A Promise of Better Things

December 13, 2017

It’s hard to see through painful things.

When we realize that someone dear to us is about to be taken away from us, it’s like our tears distort our vision of the circumstances. We only see the hurt that’s right in front of us and not the comfort, peace, or joy on the other side.

In this extended account of Jesus’ teaching in John 14-16, Jesus is trying to prepare his followers for His pending departure. And the biggest preparation He made was to promise them something better.

Jesus begins this lesson by explaining some things:

I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. (John 16.4b-6)

They really didn’t need to know these things while He was sticking around, but, now that He is about to return to the Father, they seem more upset that He is leaving than curious as to where He is going. He knows their hearts are heavy.

But look at the important words He speaks next:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16.7)

Do you see it? Jesus is trying to get them to see beyond their feelings of loss. He points to the better things to come. So… what is that?

It’s the Holy Spirit that will come and live within each of their hearts in a very powerful way. But the promise cannot be fulfilled until Jesus has gone away.

But still… He assures them it will be better than what they know.

Jesus loves these people that have walked with Him so very many miles. He Has seen them struggle for understanding and wrestle with some very hard truths. He has seen their eyes filled with wonder as they reached back into the basket again and again until all of these thousands of people were completely satisfied with their meal. They had helped pull the grave clothes from Lazarus and tasted the wine at the wedding.

But he assures them of more.

He is leaving, but He will leave with them a promise of better things.

I don’t know what the pain in your life may be today. Maybe it’s the painful reality of a loved one soon departing. Maybe it’s the inevitable end of something you’ve fought so very hard to retain. Maybe it’s just the crashing in upon you by the reality that those sweet moments you have shared simply cannot last forever in this life.

But for you—if indeed you are a follower of Jesus—there is always this great promise of better things yet to come.

It doesn’t make the hurt go away. But it does remind us that the hurt is, even at its very worst… temporary.

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Hold On, Help Is Coming

December 5, 2017

When people hate us and treat us unkindly or cause us pain and grief just because we profess to follow Jesus, it can be overwhelming. I think part of what makes it so difficult is that we often find the greatest challenge from religious people who are convinced that, because we don’t see things the same way as they do, we are absolutely wrong, absolutely against the kingdom of God.

At the end of John 15, we see Jesus assuring His followers that the Helper, the Holy Spirit, was surely going to come and live within them. He would bring to mind all that Jesus had taught them and guide them in every step—even when the opposition was overwhelming.(15.26-27)

But (even though there is a chapter break there, which was added by well-intentioned editors to help us find things) Jesus underscores His intention in telling them these things:

I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.(16.1-4)

Jesus reminded His disciples that He was sending the Spirit so that they would not fall away and abandon the cause.(1) They would likely be ostracized from the center of religious and civic life (for indeed they were one and the same).(2a) People would even try to kill them with the firm belief that they were serving God by doing so.(2b)

Jesus goes to the root of the issue with these religiously zealous people. They did not really know the God they professed to serve. And because they did not know God the Father, they could not recognize the God the Son, Jesus.(3)

But Jesus was trying to equip them for what was ahead. He was preparing them for the hard days when those religious zealots would seem to be victorious over them.(4)

He reminded them that the Helper was coming. He was urging them not to let their fear pull them away from His call.

He told them to hold on.

Help is coming.

So you and I can take the same word, the same encouragement. Hold on. Help is coming. In fact, He is here, within the hearts of all who have believed on Jesus, bringing the very help we need.

It’s not always the way we want it. It’s not always the way we think it should be. But hold on. Help is coming.

I want to encourage you today. It you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, would you take a couple of minutes and listen to this song of encouragement?

Hold on, my friend. Help is coming.

Have you ever been hated simply because you were connected to someone important? I’ve seen it happen to teachers’ kids or the families of police officers or other public personalities.

We can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of Jesus’ inner circle of followers, a leader in HIs ministry, when Jesus left them. The same people that made it their mission to send Jesus to the cross were no less determined to silence His followers.

In John 15, we find Jesus’ teaching on this predictable behavior.

[Read John 15.18-27]

This is one of those places where Jesus used the word, “if,” but probably meant “when.” It’s almost inevitable that, if we are genuinely loving and serving people in Jesus’ name, someone is going to hate us for it. The really sad part is that this will most come from other religious people.

He assures them that the world’s hatred for them would come because of their hatred for Him.(18) He reminds them that it’s our nature to have animosity toward those who are starkly different from us.(19a) The fact that Jesus chose them to be His would just fuel that animosity.(19b)

He imparts an important principle:

Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.(20-21)

Jesus was trying to prepare His followers for the reality that there would be people who were just angry with them because they were angry with Him. Today we would simply say, “Haters gonna hate.” It’s true. The haters will hate.

He went on to explain that His coming and His teaching were bringing a great accountability to those who heard Him—they were now without any excuse because of the works they had seen Him do and the things they had heard Him teach.(22-24) They hated Jesus because His holiness brought them face to face with their unholiness. And when they hated Jesus, they were hating the Father that sent Him.

But notice verse 25:

But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”

They hated Jesus. They had no reason to do so, but they did.

And because they hated Jesus, they would hate Jesus’ followers simply because they followed Jesus.

But Jesus brings back the promise He had introduced in chapter 14.

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.(15.26-27)

The Holy Spirit, Jesus promised, would come and help them by stirring them to remember, to understand, and to proclaim Jesus and His greatness.

Yes, the haters will hate. It’s inevitable.

But He has not left us alone. By His Spirit, He lives in the heart of every believer. That means we are never alone.

The haters will hate, but you’re not alone.

Today, if you encounter people who are hostile to the faith we hold so dear, remember that it’s not you that they hate but the One whom you represent. Pray for them. Love them in Jesus’ name. And take courage for you are not alone.

Surely the haters will hate, but you’re not alone.