just servants, you are now friends.
He says this, he says you did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. This is a verse that has become a little bit of a battle ground for Christians over the years. There is this long-standing debate in Christianity between Calvinists and Arminianists, and Calvinists love this verse because they are like, it says we don’t choose God. He chooses us. Arminians are like, yeah, can we read another verse because I don’t think like that. Arminians don’t like that. Calvinists do, and I feel like in that conflict we have missed the core because Jesus is not really saying anything theological here, at least not directly. There may be some implications, but what he’s saying here really isn’t so much theological as it is very practical. He’s looking at a group of disciples that he chose, and he says, you understand that I chose you to be my disciples, not the other way around.
What’s interesting about that is the way that Jesus chose his disciples was wrong. Do you know that? Like he didn’t do it right. Because that’s not how masters chose disciples in those days. See what happened in those days, a Jewish teacher would get a little bit of fame and notoriety, and people would begin to seek him out. People would begin to come to him and say, can I be your disciple? Another would say, how about me? I would like to be your disciple, and what the guy would eventually do, was he would go, I’ll let you be my disciple, an yeah, I’ll let you, and I’ll let you, and he would usually pick the best and the brightest, the ones that had significant influence in the world, those kinds of things, but they would come to him.
They would choose the master, and then he would kind of allow them to be his disciples. Does that make sense? That’s not what Jesus did. Jesus went to other people. And they weren’t the best and the brightest. Like there is no way you can read the Gospels and think these guys are the sharpest tool in the shed. They just weren’t, okay? Which is great news for the rest of us, right? Jesus doesn’t choose great people. People become great when he has chosen them, and we remain in him, okay? He went to them. He said, come follow me. Why don’t you just leave all that stuff, drop it where you are. He chose them. Now he reminds them. He says, listen, you didn’t choose me. I chose you. The reason he’s doing that. The reason he’s telling them, it’s supposed to inspire confidence.
It’s supposed to inspire confidence because here’s the thing. If you chose the master, there is no way for you to be confident in that master’s commitment to you. Does that make sense? Let me say it again, if you choose the master, there is no way for you to be confident in the master’s commitment to you. But if the master chose you, you can be confident that he’s committed to you, right? That’s what Jesus is saying. He says, that’s what I did. If he has chosen us, listen, if he has chosen us, then he is committed to us. If he chose you, he is committed to you. You can be confident in that. You go, okay, can I really? If he’s talking, if he’s talking to those guys that he chose, how do I know that’s true for me? I chose to come to church, right? I chose to put my faith in Jesus. I did choose him, and my question to you is going to be, did ya?
Are you sure that’s how it worked? Because listen to me, the Bible is pretty clear. The Bible says this, no one seeks God not even one. In other words, our natural state is not to desire God, so in reality, if you find yourself longing to know God, if there is something in you that’s like, I know there’s a God. I feel this need to connect, to know him. If there is something in you that longs to know God, if there is something in you that keeps circling the Christian faith, you know, and maybe you have never put your faith in Jesus. Maybe you have never said, enough is enough. Maybe you have never actually trusted in him, or maybe you have, but you feel like you keep backsliding, you keep struggling. I’m not seeing the fruit I’m supposed to. I’m not a great Christian. I’m struggle, but if there is something in you that longs to know God, something that keeps you circling around the Christian faith, you know what that means?
It means you have been chosen. Do you hear me? Because we don’t get that desire for God naturally. No one seeks God, not even one. If you have a desire to know God, if there is something in you that keeps circling the Christian faith, that is evidence that Jesus has chosen you, and I don’t care if you are a Calvinist or Arminianist, that’s good teaching. There’s something in you that longs to know God, you didn’t come by that naturally. You came by that because God has chosen you. If you are struggling in faith, or struggling your way to faith, if you are here today going, yeah, there’s something to that. There’s something in me that just wants to connect, just wants to know him. That’s because God has chosen you. If he has chosen us, he is what? He’s committed to us. If he has chosen you, he has demonstrated his commitment to you.
He says that he’s done this so you will go and bear fruit, fruit that will last and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. There’s that promise again, right. You can ask anything in my name and it will be done, but understand, in my name means as a representative of me. It means continuing my work. It means somebody who has committed not just to receiving from, but also radiating life. Anything you ask that really represents me, anything that is born from that connection to me and that fruit I want to see born out that my Father is committed, obsessed with bringing out, anything you ask that really does demonstrate that life, it comes from that intimate connection, he says, that’s done. The sky’s the limit.
He says this is my command, love each other. And that’s so interesting to me because he kind of boils down everything to one thing now. It was love God and love others. Now it’s this is my command, guys. It’s like two is not simple enough for you guys. How about this? How about this right here? Love each other. You understand loving each other is impossible unless we are connected to him. We can’t radiate light if we are not receiving it from him. It’s really, just focus on this because everything else will come together. This is my command. Love each other. This lamp has been sitting here this whole morning, and it’s been kind of useless, hasn’t it?
It’s not doing what lamps are supposed to do. It’s not radiating light. You are like, well, yeah — it ain’t plugged in. All right. Anybody disappointed? Thought it would be a bigger deal than that, right? Let me ask you a question. Is this lamp now receiving or radiating? That was fun? Both. Okay. There is really no way to divide the two is there? It can’t radiate without receiving, but it can’t receive without radiating. It’s two sides of the same coin. That’s what Jesus is getting at here. He says God wants us to receive and radiate life. He wants to receive and radiate life. That’s his plan for us. That’s the fruit he wants us to bear. It’s the sign of life, but it’s also the what? It’s the source of it.
He wants us to experience life and extend life and grace and hope to others. He wants us to — receive light and radiate light, and all we have to do is to remain in him, stay connected to him. Let me ask you this question. What false vines have you gotten tangled up in? I have already asked this question, but I think it’s important to leave this place with reflection on that. Like we said, there are a lot of false vines claiming to give us life when in reality, they are sucking it out of us. We need to do that work of recognizing where we are plugging into things that aren’t giving us the life that they promised. What false vines have I gotten tangled up in? The second question is this, what area of my life can I sense God wanting to prune? Because we can be plugged into him, but we are allowing a lot of that to go to a lot of different places, a lot of these things that are literally sucking the resources, the light, the life that God’s giving us, and they are not, therefore, allowed to produce the real fruit that God wants, so this is a little bit of a scary thing because sometimes we really like those suckers, right?
Sometimes we really like those branches, and we can get overly attached to them. When we sense God wanting to prune those to create more fruit, you are like, I don’t think so. Why don’t you go work on him? Have you seen my husband, God? Come on. Just go and leave this. God in his mercy and his grace often goes, I’m not going to take a chain saw to you, so if you are going to wrap yourself around that branch, or protect that little sucker — okay. I’ll let that stand for a while. If we sense God wanting to prune something, we have to take an act of faith and say, I’m going to trust you. If that’s what you need to do, then I’m going to trust you to do it. I’m going to stop fighting you on it. Where do you sense God needing to prune, and what do you need to do to get your hands away from it so he can do his work?
And the third question is just this, where is God calling me to radiate? I would love for you to wrestle with that this week. Where is God calling you to radiate, to shine light? Sometimes you know, in my house, I go around and I sit down with a book. I’m like, I’m going to read this book, and it’s a little dark, and I pull the cord, and nothing happens. And then I realize, well, it’s not plugged in, but it’s interesting sometimes I don’t know that the lamp’s not plugged in until I ask it to radiate. I think the same thing happens in my life. I think it happens in your life. We don’t know that we are not remaining in Christ. We don’t know that we are not plugged into him the way we should. We don’t know that the connection is kind of shaky and jittery and the flow is not being the way that it should until we start to radiate, and then we realize, oh, I need to allow this work here. I need to do what I need to do to remain in him until we start to radiate.
Sometimes we can think everything is going great because we are not trying to radiate. The moment we try to radiate, we realize we are not quite receiving, so then we can go, okay, I need to do this work, so I think it’s an important thing that we ask the question, where do I need to radiate? Not only is God going to use that, he’s not only going to speak through you, but he’s always going to demonstrate the places you need to allow him to do his work, those things you need to push into so you are really connected to him. Let’s pray about this. Will you join me?
God, I just thank you for your commitment in our lives to bearing much fruit, and Lord, I thank you that you are not committed to pretty. You are committed to productivity. You are committed to producing fruit that is a sign of life, the sign that we are connected to you, but it’s also a source of light to others, that you have chosen to work in us and through us. We thank you for that. Lord, I am praying on behalf of my friends here on all of our campuses, including Church Online that you would do a work in us this week, a powerful work in us this week. Show us those places we are not connected to a true vine, to the True Vine. We are connected to false ones that are taking life from us. Lord, show us those places we need to take our hands away so that you can produce in us, you can prune and produce in us the fruit that you designed us for.
Lord, show us this week through the power of your Holy Spirit places we are called to radiate, not just to receive light, but to radiate it. Use us in a powerful way. I want to ask, if you are a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for people around you, people watching online right now that may not have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, because I believe that in all of our campuses, right now there are people that are realizing they are not plugged into the True Vine, that it’s not a question of remaining in Christ so that all of these they thinks can happen to them because they have never been connected to him. And so this work of God is not something that they have experienced, and it’s not something that they feel like can take place. But if that’s you, I want you to recognize that the fact that you are listening, the fact that you are here. The fact that something in you brought you to this place, the fact that you are listening to this message says that God has chosen you.
It says that God loves you. He’s working in your life, and he’s asking you to take a step of faith. Not a blind leap of faith, but a step of faith in response to his love. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you, to pay for every wrong you have ever done. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, and now he offers new life, forgiveness, hope, peace, joy and a connection to God that will produce much fruit in your life, and if you don’t have that relationship, but you would like to begin that relationship today, if you would like to connect with the True Vine would you just slip your hand up right now, if you would like to give your life to Jesus and make that connection. That’s awesome. If you are watching online just click the button right below me. Wherever you are, just say this to God. Say, God, I have done wrong, and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve your love. I don’t deserve life with you. I believe Jesus went to the cross to pay for my sin. I believe he rose from the dead three days later.
I understand that he’s offering me forgiveness, and new life in a relationship with you, God. I want that relationship. So right now, I put my trust in Jesus. Jesus, I am plugging into you. I’m yours, now and forever. Amen. We have a number of people that made that decision to plug into Christ for the first time. Can we just welcome them to the family of God? That’s so great.
Persecution is inevitable when our faith is public. Today, we focus on what Jesus says about dealing with persecution when it inevitably comes. In this passage of John 15, he gives us 3 R’s for dealing with persecution..
Man and Woman: Hurt. Deception. Loneliness. Pride. Critical. Judgment. Betrayal. Anger. Broken. These are the words that described the first ten years of our marriage.
>> I grew up in a violent and abusive home. My father abandoned us when I was 11. God was never spoken of. I was angry, aggressive and hurting. I joined the army after high school and found a culture of brutality, ruthlessness and wild living.
>> I grew up in a safe and loving, but liberal home where I was encouraged to form my own opinions of the world, God and my body. Jesus was not in the picture. My anchor in life was my mother.
>> We married six days after the towers fell on 9/11. Her mother died two days later of cancer. Ten days later, I was deployed. Nine months later, I missed the birth of our first child. I did four rotations to Afghanistan. I missed anniversaries, birthdays, holidays — life.
>> Losing my mother sent me into a tail spin of doubt, fear and anger. We were alone and navigating the waters of marriage and parenting. By ten years in, we were well down a road of complete destruction. Divorce was mentioned often, and we saw no happy ending in sight, but God stepped in. Eight years ago we came to Colorado. We finally found hope here at Mission Hills. In 2012 we gave our lives to Christ and began a healing journey for our family, but marriage remained a struggle. We tried everything but couldn’t figure out how to bring Jesus into this part of our lives.
>> A year ago we were invited to participate in a new marriage ministry here called “Re I Engage.” Through the study, we unpacked 16 years of marriage, confessed unspoken hurts and embraced repentance and forgiveness. Re l Engage helped us truly understand the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice and the debt that had been canceled. For all of the years we imagined divorce and pictured new lives with other people, what we didn’t see coming was Jesus coming and reconciling and redeeming our marriage.
>> The Holy Spirit softened our hearts. As we started walking toward Jesus, we found ourselves standing at the cross together, ready to forgive, love and afford each other grace. We learned how to see each other the way God sees us. We have experienced an explosion of love and intimacy with Jesus, and in our marriage.
>> These are the words that describe our marriage now: Hope. Peace. Joy. Forgiveness. Grace. Intimacy. Love. Trust. Redeemed.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills including those of you joining us on Church Online. If you are just joining us, let me catch you up. We are in the midst of a series here called “When Everything Falls Apart,” where we are looking at the secrets Jesus taught to facing difficulty without despair. Jesus is pretty clear. He said in this life, you will face difficulty but despair is optional. Difficulty is inevitable, but despair is optional. Most of the lessons that we have seen Jesus teach on how to deal with difficulty are really applicable to any kind of difficulty, but today, we are going to see Jesus teach the secrets to dealing with a very particular kind of difficulty that we call “religious persecution.” Persecution, you hear that word and you think of certain kinds of things, and maybe that’s not something you experienced, but really, persecution is this.
Persecution is when we face difficulty from the world because we stand for Jesus, and it takes all shapes and forms. It comes in all sizes. You have the very serious to what feels fairly minor, but it’s all part of the same package. Sometimes Christians lose their lives because of their faith in Jesus. Anybody here lost their life? Right, you are like, okay that’s other people. Maybe even you think it’s a distant kind of thing, but it happens even in our own backyard. I have a friend who has been working on Bible translations in a remote part of Mexico for the last several years. He has some pastors that have been helping him. A couple of years ago, two of the pastors that have been helping him started getting death threats that said you need to stop this translation work. You need to stop spreading this Gospel, or we will kill you, and tragically, one of those pastors was murdered last year because he didn’t stop the work, and that’s Mexico. That’s North America. It’s literally in our own backyard. So that happens.
Christians sometimes lose their houses because of their faith in Jesus. Some of you may have heard me say this before, but I have a friend in Pakistan who leads a church, and a couple of years ago — four years ago, actually. A number of homes of the people in his congregation were demolished. The official story was that they were making room for a highway. It’s been four years, and there is still no highway, and it’s a little suspicious that the only houses that got demolished were ones that belonged to people that were known to be followers of Jesus. So Christians lose their homes. Sometimes Christians lose their relationships. Relationships get strained. It happens in marriage. It happens between parents and kids. I happens in neighborhoods. Sometimes relationships get lost, relationships get strained because people have taken a stand for Jesus.
Sometimes we lose opportunities. There are jobs that don’t materialize, promotions that don’t happen, schools you don’t get into, tenure you don’t get. Those kinds of things happen. Sometimes — sometimes it just gets weird. Anybody else have that? Sometimes you are a follower of Jesus and your life has a certain level of weirdness that nobody else has. I don’t mean you’re weird. You probably are, but I mean, sometimes your relationship with Jesus makes other relationships weird, right? Maybe you invite somebody to church for Christmas Eve or Easter or some other time and they say, no. It’s like, okay. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow. Like where do we go from here? It feels a little awkward or strained. Maybe you take your Bible to work or to school, and you read it in a public place and you kind of notice that things get awkward after that. People aren’t sure what to do, conversations or silence get strange.
I have spent a fair amount of time flying around, and so I have discovered when I’m flying, and I talk to someone next to me and they ask the inevitable question of what do you do for living, I have discovered that pastor is the wrong answer if I want to keep talking. It’s the right answer if I want to be left alone, though. If I say pastor, there’s almost this, oh, isn’t that nice? I just remembered I have this book — book report, my wife wanted to know about this book. That’s the end of it. It just gets weird, and that might feel really minor, obviously, compared to people that lose their lives because of their faith in Jesus, but really, it’s all part of the same package. This time that we face difficulty from the world because we have taken a stand for Jesus. What Jesus is going to tell us today is not super encouraging, but it’s a fact, and he wants us to be aware of it.
It’s this, that persecution is inevitable when our faith is public. Persecution is inevitable when our faith is public. So whether you have experienced persecution anywhere on that scale, maybe you are right now, or just you know that Jesus can be trusted when he says persecution is inevitable when our faith is public, I’m probably going to face it at some point if I’m public about my faith, then we need to know what he says about dealing with persecution in the right way, and so what we are going to see today is Jesus gives us the three “Rs” to dealing with persecution. If you want to turn with me in John 15, we’ll pick up at verse 18. I’ll just go ahead and tell you what the three Rs right now are, so you can kind of be looking for them as we go, and by the way, the reason I called them the three Rs, was when I was growing up — I don’t know if anyone else had this experience, but my grandma would always ask me how I was doing in school? The way she would always ask it is she would say, how are you doing with your three Rs?
I learned at a very early age what she meant was how are you doing with your core subjects kind of a thing. And I would answer that, but I was probably 10 or 11, I finally just went, Grandma why do you call it the three Rs? What are the three Rs? She said it’s reading, writing and arithmetic. I was like, you need to take spelling — because, there’s only one “R” in that whole bunch, okay? But we are actually going to see three actual “R’s” today, three things that Jesus is going to say that we have to understand to face this inevitable persecution pushback from the world. I’m going to go ahead and tell you what they are so we can be looking for them together as we go through the passage. The first one is, he’s going to give us a truth that we need to realize. A truth that we need to realize. Second is going to be a truth that we need to remember, and a third is going to be the truth that we need to reveal. Realize, remember and reveal. That’s what we are looking for. So Jesus says John 15:18, he says, if the world hates you, and he’s going to go on to say it’s a guarantee, so really, when the world hates you, he says, keep in mind that it hated me first. Keep in mind that it hated me first.
What he’s really, basically saying here, is if when the world hates you, pushes back against you, gives you difficulty because of your faith, understand that it did it to me first, and really, the honest truth is, they are not doing it because of you. They are doing it because of me. He’s saying, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s not you, it’s me in you. I don’t know if anyone ever broke up with anybody or they broke up with you when they used that line? It’s not you. It’s me. That’s basically what Jesus is saying. It’s not you, it’s really me. He says, I want you to keep this in mind. The Greek word there, it’s a command to know, or a command to “realize.” That’s our first “R.” Because he’s not saying that this is knowledge that you can file away.
There are two kinds of truths. There is file it away truth, and there are front and center truths. And he’s saying, this is not a file it away truth. This is not something you need to be aware of in the back of your head. He says, no. You need to take this one out of the file cabinet and put it in front of you. This needs to be the lens that you are looking at the world and the persecution you are facing through. So what he says is, this is the truth, this is the thing you need to realize — it’s not you. It’s me. He goes on and he says, if you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That’s why the world hates you. In other words, it’s not you. It’s me. It’s me in you. The world’s hatred for you, the pushback against you, the difficulty the world brings against you is happening because you are not part of the world anymore. You don’t really belong in the way you used to.
Because of my love for you, and because of your response in faith to that, something profound has happened, and it’s changed things for you that you really don’t belong to the world in the way that you used to, right? So what he’s saying, is this. We need to realize, keep front and center, realize, that persecution from the world is natural because we are no longer part of the world. Now, to drive that home, I’m going to give you an analogy, and I’m going to tell you right now, this is not what you would consider a super flattering analogy, but I maintain that it’s spot on, so I’m going to go with it. If you have faith in Jesus, you are a virus. There you go. You’re welcome. If you have faith in Jesus, you have become a virus. The thing about a virus, it comes into the body. It takes a cell that belongs in the body, a natural cell in the body, and it replaces its genetic material with its own, and then it begins to reproduce, and the body very quickly begins to realize, that doesn’t belong here. It’s not in the natural order of things. it’s not really part of, something else has happened.
That’s kind of what Jesus is saying. He’s saying because of his love for us, because of our response to this thing that we call the Gospel, the Good News that God loves us. He sent his Son to die in our place, to forgive us for our sin, three days later, he rose from the dead, and he offers us forgiveness and new life and adoption into the family of God. He says because of that, you are no longer of the world. You are no longer natural. What does the body do when it recognizes that virus has invaded the cells? It starts to fight back. It starts to try to push them out. It’s the natural immune response to the body, and what Jesus is basically saying, that’s what’s happening with the world. The moment the world realizes you are not one of us anymore, you are not part of the natural order of things, the world naturally starts to pushback. He says, they can’t love you. If you were one of them, the world would love you, but, he says, you are not anymore. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
He says, realize, when you face persecution from the world, realize that persecution from the world is natural because we are no longer of the world. A couple of things happen when we realize that, when we look at persecution through that lens. The first one is, we stop being surprised by it. You hear me? If we realize that persecution is natural, we stop being surprised when it happens. When we are not surprised by when it happens, we start being able to deal with it in a completely different way. You see, when we are surprised by things, we don’t tend to respond in the best way, but when we are not surprised, when we are expecting it, we can sort of preload the response. We can think through, here’s how I’m going to respond. We are ready for it. Here’s the reality, what we can expect, we can endure. Did you know that? What we can expect, we can endure.
Just Thursday — I haven’t done this since high school, but I knew I was going to use this illustration, so I wanted to make sure I got my numbers right. When I was at the gym, I maxed out on some weights just to see what I could actually do. This is not bragging, but I’m a little bit proud of this actually. You know the leg press? It’s called the squat, but that’s a really weird-sounding word, so I’m not going to go with that. But you put the weight on the bar, and you step back and you go down and see if you can get back up? Turns out I can actually do 380-pounds. Which I felt pretty good about. I can do it once. I’m not saying I could do it twice, and I’m going to be honest, I’m hurting today because of that, but the thing is, I pulled it off, 380-pounds down and back up, but you know, if my 100-pound daughter jumps on my back when I wasn’t expecting it, we are both going down, and we are probably not going to be getting back up except to my hands and knees so I can crawl to the chiropractor, right?
Why would 100-pounds do that to me when I can actually go down and back up with 380? The difference with 380, I was fully expecting it. What we expect, we can endure in a completely different way. So part of the problem with persecution for so many Christians, the reason they don’t feel they handle it well is because they don’t expect it. They are always taken by surprise, but Jesus says, you have to realize that persecution from the world is natural because you are no longer of the world, and when that happens we go, okay, I’m not going to be surprised by it. I’m going to expect it, and when I can expect it, I can endure. And I think the second thing that happens when we realize that it’s natural, we realize we have to stop looking to the world for love that it can’t provide. Jesus says, the world hates you. The opposite of hate of course, is love. Jesus says it’s natural for the world to hate you because you are not of the world anymore. But it’s unnatural for the world to love you. The world really can’t love you. The problem, of course, is that we need love, right?
We need affirmation and acceptance, acknowledgment. We need all of those things, and we have gotten used to getting them from the world in all kinds of different ways that the world provides that, but the moment we stop being of the world, the world stops providing that. Now the reality is, that wasn’t love. It was never love as God intended it, but it’s the closest the world can come to it. It’s an approximation. It’s a counterfeit, but when we have gotten used to that, but when we are no longer of the world, the world stops being able to provide. It’s not that they take it away as punishment, but the world really can’t give that anymore. So in Christ, when we realize that persecution is natural, that they can’t give this love anymore, we have to stop looking for that love from a world that can’t provide it, and what we need to start doing is start looking for love from the only place we can actually get it, and that’s from God and from his people –from God and from his people.
That’s one of the reasons we push groups so hard at Mission Hills. We have all kinds of groups. We have Life Groups and men’s only groups and women’s only groups and hope groups. The reason you hear me talk about groups a lot is because we know it’s in the context of those groups that you get something so, so important that the world can no longer give you, and that’s love. In fact the number one sort of goal of every group — we have three goals for every group. The number one goal we tell every group, this is the number one thing you need to do, love each other. I don’t think it’s a coincidence right before Jesus launched into this teaching on persecution, he ended, as we saw last week this verse that said, this is my command, love each other.
Because the world can’t provide love so we have to love each other and our groups are built around the idea of loving each other and from there we take steps of becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. When we realize that persecution from the world is natural, we stop looking for love. So that’s the first “R.” Realize persecution of the world is natural because we are no longer of the world. Second “R” is remember. He says this: remember what I told you. A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching they will obey yours also.
They will treat you this way because of My name, because of your association with me for they do not know the one who sent me. Jesus says, you have to understand that a servant is not greater than the master. Meaning the servant is not going to get better things than the master gets. It’s a trickle down effect. The good things that come to the master trickle down to the servants, but servants don’t get blessing when the master is being cursed or persecuted or reviled or those kinds of thing. In this analogy, Jesus is the master, and we are the servants, so he says, if they persecuted me, you really can’t expect they are going to treat you better than they treated me, and the flip side is also true. If they respond to me, they are going to respond to you because again, it’s not about you, it’s about him. They are not responding to you. They are responding to Christ in you, right?
So he says the master doesn’t get better things. You are the servant, so of course you are going to get the same stuff. And really, he kind of says, the same thing is going on here, they are not persecuting you, they are persecuting me in you, but the same thing happened, really, they are rejecting the Father who sent me. It’s not even me, they are rejecting the God who sent me. It’s just the way that it works. What’s interesting is that what Jesus is basically saying you need to understand is the persecution is because they see me in you. Are you with me? See, that’s why it’s happening, they are seeing the Master in you. The persecution is happening, the pushback is happening, the difficulty is happening because they see me in you, they see your connection to me. When we see it that way, when we see persecution that way, a very interesting thing begins to happen. We begin to think very differently about persecution because then if persecution is the result of them seeing Christ in us, then what’s really happening, persecution is proof that they can see Christ in us, right?
Persecution becomes proof that they can tell you are not part of the world. Something profound has happened. You are different. You’re changed. You’re transformed. You’re new. When you think of it that way, what happens is we stop looking at persecution as a punishment and start looking at it as a proof. That’s what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, remember that persecution is proof of our connection to Jesus and to his promises. The persecution is the proof that you are connected to Jesus, and that’s really important because if you are connected to Jesus, you are also in line to receive his promises. Jesus said this Matthew 19:29 and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields, in other words anyone who has lost anything for my sake, they’ll receive a hundred times as much and they’ll inherent eternal life.
In other words, nothing the world takes away from you because of your faith holds a candle to what is coming to you because of your faith so persecution becomes proof of our connection to Jesus and his promises. So what happens when we remember that, as he tells us to, we stop looking at persecution as a punishment and we start looking at it as a promise, really. It’s the proof our connection to Jesus and the promises that come to us, so persecution becomes the evidence that we are in line to receive all of those promises, so rather than discourage, it’s actually an encouragement, provided — this is a really important provision, really important but. That is that it’s provided that the persecution is actually because of your faith. And I feel like I have to go there. I love you guys, but I have to go there.
Here’s the thing, sometimes I have had these conversations people tell me, you know what? I’m just being persecuted. That’s why I didn’t get the promotion. My faith in Jesus kept me from advancing in the company. Persecuted because of my faith, and I have had a couple of times where that’s been said and in my head I’m thinking, no, you are just lazy. Like, I know your work ethic, and I wouldn’t promote you either. You are not great at your job. Or people say, and I have had this conversation. They’ll be like, my neighbors, there is a lot of persecution in my neighborhood. My neighbors don’t like me because of my faith in Jesus. I’m like, no, you’re a jerk. I have seen it. I love you in Christ, but as a human being, I don’t know that I would like to spend a whole lot of time with you because you are not that much fun to be around. Sometimes the persecution is because we are unkind and incompetent and unpleasant, so here’s what I want to say. Make sure your persecution is because of your faith not your faults.
You with me? Make sure your persecution is because of your faith. Let’s not play the persecution card for our faults. Here’s what we need to do, instead, what we need to do, we need to be the kind of people that the world looks at, and they struggle to find the reason they don’t like us. We need to be so good at being husbands and wives and dads and moms and kids and brothers and sisters and employers and employees and coaches and everything — we need to be so good at that, that when the world begins to pushback, everybody will go, there’s no explanation for that other than the faith that they have in Jesus Christ. I want to make sure we are not confusing the world on why they don’t like us. We have to make sure it’s because of our faith and not because of our faults.
Jesus said, if I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but as it is, they have seen and yet they have hated both Me and my Father. Understand what Jesus is doing here, it might be a little surprising at first. He says what seems a little bit strange. If I hadn’t come and spoken, if he hadn’t spoken truth to them. And if I hadn’t come and done the works no one else had done, if I hadn’t done the miracles, they wouldn’t be guilty of — what? Sin. And that might seem a little confusing because if Jesus hadn’t shown up then murderers wouldn’t be guilty of sin? Or racists wouldn’t be guilty of sin, or liars wouldn’t be guilty of sin? Is that what he’s saying? The answer is no, not really. He’s using the word “sin” in a little bit different way.
The word “sin” typically in the Bible means anything that goes against God’s character, his creation or his commands. That’s a good way to think about it. Typically the Bible used the word “sin” for anything that goes against God’s character, his creation or his commands, but Jesus is using the word “sin” a little bit differently. He’s using it here for a new sin, the sin of rejecting him as the Son of God. He says if I hadn’t come and spoken the truth to them, they wouldn’t be guilty of rejecting me as the Son of God. As it is, he’s speaking to Jewish audiences, they knew the Old Testament Scriptures, they should have recognized the Old Testament Scriptures were pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, but he says if I hadn’t come and spoken they wouldn’t really be guilty of rejecting me as the Messiah, the Son of God, but since I did come and speak, they are guilty of that.
He says, if I hadn’t come and done the miracles, they wouldn’t really be guilty of rejecting me as the Son of God, but I did. I did speak and I did perform the miracles. Nobody questions whether or not the miracles happened. I have done all of that, and yet they still rejected me. So they are guilty of the new sin. He goes on and he says this, he says, but, this is to fulfill what is written in their law that they hated me without reason. He says, I came and I spoke and I talked about love, but I didn’t just talk about love. I did love. I did God empowered acts of love. I did miraculous acts of love. There was no question that they were happening. What did I say that caused them to hate me. I’m just the fulfiller of the Old Testament Scriptures. What did I say that was so contrary that they should have been moving towards?
What did I do? Was it the people I healed? Is that what upset you? Is it the people I fed? Is that what upset them? What exactly did I do that caused them to hate me? But he says, no, no, no all of this that I did and said and their reaction, it’s fulfilling what the Old Testament said which is, they hated me without reason. He’s quoting Psalms 69 here. We won’t go there today but Psalms 69:4 is what he’s quoting here, and in that Psalm, what you have basically is King David just sort of — venting, maybe, we’ll call it. He’s venting at the injustice of the pushback that he’s receiving. He’s frustrated at the persecution and the difficulties that he’s facing, and he’s going, I didn’t do anything to deserve that, and that happens sometimes when people put their faith in Jesus, when they say yes to Jesus.
They begin to live differently, and in their mind, in our minds, we are living in a better way for everybody, and yet there is still difficulty. There’s still difficulty, there’s still conflict, there’s still pushback. I have had conversations with husbands who say, I gave my life to Jesus. My wife isn’t there yet, but I’m — for the first time ever, I’m loving her the way I’m supposed to. I read that verse in the book that says we are supposed to love our wives like Christ loved the Church and even gave himself up to death for it. I’m trying to do that. I’m loving my wife. I’m sacrificing, and yet, still for some reason we are having this difficulty, there’s conflict because of my faith, and I don’t get it. It’s not reasonable.
I have had wives say, I gave my life to Jesus and my husband and I are constantly having this conflict over my faith, and I don’t get it because honestly, and I just don’t get it. I’m a much better wife now than I ever was. I’m submitting to him, and I’m loving him in ways I have never done. I have had students say, I gave my life to Jesus and I came home and I’m in constantly in conflict with my parents about my faith, and I don’t get it because I’m actually a student now. They are paying me to go to college. I read this verse that says everything we are supposed to do is unto the Lord, so I’m actually studying now, and I’m making good use of their money and I read the verse about honoring your parents, and I’m doing it in a way I have never done it, and yet we are still having conflict. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t get it. There’s no reason for it.
What Jesus is saying, yeah, it’s kind of always been that way. The people of God have always experienced persecution without reason. It doesn’t make any sense, but he says it’s natural, because we are no longer of the world. This was to fulfill what was written in the Law. He says, they hated me without reason. I did the same thing. I spoke love. I practiced love. What did I get? I got persecution. He says, you can’t expect something different than that. But what’s interesting is that though he says sometimes the persecution come without reason, it never comes without purpose. Sometimes without reason, but never without purpose. He says this, when the Advocate comes whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth it goes out from the Father, he will testify about Me, and you also must testify for you have been with Me from the beginning.
He says, yeah, you might experience persecution from the world without reason. It may not make any sense logically, why they are pushing back, but there is a purpose to it, and the purpose to it is that — persecution actually is going to provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do something, which is to testify, or we might call it reveal. The Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth about Jesus not just in spite of persecution, but actually on the platform of it. He says, I know that I’m talking to you about persecution, and that doesn’t sound like any fun, and as followers of Jesus every time we hear the possibility of pushback because of our faith, our natural reaction is that I’m not sure I can endure that. Maybe even if I expect it, I’m not sure that I can really endure it. I don’t know that I can push forward. I don’t know that I can keep being faithful if I’m going to experience pushback and difficulty from the world because of my faith in Jesus.
And Jesus says, basically, you don’t have to. I’m going to send you the Holy Spirit. He calls it Advocate. We saw this word a couple of weeks ago. The Advocate is someone who does for us something we could never do for ourselves. He says, the Holy Spirit is going to be the one who enables you to reveal the truth about me even in the midst of persecution. He says the Holy Spirit is going to reveal, but you also must reveal. You have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. You have to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit, but he’s going to do what you could never do on your own. And he’s not just going to do it in general. I mean the Holy Spirit is always interested in revealing the truth about who Jesus is. Do you understand that? One of his primary ministries is to show the world the truth about Jesus through us. He’s not just going to do it at all times. Here in this context Jesus is saying, this is going to happen in a particularly powerful way when there’s persecution.
The Holy Spirit’s work is actually going to advance further and farther in the midst of persecution than it does when there’s not persecution which is kind of hard for us to get a handle on, right? Because our natural thing is to go, but doesn’t persecution slow down the advance of the Gospel? Doesn’t persecution slow down the advance of the Kingdom of God? I get this kind of belief a lot. I end up on a lot of weird e-mail lists. I try to unsubscribe from them as quick as I can, but they just keep coming, and a lot of them are what I put in the category of Christian whining. It’s people looking around and they are going, isn’t it so sad that this is happening, and this — and one of those that I get a lot that falls under the category of Christian whining is, it’s reports of rising persecution against Christians in the United States of America. The idea is that the United States of America is becoming an increasingly hostile place to be a Christian.
Persecution is on the rise. I actually don’t disagree with that. I do think America is becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel. I do. I’m just not that bothered by it. What I see in so many of these e-mails, but if the persecution comes, then it’s going to stop the advance of the Kingdom of God. I’m like, you do not know my God then. You also don’t know your history books. Because here’s the thing. You look at history, and what you are going to find is the Gospel has gone deeper and farther when persecution was fiercest. I think about the early Church. The first few centuries of the Church, when Christianity was persecuted by the Roman Empire where they killed Christians. Christianity was just this really small group of followers of Jesus persecuted by the Roman Empire, and a couple of centuries later, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire.
And a lot of Christian historians will say that at that moment when it became the official religion, it kind of stalled out, and it stopped advancing in the way it had up to that point. I think about China. I think about China where it has always been and it is still a difficult place to be a Christian. There is a lot of persecution that comes on people who are on mission with Jesus, and yet, conservative estimates indicate that there is over a hundred million followers of Jesus as part of the underground Christian movement in China, and if you do the numbers percentage-wise, there might be a higher percentage of on mission Christians in China then there are in the United States of America. Sometimes Christianity goes deeper and further in the midst of persecution than it does when there’s not, so I’m not all that bothered by the possibility that persecution might be increasing because a couple of things happen when persecution increases.
Number one, it kind of gets rid of the casual Christian, right? We have people who go, I’m a Christian. Why are you a Christian? Well, you know, I was born into a Christian home, and I attended add Christian church, and I still go there occasionally, you know. I’m there — Christmas, Easter, at least, right? I’m a Christian. And you have heard me say this — going to Chipotle doesn’t make you a burrito. It just doesn’t. But you understand that the moment that becoming a Christian becomes illegal, when there’s a real price for it, you cut off the chaff, right? You cut out the people that are like, I’m not really committed. I’m not in this vibrant growing relationship with Jesus, and what’s left then is a pretty powerful thing.
Like, I watch those commercials — I’m always interested in those commercials that are like, Listerine kills 99% of germs. Because I’m always like, what about that 1% that doesn’t get killed? Like they are mad, right? And they are apparently pretty beefy because whatever killed the 99% didn’t bother them. Like they have momentum, right? Persecution kind of does that to Christianity. It eliminates those that are just sort of casual, cultural Christians, and the core that is left, they have momentum, they have power. They are relying on God, and they are being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom and the Gospel, and that’s powerful. Persecution does that.
The other thing persecution does, persecution often provides a platform for people to share their faith. It feels opposite, right? It feels like persecution should make it harder to share your faith, but the reality is that a lot of times persecution provides a platform to share your faith because other people want to know, why would you keep following Jesus when it’s going to cost you that much? What is it about this Jesus that convinces you that he’s worth your entire life? Maybe you should tell me about him. That happens a lot. Persecution doesn’t slow the advance of the Gospel. It furthers it, hastens it because it becomes a platform. That’s really what Jesus is saying.
He says don’t look at persecution and think, this is going to slow things down. No, no. He says, here’s what I want you to do. This is the third “R,” he says, reveal your faith. Reveal our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit and on the platform of persecution. Don’t look at persecution and be afraid that it’s slowing things down. No, no, no. Look at it as an opportunity. Your job is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, be led by the Spirit to reveal your faith through the power of the Spirit and on that platform of persecution when it comes.
These are the three “Rs” that he gives us for dealing with persecution. Shall we review? What are we going to do? Number one, we are going to realize that persecution from the world is natural because we are no longer of the world. So we are not going to be surprised by it. We are going to expect it, and what we expect, we can — what? We can endure. We are going to stop looking to the world for love that they can’t provide, and we are going to start pushing into our relationship with God and his people for the love that the world can’t provide.
Second thing is, we are going to remember that persecution is proof of our connection to Jesus and to his promises, so instead of being discouraged by short-term losses, we recognize that persecution is actually evidence that we are in line to receive God’s long-term promises. We are going to be encouraged by that. Along the way, we are also going to make sure we are being persecuted for our faith, not our what? Not our faults. We are going to be the best — whatever we are. We are going to be the best husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads, engineers and architects and teachers and coaches and pilots and everything you can think of, we are going to be the best we can. We are going to do everything we can as though it’s unto the Lord as the Word says, so when people pushback, it’s pretty clear it’s because of our faith, not because of our faults.
And number three, we are going to work to reveal our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit and on the platform of persecution as it may arise. Three questions to wrestle with. Question number one, do you have a persecutable faith. I would love for to you ask yourself that way. Do I have a persecutable faith? Somebody asked me years ago, if Christianity became illegal, would there are enough evidence to prosecute you? Taking aside my job, because I’m pretty sure I would be on the chopping block pretty quick. They just have to look at my IRS records. What’s your job? Clergy. You’re gone, right? But if I took my job off the table, is my life among my neighbors and among the people at coffee shops and other people I interact with, is my life before the world such that it reveals the life that I have in Jesus Christ? Is it unmissable? Is it persecutable if they should choose to do so?
Sometimes, we also need to ask the question, not only do I conduct myself in a way that is visible to the world, but also, do I spend enough timeout side of friendly territory to be identified as a Christian. You say, everybody around me knows I’m a Christian. Yeah, because they are all Christians. You go to church with them all. If you only spend time who believe in Jesus Christ, then, yes, everybody knows you are a Christian — but they are the ones who probably need to know it least. It’s those that don’t know Jesus that need to know you and Christ through you, so do you spend enough timeout side of the Christian bubble that we sometimes build for ourselves to have a persecutable faith?
Question number two is just, am I looking to the world for love that it can’t provide me? So often Christians get so frustrated. I have a life in Christ, and I’m growing in that, but I just feel like I keep meeting disappointment after disappointment, frustration after frustration. Why isn’t God blessing?
And sometimes the reason is because what we are actually doing is we are looking for love from the world, from a world that can no longer provide it, rather than pushing into a relationship with him, so God is not going to satisfy all of those other ways that we are looking for love because he needs to teach us that we need to push into our relationship with him and with his people. So how am I still looking to the world for a love that it can’t provide? That’s an important question to wrestle with.
And then there’s this one, what is one step — not grand huge plans and schemes, just one step. What is one step I’m going to take this week to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in revealing Christ to those around me? Just pick one thing. I’m going to pray about that in just a moment, but before I do, I’m going to speak just briefly to those that are listening right now. I know we have people listening from all over the world, and a lot of people here, and some of you may be here and you are going, there is no hope or possibility that I’m going to be persecuted because I don’t have a relationship with Jesus. I have never said yes to Jesus. I have never put my faith in him, so that’s definitely not true of me, but I want to speak to you for just a moment. I want to ask this question.
Do you want to have a relationship with him? And I realize today is probably the least appropriate time to ask you if you want to say yes to Jesus, right? I’m not stupid. You just told me all of these hard things — why would I — because here’s what you get. You get forgiveness. Jesus came. He died on the cross to forgive your sins, and all of the guilt and the shame that accompanies it, he wants to wipe away. A relationship with God through faith in Jesus gives you forgiveness. It gives you a relationship with your Creator, with a God who knit you together, who created you for purposes and significance that go on for all eternity. You get a relationship with that God. You get the power of the Holy Spirit to begin transforming you from the inside out to make you into the man or woman that God designed you to be, that you will never ever become on your own.
God says if you put your faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and that transition begins to happen. We get adoption into a family that can give us love that the world cannot. We get it just not for a few years, but for all of eternity. We get eternal life with God, so nothing that the world can take away because of faith in Jesus holds a candle to what God offers you. I want to make sure if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus you understand that yes, saying yes to Jesus might cost you something in this life, but it is utterly insignificant compared to what it will give to you, so in a moment, I’m actually going to give you an opportunity, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus to say yes to him. But in the meantime, I’m just going to ask everybody, would you just pray with me right now?
On behalf of all of the followers of Jesus, Lord, we come and we say to you, thank you for your grace and your mercy. Thank you for all that you have done for us, Jesus, thank you. You did not shrink back when the persecution became fierce, but you were willing to sacrifice yourself, and in that way that the persecution that was brought against you, the difficulty that the world brought against you, actually became our salvation. It became the flat form on which we are set free, forgiven and adopted into the family of God, and we want to thank you for your courage and your sacrifice. And we ask, Lord, that you would pour that courage into us through the power of your Holy Spirit, that we would live unashamed lives that announce the reality of our faith in our risen Savior.
Lord, as we go out of this place, would you lead us by the power of your Holy Spirit to that one step of cooperating with your Holy Spirit to reveal our faith to the world. If you are a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for those around you and watching online that don’t have a relationship. A moment ago I said, if you don’t have that relationship, I’m going to give you that opportunity, and that’s right now. In spite of the fact that persecution is inevitable if you have a faith that is public, what Jesus offers you is so much greater than what the world threatens to take from you, and so if you are ready to begin that relationship, to say yes to Jesus today, to put your faith in him and receive all that he promises, would you just slip your hand up for me? That’s awesome. If you are watching online, click the button below me. Wherever you are, just say this. Say, God, I have done wrong, and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness or your love — but I understand that you love me anyway. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place. I believe that you rose from the dead because you defeated death and sin. I need new life. I need forgiveness. I need hope. I need joy. I need peace. I need power. So right now, Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you, and saying yes to you, Jesus. I’m yours, for now and forever. Amen. Can we welcome those to the family of God who just made that decision today? So exciting.
What Jesus is going to teach us today is probably the most important secret to facing difficult circumstances, whatever shape or form they take. God has given us everything we need to endure through hard times by giving us the Holy Spirit.
Woman: I’ll never forget the sound of a fist pounding on my front door jarring me from a deep sleep, the frantic race to grab a rope and run to the front door, my heart was pounding and adrenaline shooting through my veins. I knew my life was about to be obliterated, but, somehow I had a deep peace stirring in my soul. Jesus was with me. My worst fears were confirmed as I opened the front door to see two Douglas County Sheriff Office employees on my porch. My worst nightmare was now my reality. My husband, my strong 29-year-old resilient husband had been ambushed and killed in the line of duty as a Douglas County Deputy. He had a full career ahead of him and so many memories yet to be made as a daddy to two precious little girls, ages 4 years old and 18 months, yet, none of them would come to be.
The ground fell out beneath me and I was left speechless. I had gone to sleep on December 30th as a police wife with a somewhat predictable and quiet life. I awoke on New Year’s Eve as a young widow with two fatherless baby girls and my family picture on national news. This pain was unbearable and the grief was suffocating. How could this be my life? How could God allow this to happen? Why me? Why my babies? I couldn’t sleep on my own, I lost an unhealthy amount of weight and I felt lifeless. Where are you, Lord? This nightmare felt like it was killing me emotionally right before my children’s eyes. My life had been turned upside down and obliterated to dust. There would be no putting the pieces back together on this one. Yet, God, he was always there holding my broken heart and breathing life into my soul. Through his word, God was revealing to me that he would be building something brand new with the dust I held in my hands. All I needed to do was to yield and surrender to the Lord’s will, walking in obedience as he directed me. A dream only of God began to form in my heart, and while I felt incapable of fulfilling the calling that God was asking of me, I stepped out in faith and built the Shelter Foundation, a nonprofit organization that would offer the hope of Jesus Christ to first responders and their immediate families through bible studies and marriage support.
These courageous men and women fight the darkness every day and it wears on them heavily, not only affecting their daily lives but also their families in marriages. They need to know that there is a good, loving, and all-powerful Father that can take all their burdens, all the hurt and trauma, and bring healing.
Nothing is impossible with him. God had revealed purpose in my pain and I was now on mission with him. Use me, Lord. Use my hurt and my pain, catch every tear and let nothing be wasted. Let your love pour out through the brokenness of my life and let them see you. With that Mission Hills Church partnered with my foundation in bringing a bible study to first responder wives, and we currently have over 70 women meeting weekly to learn about an incredible God who loves them so much. Praise God that he is good and sovereign. Praise him for being faithful to create streams in the desert and bring forth new life.
Dust is his specialty, and I have the privilege of watching him take the dust of my life and bring restoration to it. He is a redeemer and worthy of all my praise, nothing is too broken for him. Beauty from ashes. Yes, Lord. Do it again. “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18 and 19.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills and all the locations including those of you who are joining us Church Online. So glad you’re with us for week number six of our “When Everything Falls Apart” series. If you’re just joining us, let me catch you up real quick. What we’re doing in this series is we’re looking to the secrets Jesus taught to how to face difficulty without falling into despair or getting derailed in our walk with him And I don’t know about you, but I hear a testimony like the one we just heard and I think it’s very natural for us to think, “I don’t think I could do that.” Anybody else feels like that? Like, I don’t think that I could get through that, let alone get through that and be on mission with Jesus more powerfully at the end of it than I was at the beginning of it. But if you feel like that what I want to tell you today is you’re wrong. You can because God has given you what you need. If you belong to him by faith, he has given you what you need to be able to do exactly that. And I’m really excited to be able to share that truth with you today. Why don’t you go and grab a bible, make your way to the gospel of John, Chapter 16. What Jesus is gonna give us today really is probably the most important key to facing difficult circumstances well. He’s gonna sort of continue a lesson that we began last week, he’s talking about a particular kind of difficulty, but in the process of dealing with that particular kind of difficulty, he gives us a universal truth for facing any kind of difficulty. Chapter 16 verse 1 begins this way. Jesus said, “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.” All this, and when he says all of these, he means everything that he said up to this point and really everything he’s gonna say. In other words, everything that Jesus is teaching is so that we will not, say that with me, we will not fall away. In other words, what Jesus says is, I’m telling you this so that I can keep you close to me, because staying close to me is indispensable. It’s non-negotiable. If you’re gonna get through things well you’re gonna have to stick close to me, but I’ll guide you through these things.
And then He goes on and He begins to talk again about a very particular kind of difficulty that we sometimes face as the followers of Jesus, which is persecution. Verse 2, He says this. He says, “They will put you out of the synagogue. In fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think that they are offering a service to God.” And, again, he’s dealing with this particular kind of difficulty that we began to talk about last week which is religious persecution. What he says is, you know, “If your faith in me is gonna be public you’re going to face a certain amount of persecution.” And here he begins to speak about what is both a historical reality but also an important principle that’s universal and timeless. From the historical reality, he says that they’re gonna put you out of the synagogue, and see, the first followers of Jesus were all Jewish people. They were descended from Jewish people. They worshipped the Jewish God. They respected the Jewish Scriptures. They saw Jesus as the Jewish Messiah that his people had been waiting for, so it’s very natural for the first followers of Jesus to want to continue going to the Jewish places of worship which was the synagogues. Those are the local assemblies for Jewish people. But what Jesus says is they’re gonna start putting you out, and that’s exactly what happened soon after the resurrection. They would begin to go to those synagogues to worship with their fellow Jewish people and those who had not seen Jesus as the Messiah, they began to close the doors to them and say, “You’re not here.” And over time that moved not only to barring them from the synagogues, but it actually moved to hunting them down and executing some of them.
And so interesting that Jesus says that when anyone kills you they will think that they’re offering a service to God. It’s not only they’re gonna kill you but they’re gonna think they’re doing the right thing. They’re actually thinking it’s gonna be an act of worship to kill you as my followers, and he explains in verse 3 why that is. He says, “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” That’s a really important thing to begin to wrestle with because this is the principle that I mentioned. There’s a historical reality he’s dealing with, but there’s also a timeless principle. He says “The reason they’re gonna do these horrible things and think they’re doing an active worship is because they have not known the Father or me. They don’t really know God,” he says, which is a really remarkable thing to say because he’s talking about a group of people who were absolutely committed to their faith. They were absolutely committed to God’s Word. They had the Old Testament Scriptures and they were meticulous. They were almost obsessed with doing what the Old Testament Scripture said to do. So, if it said to do it, they did it, if it said not to do it, they didn’t do it. They were obsessed with behaving in the way that God told them to behave, and yet Jesus says,”They didn’t belong to the Father.” They didn’t know the Father. They weren’t in a relationship with him.
And we go, how is that possible that a group of such people committed religious people could make such a tragic error, could fall so far short? And the answer is basically this, is that they confused behaving with belonging. Let me say that again. They confused behaving with belonging, which is a pretty easy thing to do because honestly, the truth is that when we belong to someone or something, we tend to behave in certain ways. Behaving is usually a result of belonging. Right? I mean, if you belong to the Broncos, you wear Broncos jersey on game days. If you belong to a certain university, you wear a t-shirt from that university. I belong to Colletta, so I wear a wedding ring, right? So belonging leads to behaving, right? But it’s not always the other way around, right? Behaving doesn’t necessarily equal belonging, right? I mean, I was in Office Depot the other day and I was trying to find something and then I saw a guy, and I don’t know why exactly. Something about his head to me said, Office Depot guy, there was just something about him. And then I kind of went a little bit deeper down. I was like, “Well, he’s wearing the right color shirt, he’s wearing the right color of pants, must be an Office Depot guy.” And so I went to him and I said, “Hey, where can I…” and he looked at me and I was like, “You don’t work here, never mind.” But in a lot of ways, he was behaving like an Office Depot guy, but that didn’t necessarily mean that he belonged to Office Depot, right? I mean, just because you see a guy wearing a Broncos shirt at the mall, you don’t necessarily go up to them and ask for their autograph because that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re Broncos. Just because you see somebody wearing a particular shirt or wearing a ring doesn’t necessarily mean they belong in the same way. Okay. So the reality is this, belonging results in behaving, but behaving doesn’t necessarily reveal belonging. Does that make sense? And that’s kind of what had happened to these people. They said. “Well, belonging leads to behaving. Belonging to God leads to these kind of behaviors, therefore, if I do these kind of behaviors I must belong to God.” Right? And Jesus said, “Sorry.” It doesn’t work that way around.
So they didn’t know the Father or maybe they didn’t know God. They didn’t belong to God. They weren’t really in a relationship with God. He says, “I’ve told you this, verse 4, so that when their time comes…” or literally I have told you these things so that when they happen you will remember that I warned you about them. When they begin to do this to you, you’re gonna remember that I told you it was coming, because as we said last week, what we expect we can…anybody? Endure. What we expect we can endure. So, he says, “I told you so you wouldn’t be caught off guard when these things happen. I didn’t tell you all these from the beginning because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me. I’m going away,” which is really what launched this entire section of the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “I know you’re excited about everything that is gonna go on, and it is still gonna go on, but it’s gonna go on a little bit different way.” He says, “I’m leaving. I’m only gonna be with you a little bit longer.” So he says, “None of you asked me where are you going, rather,” verse 6, “you are filled with grief because I’ve said these things. But very truly I tell you, it’s for your good that I am going away because unless I go away the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” This is the third time in this section of the Gospel of John that we see Jesus talk about the Advocate, which is his name for the Holy Spirit. And Jesus has promised already before this that when he leaves, he’s not gonna leave the disciples alone. He’s not gonna leave us on our own trying to figure it out, but he’s gonna send the Holy Spirit, whom he calls the Advocate. And I love that word because an advocate, as we’ve said the last few weeks means somebody who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
And it’s very natural in this context for people to wonder, like, “Can I not fall away from you? Can I really walk with you? Can I continue to live out my faith in you when all these difficult things come? Jesus, you’re not saying that you’re going away and that’s gonna be hard, but you’re saying that people are gonna come against us, and they’re gonna think they’re doing God a service. I’m gonna be misunderstood. I’m gonna be gossiped about, I’m gonna be maligned. I’m not sure that I can really stay with you if you’re not here with me to carry me through that.” And what Jesus says is, “It’s okay. I’m gonna send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who will do for you which you cannot do for yourself, and he will keep you from falling away. He’ll give you what you need to get through all of this.” And beyond just getting through all of this, he says that the Holy Spirit is gonna be able to begin the work of, sort of turning things around, of setting things right. He says, verse 8, he says, “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” When the Holy Spirit comes, he will begin, through the disciples, to prove the world wrong about what they think about sin, about righteousness, and judgment. And to understand that, we need to make sure that we remember the original context. Jesus consistently uses this word, “world” to talk about anybody who’s not connected to God by faith in Jesus. Okay. That’s what he means by the world. So anyone who’s not connected to God by faith in Jesus. But remember, he’s mostly doing his ministry around very religious people, people who are obsessed with behaving rightly, with doing the dos and not doing the don’ts and all those kinds of things. But he says, they’re also the world because they’re not connected to God by faith in Jesus. He said, you know, they didn’t know God, they didn’t belong to him.
But what’s so interesting is that throughout his ministry we kind of saw this consistent misunderstanding between what the world thought about sin and righteousness and judgment and what Jesus thought. See, for most of the Jewish leadership, there was this insistence that, you know, unless you behave, you can’t belong. Unless you behave, you can’t belong. So, they would say, you know, “You’re not part of us, you’re on the outside looking in unless you behave right.” So, they looked at the Gentile world, the non-Jewish world and they said, “Well, you’re not behaving right, so you don’t belong, you’re on the outside.” They looked at sinners within the nation of Israel, they said, “Well, you’re not behaving right so you’re not on the in-crowd, you’re not here. You don’t really belong,” and there was a pushing out. And then Jesus came along and he kind of flipped it around, didn’t he? In fact, if you read through the gospels, you see this very surprising reality that Jesus didn’t insist that people behaved before they belonged. In fact, it seemed to be the other way around. I mean, he went to tax collectors, people that the Jewish people thought as, you know, some of the worst possible sinners because they were taking money from the Jewish people and they were sending it to the Roman Empire. They were traitors. That was treason. And Jesus came to the tax collectors and he said, “Come follow me. Come follow me, I’m gonna make you part of what I’m doing.” In other words, He said, “Come, belong to me.” He didn’t say, “Stop tax collecting and then we’ll talk about it.” He said, “No, no. Come, belong.”
He hung out with prostitutes. He hung out with sinners, and Jesus was often accused of being sinful simply for allowing those people to belong with him, to have meals with them. Maybe the most famous of the stories, you don’t have to spend much time in church to have heard a piece of this one. There’s a time that there was a woman caught on adultery and she was brought and she was kind of thrown down in front of Jesus and the crowd, and I got to say by the way that last time I checked it takes two to tango. A woman caught on adultery, there was a man involved in there somewhere. But it’s interesting he’s not there, which is probably indicative of a little bit of hypocrisy, maybe some misogyny going on. The man was spared the humiliation, the woman was thrown down in front of Jesus, in front of this crowd. And they said, “Hey, she was caught in adultery, nobody is denying it. Now, the Old Testament Law says that she has to be stoned. She’s not behaving right and so what we have to do is we have to stone her to death. So what do you think we should do, Jesus?” And they felt like they had Jesus kinds of caught in a bear trap at that point because if he said, “Well, I think we should just let her go,” they would have gone, “Well, then you’re throwing away the Old Testament Scriptures, the Law of God. But if you say we should stone her, then you’re being a hypocrite because you’re allowing, you know, other people to belong without changing their behavior necessarily.” So they thought they had him caught, and said, “So what are you gonna do?” And Jesus, I love it. He bent down and he started writing on the ground, and I don’t know what he was writing. My guess is honestly, what he was doing at that point, he was taking the attention of that poor woman, so filled with humiliation and shame in that moment in front of a crowd.
And he drew and he said, “Well, here’s what I think. Let’s go with this. Whichever one of you has never sinned, why don’t you be the first one to throw the stone.” And I wish I had been there. I wish I could have seen this. I imagine that he just kind of went back to drawing and one by one they began to hear the sound of stones just falling to the ground. [makes sound] These people just dropped their stones and walked away. And I don’t know, you know, like when you’re popping popcorn, you wait until there’s a long enough pause between the pops. You know, eventually, there was a long enough pause between the sounds. He kind of looked up and he looked around and everybody left. And so he looked at this woman and he said, “Isn’t anybody left to condemn you?” And she said, “No.” He said the most remarkable thing. He says, “Then neither do I condemn you.” See, that’s belonging, you understand that, right? That’s acceptance. It’s belonging, it’s before behaving. But don’t misunderstand. It’s not like he didn’t care about sin, it’s not like he was soft on sin, because what he actually said to her, it’s so remarkable. He said first, “Then neither do I condemn you.” But then he said, “Now, go and sin no more. Leave your life of sin.” He called sin what it was. He said it’s an issue. We know it’s an issue, that’s why he came to earth. He came to earth to die for our sin. Okay. It’s not like sin is insignificant. It cost him his life to forgive our sin. But he looked at the woman, he said, “I accept you, you can belong.” And then he asked for a change in behavior and that’s so remarkable because understand that here’s what the religious authority said. They said, “Unless you behave you can’t belong.” Jesus said, “Unless you belong, you can’t behave.” Unless you belong, you can’t behave. He knew that asking people to behave according to a set of rules and regulations and laws and commandments was impossible unless there was a transformation of that person from the inside out. Unless they were forgiven of sin and they are set free from guilt and shame which causes them to just spiral more and more into that same garbage. He said unless that’s taken away and unless something happens who is the Holy Spirit coming into their lives to actually change them from the inside, He said there’s no possible way they can behave the right way. And so they said you have to behave before you can belong and he said, “No, no, no. You get it wrong. Unless they belong, they can’t behave.”
And so what he says now is that the Holy Spirit is gonna come and he’s gonna begin to show the truth of what he taught with his life. He says, “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” He says, “About sin because people do not believe in me.” He said, “They’ve got it all wrong.” I mean, it’s not that those other things aren’t sin, but the worst sin by far is to reject me, your only provision for sin, the only sacrifice available to forgive your sin and to open up your way into heaven. He said that’s where the real sin is that you’re not accepting me, and you got it wrong. He says, verse 10, “To prove the world wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.” He says, basically, he knows what’s coming. he knows that he’s gonna die and he’s gonna be put in the grave and that those that accused him are gonna look and say, “There’s the proof he wasn’t a prophet, there’s the proof he wasn’t a righteous man, there’s the proof he wasn’t the son of God or the Messiah. He’s dead. He died a sinner’s death in the cross. Now, his body is in the grave. That’s the proof that he is not righteous, that we were righteous for doing that to him. And they were partly right. He did die a sinner’s death on the cross. He did get laid in the grave, but the problem is that three days later he got up, which demonstrates his righteous, this is true righteousness. Wages of sin is death, but because he was righteous death could not hold him and it also left him without a body to point to, didn’t it? That’s why he says, they will see me no more.” They wanted to be able to point the body, say, “There’s the proof. He’s a sinner and there he is, but he’s not there. Well, what do we do with that?”
He said, “What you need to do with that, is you need to rethink your view of righteousness.” He says, “Then he will prove the world wrong,” verse 11, “about judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” See, the people who accused Jesus, who took him ultimately to the cross, they thought they were doing God’s work, they thought they were bringing God’s judgment upon Jesus. Jesus says, “No, no, no. What you’re gonna see through the resurrection is God didn’t judge me. The real judgment is not coming to me, the real judgment is coming up on the prince of this world.” That’s a really powerful statement. Partly, it’s a powerful statement because he uses the word world again, and world means anybody who doesn’t belong to God by faith in Jesus. So many of his accusers, that’s the world, but then he says, the world, they don’t belong to God by faith in Jesus but they do belong to this prince of this world, which is a world that Jesus used a couple of different times in the Gospel of John to refer to the devil, Satan. So,what he basically says is, you know, you think I’m being judged but the real judgment is not coming on me, it’s coming on Satan and all those who belong to him, which by the way is everybody who doesn’t belong to me. You see what Jesus is saying? He’s kind of, he’s making this very kind of stark contrast, either you belong to me and you will be forgiven of your sin, you will achieve righteousness from me inside out but the power of the Holy Spirit and you will escape judgment for all of eternity or you belong to Satan and your sins remain and you’re not as righteous as you think you are and judgment is coming. But you either belong to me or to Satan. And so, what he says basically is, it’s all about who you belong to. It’s all about who you belong to. Behavior is a result of that, but it’s not the core of it. It’s all about who you belong to. Do you belong to Jesus or do you belong to the enemy? Says, it’s all about who you belong to.
He says, verse 12, “I have so much more to say to you. More than you can now bear, but it’s okay because when he, the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Jesus says, “What I’ve done is I’ve told you some specific information about a specific situation. I’ve told you some information that you need to know the face persecution when it comes, but the reality is you’re gonna face a lot more things. It’s not just gonna be persecution, it’s gonna make it hard to stay with me. It’s not just persecution that’s gonna tempt you to fall away from me. There’s gonna be all kinds of other stuff. There’s gonna be health crises. There’s gonna be family conflict. There’s gonna be job situations, there’s can be all kinds of other things that are gonna make it hard for you to trust me and to move forward with me. And he says, I could tell you about all those things. I could give you the playbook for how to respond each and every situation, but that’s gonna take a while. And honestly, you’re not in a position to have receive it right now because he says you’re worried, you’re upset,” which is natural when we face difficult circumstances. We don’t start thinking super clearly, right? It’s not in the moment of crisis that our brains suddenly like clarify. He says, “Yeah, you’re upset so that even trying to tell you that specific information for all those situations right now, it wouldn’t work.” But then he says, “But, you know, it’s okay. I don’t actually need to give you the playbook because instead of giving you the playbook, you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna give you a coach. I’m gonna give you a coach who will tell you what you need to do when you need to know what you need to do.” He says, “I will give you the Holy Spirit and he will guide you into all of the truth.” Don’t misunderstand, he’s not saying the Holy Spirit becomes like some kind of a divine Google, okay? He is not saying the Holy Spirit is gonna be just a fountain of information. When he says, guide you into or even guide you in all the truth, is another way to translate that, what he’s saying is the Holy Spirit is gonna show you what it looks like to live out the truth of who I am and what it means to belong to me. Let me say that again. He says the Holy Spirit is gonna lead you, guide you, to live out the truth of who I am and what it means for you to belong to me. He’s gonna show you what it looks like to do that when your marriage is in trouble. He’s gonna show you what it looks like to do that when you’re facing persecution. He’s gonna show you what it looks like to do that when your health is failing or somebody’s around you is failing. In all of these situations, he’s gonna show you what it looks like to live out the truth of who Jesus is and what it means to belong to him. He is going to do that for you.
And then he says this. And it’s interesting over the next three verses, he uses one word three different times. It’s a little bit of an unusual word, we only find that a handful of times in all the Bible. And when we find an unusual word used three different times so close together, it’s an immediate kind of a call to attention. He says pay attention to this. And the world basically translates to deliver. He says this. He says, “he, the Holy Spirit, will not speak on his own. He will speak only what he hears and he will deliver or tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will deliver or make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. All of it is mine,” He says. “That is why I said the spirit will receive from me what he will deliver or make known to you.” What Jesus is saying very simply is this. He says, “When we belong to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will deliver everything we need.” When we belong to Jesus the Holy Spirit will deliver everything we need to be able to live out the truth of who he is and what it means to belong to him. He will deliver everything we need. Sometimes it’s gonna be information, sometimes the Holy Spirit will bring information to your mind, it will bring information into your life from other people, it will give you information if that’s what you need. But it’s not always information. Sometimes what we need more than information is courage, courage to act on the information, courage to do the hard thing, the righteous thing, the faithful thing. He says he will give you the courage then. If what you need is kindness, he’ll deliver kindness. If what you need is patience, he will deliver patience. Be careful about asking for that one, because one of the ways he delivers it is by putting you in situations where you need it. I’ve learned that the hard way over the years.
But, however, he does it. He’ll get it to you. He says, “When we belong to Jesus everything we need will be delivered to us by the Holy Spirit, everything. Which on the one hand is really encouraging, right? But on the other hand raises questions, like how? Now, that’s the big question, isn’t it? How will that happen? How will the Holy Spirit deliver it? What role do I play in that? And, you know, I’ve found over the years as, not only as a pastor but really as a follower of Jesus, that people are often confused about the Holy Spirit’s work, really confused about the Holy Spirit himself. And I think partly it’s because, you know, on the one hand like we swing the pendulum pretty wide in churches. Some churches never talk about the Holy Spirit. They never really deal with passages that talk about the Holy Spirit. They never talk about them with each other. He’s almost kind of like, he’s the forgotten member of the Trinity. And what’s interesting, you know, I spent years as a speaker and it almost became a game to me. I would go into certain churches and I’d spent just a little bit of time and I’d get some kind of an impression about them and then I’d make a guess. And the guess is, this is a church that doesn’t talk about the Holy Spirit much, or this is a church that talks about the Holy Spirit a fair amount. And then one of the reasons I would make that guess, and I was almost always right, was because whenever I thought this is the church that doesn’t talk about the Holy Spirit much, I could feel it in the church. I could feel a lack of life. I could feel a lack of vitality in the church. So we have that kind of extreme. Then you get the other extreme, and I’ve been in churches like that like, well, nobody ever says, “I decided,” nobody ever says, “I thought,” everybody was like, “The Holy Spirit told me. The Holy Spirit told me to stop going to Wendy’s and start going to Arby’s.”
Really? Okay. And it’s almost like you can’t have a preference, you can’t have an actual thought. It’s all got to be sort of bathed, and the Holy Spirit did this. And let’s be honest, sometimes, sometimes that gets a little bit weird. And sometimes people like that, they just strike us as a little bit, we’ll say different, but we know that what we really mean is weird, right? Because of that, sometimes I think we’re really confused about the Holy Spirit. And the other problem I think is that you know even though the Bible says to be led by the Spirit, I mean, you know, Jesus says that when you belong to him the Holy Spirit will deliver everything and so just be led by the Spirit, just trust the Spirit is gonna guide you and give you what you need when you need it. Even though the Bible says to be led by the Spirit, it’s not always entirely clear how to do that, right? There’s no passage I can go to that says, “Here’s the four things you do, here’s the five principles, here’s the six steps.” It’s a little bit like riding a bicycle, right? I’m gonna write a book about riding a bicycle. The title is gonna be “How to Ride a Bicycle.” Page one is gonna be get a bicycle. Page two is gonna be ride the bicycle, and then we’re done. And I realize there’s a lot that goes in between those two things, but they’re pretty hard to put on paper, right? I mean, ride a bicycle, balance. How do I do that? Just do it. Right? It’s pretty, I mean, until you do it it’s really hard to like say how you do it, right? I mean, and I think sometimes the Holy Spirit is a little bit like that. I mean, step one, get the Holy Spirit. I can tell you how to do that. By belonging to Jesus. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. He died on the cross for you. He died on the cross to forgive your sins. Three days later, he rose from the grave. That’s not a matter of faith. It’s a fact of history. It is a fact of history.
Faith comes when we decide, I’m gonna put my trust in that, when we’re gonna say yes to Jesus and invite him into our lives, and when that happens the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us and so that’s how you get the Holy Spirit. You put your faith in Jesus. I can tell you that step. The second step is be led by that Spirit. And it’s a little bit harder to go, “Well, here’s your steps and principles and processes.” But I thought, what might be useful to you as your pastor is simply to share some stuff that I’ve learned over the years of trying to be led by the Spirit that have made a difference in my life and I think they might be useful in yours. And so here’s four things that I’ve learned in seeking to be led by the Spirit over the years. Number one is this, I need to trust that the Holy Spirit is the fullness of God in me. Trust that the Holy Spirit is the fullness of God in me. And see, here’s the interesting thing, it’s another one of those places, like the Bible tells us that there is such a thing as the Trinity. You know, that’s one of the Christian doctrines, the Trinity. But it’s a confusing doctrine, isn’t it? Because the Bible doesn’t tells us exactly how it all works, what the Bible does is it tells us here’s where you got to keep your thinking between these two walls, it’s a little bit like when you go bowling and you press that button and the bumpers come up. I know none of you guys do that, but you can, and that means you’re never gonna really, I mean, you got to really be working. You could throw it into the other lane, but as long as you like even close, you keep your ball in there. Well, the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how to understand the Trinity maybe because our brains can understand it but it does give us the bumpers to keep our thinking in.
One of the bumpers says there’s one God. God is one. One God, there’s only one God, there’s only one God, and that gets said over and over again, one God, that’s a bumper. The other bumper is, but there’s three persons who make up that God. There’s Father, Son and Spirit. One God, three persons, and you’re like, “I don’t get that,” but that where the Bible says keep our thinking. But in the process of telling us there’s Father, Son and Spirit. The Bible is also clear that Father, Son, and Spirit are all equally God, they’re all fully God. There’s not some hierarchy that you know you’re like 100% God, and you’re like 87% God, and then 14%, it doesn’t work that way. They’re 100% God. All three persons are fully God. Which means that when Jesus said that if you put your faith in me, if you belong to me, the Holy Spirit will take up residence in you, that means the fullness of God is in me. And that means that I don’t lack anything that I need. It means that when I go into a situation, I can trust that I have what I need to handle that situation in a godly way that I have what I need to handle that situation in a way that will glorify God and move me through it no matter how difficult that situation is. And if you are a follower of Jesus, if you belong to God by faith in Jesus, you have the fullness of the Holy Spirit in you, the fullness of God in you, and you lack nothing. That’s the first step, is to trust that the fullness of God is in me because of the Holy Spirit. So, I don’t worry about what I lack, I don’t worry about what I don’t know. I don’t worry about not having as much wisdom or as much intelligence or as much kindness or patience whatever it is. I trust that it’s available to me when I need it because the fullness of God is in me. The second thing I do is I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me. I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me. I actually do this every morning. I actually have a declaration. I have a series of things that I say at the beginning of every morning, and one of them is, “Because I belong to Jesus the Holy Spirit is in me. So, I will ask him to lead me today.” I just declare that at the beginning of every day to remind myself and then throughout the day, with like going to conversations or meetings or situations, I ask, I say, “Holy Spirit, would you show me what I need to know? Would you give me what I need to represent Jesus well in this conversation, to be godly in this meeting, to move through whatever this is? I trust that you will do that but I’m asking you to do it.”
Now, I want to tell you that I have some pastor friends and some theologian friends that will disagree on that, and we have arguments about it. And I’ve had people tell me, “Well, you can’t, you can’t pray to the Holy Spirit, or you shouldn’t pray to the Holy Spirit because there’s no examples in scripture of anybody praying to the Holy Spirit.” And that’s true. There are no examples in Scripture of anybody praying to the Holy Spirit. There’s actually only one verse that I’m aware of anybody praying to Jesus, which is interesting because nobody thinks that it’s a problem to pray to Jesus, but you only see one example. So, I go it’s probably happening, we just don’t have any examples written down. But here’s what we do have. We have a number of commands in Scripture that we’re to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. We’re told that not to grieve the Spirit. We’re told to be led by the Spirit. So, we’re told to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and what I’ve discovered is cooperation is very difficult without conversation. Think about our lives with people, right? Cooperating with somebody is very difficult if you’re not conversing with them, and cooperation is very difficult without conversation. So there’s some people who disagree ,but I actually think because the Holy Spirit is the fullness of God, is fully God, there’s nothing wrong to praying with the Holy Spirit especially when, and this is sort of a little theological twist that I often throw on it, the bible is very clear that Father, Son and Spirit have distinct roles and so I try to direct my prayers to the Father, Son and Spirit based on what the scripture tells me their roles are for. So for instance, I will thank God for loving me and creating me. I will thank Jesus for saving me, and I’ll thank the Holy Spirit for leading me. I try to direct my prayers to what the Scripture tells me about each of the persons and their particular roles. But I ask the Holy Spirit on a regular basis to lead me. And what I’ve discovered over the years is pretty simple, it’s pretty straight correlation.
The more times during the day that I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me, the better that day goes. The more at the end of the day I’m able to look back and go, “I think I represented Jesus pretty well today. I think I moved forward in ways that were consistent with who he is and what it means to belong to him.” And the days that I don’t ask as much, I can’t say that as much. Asking for the Holy Spirit’s leading regularly makes a difference in my life. It absolutely does. It’s been my experience for sure. But the third thing I do is this. I test what I think the Spirit is leading me to. I test what I think the Spirit is leading me to. Because, the reality is the Holy Spirit rarely gives me what I would call like, you know, in your face messages. I’ve yet to see anything catch fire and a deep voice speak out of it. I don’t see the handwriting on the wall. It’s usually, honestly, it’s often things that people say that I just, there’s something in me that goes, “Pay attention to that.” It’s a still small voice occasionally. Sometimes it’s a little bit more raucous, but that’s not my normal experience. But because I don’t have those experiences, and even if I do I still do the same thing. I test them. I go, okay. Well, first off, I test them against the Scripture, because I know that the Holy Spirit is never gonna lead me to anything that’s not consistent with God’s Word. And so I study Scripture. I ask the question, is what I think the Holy Spirit is leading to, is it consistent with the principles I find in Scripture? I also ask the question pretty regularly as I search the Scripture, do I see similar patterns of leading of the Holy Spirit in the Scripture? In other words, what I sense the Holy Spirit leading me to, do I see similar kinds of things happening in the scripture that the Holy Spirit led other followers of Jesus to, and that gives me some confidence that this pattern is consistent, not just the principles not being violated, but the pattern is actually present as well. And so I do that. I also test where I think the Holy Spirit is leading me too against the council of godly advisers. At Mission Hills, I have an incredible group of elders and we make the big decisions together. But it’s not just the big decisions. I often call the elders throughout the week, one or two of them and go, “Hey, I’m thinking about this. I feel like maybe the Spirit is leading this. And what do you think about this? Give me your wisdom on this?”
My wife is a godly adviser. I test things that I think the Holy Spirit is leading me to against my wife and also against other fellow believers. Because, I believe God often leads through his people and not just through me. And so some of the most powerful leadings of the Holy Spirit have come from the least expected places, but still from within the family of God. And so I always test what I think the Holy Spirit is leading me to. It’s a really important part of this. And then the fourth thing is this. I act quickly. I act quickly when I recognize the Spirit is leading. This one is really important. And here’s the thing, you just have to recognize. The Holy Spirit rarely leads us to do easy things. You know what I’m talking about? The Holy Spirit rarely leads us to do easy things because if they were easy things, we wouldn’t really need the Holy Spirit leading us to do them, right? Like, I’m thinking about Chipotle for lunch. I think the Holy Spirit is leading me there. Of course, he is. Right? Make the easy decision, make the easy call, do the thing that doesn’t require any courage. The Holy Spirit doesn’t usually get involved in those. When the Holy Spirit leads, it’s almost always to a difficult thing. And what I’ve discovered is when the Holy Spirit leading and when I’ve recognized that, it’s important that I act quickly. And when I don’t, honestly, it doesn’t go as well. I had this experience just recently last fall, I began to sense the Spirit leading something, and it wasn’t an easy thing. It was a difficult decision. A couple of different ways that it happened that really caught my attention, I began to check it against the Scripture, I began to check it with godly advisers and fellow Christians, and over and over again I saw it confirmed it and I thought, “Okay, yeah. I think the Holy Spirit is leading in this, but I don’t want to do that. That’s a difficult thing.” And I didn’t say I’m not gonna do it, you never say I’m not gonna do it. You’re like, “I’m gonna do it, just not today. I’m gonna get there, you know, but Lord it would be a lot easier if this were true and maybe it’s the timing in this.” And just a couple of weeks ago I had a series of like four days in a row, I just wasn’t sleeping at all. And my incredible wife was up in the middle of the night praying for me, and one of the mornings, the fourth morning, we got up and I said, “Well, how did you sleep?” And she said, “Not real good.” She goes, “Because, pretty early on I was praying and I felt like the Holy Spirit gave me a word for you.” And I was like, “Oh. It’s you love me, right? That’s is it.”
I said, “What is it?” She said, and you could tell she was nervous, but she said, “I feel like the Holy Spirit told me that the reason you’ve not been sleeping the last four nights is because you’re being disciplined?” Why? She said, “Because he’s led you and you haven’t acting on it.” So, I said, “Holy Spirit lead me.” The moment I prayed that, I just had this very clear sense, she’s right, and God is speaking to me through my wife that I had sensed the Spirit’s leading, I had confirmed it, but I hadn’t acted on it and I was being disciplined for it. So, I confessed that, I repented it, I acted on it, and immediately experienced a tremendous sense of relief. Even though what I was doing was much harder, it required courage and it wasn’t easy, I actually had peace and I began to sleep again. So, I’ve learned over the years that when the Holy Spirit leads, we need to act quickly. Test it first, make sure that it’s him but when it is him, act quick. I hope these things are helpful to you. Are these helpful? Yeah? See, here’s the truth. Here’s the big idea I want you to walk away from today. Jesus is pretty clear. He says, “When we belong to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will give us everything we need, will deliver everything we need.” We simply need to look to him for it. Would you pray with me?
Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you that as your followers, as those who belong to you by faith, we can be confident that we don’t lack anything we need to move through difficult circumstances in a way that honors you and demonstrates to the world who you are and what it means for us to belong to you. Help us to be led by your Spirit. Holy Spirit, teach us to lead, be led by you better that we might bring glory to Jesus and to our Father.
If you’re a follower of Jesus would you do me a favor? Would you begin praying for people around you, people listening online right now, people who don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, they realize that they don’t belong to God. And maybe that’s you. Maybe you’re listening right now and you realizing, “Yeah, I don’t have that power of the Holy Spirit because I don’t belong to God by faith.” Maybe even you found yourself sort of struck or convicted by that talk about behaving versus belonging and you realized, you know, maybe even coming to church a long time and you’re trying to really hard to behave and you’re constantly frustrated feeling like you never quite there, that you’re never good enough. And maybe it’s good news to hear that you don’t have to be good enough. In fact, unless you belong to Jesus and to God by faith, you’ll never get the behavior right. And the good news is that God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you before you got it right. And if you would like to belong, there’s no reason why you can’t begin that right here, right now today. You can belong to God. He did everything to invite you into the family. You just have to say yes to faith in Jesus. And if you’re ready right now to belong to God by faith in Jesus, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. Fantastic.
Wherever you are, this is what you pray. If you’re watching online, I’d love for you to click the button right below me, let us know. And you just say this wherever you are, in your heart to God. Say “God, I’ve done wrong, I’m sorry. I know I’ve misbehaved, and I know I can’t be good enough. Thanks that I don’t have to be. Jesus, I believe that you died for my sin, and I believe that you rose from the dead, and I get it. You’re offering me forgiveness, new life, belonging to the family of God. I’m ready to receive those gifts. I’m ready to put my faith in you. So, Jesus right here, right now, I say yes to faith in you. And I receive forgiveness, new life, belonging in the family of God, and I receive the power of the Holy Spirit to change me from the inside out. Amen.”
And would you just welcome those who made that decision. Say yes to Jesus and welcome the family of God today. That’s awesome.
HOW TO PRAY WHEN EVERYTHING FALLS APART
Jesus has a clear purpose in these nine verses: he wants to teach his closest followers how to pray when the wrong things come. When everything falls apart, there is a prayer our Savior wants us to pray. Let’s jump in and see if we can discover what that is.
Woman: I had written my story and society was my co-author. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of getting married, having children, and living happily ever after. I believe God wanted those things for me too. However, his story looked just a bit different. And when my story didn’t match God’s story is when I felt everything begin to fall apart. After marrying my best friend and my soulmate at 30, I fell behind the game with the children part of my story. And boy did that hit me hard. After six months of trying to conceive, I knew something was wrong. I was quickly diagnosed with endometriosis, two surgeries, multiple fertility drugs, countless tears, prayers, and four years later, my husband and I were told that there was a 0% chance that we would ever conceive.
Living day to day with endometriosis made life almost unbearable, and it had sucked all the joy from my life. I was in pain every day. When the doctors would ask me what my pain level was on the pain scale, it was always a 10. Always. When I could go to work, I suffered through only to go home where I would be in a fetal position until the next morning only to try and do it all over again. Social gatherings were not a part of our lives anymore. I was just a shell of the person I had been.
At the age of 34, I had a total hysterectomy and went into menopause. To say I felt like Sarah was an understatement. We were so blessed during that time and to have many praying for us, and someone specifically prayed Psalms 113:9 over us. “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.” How could this first be for me? This person knew there was no way I could get pregnant, right? We certainly did not have the finances to adopt. I struggled with my identity and my purpose.
After many hard conversations and prayer, my husband and I made peace with our family just being the two of us and decided not to adopt. We both grew incredibly close to God during this time. Shortly after, in our church, we met the curly-haired boy that would later become our son. It was clear that God was leading us down the adoption path. I wish I could say our adoption story was our happily ever after, but it was not. That too was a tough walk. After four years, two attorneys, thousands of dollars that we didn’t have, setbacks, and heartache, the adoption was finalized. God is faithful. And two and a half years later, we are figuring out how to parent our vibrant and outgoing 10 year-old-son.
What this journey has taught me most of all is to trust God and to lean on him no matter what because his way and his timing is perfect. In the end, when I feel like everything is falling apart, I have faith that God’s story for my life is so much better than my own.
Jerry Jones: Greetings, everyone. I’d like to say a special hello to those who are streaming us online and those who are joining us in other locations, Dove Valley, En Español, welcome. Pastor Craig is currently in India where he is doing some preaching and teaching. If we have not met yet, my name is Jerry Jones. I am the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. And in my spare time, I work over at the counseling center. That’s my hobby.
We’ve just heard a very impactful testimony shared from the heart of a young woman who, with her husband, lived through a time of infertility. And that is something that a good many of us can identify with, something that we’ve either lived through or perhaps are currently living through. Back in 1986, my wife, Leanne, and I had life by the tail. For my millennial friends, that would be the year of our Lord 1986. You can probably Google it, I don’t know. But we’d been married four years, and phase one of our marital plan was working to perfection. Finish college, check. Get married, check. Take a year off school to save money to go to seminary, check. Finish Seminary in the prescribed three-year period. Find a church where we could be placed as senior pastor to serve. Check, check. Man, everything was going well.
To say that our ducks were in a row would be an understatement. Those dudes were lined up, and standing at attention, and saluting us as we walked by. We moved to the Bay Area of California to begin what we hoped would be a very long career in pastoral ministry. Phase one accomplished. It was now time to begin phase two of our plan. Phase two was to begin a family. It was something we’d both dreamed of. It was something we’d actually talked about the first time we went out, believe it or not. We knew how many children we wanted. We really wanted two. We knew the genders we wanted. We would really love to have a boy and a girl. We even knew what we wanted to name that little girl if God saw fit to bless us with her, and we wanted to call her Courtney.
We were ready to initiate the plan, so we stopped trying to prevent it from happening, assuming that everything would go in phase two as perfectly as it had gone in phase one. Why would we assume anything differently? All of our friends were having babies, some of them were actually having babies they hadn’t planned on. Oops, we did it again. But for Leanne and me, nothing. When it came to having this prayer answered, this dream fulfilled, nothing. Crickets chirping, dead silence from heaven.
Some of our friends began to question our intentions. They concluded that we were just too self-centered to want to share our lives with children. They assumed that we were determined to be career-oriented, self-absorbed yuppies, young upwardly mobile professionals. Again, millennials, a yuppie is a hipster. Finally, we decided we better get some medical insight into this situation. So we began the process of fertility testing. Unlike a lot of couples, we did not invest a lot of time or a lot of money in this process. There was no need. The doctors called us in one day and gave us the bad news. “You two will not be conceiving children.” No real explanation, just a condition we had lived with our entire lives. We just simply never had a reason to know about it until the time came for us to try to conceive children.
We’re sorry, but biologically speaking, children simply are not in your future. It would be impossible for me to overstate to you the pain we felt in that moment and in the days that would follow. Some of you have been there, some of you are there right now. It’s as though the children you have prayed for, and longed for, and dreamed of have died. It is its own grief process. For this young couple sitting in that doctor’s office who had enjoyed nothing but great blessing so far in life, it felt like everything had just fallen apart.
And suddenly, we were forced to figure out how to respond to God in the face of a painful time in life where it felt like everything had just fallen apart. It’s really easy to respond to God when things are going well, isn’t it? Much harder when things are painful. In these weeks together, we are engaged in a series of messages titled “When Everything Falls Apart.” We’re in the upper room with Jesus and his disciples. It is the last time that he would be with them prior to his death. In a perfect world, they would be comforting him, but Jesus, God in human flesh, knew that they were the ones who needed to be comforted. So he spends his precious final moments with them, not seeking to have his own needs met, but seeking to fully prepare them for all that was ahead.
And in this message, we are going to focus on nine short verses of John 16. John 16:16-24. And in these verses, Jesus has a very clear purpose in mind. He wants to teach his closest followers how to pray when the wrong things come when everything falls apart. When all that seems right goes horribly wrong, there is a prayer that our Savior wants us to pray. So let’s jump in and see if we can discover what that is. If you have your Bibles, turn with me, if you will, to John 16, and let’s begin reading together in verse 16 where Jesus tells his friends, “Brothers, the wrong things are headed your way. In a little while, you will see me no more, and then after a little while, you will see me.”
In this moment, Jesus is alluding to his impending death on the cross. It is not the first time that he has mentioned this to them. It will serve as the last time because at this point, we are literally hours away from his arrest. Fellas, pain is inevitable for you. In fact, a tsunami of pain is headed your direction. “In just a few short hours now, you will not see me any longer because I will no longer be with you.” Of course, Jesus knew full well what was in store for him in the next few hours, but his disciples were perplexed. Verses 17 and 18. “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while, you will see me no more and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘because I’m going to the Father?'” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while?’ We don’t understand what he’s saying.”
Verses 19 and 20, “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this so he said to them, ‘Are you asking each other what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more and then after a while, you will see me?” I tell you the truth. You will weep and mourn. While the world rejoices, you will grieve.” Brothers, the worst day of your lives is just around the corner. “This very night, I will be betrayed by one of you. I will be arrested unjustly. I will be tried for crimes I never committed by men who really don’t have the authority to try me in the first place. They will mock me by placing a thorn of crowns on my head. They will spit upon me. They will remove the flesh from my back with a whip.
They will force me to carry a cross through town to a hill. Once we arrive there, they will drive spikes through my wrists and my ankles against that cross. They will drop that cross mercilessly into a hole designed to hold it. They will watch me die. And when they are convinced that I am dead, they will place my body in a tomb, and they will seal it shut with a two-ton stone.” Jesus didn’t say all of that to them, but he could have because that’s what he knew. And we have the history on our side to know as well. But in that moment, his beloved disciples were completely unaware of what was ahead. Jesus was trying to prepare them for the trauma of his crucifixion.
Friends, the wrong things are headed your way. You will be confused. You will be in shock. You will grieve, and your grief will feel very lonely because the world will be celebrating. You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. The religious leaders, the crowds of people will be celebrating my death because they will be convinced that they have done God a great favor by putting a blasphemer on the cross. Brothers that I love more than you can comprehend, it is all getting ready to fall apart. You won’t see it coming. You won’t be able to comprehend how unjust and inhumane it is. You won’t be able to stop it. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. Underline those last six words of verse 20 in your Bible.
If you have a highlighter, highlight them. That is a promise. It’s a promise from God the Son to his closest followers. It’s all going to fall apart. You are going to mourn. You are going to grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. Why was Jesus able to promise them that? Because Jesus is God, and God works in the wrong things. When your faith is in God the Son for the salvation of your soul, and you are following him on mission, you have his promise that on the absolute worst day of your life, he is working in the wrong things on your behalf. This is the only reason that James 1:2 makes any sense whatsoever.
James 1:2, “James, the brother of Jesus exhorts us. Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds.” In essence, James says, “Brothers, when it all falls apart, when the wrong things come, be joyful.” Not just joyful, be Uber-joyful. Don’t just consider it joy, consider it pure joy. Pain is inevitable. Despair is optional. You’ve heard Pastor Craig say that many times over the past few weeks. Here’s an important truth for us to apply today. In order to have joy in the pain, you have to have hope. Hope is the belief that the pain will end. Hopelessness is when all we can see is the pain devoid of the deliverance. That is when pain leads to despair, and despair ultimately leads to depression.
I’m in this place of darkness and pain. I feel like I’m all alone. No one understands. No one really cares. Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you’d be honest enough to say, “Pastor Jerry, I feel that way right now.” Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” In other words, the longer I go without hope, the sicker my heart becomes. In the midst of his trials, Job lamented, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to an end without hope. Where now is my hope? And who regards my hope? He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone. He has uprooted my hope like a tree.”
During a time of great personal turmoil, the Psalmist challenged his own heart with these words. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God for I shall again praise him for the help of his presence.” I shall again praise him for the help of his presence. See, the thing that keeps pain from turning to despair is hope. And hope is the full knowledge that when I suffer, I do not suffer alone. God himself is there with me. He is present in my pain, and he’s working on my behalf.
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I think another way of stating that would be to say that God works in the wrong things on behalf of those who love him and are following him on mission. Amen? When you do more than memorize that verse, when you allow God to etch that verse indelibly upon your heart, then you will live with the constant assurance that when everything falls apart, no matter how painful the trial, he is working in the wrong things on your behalf. Jesus, the greatest communicator the world has ever known, gives us a perfect illustration of this truth in verses 21 and 22.
He compares it to a woman giving birth. He says, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come.” What time is he describing? It’s the time of her delivery. Nine months of eating a special diet and taking multiple vitamins and keeping regular doctor’s appointments. Nine months of watching her own body change. Nine months of being increasingly more uncomfortable. For a woman who is pregnant, nine months of increasing change and discomfort all builds to a crescendo called labor. Labor is that period of time when her body works to move her baby from her womb into the world. And it is a time of unimaginable pain. We, men, have to be real careful what we even say about this because it’s just simply something we will never experience.
Carol Burnett, someone who was funny back in the year of our Lord 1986, Google her. Carol Burnett said that if a man wants to know what it feels like to give birth, that he should take a pair of vice grip pliers, clamp them to the bottom lip, and try to pull his lip over the top of his head. I’ll take your word for it. It’s a time of immense pain, but you’ve been there. You know that it’s also a time when a great many people work on behalf of that young woman. A trained medical team is there monitoring her vital statistics, monitoring the statistics of the baby, making sure the baby is in the right position, making sure everything’s moving just according to the proper design for a happy, healthy delivery.
It all leads to that special moment when a mother hears her baby cry for the first time and she knows that her child is fully transitioned and is healthy. I don’t think there’s anything in the human experience that quite compares to that moment when a doctor places a newborn baby on its mother’s chest and they make eye contact for the first time.
Jesus says, “But when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” She forgets her anguish because of the joy that a child is born into the world. Still got your highlighter handy? If not, borrow your neighbors and highlight those words in verse 21. She forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. Jesus says that for a woman that is giving birth, there is anguish. The labor is excruciatingly painful, but the delivery brings joy. When the baby arrives, the joy of his arrival eradicates the pain of the labor. Suddenly, all of the discomfort, all of the demands, all of the sacrifices of pregnancy and labor are properly in context. The baby is here and she’s healthy. We now know why the pain was necessary. Let the celebration begin.
Jesus says in verse 22, “So it is with you. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” When would Jesus see them again? In three days, right? In three days, Easter will take place. Mary and Martha will break away from the grieving disciples, they’ll make their way to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for final burial. Upon arriving there, they will be surprised to find that the stone has been rolled back. They will see Jesus’ grave cloth fully intact, but his body will be missing. They will run and get Peter and John.
They will come, they will be in confusion, they won’t have an explanation, but then Jesus will begin appearing to people. He appears to Mary Magdalene. Then he appears to the disciples. And by the time 40 days have passed, he will appear in the flesh to over 500 people. So they would see him again, but then what would he do? He would leave again. This time, he would ascend back into heaven where he would sit down at the right hand of God the Father, which is where he currently dwells.
So even though they would have seen him again on Earth, they would no longer see him post-ascension. This is important because the relationship God had with the 11, ultimately, the relationship he has with all his disciples, including us, would change that day. Specifically, the way we talk to God would change. The way we pray to God would change. Jesus says in verse 23, “In that day, the day I go back to Heaven, you will no longer ask me anything.” They won’t be able to. he won’t be there. “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
Let the record show that is the third time he has made that promise to them in this section of God’s Word that we call the upper room discourse. Does that mean that God the Father will allow me to win the national lottery as long as I ask in the name of Jesus? No, it doesn’t work that way. Trust me, I’ve tried. The Father is not going to let me get off mission with Jesus and go sit by a pool somewhere by giving me a half a billion dollars. That prayer request is patently self-serving. It gives God no glory, and, ultimately, he knows that is not what I need.
Well, what about my cancer? If I asked the Father in the name of the Son, will he heal my disease? He might. It’s within his power to do so, and I have seen him do it many times. He might. If it gives him glory, He might heal you. But here’s what I know for absolute sure. He will give me the hope to face the illness with joy. And when he delivers me from my disease, his timing will be perfect, and his deliverance will give context to my pain, and it will all make sense. And hear me well, even if his deliverance means I get to join him in Heaven. At the end of verse 24, Jesus promises them, “Your joy will be complete.” Joy is the right thing to ask for when the wrong things have come. Joy is the ability to endure the pain knowing that God is working on the delivery. His timing will be perfect. My anguish will end because his delivery will bring complete joy. Amen?
I left you hanging on our phase two story. Early in our married life, Leanne and I felt as though everything had fallen apart, and we were forced to respond. Leanne went into her prayer closet, and I went into fix-it mode because that’s what I do. I fix things. They call me Mr. Fix-it. I’m the Chip Gaines of spiritual problems. That’s why I’m such an effective counselor. I take the worst problems in the best hearts, and I smash that sucker flat and we replace it with something beautiful. You’ve got a spiritual problem? It’s Demo Day, baby. I hope you know that I’m kidding. That is not the counselor that you need. That is not the counselor that you want. But if I’m honest, that is the frame of mind I was in back in 1986.
I took my Master of Divinity Degree that I’d worked so hard on, and I marched right into the throne room of God, and I demanded an answer. Why, God? Why this? Why us? Why now? As though the God of all creation owes me an explanation about anything. Why would a good God allow something this painful? Have you ever asked that? I’d say it’s probably the number one question we process over at the Counseling Center. But let me ask you something. Was God good the day that his Son died on the cross? The answer is yes because God is good 100% of the time. And yet, in his goodness, God allowed his only Son to die an agonizingly painful death on the cross. Who was God being good to that day? He was being good to you, and he was being good to me. But in order to be good to us, his Son had to endure the cross.
How many of you would say that your life is blessed and eternally changed because of the goodness of God poured out at the Cross of Calvary? When you think about it that way, is it ever really legitimate to question the goodness of God or his intentions toward us? In a moment of clarity, I decided to go check on my wife, something I probably should have done long before I did. And as long as I live, I will never forget how my sweet wife taught me in that moment how to pray when everything falls apart. She quoted Job which in and of itself was terribly impressive.
She said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord. He gives and he takes away. I will not accept only the blessings. I will choose in this time of pain to trust him to give me joy.” Wow. I like your response better than mine. And more importantly, I’m pretty sure God likes your response better than mine. Let’s join hands, and let’s make that our prayer in this time of pain, that God would give us joy while we wait on him to deliver us.
Shortly after that, Leanne and I were introduced to Bethany Christian Services. If you are not familiar with Bethany, they are a God-honoring ministry. They really love young women caught in unplanned pregnancies. If a young woman decides to parent her child, they will make sure she continues her education, gets her medical treatment, eats right, and gains the skills necessary to be the mother she desires to be.
If she knows that she’s not ready to parent, they will do all that for her, but they will help her to place that baby in the home of a loving Christian family. We were assigned a caseworker. We went through all the processes of being adoptive parents. Nine months later, nine months later, our phone rang. Jerry, Leanne, your baby girl is born. You can pick her up tomorrow at the hospital. This is Courtney. This is her family, son-in-law, Brian. Babies, Carter, and Beckett.
Two years later, the phone rang again. Again, it was our caseworker at Bethany. She said, “Jerry, you’re not gonna believe this.” She said, “I have a friend who does my job at a Lutheran adoption agency, and she happens to be working with her own niece. Her niece is pregnant with a little boy, and she’s driving her aunt crazy because she’s absolutely determined that he’s going to be placed in the home of a Baptist pastor. Are you and Leanne interested?” “Let us pray about it.” “Yes.” This is Cody. This is his wife, Ari. When her baby is born, she forgets her anguish because of the joy that a child is born.
Leanne and I have absolutely no doubt that the way our family was built was his plan from eternity past, and we are so grateful every day for the six people we get to call our family. But I gotta be honest, I debated about sharing that story with you ironically because it has a happy ending. As thankful as I am for the way God has built our family, that is one chapter out of a 37-year marriage. And you could read other chapters of our story that didn’t end in a happy ending. Like the time my dad did not recover from the illness. And at a very young age, God took him. Or the time Leanne’s mom could not overcome the cancer. And again, at a very young age, she was taken from us. Those were times when everything fell apart, and we prayed and God supplied joy to endure the pain.
But the answer to the prayer was that he took them home to Heaven. It wasn’t healing. Here’s my point. Joy is the right thing to pray when the wrong things come. That night in the upper room, Jesus did not promise his disciples a happy ending. What he promises us, what he wants us to ask him to supply is complete joy. He wants us to ask the Father in the name of the Son to give us the joy that comes from the hope that he is working on our behalf when the wrong things come.
I wonder if there might be someone here today who has heard the testimony, who has heard the message, who would be honest enough to say, “Pastor Jerry, the wrong things have come into my life, and I’m in pain. And I need God the Father to give me the joy that Jesus described in the upper room.” I would like to invite you to stand with me as I close in prayer. You don’t have to come forward. You don’t have to…just stand right where you are.
Thank you. Thank you for being honest enough with God, with your beloved family called Mission Hills to say, “I’m in pain.” Let me pray for us. Heavenly Father, I am in the presence of men and women who are honest enough to say, “I’m hurting. The wrong things have come.” It might be grief. It might be the pain of infertility. It might be a struggling marriage. It might be the loss of a job. It might be depression, despair. I don’t know, God, but you do. And your Son has said that the arms of our Father are open wide when we come in his name and we ask for joy. And so I pray for everyone who is standing with me right now that you will supply the joy that only you can bring, that gives us the hope that knows that you’re working on the delivery on our behalf. We submit ourselves to your loving care in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
We’re closing out our series “When Everything Falls Apart” today and the passage we’re going to look at will tell us four things – four promises from God that we have by faith in Jesus. Four things that enable us to face difficult circumstances well.
Woman: This is my testimony of how my world seemed to fall apart. At 18 years of age, I moved out of my home because my father was very strict with my sister and I.
I always felt locked up. I went to live with my boyfriend that I knew for a year. Very soon we got married by justice of the peace. We had a very simple wedding.
A short time after, we planned on having a family and we prepared for the baby to arrive. I was very excited that I was going to be a mother.
At 3 months of marriage, I started having problems with my husband. He had a very bad temper, and he got violent with me. I thought about returning back home, but I knew my father would not receive me well. I thought maybe this is how marriages are, since father used to do the same with my mother.
And to think that my baby would not have her father if I was to leave. So, I then decided to stay, with hopes that things would change.
A few months later, a woman that I used to know, asked me if I had a relationship with God, and I asked her “what does that mean?”
And she spoke to me about the Salvation, that God gives us as a free gift. And I accepted to receive Christ in my heart at that moment.
This was the best decision that I made in my life. God helped me to have peace and joy in my heart, while in the storm for 20 years.
He was my refuge, and my Savior who freed me. He taught me how to forgive the one that hurt me.
Today I live full of his peace and light in my life because of his grace. God is great, and for him nothing is impossible!
Craig: Welcome to Mission Hills and all of our locations, so glad you’re here, including those who are joining us Church Online. This is a special weekend at Mission Hills as you’ve probably heard or maybe you haven’t yet. This is baptism weekend and across our three campuses we have about 60 people getting baptized and how cool is that. You may not be quite as excited as I am, it doesn’t sound like it but I love baptism weekend. So much so that I played the pastor card, I don’t do that very often but we were originally scheduled to have baptism weekend last weekend. And I was in India doing some training with some of our church partners over there and I realized I was gonna miss it.
So I was like, Guys, I never do this, but I’m gonna play the lead pastor card and go, can we push that back a week? Because I just hate to miss it. I love baptism weekend. I actually got double blessed though, because we pushed it back so that I didn’t miss it. And while I was in India, I actually got to be part of a baptism service there too, which was really interesting to me. It was fantastic. And there were a couple of things that really struck me about it. The first one was, there was sort of an interesting thing that happened. We were kind of outdoors and there was a sort of concrete tank and as I watched the men and women go into the tank, when they got to the bottom of stairs, and they really stepped in, they all had the same reaction, which is, and I don’t know how else to say it, they kind of looked to me like they were freaking out a little bit. And at first, I thought, it must be really cold water.
But then, what I gradually realized was, no, it wasn’t that the water was cold, the problem was that it was water and they’d never actually been in water like that. I mean, they maybe they would take showers or they would bathe through buckets, we did a fair amount of that during the trip actually, but they were never actually in water. In fact, many of them had never been in a bathtub. They’d never been in the swimming pool. And so, the idea of actually being immersed in water was a completely new sensation. It was physically intimidating. And then when they got to the point where they’re about to be dunked, right, basically, they were terrified. And I thought this was really interesting because the reason that we do water immersion for baptism rather than sprinkling at Mission Hills is because the process of baptism symbolizes that when we put our faith in Jesus, that like he, we were buried with him, and then we rise to life again.
And so, the immersion symbolizes that sort of dying to self, dying to sin and being buried with Christ and then raising to new life with him. And, you know, and symbolically, I’ve always thought that’s a powerful image. But it was in India for the first time that I realized for many people who have never experienced any kind of, like, actual deep water, that process of going under really feels viscerally a little bit more like death. And it was terrifying for them. Even the several women went first and they were clearly, the whole thing was really scary. And then a couple of, like, younger men when and you could tell as they’re walking down the stairs like, I got this thing, I got this.
And then they get into the water and they’re like, Oh. And even those guys when they were about to go under, it was clear that they were terrified. And that process of going under felt a little bit more like death to them and then being brought back up and being able to take a breath again, really sort of viscerally felt like coming into new life in a way that I had never really experienced before, and I thought, that’s really powerful. And I’m so glad to be a part of it. The second thing that really kind of caught my attention though, was that baptism wasn’t just physically intimidating for them in India, but it’s also socially intimidating. Being a Christian in India is a very difficult thing, there’s a conservative Hindu government right now and there’s a lot of increased persecution against Christians.
And it’s one thing to go to a church and to talk with Christians and that’s sort of tolerated, but the moment that you decide to take water baptism, you’re making a public announcement to your culture, I’m all in with Jesus, I’m leaving everything else behind. And that’s when persecution really kicks in. And so, it’s not at all uncommon for people to lose family, to lose friends, to lose jobs, a number of people experience beatings and we talked to a number of people who’d been through that themselves. And some Christians on an unfortunately, fairly, regular basis lose their lives in India for their commitment to Jesus. And all that becomes a very real and even a likely possibility the moment that you get baptized, which I think causes a lot of people, like, in America to go, oh why would you do it? Like why would you go through water baptism? Why would you make that public announcement that you’re all in with Jesus? And I think the answer is because they understand this truth. They understand that what we have in Jesus overshadows what the world threatens to take away, does that makes sense?
It’s one thing for us to say it but I think in India, they really understand, they understand what we have in Jesus absolutely overshadows what the world threatens to take away. And so, they’re willing to take those risks. They’re willing to do whatever is necessary to say that I stand with Jesus. We’re gonna get to our own baptisms here in just a little bit. Before we do, I wanna push in on that truth just a little bit. What is it that we have in Jesus? What is it that comes to us because of our faith in Christ that overshadows, so overshadows what the world threatens to take away that we’re willing to stand with Jesus?
If you wanna grab a Bible, I’d love to have you join me in John 16, we’re gonna be picking up in verse 25, and we’re actually wrapping up our series today on “When Everything Falls Apart.” And we’re gonna be wrapping it up by looking at a passage where Jesus basically gives us five truths, five powerful truths of what we have in him, what we have because of our faith in him that so overshadows what the world threatens to take away. And so, we’re gonna to see five different truths here. And my prayer is that one of these truths, in particular, would be the one that gives you a tremendous amount of encouragement today. That gives you what you need to face the difficult circumstances that you’re facing. And maybe, honestly, if you’re not a follower of Jesus, one of these truths will be the one that you go, I need that. And if I could have that by faith in Jesus, then I’m ready to say yes to Jesus.
Jesus begins this way, verse 25, he says, Though I’ve been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language, but I will tell you plainly about my Father. And I think when he said this, there was a little bit of a sparkle in his eye. I actually think that there was a little bit of sarcasm in his voice here. I don’t know how you feel about sarcasm. I feel that sarcasm is a spiritual gift from God. And I think that Jesus used it pretty frequently. And there’s a little sarcasm going on here, and the reason I say that is, because up to this point in the Gospel of John, there’s been a kind of a consistent tension between figurative and plain speech. People have often kind of basically said to Jesus, Like, I really wish you just say things plainly. And what Jesus has said consistently is, The problem is not what I’m saying, the problem is with what you’re hearing. The problem is not with what I’m saying, the problems that you lack a perspective to understand what I’m saying. So for instance, in John 10:24, we won’t go there right now, but in John 10:24, some people came to Jesus and said, Hey, would you tell us plainly, same word, would you tell us plainly, are you the Messiah?
And Jesus said, I did tell you. He said, Everything I’ve said is consistent with my claim to be the Messiah. Everything I’ve done should point to you to the fact that yes, I’m claiming to be Messiah. But he said, I did tell you, but you did not believe. He says, I told you plainly, the problem is that you lack the perspective that comes from belief. And so, it’s not that I said anything that wasn’t clear. It’s that you lack the perspective to understand really what I was saying. And even his own followers had the same struggle. In John 11, there’s a famous story where Jesus’s friend, Lazarus died. And some people took a journey to get to Jesus, a journey of some distance. It took some time to get there, they got to Jesus and they said, You know, we’ve got really bad news. But your friend Lazarus has died and Jesus turned his disciples and he said, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep and that was figurative speech. But it wasn’t uncommon. In fact, in the Old Testament, we see this language asleep used as a euphemism for death because if you are connected to God, by faith, death is not the end of your story. And so, you just sleep. It’s kind of an analogy instead of that being the end of your story. It’s a pause before the story gets really good.
And in the first century, that was the kind of language people often used. And so, they should have understood. He looked at his disciples and said, Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But his disciples, in a stunning moment of incomprehension, they said, that’s good. If he sleeps, he’ll get better. Sick people should take lots of naps. That’s awesome. Which is crazy because they know that, like, people have come a long distance to get to Jesus and tell him this, and the idea that they traveled a long distance to say, good news, Lazarus is taking a nap. Like, that’s insane. And I don’t know if Jesus ever, like, it a palm slap but if he ever did, this was the moment he goes, oh, my goodness. And in John 11, says that he told them plainly, same word, he told them plainly, Lazarus has died. The problem wasn’t with what Jesus had to say, the problem is that they lacked perspective to understand it. Perspective matters, right? Perspective either allows us to see the truth of something to really understand what is said or perspective keeps us from having that.
A couple of months ago, I was scrolling through something, maybe on Facebook and I came across this picture and, like, it messed with my head. It probably took me 15 minutes of looking at this thing to try to figure out what it was. It was especially true on a small screen, but I think, I think I have a picture. Can we pop this up? Okay. Now, yeah, I love it. Like, wait, what is happening? And some of you are like, it’s a dog. It’s a dog with his head turned sideways. If everybody goes like this, some of you already doing it. You’ll, like, see it, right? There’s his ear over there. How many of you can see the dog? How many of you cannot see the dog? Okay. How many of you had this experience? You looked at it and you’re like, what is wrong? And then something in your brain clicked on, you’re like, oh. How many of you…it, like, it just took a second but it kind of clicked in. Yeah. So that’s about perspective. And perspective isn’t always…we can go and get rid of that, it’s gonna mess people up. If you can’t see it yet, search on the internet, like messed up dog, or something like that and you’ll come across it, you can stare at it as long as you need until that clicks in. But see, perspective isn’t always just about where we’re standing. Sometimes it’s about something that’s inside us that until it kind of clicks into place, we can’t see the reality of something thing and that’s kind of what Jesus is getting at.
He’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, a little sarcastically going, there’s a day coming or something’s going to happen. There’s an hour coming or something’s gonna come to you that’s gonna give you the perspective so that you’re no longer going to think that I’m speaking figuratively, you’re gonna be able to understand what it is that I’m saying. And what we’ve seen consistently throughout the section, the Gospel of John is that, when he talks about something that’s coming, an hour that’s coming, he’s talking about the arrival of the what? Of the Holy Spirit, he’s talking about the arrival of the Holy Spirit and when the Holy Spirit comes, he gives us the perspective, what he’s told us is, he’ll remind you what I said but he also said, the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth. Which isn’t just new information, but it’s even the ability to understand the significance of what Jesus has already said. He’s gonna give perspective and that’s the first promise that Jesus says, is that faith in Jesus gives us perspective through the Holy Spirit. Faith in Jesus gives us perspective through the Holy Spirit. To understand what he said, to understand what it means, just recently, I had this experience where I had suddenly a new perspective on what Jesus had said.
I was struggling with something, I’m feeling pretty anxious about it. And I was lying in bed at night and I wasn’t sleeping because I was thinking about this thing and I was feeling anxious. And I remembered I think the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the words of Jesus where he said, Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And I have always thought, oh, yeah. I know that’s true. I mean, I know the opposite is true as well. You can, you can definitely decrease the hours of your life by worry. But in that moment while I was lying in bed, the Holy Spirit, there’s something that clicked and I went, oh, that’s right. I can’t fix the situation right now. I probably can’t fix it. I’m not sure I can fix it at all. This really is in God’s hands. And so, I just need to go, Jesus, this is yours. Which is not radical truth. I mean, it’s contained right there on the words, who have you by worrying can add a single hour? But in that moment, the Holy Spirit gave me perspective on what it looked like to take hold of that and to use it in a way that really made a difference in my life and I was able to go to sleep. And I’ve been able to set that thing aside in his hands. That’s the kind of thing that he’s talking about. When Holy Spirit comes, he gives perspective. That’s the first promise. We have perspective. It’s also perspective to look at our own circumstances differently.
Soon as we look at our circumstances we go, well, I wouldn’t be in this circumstance if God really loved me. If God really loved me, he wouldn’t allow me to go through this. He’d keep me away from this. And sometimes what the Holy Spirit does, it goes, no, no. God actually is allowing you to go through this because it’s crafting you, it’s molding you, it’s shaping you, it’s growing you into a man or a woman of God that you could never be apart from this experience. And that’s a really good thing. And when we begin to see that the truth of God’s word, that he works in the midst of all things, bringing good, you hear that? He works in the midst of all things bringing good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. We begin to look at our circumstance and we begin to see what it is that God’s doing in us and we go, I don’t like this, but I like that. I don’t like the circumstances but I like what it’s producing in me. I like what God’s doing in me. And it gives us perspective on our circumstances. That’s the first promise. Faith in Jesus gives us perspective through the Holy Spirit. And then he says, In that day, that day when the Holy Spirit comes, you will ask in my name, you’ll ask as a representative, you’ll begin to pray for things that really truly honor me and push and extend my influence in the world.
And that day when the Holy Spirit comes, you’ll ask in my name as my representatives. And then he says this, he says, listen, I’m not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. Don’t get me wrong. No, no, no, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. He says, On the day the Holy Spirit comes, you’re gonna begin to pray more effectively. You gonna praying for things that really represent me. But understand, he says, I’m not saying that on that day, you’re gonna pray and I’m gonna take your prayers and go, these are pretty good prayers, and I want to take them my father. He says, no, no. You’re gonna be able to pray directly to the Father. Because the Father’s love for you is direct because you have loved me because you’re in me. God loves you directly, and you have direct access to him too. Your prayers go straight to him. You don’t need a priest. You don’t need a pastor. You don’t need an intermediary. You have direct access to God. That’s the second promise, he says, faith in Jesus gives us direct access to God.
And if you think about that for a minute, that is mind-blowing, isn’t it? I mean, understand, we’re talking about the God who flung the stars across the heavens. Who has power so vast we can’t even understand the outside edges of it. We have direct access to him. I mean, do this, think about the most powerful person that you can imagine. Think about a real person, most powerful person and then imagine that person gave you their cell phone number. You’d be pretty blown away by that, wouldn’t you? Not necessary a hugely powerful person, but several years ago I kind of became aware of a Christian leader out in San Diego, his name is Larry Osborne, written a number of influential books that God used in my life. I’ve heard him at conferences and God’s consistently used him to help me sort of grow and be shaped as a leader. And a few years ago, by the grace of God, I had a chance to meet him and he did the most amazing thing, he actually gave me his cell phone number. And I remember for, like, the longest time…like I would show it to people, like, Look, I got Larry Osborne’s phone number. It’s like, I can’t believe he would do that? And I didn’t wanna like, test it. I didn’t wanna test whether he’d respond but one time I actually did have a question, I thought, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna text him.
So I texted him a message and then I…you ever do this? You’re like, I wonder if they’re ever gonna write back. I’m looking for those little dot, dot, dots, you know, and it wasn’t happening. And then all of a sudden, the phone rang and I realized that it was him. He actually just directly called me and said, Your question is too complicated. We can’t text. Let’s just talk about it. The whole time, I was like, I’m talking to Larry Osborne. Larry, I don’t know if you’re listening right now. But like, I was kind of blown away by having access to Larry Osborne and Larry, I love you but you ain’t nothing compared to God Almighty, right? And yet Jesus says that faith in Him gives us direct access to God Almighty. That’s an unbelievable truth. It should be incredibly encouraging. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have direct access to God Almighty and all of his resources, his love, and his power, it’s all available to you. And you don’t need a pastor, you don’t need a priest, you have direct access. This is an amazing reality. Jesus says, I came from the Father and I entered the world, but now I’m leaving the world and I’m going back to the Father. And Jesus’ disciples said, Well, now, finally now you’re speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.
Do you now believe? Jesus responded and there’s definitely some sarcasm there. Actually, in the Greek, the the word, now was front-loaded which gives it a pretty strong emphasis but he basically goes is, now, you believe? There’s some sarcasm there, understand what the disciples are doing is they’re kind of respond to what he said earlier. He said, you know, there’s a day coming when I’m not gonna speak figuratively. I’m gonna speak plainly. And they kind of got that it wasn’t so much about what he was saying but about their perspective and their inability to get it. So now, they’re going, hey we’re fine. We’re good. The hour has come. Like, we get it now, we understand, we understand you’re from God. Which is interesting because that’s not anything new. He’s already told them that he’s from God. They’ve seen that over and over again. But now they’re going, We get it. Now we get it. There’s nothing wrong with us. We have the right perspective. And Jesus goes, Oh, you do, do you?
And there’s sarcasm because what he realizes that they don’t, as much as they want to claim they have the right perspective, the Holy Spirit hasn’t come yet, so they don’t. Without the Holy Spirit, our understanding will always be incomplete, do you hear me? Without the Holy Spirit, our understanding will always be incomplete. Maybe we’ll have an intellectual knowledge. We’ll have a belief that there’ll often be a gap between our belief and our behavior, between what we know to be true and what we actually show to be true in our lives. And so, he says this, he says, you’re not there yet because, verse 32, a time is coming and in fact, that hour is now, it has come. You think an hour has come and you’ll see clearly, now you don’t. But an hour is coming and has now come when you will be scattered each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. And he’s talking literally, within a few hours, they’ll arrest Jesus. He’ll be beaten. He’ll be crucified. He’ll be buried. And while that’s happening, his disciples ran. They scattered. The bravest of them, Peter, you may know the story, he tried to stay, at least to kind of the outside edges but he kind of tried to stay, you know, incognito. And when people recognized him and said, why aren’t you with me? He said, no, that’s not true.
The third time, he cussed a girl out. Said, I don’t know him. Shut the beep up, leave me alone. It’s a rough translation to Greek, trust me. Even the bravest of them said he didn’t even know who Jesus was. And so, what Jesus says happened literally, he said, you’re scattered. You don’t really know. You might have a belief about who I am but you’re not able to translate that into behavior. There’s a big gap between the two. But what’s interesting is that not long after this, the gap disappeared. Not long after this, the people who ran when they first arrested Jesus not long after this, these people said, no, no, we’re following Jesus no matter what. We’re gonna speak the truth about who he is no matter what. Even if you have to kill us. And most of them died martyr’s deaths, most of them refused to recant. They refused to turn away from their faith, even though meant their deaths. And so, he asked the question, what happened? What changed? And you might go, well it was the resurrection. And I think that’s partly true. The resurrection of Jesus certainly cemented their knowledge. But on some level, the resurrection was just another piece of information. It was another confirmation of what they knew to be true.
And I don’t think the radical change in their behavior was because they got new information or new confirmation. The real change in their behavior was the arrival of the what? It’s the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And the Holy Spirit gave them the courage to live out what they believed, and that’s the third promise. Faith in Jesus gives us courage through the Holy Spirit, courage through the Holy Spirit to not just know in our heads or even in our hearts, but to actually live it out consistently even though there’s a cost associated with it in the world. The Holy Spirit gives us courage. And faith in Jesus gives us access to that courage because of the Holy Spirit comes and begins to pour that into our lives.
Jesus says, you all leave me alone. But then he says this, he says, yet I am not alone for my Father is with me. Since everybody might abandon me, all of you might betray me, ultimately. But I’m never alone because the Father is with me. And what’s significant to me is, that’s not just true of Jesus, do you understand? That’s also true of us as the followers of Jesus. Because the Father who never abandoned Jesus, the Father who never left him alone, even though when everybody else left, that same Father is the Father who loves us that we have direct access to. Because of our faith in Jesus, what’s true of Jesus is also true of us. That’s the fourth promise that faith in Jesus gives us confidence that God will never abandon us.
Do you know that? Do you know that no matter what the world does, no matter how alone the world leaves you, no matter how much you’re abandoned or even betrayed by the people that you trusted the most, God will never abandon you. In the Old Testament and then in the New multiple times, he says, I will never leave you, I’ll never forsake you. In the first time he said it, in the Old Testament, actually, he used a bunch of nevers, he said, I’ll never, never leave you. I’ll never, never, never forsake you. Five nevers. And if God says something one time, you understand that it’s true, right? If he says it five times, that’s not to make it more true. It’s to make sure that it drives deep into our hearts, that we grab ahold of that reality. Faith in Jesus gives us confidence that God will never abandon us.
And then verse 33 he says, I’ve told you these things so that in me, you may have…What’s that word? Peace. In this world, you will have trouble. We’ve seen that over and over again in this series, right? We said, in this life, difficulty’s inevitable. But despair is optional. Despair is optional. It’s possible to have peace, even in the midst of difficult circumstances when we know this, he says, but take heart. I have overcome the world.
In this world, you’ll have difficulty, but I have overcome the world. And in Christ, everything that’s true of him becomes true of us. Which means this, and this is the fifth promise that faith in Jesus gives us peace, not the absence of difficulty, but the possibility of peace, because in Him, we have overcome the world. It’s the fifth promise. Faith in Jesus gives us peace because in Him, we have overcome the world. That no matter what you’re facing, you’re in the process of overcoming it, that victory is certain. The coming out on the other side of it into hope and to joy is guaranteed.
There’s no necessarily…no promise of what that’s gonna look like or how long it may take or how difficult it might be. But there is the promise and it is an absolute guarantee that you will come out on the other side of it victorious because as Christ has overcome the world, so too have we in him. And that makes a huge difference in the way we face things, doesn’t it? You know, when I traveled to India, getting to India is hard. It’s a long way away. And I’m gonna be honest, I wasn’t, like, super positive about the travel schedule because it involved, like, an 11-hour flight and then an eight-hour flight and then, like, two or three two-hour flights with layovers. And I knew when I got to the end of it, like, they had me scheduled to teach for, like, six hours a day most days and I was gonna eat Indian food, which I like, I like Indian food. I like curry but there’s also a lot of curry, like, every, like breakfast rice like, oh, there’s curry. That’s, yeah.
And I kind of knew that and because I knew what was on the other side of it, I’ll be honest, the travel was all the more difficult because it’s like, oh my gosh. It’s a long flight and the seat doesn’t go back. And that person behind me smells. It’s one of our team, so it’s okay. It’s okay. Sorry, guys. It was a long, hard journey. Coming back, it was actually longer. Twenty-two and a half hours in actual planes. Fourteen hours layovers in airports. That’s like 36 hours of travel. It was way worse coming back and I was way happier. Like, I handled it so much better. So much more positive and upbeat, you know why? Because I was going home and there wasn’t gonna be any curry anymore.
I was gonna have a steak. See, knowing what’s on the other side of it really changes the way we go through the thing itself, maybe things difficult, but you face it a completely different way when you know the victory that’s on the other side, right? That’s just a simple example. But you understand that is what Jesus is saying, he says, take peace, have peace, because I have overcome the world and in Him, we have also overcome them. No matter what you’re facing,
You can face it with peace with that comes from the reality of knowing that on the other side of it, there is victory, there is joy, there’s hope. Five incredible promises. Which one of those most speaks to your heart today? Number one, faith in Jesus gives us perspective through the Holy Spirit. Do you need to see your circumstances as God sees them? Do you need to see a truth of God in a new and more powerful and more applicable way in your life, you can have that. Number two, faith in Jesus gives us direct access to God. Is that the one that gives you encouragement, whatever you’re facing today? That you don’t face it alone, you face it with direct access to God Almighty.
Or number three, faith in Jesus gives us courage. Maybe, like, I get it, I see it but I just don’t know if I can live it out. But you can because faith in Jesus gives you courage through the Holy Spirit. You just need to ask him. Faith in Jesus gives you confidence that God will never abandon you. Maybe you’re facing abandonment, maybe you’re facing discouragement comes because the people you felt like you could count on, they’re gone. They’re not there when you most needed them. But God is, do you hear me? God is.
Or fifth, faith in Jesus gives us peace because we know that no matter what we face, we have overcome the world. That you, no matter what you’re facing, you’re an overcomer in process. Which one of those speaks to you most right now? Let me encourage, maybe wrestle with this question. Just to push into a little bit, first one is just this, do I most need perspective or do I need courage? Which of those gifts of the Holy Spirit do you most need right now? Ask him for it. Ask him the ability to understand or the ability to live with courage.
Or maybe this question, what challenge am I facing? What challenges do I need to be reminded that I am an overcomer in process? If you have faith in Jesus, you are an overcomer in process. Your victory is assured. I can’t tell you what its gonna look like. I can’t tell you what the road to get there is gonna look like or how long it’s gonna take. But I can tell you that the other side of that is victory because in Christ you are overcomers. And what challenge are you facing do you most need to be reminded that? Can I pray for you? Would you join me?
God, we thank you for these powerful truths. Would you push them deep into our hearts? To give us confidence that comes from knowing that we have this direct access to a God who never abandons us. Would you give us the peace that comes from knowing that we are overcomers in process? Because we are in Christ who has overcome the world. Give us courage to live out that and the hope to drive us forward, to draw us forward through all the difficulties that we face. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor? Would you begin praying for the people around you? People listening online that may not know Jesus, because I want to speak to you for a moment. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, if you know you don’t have a relationship with God. My hope is, my prayer has been that one of these five truths, it just rung out to you and you’re going, I need that. I want that so badly. I wish that were true of me. And I want you to know that it can be true of you today right now. God longs to make these things true. He loves you so much. He sent his own Son to die, so that to pay for the penalty of your sin. That’s why Jesus went to the cross. But he didn’t stay on the cross. He didn’t stay in the grave. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he’s now offering you new life, forgiveness, hope, and he’s offering you these five promises we’ve talked about that can be true in your life today if you will just put your trust in him. And if you’re ready to say yes to Jesus, to put your trust in him, if you’re ready to make that decision, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. Fantastic. If you’re watching online, just click the button right below me. And wherever you are, just say this to Jesus in your own heart, say, Jesus, I know I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve these promises. I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I believe that you died to make it possible. Thank you.
I know that you rose from the dead and that you’re offering me forgiveness and new life, and hope. So, right now I’m ready to receive them. Right now I’m ready to say yes to you. Right now I’m putting my faith, my trust in you, nothing else, just you. Jesus, come into my life. I’m yours. And you’re my Savior, for now and forever, Amen. Can we just welcome those who made the decision to come into the family of God today, it’s so awesome.