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.

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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.

Stay, Grow.

December 2, 2017

Abide.

Just stay. Live. Abide.

Jesus was teaching His disciples about living in this relationship with Him and the Father. He was trying to recenter their understanding, to open their eyes to the relational reality that He had come to usher them into in this personal knowledge of Him.

In John 15, the word abide occurs 10 times in the first 10 verses. Maybe it’s important.

[Read John 15.1-17]

Jesus begins to build this understanding by painting a word picture that is familiar to these men from mostly rural areas. You couldn’t walk around Judea much in those days without passing by or through a couple of common things—vineyards full of grapes and groves full of olives.

He paints a picture of a grapevine and identifies Himself as the vine and the Father as the vinedresser (the one who tends and cares for the vine).(1) He points at the vinedresser’s practice of cutting away branches that do not bear fruit and pruning carefully those who do that they might be even more fruitful.(2)

Jesus points to the disciples and reminds them that, by receiving Him, they have been made new, clean, alive.(3) He is making sure they know He is talking about His intention for them.

Then He speaks these words that have been a cornerstone for understanding what it means to walk with Jesus:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.(4-5)

He urges them to abide in Him. Like the branch has to be firmly attached to the vine, drawing all of its nourishment and sustenance and life through that connection, we are to abide in Jesus, finding life and spiritual health and full nutrition in Him. He tells us that this is the key to a fruitful spiritual life.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? A branch that is not connected to the vine will shrivel in the sun and crumble. It simply cannot bear fruit. Jesus compels us to abide, to stay, to remain, to LIVE in Him.

The branches that are not rooted in the vine will be gathered and burned up. They are worthless, fruitless, dead.(6) But, there is real power and connection for those rooted in the vine. Jesus told them that being connected in Him like this would give them favor with the Father, that our heart’s true desires the Father would grant.(7)

Of course, if we are truly rooted and abiding in Him, the desire of our hearts will be for Him, not for ourselves.

God’s greatness is revealed as we abide in Jesus, allowing His Spirit to bear all kinds of spiritual fruit through our lives.(8) Jesus assured us that He had loved us just as the Father loved Him and urged us to abide in that love.(9)

Ok, we get it. We’re supposed to abide in Jesus, in His great love. But what does that look like?

It looks like Jesus. It looks like what He did. He took great joy in doing what the Father asked Him to do. We abide in His love by taking joy in doing what He asked us to do. We find our life, our purpose, our meaning, in pleasing Him.(10-11)

I have come to comprehend joy as the consciousness of grace. To have joy is to be aware and mindful of how great His love is for us and to recognize how free and undeserved that love truly is.

And just as Jesus taught us that all of God’s law boils down to two commandments—to love God with all that we are and to love others at least as much as ourselves—so we best love Jesus by demonstrating His love to others. (12) In pouring out ourselves for Him and for one another, we are reflecting His love most fully.(13)

There is a pivot point there in verses 13-15 where Jesus begins to refer to them as friends and not merely servants. He is drawing them deeper and deeper into this relational understanding of God’s plan for them. And He reminds them that He chose them (and us too, by the way) to join in His plan, to go and bear good fruit as He works in them by His Spirit.(16)

And what do we gain by joining in with Him? We gain the intimacy to ask the Father for whatever is on our hearts and know that He hears and will surely act in our best interested for His own sake.(16b)

Jesus was teaching us that the key to a fruitful, thriving, abundant spiritual life is simply to abide in Him, dwell in Him, live in Him. And in doing so, grow.

Funny how simple it is, don’t you think?

Stay, grow.