From the Pastor's Desk 

Jesus the Conqueror

12-10-17

 

            Let's pray.

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            Last week, we talked about joy.  Joy is not a uniquely Christmas word or ideal, but it seems to get used a lot more around this time of year.  That's in so small part to the popularity of the song "Joy to the World."  We defined joy as "a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world."

            Joy is a feeling; it is an emotion.  It is not something that we can produce or manufacture on our own.  True Christian joy is not dependent upon outward circumstances or pleasant situations.  True joy is produced by the Holy Spirit working in and through our lives regardless of what we're experiencing in life. 

            Joy is part of Christ's focus as He spends His final night with His remaining disciples.  The imminent death of Jesus would bring joy to the world at the same time that it was bringing grief to the disciples.  The world's joy wouldn't last long, however.  The world's joy would soon turn to dismay, at the same time that the grief of the disciples was turning to joy.  The dark shadows of sorrow and grief cast by the cross fled before the brilliant, glorious light of the resurrection.  The Spirit would come and illuminate truth to them and help the disciples develop a proper perspective towards the cross, making it an unending source of joy for them.

            As we slowly work our way through the gospel of John, we are getting closer and closer to the account of His death and resurrection.  As that event approaches, Jesus gives more and more last minute instruction and teaching to His closest earthly companions.  One of the most important truths that He's trying to communicate to these men concerns the work of the Holy Spirit.

            Their hearts were heavy with grief and they were having trouble understanding all of what Jesus was saying to them.  But one day, and it wouldn't be too much farther down the road, the Spirit would come, the Counselor, the Helper, and He would give them comfort; He would guide them into all truth; He would help them understand what is going on and give them guidance and direction for their lives and ministries.

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            This morning, we're going to finish John chapter 16 before we take a few weeks off from our series on this gospel and do some Christmas and New Year's stuff.  Let's now read John 16:25-33. 

            Throughout much of His ministry, Jesus used figures of speech and metaphors and parables to teach the disciples and the crowds.  There were many times when the disciples would ask Him to explain something because they didn't understand what He was talking about.  He wouldn't give the crowds detailed explanations, but He would give the disciples special insight.

            We see that especially during His time with the disciples on the night before the cross, He used a lot of figurative speech.  He spoke that way when He washed the disciples' feet.  John 13:7-11.  He didn't come right out here and tell them in plain language what He was doing and why.  It wouldn't be until later that they would understand.

            He spoke figuratively when speaking of the way to the FatherJohn 14:3-6.  He told the disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them and that they knew the way to where He was going.  Thomas speaks up and said, "No we don't."  That's when He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me."  At the time, that no doubt sounded like gibberish to these men.

            Then when we get around to chapter 15, He speaks figuratively about the vine and the branches.  Then just last week, we actually looked at two different aspects of Jesus using figurative speech to explain something to these men.  He said that in a little while they would no longer see Him and then in a little while they would see Him.  He also compared their sorrow to a woman giving birthJohn 16:21.  The point that Jesus is making in today's passage is that yes He had spoken to them in the past using figurative language.  But the time was soon coming for plain speech.

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            Then Jesus goes on to once again refer to prayer.  (vv. 26-28).   After His death, resurrection and exaltation, the disciples would no longer have access to His physical presence.  Up to that time, they were able to ask Jesus whatever they wanted face to face, but that was going to change.  That didn't mean, however, that they would no longer be able to access the Father; it only meant that the relationship was going to be different.

            Those men no longer having direct physical access to Jesus was not a loss for them.  That's because they would have direct access to the Father.  They would not need Jesus to ask the Father on their behalf.  That doesn't mean that Jesus was no longer going to intercede for the disciples.  He intercedes for all believers.  But He's telling them that they were not going to rely solely on Him praying for them, they were going to have to and they were going to be able to pray themselves.

            This was all based on love.  Jesus tells them that the Father loved those men and He loves us, because we love Jesus and believe that He came from God.  Loving Jesus is like loving the Father; those two things go hand in hand.  Because they loved Him and believed in Him, the Father also loved them.

            Belief is a key aspect to our spiritual lives.  But we just can't believe.  James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe and they shudder.  The demons obviously don't have a saving kind of belief, so the kind of belief that Jesus is talking about goes much deeper than that.  We need to have saving belief in who Jesus is.  We just can't have orthodox doctrine.  Knowing the facts and having all your "i's" dotted and "t's" crossed isn't going to get you to heaven.  Even the demons are orthodox in the sense of knowing and acknowledging truth about God.

            In fact, here are some doctrines that the demons would believe.  They are monotheists.  They know and believe there is one true God; they are aware that Scripture is God's Word; that Jesus Christ is God's Son; that salvation is by grace through faith; that Jesus died, was buried and raised to atone for the sins of the world.  They know there is a literal heaven and a literal hell.  They know the truth about God, Christ and the Spirit, but hate it and them.          

            Orthodox doctrine is better than heresy for it is true and points toward God and the way of salvation.  But mere assent to it as true cannot bring a person to God and to salvation.  Shudder means "to bristle and tremble."  It was commonly used of the trembling associated with great fear.  Demons at least have the sense to shudder at God's truth in a state of fear; for they know that eternal torment awaits them in hell.  In that regard they are much more realistic and sensible than those with false faith who think they will escape God's judgment by their shallow and superficial faith.

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            Hearing Jesus speak this way, the disciples liked what they heard(vv. 29-30).  They believed that Jesus' promise to speak plainly to them had already been fulfilled.  As far as they were concerned, there was no more need to ask Jesus anything to test His knowledge or to determine who He was.

            Jesus' response to their statement was far from enthusiastic.  He basically asks:  Do you now believe?  Their belief was shallow at best and needed to be questioned.  Whatever the nature of their belief, it was not enough to sustain them in the time of crises that was about to overtake them.

            Again, we come back to what we just talked about concerning belief.  That's the fundamental point in Jesus' message:  people must believe in Him.  We really don't know what kind of belief we have until we get into difficult situations and times of crises.  When our backs are against the wall, how will we respond?  When the chips are down, what are we going to do?  When things don't go our way, how are we going to react?

            Someone who has shallow, superficial belief in God doesn't do well at all during the tough times of life.  They respond with anger and resentment and bitterness.  They attack God and blame Him for their troubles; they attack other godly people and try to bring them down as well.  They may even end up leaving the church and abandoning their so-called faith.  Those types of reactions are evidence that someone doesn't truly know the Lord. 

            If we are truly born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, we will respond differently.  When life hits rock bottom, Christ's light still shines from within us.  That light shines through as we humble ourselves in confession and repentance for our sins.  A godly person will look inside during the tough times to make sure their mind and attitudes and motives are right with God.  They will examine their heart to make sure they are right with one another. 

            But you don't have to wait until life is falling apart in order to make sure you are right with God.  Today is the day of salvation; now is the time for us to respond to God's working and to His prompting in our life.  If there are professions you need to make; if there are decisions you need to share, now is the time, today is the day and this is the place to do that.  Don't delay, you don't know how much time you have to respond to what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life.

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            Jesus reveals to them just how shallow their belief at that point was by giving them a glimpse into how they were about to respond to events.  (vv. 31-32).  He tells them that they would all scatter to their own homes and leave Him alone.  No doubt they didn't want to hear that; no doubt they didn't believe it.  But at this point, they didn't respond or defend themselves in any way.  Even though Jesus was going to be deserted by His disciples, the Father would stand by Him through all His trials.

            Of course, it's true that when Jesus was hanging on the cross, taking upon Himself all of the sins of all of mankind, it says that the Father turned His back on His one and only Son.  Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have your forsaken Me?"  God had to turn His face from sin at that moment.  But other than that, God was with Jesus through all of His trials, through everything else that He endured during that night and day.  And Now Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us.

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            Jesus is the ultimate conqueror(v. 33).  He has overcome, conquered and defeated the power of darkness and all of the work of the enemy through His death and resurrection.  He also showed through the way He lived His life that He has power over everyone and everything else.  He healed people of physical illnesses; He drove out demons; and controlled and ruled the forces of nature.  Jesus makes this claim here in verse 33 as though it has already happened because He knew that it was as good as done because the Father willed it.

            This is another in a long list of exhortations that Jesus is giving His disciples in order to help them cope with the problems and difficulties they were soon going to be facing.  The disciples were full of grief and sorrow already, and Jesus wanted to give them peace.  Peace in Christ is the only true peace and in Him alone believers can experience peace.  Micah 5:5.  Through Christ we have peace with God; peace with others and peace within ourselves.

            The peace that Jesus is talking about here is not peace with God, although that is important and Jesus does provide that for us through His death and resurrection.  It's also not a peace with our conscience, although He does provide that as well.  This is more a peace of mind; a quiet serene calm that comes from the fact that we know we won't be troubled and disturbed spiritually because nothing can trouble or disturb us spiritually.

            We can also look at peace this way:  it is the possession of adequate resources.  In Jesus Christ, we have all the resources that we need in life.  That can help give us some peace.  But peace also depends on appropriate relationships.  What that means is that in ourselves, we have nothing; in Christ, we have all that we need.

            We all desperately need peace in our lives because we live in a dual existence.  We are in Christ and we are in this world.  When we are in union with Jesus we are able to experience peace, but the world is constantly actively seeking to exert hostile pressure on us to conform to their ways.

            The world and the world system that we live in is always seeking to influence us away from the things of God.  Churches don't preach the truth because people might be offended by it.  So instead, they tickle ears and say things that people want to hear; they say things that are only positive and uplifting and encouraging, while ignoring any truth that offends.  That's why we don't speak out on social issues because someone's feelings might get hurt.  That's why we back off from speaking out against sin, because we don't want people to feel bad about themselves. 

            That is not the example that Jesus shows us; that is not the way that He preached.  He wasn't worried about being politically correct; He didn't back off from engaging social issues no matter how controversial they might have been; He didn't shrink back from calling out sin when He saw it.  He was always faithful to God's Word and to God's truth.  That is the only way that we can be today.  We need to be committed to God's Word and to God's truth.  We need to never back down from what God has to say about things; we should never apologize for speaking the truth in love; we should always deliver God's Word the way God wants His Word delivered.

            I guess it depends upon what our goal is as a church.  If our goal is to increase numbers, bring more people in and increase the offerings so we have plenty of money (we certainly do want more and more people to be coming to our church); but if that's our goal then we need to change what we're currently doing.  However, if our goal is to glorify God and to be faithful and true to the truth of His Word, we need to keep on doing exactly what we're doing and simply trust God to take care of the outcome and the results of His Word being faithfully and truthfully proclaimed.

            Our stated mission statement is to go and make disciples.  I think the biblical basis for our very existence as a church is to do all that we can to make disciples.  We are not called to change God's Word; we are not called to soften the message; we are not called to tickle people's ears to give them what they want to hear.  We are called to preach the truth; we are called to be bold in our proclamation of the gospel; we are called to present the gospel so people can be convicted of their sin and saved.

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            Because we have peace, because we have Jesus living and dwelling within us, we can be and we are over-comers.  We overcome because Jesus is the ultimate conqueror of all.  But as His children, we are also conquerors.  He has overcome; because of that we also can and will overcome.  That is an awesome promise that He gives to us here.  It's not just that overcoming is a possibility for our lives; it's that overcoming is a guarantee outcome for our lives.

            We overcome as soldiers, fighting under Christ, who is the captain of our salvation; His victory is our victory.  1 John 4:4; 5:4-5.  There was certainly a time when it appeared that Jesus was not victorious; that He hadn't overcome.  As He hung there on the cross, it looked like the world and Satan were the victors.  Where's the victory in dying on a tree?  Jesus overcame because all that were opposed to Him did not succeed in turning Him aside from what He came to do.  He came to reveal the truth about God and the human condition and to give His life that the world might be saved.

            We will and can overcome when we don't allow the world or the world system that we are living under, to deter us from the work God has called us to do.  We don't do the same thing that Jesus did, of course, but we still have a calling to fulfill and God's will to carry out in our lives.

            God has called us to love Him and follow Him wholeheartedly.  He wants us to love others as ourselves.  We can't hold feelings of bitterness or resentment or hatred in our hearts.  We need to forgive and reconcile when appropriate and possible as much as it is up to us.  We need to do our part to spread the good news of the gospel message.  We need to serve and minister to others whenever and wherever we have opportunity and resources to do so.  Let your light shine, that's what God wants from us.

            Don't let anyone or anything keep you from fulfilling God's call upon your life.  Don't let the world beat you into submission; don't let church bullies make you back down from what you know God wants you to do and from who know He wants you to be.  Don't let the government silence your voice of witness; don't let others you know make you back down from being a good witness for the Lord.

            Every believer is either overcome or an over-comer1 John 5:4.  The world wants to overcome us.  Satan uses the world to persecute and pressure believers into action and silence.  The world doesn't want us to be different from them.  When we yield ourselves to Christ and trust Him, He enables us to be over-comers.  We must claim our spiritual position in Christ and believe Him for victory.

            Be courageous He says.  Other translations say be of good cheer.  That is one of Christ's repeated statements of encouragement.  We can be of good cheer in our lives because we know that He has already overcome and is already victorious.  Since we belong to Him we can overcome and be victorious as well.  Make sure that you daily live your life with that truth firmly attached to your mind and fully being lived in through your heart.

            As our singers and musicians come now, I would like to ask you this:  are you overcome or are you an over-comer?  We invite you to start living like an over-comer.  If you need to make any profession this morning or share with us anything God is doing in your life, we invite you to do that now as we stand and sing.

            Prayer.