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Stephen R. Clark
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Delivered July 23, 2017 | Huntingdon Valley, PA | Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church
You can listen to the sermon here: http://www.hvpc.org/sermons/sermon/2017-07-23/we-are-his

We Are His!

The Gospel of John

Our second reading today is John 16:1-15. You can find it on page 1072 in the pew Bibles and it will be up on the screen so you can follow along:

1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

2 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.

3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.

4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’

6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

7 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.

8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;

11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Word of the Lord.

=====

Good morning! I’m not Dan! I’m Stephen. Dan is away with his family in Florida on a working vacation for a couple of weeks. The working part is related to his pursuit of an advanced degree. So, I’m here today, and next Sunday, Christine Bruce, will be bringing the Word.

Today we’re continuing our journey in John, a journey that began about 10 months ago and will continue until around October or November of this year.

I thought that it might be a good idea to do a very brief review before we dive into today’s passage.

[By the way, every sermon in this series is available online on our website at www.HVPC.org. If you missed one or all of them, you can get caught up any time, day or night.]

The Gospel of John opens with what Pastor Dan called an overture. An overture, in music and literature, is a prelude or preview of what’s to come. It’s a broad-brush painting of major, high-level themes that will be addressed in the extended piece.

Overtures, in music, are often very moving and powerful and evocative. The first four very poetry-infused verses of John are especially grand and thrilling:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Sends a little tingle down the spine!

This prologue or prelude runs for the first 18 verses or so of John. Immediately following the prologue, John the Baptist -- not the writer of this Gospel, by the way -- endorses the ministry of Jesus calling Him “the Lamb of God,” “the Son of God,” and “the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

Next, through about chapter four, John addresses Jesus’ initiation into public ministry beginning by reporting on how He turned water into wine. There is also a surreptitious encounter with the Pharisee Nicodemus and the very bold and intriguing confrontation with the Samaritan woman at the well.

From there, in chapters five through roughly the beginning of chapter 12, we are shown Jesus at work, engaging with the religious authorities, stirring things up by healing a man lame from birth -- on the Sabbath of all days! As well as performing other miracles of healing, deliverance, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, and raising Lazarus from the dead. In other words, Him being the Son of God.

Everything John shares in his Gospel frames Jesus as always pointing to His Father and citing the Father as the source of His authority. And, unlike the other three synoptic Gospels, instead of relating the parables of Jesus that He used to educate His followers, Jesus is shown as teaching by example. Instead of merely telling His disciples what they need to know, He is showing them through His interactions with the misleading religious leaders, the people in search of a shepherd, and them, the often clueless disciples.

Around chapter 12, the mood and focus begins to shift. From chapter 12 through chapter 16 -- the first part of which we are looking at today -- this is what I call “the long good-bye.” As Pastor Dan mentioned last week, they’re still hanging out in the upper room.

While, throughout the book, John reports on Jesus repeatedly dropping hints about His eventual departure, now this is the focus. Jesus turns his full attention to his disciples knowing they are about to go through the roughest part of their experience with Him so far: He is going to the cross to die, and they, for a time, will be scattered, dazed, and forlorn.

Okay, we’re caught up!

Let’s set the mood for what’s happening in chapter 16.

=====

Imagine with me a small, pretty, unassuming house set in a typical street in a small town in middle America. There are shrubs, a few flowers, and a tree. In the driveway is a solid but well-used station wagon. In the neatly-trimmed yard are a girl’s tricycle and a boy’s bike, both with multi-colored streamers proudly dangling from the ends of the handlebars. On the frame of the boy’s bike, near the spokes, are clothes-pinned playing cards that make a roaring sound when the boy rides up and down the streets, pretending to be a famous race-car driver.

It’s the home of the Petersons. There’s the mom, Judy; the dad, Sam; and the children, Joy who is five and Jimmy who is 10 going on 15. Sam works hard in a gritty blue-collar job in a hot factory, diligently pursuing the American dream. Judy works from home as a seamstress and cares for the kids. Every Sunday, they are all in church, devout believers for whom their faith is central to their lives. Life is good.

However, it’s the 1940s and the world is in massive upheaval. Across both oceans, war is chewing up country after country. The U.S. has even been attacked with the infamous day of Pearl Harbor playing out. Every able-bodied man is being called up or volunteering for service. This includes Sam.

Sam and Judy have talked, prayed, and wrestled with the inevitable, especially over how to tell the children that their father is going away for an indefinite period of time. Finally, they’ve decided to tell them after their Sunday dinner. Judy clears away the dishes and they sit around the table with ice cream, the kids’ favorite dessert.

Judy tells them that their dad has something very important to say to them. Enjoying their ice cream, Joy and Jimmy turn their eyes toward Sam.

Sam carefully explains that he is joining the Army and will be going to Europe to fight a terrible enemy. The children are confused and deeply saddened.

“What do you mean you’re leaving us?” cries Jimmy. “Where are you going? Why can’t we all go? Are you ever coming back? I don’t want you to leave, daddy! Don’t go! Please don’t go!”

As her big brother expresses his fears and sorrow, Joy’s eyes grow bigger and fill with tears. She too is confused and heartbroken over this news. Patiently, prayerfully, Sam and Judy continue talking with their children as the sun goes down and the earth grows dark outside.

=====

If you need them, there are tissues on either side of the sanctuary. It’s a little sad, right?

This is kind of what the mood is like for the disciples in this passage. Jesus has moved from dropping hints about his departure to saying outright that, “I’m going away. You can’t come with me. You’re going to be very sad, scared, and worried. But I’m sending the Comforter to help you do all you need to do after I’m gone.”

Given that it is generally thought the disciples were anticipating an earthly king and kingdom, these are really hard truths for them to come to terms with. This is new, foreign territory. As with Jimmy and Joy, this is overwhelming and highly emotional information.

Now, before we go on, I want to dispense with a problem that arises for some with verse 16:5 where Jesus states, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’”

“Hold on a minute,” some will object. “Wasn’t Jesus asked this very thing in verses 13:36 and 14:5? The answer is, yes, more or less. And so for some this raises the specter of a major contradiction. But, as I see it, it’s really not that problematic.

As with our story about the Petersons, when little Jimmy, out of the depths of his breaking, distraught heart asks of his dad, “Where are you going?” he’s really not interested in the specific answer to that question. Being told his dad is going to Europe is meaningless to him and his little sister. All they hear and can grasp is that dad is going away to some dangerous and mysterious place. Their primary concern is that they will be left behind.

The previous two times when first Peter, and then Thomas, ask Jesus where He is going, this is near the beginning of “the long good-bye” discourse. The disciples are caught up in a rash of emotions and trying to wrap their heads around the fact that it appears they are going to be abandoned. Here, in chapter 16, Jesus is more or less pointing out that, so far, they really haven’t focused on truly asking where He’s going and wanting to actually grasp the answer.

Jesus is also further scrambling their minds explaining that once He’s gone, things are going to heat up for them. The very reason He’s spending so much time with them talking about what’s about to happen is so that, later when the dust settles, they will remain faithful.

In verses 1-4, we read:

“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. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”

In a sense, this shouldn’t be surprising, that people -- friends, trusted religious leaders, people they know -- are going to be coming for them. Jesus was very blunt with them as recorded in both Matthew 10 and Mark 13 where He said, “ Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Author Henri Nouwen -- who, by the way once hung up on me; true story -- in his book The Way of the Heart quotes one of the desert fathers, St. Anthony, as saying, many centuries ago, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”

For all true believers across all time this has been true. And it’s just as true today. We will be attacked for our faith by those closest to us. Three points to keep in mind, based on what Jesus shared with the disciples is (1) Yes, they will believe they are doing a service to God by attacking, but (2) they really don’t belong to God (which implies the disciples and we do). So the source that’s driving them to attack is Satan. And, finally, (3) Jesus is going to send the Comforter to buttress the disciples and us when challenges arise.

For now, time is running short and Jesus isn’t able to tell them all He wants to tell them and all they need to know. Also, without living through certain experiences, they wouldn’t be able to grasp what He might tell them.

Think back to our analogy as Sam is saying good-bye to his children. In such a situation, there’s so much any parent would want to be able to tell their children. To prepare them for the challenges ahead, to encourage them to live honorable lives, to never give up hope, and more. Sam longs to explain to Jimmy how to be a good man and to little Joy what to look for in a good man. Maybe, if all goes well, Sam will return from the war and be able to do just these things. If not, what will happen?

Mom will be there. The grandparents will be there. Aunts, uncles, and cousins will be there. Teachers and pastors and coaches will be there. It will take a village, but the children will find comfort and “be guided into all truth.”

So what is it exactly that this “Holy Spirit” is going to do when he comes? Why is it such a good thing for Jesus to leave so the Holy Spirit will come?

We get this information in verses 8-11:

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning 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.”

Essentially, the Holy Spirit is going to act in the world -- the whole world at the same time -- and in each of us on behalf of Jesus. Before, Jesus, as fully man and fully God on earth, could only be in one place at a time. Now, as the disciples and we carry the Good News to the ends of the earth, the Holy Spirit is with us everywhere, acting on Christ’s behalf. And he does three things:

First, he acts concerning sin because they (the world) do not believe in Jesus. This is related to holiness. God, through the Holy Spirit, exposes the foolishness of godlessness. Since no one likes being made a fool, this is part of why we will be attacked since we are the speakers of Truth.

Second, he acts concerning righteousness because Jesus goes to the Father. This is related to character. You know, what you do when no one is looking. The absence of Jesus on earth makes the heart filled with the Holy Spirit grow in righteousness, along the lines of Romans 5:3-5:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Third, he acts concerning judgment because the ruler of the world is judged. This is related to victory. Who is “the ruler of the world”? It’s Satan. But we don’t have to fear this enemy because he’s already been judged. The world is overcome. The enemy is defeated. Victory is ours.

So, once Jesus is gone, the Holy Spirit will come and, as Paul Harvey used to say, tell us the rest of the story, guiding us into all truth day-by-day, moment-by-moment, just in time and just as we need.

This is what Jesus has been telling these somewhat clueless, befuddled, grief-stricken disciples over the past several chapters: “I’m leaving but you won’t be left alone.”

Why, you may be wondering, is Jesus taking so much time, so much care, working so hard to help the disciples understand?

Again, go back to our little story of Sam saying good-bye to his kids. Why is it so important to the parents, that despite the pain and confusion and grief it stirs up, that they do everything they can to help Joy and Jimmy, as far as they are able, to grasp what’s happening?

Simple. Because Joy and Jimmy are theirs. They’re Sam’s and Judy’s children. These two precious lives are in their care.

And so it is with the disciples, and with us. We are His.

The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus -- the pain, the patience, the passion -- were all about us because we are His.

In chapter 17, Jesus prays for his disciples and us, saying, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”

We are His!

In fact we are so valuable to Him, that as Jesus declares in the final verses of today’s passage, from the Amplified Version, through the Holy Spirit all that is His will be shared and revealed to us:

“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [to hear] them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. He will glorify and honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you.”

=====

What are our takeaways? Those little nuggets out of this 20 plus minutes of wordiness that can help us live out the week ahead?

1. We are not alone or on our own.

2. The enemy is defeated.

3. We are His and we are loved.

=====

One more thing. If you are wondering whether or not you really are His, and are thinking that it would be a good thing to have that blessed assurance that Jesus is yours, and that you are His, you can!

1 John 1:9 explains plainly, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 10:9-13 goes further stating, “... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

And, once more in 1 John 4:13-15 we are told, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

So, again, if you are wondering whether or not you really are His, and are thinking that it would be a good thing to have that blessed assurance that Jesus is yours, it is likely that the Holy Spirit is working in your heart right now: Convicting gently of sin that needs to be acknowledged and repented of. Urging you toward the hope of righteousness. And assuring you that the enemy is overcome and that you are the Lord’s.

If this is the case, I would urge you, before you leave today, to talk with someone and let them pray for you. Don’t hesitate to grab an elder, a deacon, me, someone -- but don’t leave allowing any doubt to gnaw away the promise God is holding out to you.

Let’s pray.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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