Thursday 6 January 2022

John 14

Last week, as we approached Christmas, I wrote about the mother of the One who Christmas is meant to be what we celebrate. This week, think of the baby Mary bore, Jesus Christ.

The passage I have chosen to write about this week contains words which are so relevant to Christian living and belief.     Jesus was speaking to His disciples shortly before going to the Cross, teaching and giving guidance, and that same teaching is passed down for the benefit of all Christians throughout the ages.

In what has become a largely heathen country, there will be many who may ask, who was Jesus, what would you answer?  I would say you should be asking me who Jesus IS?, for he is not dead. As a hymn states,

            I serve a risen Saviour, He's in the world today
                I  know that He is living, whatever men may say
Moving on to his life’s work, he performed all God had called for him to do, travelling preaching and healing many people who saw him make the blind see, the deaf hear, lepers were cured and the dead restored to life.

He preached that the Kingdom of God was coming when men would see the need for righteousness, and sought to free people from sinning. He taught that whilst much was offered for the future, God was still acting then. Many thought he was a prophet and ruler for Israel who would establish the nation as a strong power.  Some recognized the relationship with God and gave their lives to him.

On his journey he met his Apostles in what is known as the Upper Room for the ‘Last Supper’ with them, which we remember when we celebrate the service of Holy Communion in our Churches. Whilst there he told them he was going to leave them, which left them devastated, for their lives were lived around him. He called them his ‘little children’, like a father would do if leaving the family for a period.

Jesus is here telling His Apostles He was going to leave them for He was going on a journey He had to take alone.  The Apostles were devastated at the thought.  Perhaps you can imagine their feelings if you reflect on how people feel when a Minister they are happy with, suddenly tells them that he is moving to another Church.  This invariably causes sadness, unless there is a poor relationship.  I have experienced leaving on three occasions in ministry, and it is hard to disassociate oneself completely when there has been mutual happiness.

Jesus called on them to love one another, a fundamental principle of our faith, yet we find some awful failings to obey that command.

He told  them to ‘love one another’, He meant we should get along with each other.  We are not talking of physical love or even sentimental feelings, but rather fellowship, compassion, tolerance and loyalty.  We are not called upon to ‘like’ everybody, indeed, there are people in the Church you just couldn’t possibly like, they are so unlikeable. 

He was calling on them to stay together and be faithful to each other, something all Christians should show as an example to the world.  So often Christians are seen to be fighting with each other, due to some following a false line of teaching and not obeying Scripture, when they should be seen as a happy family.  This is a complete turn off to people who do not normally attend Church.

When non-Church people see Christians as a mixed gathering of different ages, different sexes, different backgrounds, getting on and being happy together, they will be inspired by us and respond, but if they see us as an arguing fractious lot, falling out all the time, they will justly say ‘look at those hypocritical Christians.’  .

Jesus was speaking to His disciples, teaching and giving guidance, and that same teaching is passed down for the benefit of all Christians throughout the ages.

Jesus said, ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’.  The heart is the seat of all our emotions, and when that is upset it affects thoughts and actions and causes personal disturbance. Jesus wanted to reassure them He was not forsaking them. He calls for trust in Himself as well as in God.  

 Since we are also disciples of Jesus, we can rightly include ourselves in words like this, we must ask ourselves, "Is it wrong for Christians to be troubled like this? Are we expected never to succumb to moments of pressure, or to feel anxious and worried? Are we supposed to be cheerful and confident all the time?" Many Christians think this is what this verse means. But they forget that Jesus himself was not immune to this kind of reaction to pressure.

Thus, it is clear that we may expect to feel troubled at times. Christians are exposed to pressure and danger. We have the record of the epistles to confirm this. The apostles went through times of great peril, during which they feared and trembled.

He told them they were to believe in Him, as well as God. Most people believe in God, but have less thought for Jesus.  He was putting Himself alongside God and wanted them to trust Him and maintain a personal relationship.

He said there were many rooms in His Father’s house, meaning heaven, and He was going to prepare a place for them.  This meant there was the prospect of living for ever with Him there.

When Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for them, this was referring to the fact He was going to the Cross to die for the forgiveness of sins for all people, and by that one death He was making it possible for them, and for all who through the ages would turn and accept him as Saviour to be forgiven of all sin.

This passage is widely quoted in funeral services when people wrongly assume that everyone is automatically going to heaven.  I have taken hundreds of funerals, and there has never been doubt in anyone’s mind that the deceased is going to heaven, irrespective of the life led, or never even thought of Jesus.  Nowhere in the Bible is this view upheld.  Jesus was very clear in His teaching that it certainly was not so. In parable after parable He spoke of two roads, of sheep and goats, of tares and wheat, of heaven and hell. Of people who accepted him, and those who did not, so determining their future eternal life.

Whilst it may be comforting to believe that we can all get to heaven regardless of one’s beliefs, and we like to please our fellow men and women, it is quite cruel to mislead if it is not true.  It is like telling a blind person standing on the sidewalk of a major road it is safe for him to cross when ready.  If we say to someone who has no Church commitment, has only a tenuous belief in Jesus Christ, never reads a Bible or prays, that they are going to Heaven we are deliberately misleading them

     In this passage before us He is talking to His followers, people who have made a personal commitment to accept Him as Saviour.  This is why it is so important for each person to make his/her own decision whether to follow Jesus in His teaching, commands and demands He makes on us.

It is easy to say I am a Christian, easy to say I read the Bible. 95% of the population today believe as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others, and do no harm, you are a fully-fledged Christian. Jesus speaks firmly and rather profoundly when He says not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so.

If you want to go to stay at a hotel in some foreign country, you invariably go to a travel agent, who arranges everything for you, and when you arrive at the hotel, they have a reservation waiting. You cannot just turn up because you think you are entitled to stay there without some preparation.

In v 4/5Jesus suggests that they know the way to the place where he was going.  When Jesus said this, Thomas asked Him how they could know when they didn’t know the way.  This brought forth from Jesus that profound immortal statement, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’

In verse 6 Jesus makes a profound statement which goes to the heart of Christian faith and belief. He states He is the only way to God. This is not generally liked, as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and to be judgmental is not liked.  Consequently, some clergy will not quote it, whilst others just will not accept it.  Frankly, I think if any man/woman does not accept this verse, then they should not be allowed to preach, for they are betraying the Lord who said it, and the Church which they serve.

Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it.  Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord, and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him.  The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that challenge Holy Scripture. 

God is present in Jesus as part of the human scene. God wants to bless all people and save them, but God’s salvation brings judgement, and all will one day face this, for God has appointed Jesus to be the judge.  He warns those who do not do his will face the possibility of eternal loss.

The temptation for us, as Christians, is to say what makes us popular.  Too many preachers have forgotten about being authentic; about being true to the Gospel we have been entrusted with by our Lord; to be true to our values, and to proclaim them without embarrassment and fear. 

The Bible tells us we must contend for the faith once given to Christians.  The faith once given means the faith that which was given by the Apostles, who had been taught by Jesus and which was blessed by He came to love, heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon

    What exactly does Jesus mean when he says, we can only come to the Father through Him alone.  Some time ago I went to Birmingham and had to find an address.  I asked a man passing if he could tell me the way and he answered, ‘it is pretty difficult for you to get there on your own, but I am going that way and could take you’.  He got into my car and we went directly there.  That is what Jesus does for us.  He says you can’t get there on your own but I will direct you, guide you, and take you myself.  He is saying there is no other way.  This is an exclusive offer.

    Jesus spent His entire ministry telling that we are separated from God through sin and only He could obtain forgiveness for us, so we have to make a choice whether to follow Him or face the consequences.

 The common belief these days is that all religions lead to God, which Christians cannot accept.  No other faith had a man who died on a Cross to grant universal forgiveness, no other faith had a man who rose from the dead.  

Jesus said He was the truth.  If a person is to teach moral truth that person’s character must be worthy.  It is not enough to just say the words, one’s life must exemplify morality.  This is why it is so wrong that the Church is condoning immoral action, and appointing homosexual bishops, when the Bible does not approve of such conduct. This does not mean we discount people, but rather seek to preach that which Scripture states.  Only Jesus can claim moral perfection, which is why He can say ‘I am the truth’.

   Jesus claims exclusive way to God, and since we are totally dependent upon Him for the understanding of truth and for eternal life, it naturally follows that no one can come to the Father other than by and through Him.

    The Church in general in its desire to be nice and friendly to all, with a craving to please society in general, has sought to promote not only a soft line on salvation and judgement, but to seek a close dialogue with other faiths.   

 I cannot understand how we can share in multi-faith worship and maintain Biblical integrity.     Whilst I believe we should respect other faiths and try to live amicably with them, in view of the unique teaching of our Lord (here set out in verse 6 that He alone is the way to God) we cannot justify sharing in multi faith services when our beliefs are so different, and it is matter of recognising the unique authority of Jesus. 

    Only Christianity maintains that Jesus Christ as divine and salvation was earned by Jesus on the Cross.  But we have the words of our Lord Himself, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.  Jesus is quite unequivocal.   This is not generally liked as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and to be judgmental is not liked.

 All other faiths see Jesus as a good man in the social sense or a prophet at best.   Indeed, the Islamic faith states, ‘God has no son’, which is in direct contravention of Jesus nature.

I do admire the devotion and loyalty of Islam. Muslims in Islamic countries are Muslims in the full sense of the word, and they find difficulty in understanding how people who live in Christian lands reject their faith so completely.  Why, on the Lord’s birthday so many get drunk and engage in orgies. They will fight and defend their faith, and the men will not feel embarrassed or ashamed to be seen going to worship. Put many Englishmen in a Church and they feel lost and disorientated.

    Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it.  Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him.  The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that start trouble.

In verse 12, Jesus told them that while they waited they would be doing the works that He had done and even greater works. This was proved when Peter preached his Pentecost sermon and 3,000 were converted as a result. This was more conversions at any one time than Jesus Himself had made.

Jesus goes on to say that praying in His name would make it possible. When we pray in the name of Jesus, it means that we want to obey Him, seeking of what He would approve, and wanting to pray as Jesus Himself would pray if He was with us. Jesus promised that if we ask Him for anything in His name, He will do it, for this will give praise to God His Father.

Jesus said, ‘if we love Him and obey Him, He will ask God to give us a Comforter, in other words help, and that help will be for all time.. He makes the point that if we do truly love Him, we will have no difficulty in obeying Him.

Jesus tells His disciples when He leaves them they will not be alone, for God will send another who will stay and never leave them. He refers to the Holy Spirit as the ‘Comforter’, and just as God sent Jesus, He is sending the Holy Spirit who will help them to do their mission in the same way as He did.

Jesus will be in heaven continually making intercession for them, from His seated position at the right hand of the throne of God, but they would also have the Holy Spirit right alongside of them in every situation that they would ever face, whether or not that situation was good or bad. The Spirit will lead us into all truth, and by truth we mean understanding the mind of God.

Jesus tells His disciples they are to go on doing the things He commanded and the Holy Spirit will help them to do so. He goes on to say the Holy Spirit will live in them and will be in all Jesus’ followers for all time. When He returns to heaven to His Father, the Holy Spirit will take His place tocreate a relationship with God, so uniting Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Trinity.

There has always been difficulty in people’s minds in understanding the person and work of the Holy Spirit. If asked most people would be able to say who God the Father was; who Jesus the Son was; but many would find themselves struggling to answer who God the Holy Spirit was..

The word helper in the biblical sense literally means, ‘called to the side of.’ During His time here the Apostles had lived with Jesus and He had always been there to help them in every kind of situation and experience. Jesus is now assuring them that even though He would not be there for them physically in the future, as He had been there for them in the past, another helper was going to be supplied for them by His Father.

Jesus said the world at large cannot receive the Holy Spirit. In today’s society God has little relevance, if any, in many people’s lives, and anyone so minded to exclude Him will not have that gift of the Spirit which God is graciously providing; that gift is only for the believers in Christ.   This is a motive for Christian believers to bring those they love to know Christ in the way they do, for belief is not something one inherits, it is decision time for all.   Jesus was explaining that when we turn to Him we join a family, we become children of God, and Jesus works through us as try to serve Him.

Jesus said to them, "I will not abandon or leave you as orphans in a storm; I will come to you." In just a little while I will be gone from the world, but I will still be present with you. He did not mean His resurrection; He was speaking of coming to them in the person of the Holy Spirit who would indwell them.  

If we do not through disobedience or sin offend, then we will with the eyes of faith be able to see our resurrected Lord living in us and through us.

One of His disciples asked Him why He was only going to reveal Himself to them and not to the world at large. Jesus replied that He would only reveal Himself to those who loved Him. By that He meant those who would keep His commandments, and pray to Him, something unbelievers will not do. If anyone doesn’t obey Him they obviously cannot love Him.

At Pentecost the Church became born, a community of people who believed in Jesus Christ; people who belong to one family of God and to each other as well.This tremendous event of the giving of the Holy Spirit, which saw eleven frightened men restrained from preaching, turn into new personalities strengthened to go forward boldly witnessing in Jerusalem and throughout the ancient world, has been followed over 2,000 years of human history. In that period men and women with brilliant minds, have been ready to forego the opportunity of earning large incomes in order to serve their Lord, often in the most primitive conditions. Such people do not do so without motivation.

God, when the Church was first established.  Let this be the faith we adopt,  and believe and not that now being re-interpreted to suit modern culture.  Our faith is not something someone made up, it is historical and spiritual fact.

May God bless His Word to us and us in our service for Him

No comments:

Post a Comment