All the Best and Far Beyond

December 13, 2017

When someone dear to you is about to leave—whether it is to move across the world or to face the painful reality of death—it seems absurd for them to tell you how much better things will be for you.

That’s the way Jesus’ followers must have felt when He was telling them about the better things in store for them.

He told them that things would be different. When the Spirit comes, the presence of God in the world will not be limited to the place where Jesus was, but would be all around, in the hearts of all believers, and, through them and the power of the Word, influencing people.

Jesus describes some of the ways He will work.

And when he comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16.8-11)

These things were descriptive of what Jesus did as He walked the earth—only better. In the same way that Jesus seemed to make people aware of their sin when they were in His presence, the Holy Spirit would be showing people their sinful condition in every place that the Word would be carried forth and proclaimed by His people.

Just as Jesus walked through this world giving the perfect expression to the holy life to which we are all called, so the Spirit would enable every believer to live that life out more and more and more in such a way that the world would see and recognize the righteousness of Jesus in them.

Jesus pointed people to the hope of His sacrifice as the only way to escape the judgment to come. So the Spirit, He promised, would make clear the choice to be judged with the ruler of this world, Satan, or to follow the Savior of the world.

You see, Jesus had shown them the so many things, things far beyond the good things they had known, better than they had ever imagined. And now Jesus was describing for them a forthcoming reality in which they would experience all the best things they had seen in His presence.

He promised that the Spirit would be better. That’s hard for us to imagine. But think about it with me.

When Jesus went off by Himself to pray, He was, for just a while, away from them. When He would take Peter and James and John up further upon the mountain, the others would no longer be experiencing His presence.

BUT… when the Spirit would come and take up residence in the heart of every believer, they would NEVER be deprived of His presence. They would NEVER be separated.

Jesus promises that, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, they would experience all the best things… and so far beyond what they could comprehend.

He had great things ahead, but they were on the other side of some of the most painful things they would ever experience.

And today you and I, if we have put our hope and trust in Jesus, are experiencing that great expanse of possibility as His Spirit is at work in us. He is at work, doing all the best and far beyond.

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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.

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.