Second Reformed Church

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Peace" Sermon: John 14:25-31

[John 14:25-31]
February 12, 2017 Second Reformed Church
            The Eleven are anxious.  Opposition to Jesus is building.  Jesus tells them that He is leaving – that He is going to be put to death and return to the Father.  Jesus sends Judas off to betray Him.  And now Jesus brings His teaching of the Eleven to a close, bidding them shalom – peace – farewell, as He consoles them again.
            And Jesus promises them that the Holy Spirit will give them perfect recall of everything He said.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Jesus explains that He taught the Eleven everything He could during His life on earth, but now He was leaving – now, He would not be teaching them directly – in the flesh – as their rabbi, any more.
Rather, the Holy Spirit – the indwelling Person of God Himself – Who we saw forever resides in the believer – will teach them all things and remind them of everything that Jesus said.
What does this mean?
What is this promise that the Holy Spirit will teach them “all things”?  Does that mean that the Holy Spirit will teach the Eleven nuclear physics, how to invest on Wall Street, and five steps to a perfect marriage?  No.
What Jesus is promising is that God the Holy Spirit will perfectly recall and teach them everything that Jesus taught while on earth.  That is how we have our Bible – the Holy Spirit guided men and gave them perfect recollection – even of things they didn’t hear or see – so it could be written down for us.
Peter explains:
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21, ESV).
The Holy Spirit superintended – He watched over – the writing down of everything we have in the Bible so it is inerrant and infallible.  There are no errors of fact, and since it is the Word of God, it cannot have errors of fact.
Now, we need to understand, God did not dictate what to write.  Although the Holy Spirit brought to mind everything that was to be written, the human authors wrote what the Holy Spirit taught in their own languages and grammar and according to their own literary skill.
We also need to understand that this is not a promise to us that God will give us new information or speak to us in the way that God did in making sure everything we needed to know for faith and salvation was included in the Scripture.
No, God speaks to us in and through His Word, but nothing new is added to it.  Those people who claim new revelations from God today are either misled, liars, or demon-possessed.
Now, the Holy Spirit works in and through us as we read the Scripture, and hear it read and preached.  He helps us to understand and apply what God has said to us.  And the Holy Spirit will bring Scripture to our mind as we need it – but He will only do that with Scripture we have read and heard.  The Holy Spirit will not cause a Scripture we never read or heard to come to mind.  We must spend time in God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand, apply, and remember what God has said.
So, the promise to the Eleven was that God would supply them with the infallible and inerrant Word that they would write for all future believers – even those things that they had no knowledge of.
It would be like one of your kids writing down, in their own words and style, but perfectly accurately, everything that you said and did on your first date with your spouse.
What we have through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit is guidance regarding all that we know of the Scripture.  But He will not remind us or explain to us something we have never heard or read.
After promising this, Jesus promises His peace to the Eleven.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
In America, when we say we want peace, we often mean that we want to be healthy, wealthy, wise, fat, and comfy.  Even “world peace” is really something we want for ourselves, not the world.
That is not what Jesus is talking about.
The word that Jesus uses means, “farewell.”  Jesus is comparing His farewell to the Eleven with the farewell the world gives.
The farewell that Jesus bids the Eleven is one of cheer and joy.  Jesus is saying farewell to them for their good and the good of all those who will ever believe.  Jesus’ farewell secures for them – and all we who believe – something real and eternal.
Jesus is bidding them the truth of what the author of Hebrews writes:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
The author of Hebrews calls on the believers who are considering going back to Judaism to avoid the persecution of the Romans to look at all those who have died believing – the witnesses to the Truth and the Glory of the Gospel around them – and as they take in those witnesses, to throw aside all those worries about what will happen to them if they profess Christ before the “wrong” person.  Look at our brothers and sisters who are being burned and beheaded in the Middle East because they refuse to betray and deny Jesus!
The author of Hebrews tells his readers to run the race that God has ordained for them – to press forward – striving to be the men and women that God has called them to be – looking to Jesus – Who is the all-in-all of our faith – look at Him – take in what He did – and why – see that He endured public humiliation, torture, and execution – why?  Why should we?  For the joy that was set before Him – that He was accomplishing the Gospel, which would save the people His Father gave to Him, bring them into His Kingdom, and He would ascend back to the Right Hand of the Father in power and glory.
Jesus tells the Eleven that He is bidding them farewell to bring about the greatest Good News that is possible – His people will be reconciled to God eternally through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Unlike the world, that says, “farewell,” and leaves you alone – abandoned – without help or hope, Jesus says “farewell” to save His people and indwell them with God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus leaves to make everything right.  Jesus leaves that He would be filled with joy and that we would be filled with joy – despite the valley of death we travel till the Day of Christ Jesus.
Jesus’ farewell is the joy of knowing and receiving Jesus’ finished work
Then, Jesus explains that they will understand and believe.
 “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”
Jesus explains to the Eleven – and the other disciples – that He would be leaving, and that made them worry and fret about what would happen to them and whether they had understood Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus gently rebukes them and tells them that if they loved Him they would rejoice that He was going to complete His work and return to His throne at the Right Hand of the Father.  If they loved Him, they would be filled with joy that He was returning to the Father to Whom He submitted to all of His life, having done everything that the Father commanded.
And Jesus tells them that He told them all the things that He did – not to worry them – but so they would be prepared for when it happened, and so that when it happened, they would believe that Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God and Savior, just as He has said all along.
The Eleven believe, but they do not have the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit yet.  Their belief is clouded, and they don’t understand what Jesus is saying as they will after His work is done and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given to them.
And so, we believe – and God the Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us to understand and believe all that God has said.  God has given us much to do in His Word, but He has not seen fit to spell out the future to us except in general terms:  Christians will be persecuted, and Jesus will return to judge the world and restore the Creation.  Because of what we know to be true about Jesus and His Gospel, we believe that whatever God would have for us is necessary and good – and we will be filled with joy as we are received into His kingdom.
Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18, ESV).
Remember, that does not mean we are to enjoy suffering.  It doesn’t mean we should seek out suffering.
What it means is – even if the absolute worst happens to us on earth – when Jesus is revealed to us at His return, we will understand, and we will be filled with joy.  We will be utterly convinced of the rightness and goodness of all that God has planned.
Consider the wisdom in these words by the hymn-writer, William Cowper:
    God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
   Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.

    Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.

    Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
Finally, Jesus says He is submitting to the ruler of this world for the Father’s sake.
“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”
Jesus tells the Eleven that He is almost done teaching them – Judas, the priests, the Pharisees, and the Roman guards are on their way to take Jesus.  These deceived, unbelievers are following the ruler of the world – that is, the devil.
It is important for us to understand that God and the devil are not two equal powers fighting against each other.  God is the One Sovereign over all of Creation – including the devil.  The devil and his demons are on a leash and can only do what God permits them to do.  The devil is a defeated, rebellious creature, whom God allowed to deceived the nations until the coming of Jesus – and God will allow him to roam free for a moment before Jesus return – in the devil’s arrogance, he will bring his armies against believers, only to be suddenly defeated by our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is the God of all Creation.  The devil is the ruler of the world only in the sense that God allows him to work his deceit for certain times and reasons.  But the devil has no authority – he is a powerful being – but he is a creature under the control of God.
And Jesus makes it clear that the devil has no claim on Him.  The devil has no authority to take anyone – the devil is not the ruler of Hell – as Hollywood would have us believe – the devil is one of those beings who will be eternally cast into the torment of Hell for his rebellion against God.
In fact, Jesus tells the Eleven that the devil is leading these people against Him and putting Him to death to accomplish the Father’s purpose!  The ignorant, prideful devil thought he was ruining God’s salvation of His people, but he was accomplishing the very plan that God had ordained.
As Peter preaches, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22-24, ESV).
God used the devil to accomplish His purposes.  Jesus submitted to the Will of the Father – as He always did, and allowed sinful men to put Him to death.  And thus Jesus proved His love of the Father by obeying Him even to death on the cross.
The devil is restrained, but God still allows him and his followers to deceive to whatever degree God sees fit.  The devil is not on the loose, but bound, though God still allows him to do evil, as it fits God’s plan.
Our eyes are to be fixed on God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as we walk through this tribulation, looking forward to the joy beyond belief that will be ours in the Kingdom.  God has given us the Creation to enjoy, even in its fallenness.  And God has given us His Perfect Word to teach us and comfort us.
Shall we show our love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  Will we run the race in faith, trusting God, obeying all that He has said, turning to Him, knowing that He has given us His Peace?
Not just the farewell of Jesus, but the promise of which Paul writes:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7, ESV).
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that Your Son’s “farewell,” was not one of desertion, but of confidence, trust, victory, and hope.  Help us to look at the world around us and see Your Sovereign Hand at work.  Keep us from being anxious about the evil in the world, but follow after You steadfast in faith and obedience, that our joy would be full and Your peace would guard us in Christ.  Come, Lord Jesus.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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