How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 5

“Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His eleven believing disciples how Christ can transform our grief into gladness. So far we have discovered He does this when we …

– Ask Christ to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).

– Allow our grief to direct us to the Father in prayer (John 16:23-24).

The final way Jesus transforms our grief into gladness is not based on a specific verse in this passage, but on the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus transforms our grief into gladness when we ACQUAINT OURSELVES WITH THE PATTERN OF TRANSFORMED PAIN. This pattern finds its fullest expression in Jesus. He transformed the bad into the good.

Because of Jesus, we can never say about a person, “He or she must be suffering because of some sin he or she committed.” Jesus, who never sinned, also suffered. God never promised that typhoons or twisters will skip over our houses on the way to our non-Christian neighbors or that COVID-19 will flee from our Christian bodies and invade a non-Christian’s body. We are not exempt from tragedies in the world just as God was not exempt. Christ was willing to suffer in order to accomplish a higher goal. He trusted His Father to use His death for good. And God took the worst thing that could happen – the brutal execution of His only Son and turned it into the final victory over sin, death, and the Devil (I Corinthians 15:1-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). God turned the design of evil into the service of good, an act that holds in it a promise for all of us.

Because God transformed Jesus’ suffering into good, He can do the same for us. Jesus’ resurrection transformed the pain of His disciples into joy. No trial, illness, unemployment, broken relationships, death of a loved one, or grief extends beyond the range of Jesus’ transforming power. He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward Him.

Childbirth is ironical – an event that causes some of the greatest physical pain, but also opens the doorway to one of life’s greatest joys – new life! Someone once said, “The more grief inflicted upon you, the better fitted you are to appreciate joy. More often than not the so-called negatives are assets. There cannot be a front without a back, an up without a down, a cold without a hot, a love without a hate.”

When speaking of the effects of His own death on His disciples, Jesus compared it to a woman in labor. She travails until the moment of delivery, when suddenly anguish is transformed into ecstasy. Death is like birth – it causes great emotional pain, but in reality, it opens a doorway into the great joy of eternity because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Author Philip Yancey writes, “Imagine birth from the perspective of the fetus (unborn baby). Your world is dark, safe, secure. You are bathed in a warm, cushioning liquid. You do nothing for yourself. You are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you is meeting all your needs. Life consists of simple waiting – you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems faraway and scary. You encounter no sharp objects, no pain, no dangers. A fine, serene existence.

“One day you feel a tug. The walls seem to press in. Those soft padded walls are now pulsing, wildly, crushing you downward. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling, upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of roiling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure.

“You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful, sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening – your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands grasp at you, pull you from the tunnel and hold you upside down. A painful slap. Waaaahhhh!

“Congratulations, you have just been born.

“Death is like that. On this end of the birth canal, it seems a scary, dark tunnel we are being sucked forward by an irresistible force. None of us looks forward to it. We’re afraid. It’s full of pressure, pain, darkness… the unknown.

“But beyond the darkness and the pain lies a whole new world outside. When we awaken after death in that bright new world, our tears and hurts will be mere memories.” 1

Perhaps you have lost a love one recently who believed in Jesus or was too young to believe in Him, and your heart is numb with grief. Christ’s resurrection guarantees you will be reunited one day in His presence (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Knowing this can comfort and sustain you during this dark and painful time. Jesus wants you to take heart because the day is coming when the darkness will be gone forever and your pain will be transformed into endless joy (Revelation 21-22).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never promised that suffering would not be part of our lives. In fact, You promised just the opposite if we follow You. But it is not a hopeless kind of suffering. Your resurrection guarantees to all of us who believe in You a hope-filled beginning when we die and go to be with You. A perfect, sinless, world awaits us in Your presence when we take our last breath. Knowing this empowers us to endure the darkness and pain before us with the confidence that something much better and greater lies beyond our time here on earth. Thank You, my Lord and my God, that the hurts and tears we have now will be transformed into endless joy and laughter in the world to come where we will be reunited with You and those who have gone before us. Please help us to lean into You when troubled times come. Your presence can calm our hearts when we surrender to You. In Your hope-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 258-259.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 4

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” John 15:26

From Jesus’ instruction to His eleven believing disciples, we are learning how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world. So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world when we…

– Realize that we will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19).

– Recall what Jesus has already taught us (John 15:20).

– Recognize that the world is not opposed to us personally, but to our relationship with Christ (John 15:21-25).

The fourth way to be an effective witness to a hostile world is to REMAIN IN VITAL CONTACT WITH CHRIST THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 15:26-27). Jesus knew that when His disciples would be faced with the hatred of the world, they may be tempted to escape from it or remain silent about the gospel. After all, the world can be very brutal toward Christians. The world does not care about your personal well-being. Even though the world would be antagonistic to the disciples’ ministry and message, they were to bear witness of Jesus.

Christ reminds them (and us) that they would not be left alone to fulfill their responsibilities when He goes to the Father in heaven. There would be two witnesses from God to the world. Who is the first witness that Jesus mentions in verse 26? “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26). The first witness is the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches us several things about Him. He is “the Helper” (ho paraklētos) or one “called alongside to help.” 1  He is the One who will assist, empower, and encourage the disciples to be a witness for Christ in a hostile world. If we try to overcome the hostility of the world with our own strength, it will be one huge struggle laden with failure. Satan will oppose us through the world’s system and we are not wise enough or strong enough to overcome him on our own. We must abide in Jesus and yield to the Holy Spirit’s control in our lives to experience victory over the hostility of the world.

To be effective witnesses, we must remain in vital contact with Christ through His Holy Spirit and the Word. That’s why Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth.” He tells the truth about Christ through the truth of God’s Word (cf. John 14:6; 17:17). Jesus says, “He will testify of Me.” The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus through God’s Word. The Spirit’s ministry is not to testify about Himself or you or me. His purpose is to magnify Jesus Christ! If a church or ministry is not magnifying the Person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross, it is doubtful that church or ministry is being led by the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit magnifies Jesus Christ, then His disciples should do the same.

Notice that verse 26 refers to all three Persons of the Godhead. “The Helper” or “Spirit of truth” will be sent by Jesus “from the Father,” and the Spirit will also “testify of” Jesus. The Holy Spirit will empower the second witness.

Who is the second witness? “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (John 15:27). The word “you” refers to the disciples in this context, but it also refers to all believers since that time, including you and me today. The word “also” indicates that the witness of the disciples is important. It shows that the disciples and the Spirit together would “bear witness” to Christ. The word translated “bear witness” (μαρτυρεῖτε) is a courtroom term that refers to speaking the truth. What would happen if you took the witness stand in a court of law and never said anything? The judge would hold you in contempt of the court. So this term demands that we speak the truth. Christ is saying that we are to tell the truth about Jesus, so people can be saved.  What is the truth about Jesus that saves people from an eternity in hell?

That He died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-6). Why did Jesus have to die? Because all people have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) with their thoughts, words, and actions. Our sin separates (“death”) us from God (Romans 6:23) because God is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin. Therefore, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for all our sin when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:1-6). Jesus now invites everyone to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus is not inviting us to be baptized or go to church because He never said, “whoever is baptized or goes to church should not perish but have everlasting life.” Nor is Christ inviting us to pray every day or to live a good life because He never said, “whoever prays every day or lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus is simply inviting us to believe or trust in Him alone because He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

No amount of our good works can save us from our sins because they are all like “dirty rags” in the sight of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).  We must trust in Christ alone as our only hope of heaven and He will give us eternal life and a future home in heaven.

As disciples, we need God’s Spirit for empowerment and the Spirit needs us as a means of expression. Why were the disciples chosen to be witnesses? Because they “have been with” Jesus “from the beginning” of His ministry when He was baptized by John the Baptist (John 15:27; cf. 1:29ff). These men would be credible witnesses to the Person of Christ because they had been loyal to Him. They could have abandoned the Lord when persecution intensified, and they did for a short time, but then they came back to Him and He used them to change the known world.

Two things in verses 26-27 are foundational to be an effective witness for Christ. 2  First, we must clearly witness. Those of us who have been richly blessed by the grace of God for salvation are compelled to clearly share this grace with others. We must focus on the finished work of Christ on the cross as the basis of salvation (John 19:30), not our good works (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Since salvation is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17), we must emphasize faith alone in Christ alone as the means of salvation (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; Romans 3:21-4:25; Galatians 2:16; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13; et al.), not a “faith plus” formula. The more we understand and experience the grace of God, the more passionate we will be to share the clear gospel of grace with the lost.

Second, we never witness to others alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us and in us to give us a power that is not our own. When we are afraid to speak up for Christ, He can give us the boldness we need with those who may intimidate us (cf. Acts 4:29-31). When we don’t know what to say, He can give us the words that our listeners need to hear (cf. Matthew 10:19-20). It is His responsibility to persuade people through the Word of God to believe or trust in Christ alone as their only way to heaven (John 16:7-11). But it is our responsibility to yield to His control (Ephesians 5:18).            

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending God the Holy Spirit from God the Father to be our Helper in witnessing to a hostile world. I never ever have to be alone when I tell others about Jesus because the Holy Spirit permanently indwells me. And when I feel afraid of what others will think, say, or do if I share Christ with them, the Spirit of truth gives me the boldness and the words to share with them unashamedly. So many times I lack insight when sharing the gospel with others, but You intervene and bring to my remembrance the truth that the listener needs to hear. Thank You Holy Spirit for the power You give to me when I yield to Your control. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 282.

2. Ibid., pg. 283.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 3

“And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” John 14:29

Our world is huge!!! This is just one planet in our vast universe. Over 7.8 billion people live on this planet. It can be overwhelming to see all these people along with all the nations of our world, not to mention all the problems and pain. I don’t know if you have noticed lately, but the world is lost in total chaos! COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees in fear! Then there is the spread of terrorism, social and political unrest, shootings, kidnappings, road rage, flooding, earthquakes, sex scandals. There is a push toward globalism that some fear is a movement toward a one world government ruled by elitists. All of this is very troubling.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? We are learning from the Lord Jesus Christ how this can take place. So far we have discovered we can calm our troubled hearts by focusing on…

– The promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26).

– The peace of Christ (John 14:27).

Today we learn to calm our troubled hearts by focusing on THE PROPHETIC WORD OF CHRIST (John 14:28-29). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples the night before His crucifixion, “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28). Jesus’ upcoming departure still troubled His disciples. He explained that their troubled hearts are due to the fact that they do not “love”Him like He wanted them to. If they did love Him, they “would rejoice because” He said He was “going to the Father, for”His “Father is greater than” Him.

For Jesus loves His Father in heaven, and His upcoming departure to be with Him meant that his mission – the reason for which He had come into the world—was almost complete. 1  Laney says that “Bruce notes that the conjunction ‘for’ before ‘the Father is greater than I’ attaches to the preceding clause, ‘I am going to the Father.’ Jesus is on His way back to the Father who sent Him. Because ‘a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him’ (John 13:16), Jesus must render to the Father an account of His mission.” 2

What does Jesus mean when He says, “My Father is greater than I”? It is important to understand the gospel of John as a whole to properly understand individual verses. John has made it clear in his gospel that Jesus is equal with the Father as God (John 1:1; 5:18-47; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28-29). He cannot mean that He is a lesser deity than the Father as some false religions claim.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, and other Arians interpret Jesus’ words here this way. Arius was a heretic in the early church who denied Jesus’ full deity. Jesus was not speaking ontologically (i.e., dealing with His essential being, His nature), since He had affirmed repeatedly that He and the Father were one ontologically (1:1-2; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28).” 3 “God is one and there are no degrees of deity. Jesus and God the Father are one in essence” (John 10:30). 4

In John 14:28, Jesus is saying the Father had a “greater” position of glory in heaven while Jesus was in humble human form on earth. Jesus temporarily laid aside His glory that He possessed in eternity past (John 17:5) when He took the form of a bond servant on earth (Philippians 2:5-8). When Jesus says “My Father is greater than I,” He is talking about His Father’s office or role, not His nature.

For example, when I consider myself compared to the President of the United States, I would not hesitate to say that the President is greater than I. He is in charge of the entire nation and is one of the most powerful men in the world, whereas I am just a normal citizen. So the President is greater than I, far greater; but we are both equally human. In his essence, the President is just a human being, as am I, and in that sense we are equal. So when I say, “The President is greater than I,” I am referring to his office, not his essence. In office, he is greater than I; in essence, we are equal. Similarly, when Jesus says, “My Father is greater than I,” that does not mean Jesus is not God. The Father has a different role, a higher office than Jesus, but that does not mean the Father is greater in essence. They are both equal in essence. They are both God.

The disciples should have “rejoiced” that Jesus was going to His Father because, even though His departure meant loss for them, it meant a restoration of the glory and joy He once shared with His Father. Instead of thinking of Jesus’ best interests, they were only thinking of themselves. It wasn’t wrong for the disciples to grieve the upcoming loss of Jesus’ companionship and personal presence. But they were to grieve differently than unbelievers grieve. 5

We may experience a similar conflict of emotions when a believing family member or friend dies. We grieve our loss, but we can also rejoice now that our loved one is with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-18)! 6

Next Christ said, “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” (John 14:29). Jesus explains to His disciples that He has “told” them of His departure to go to His Father in heaven (John 14:28) before “it comes, that when it does come to pass,” they “may believe” in His Person and claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Although the disciples’ faith would falter immediately after Christ’s crucifixion (cf. Mark 16:11-14; Luke 24:11, 25, 37-38; John 20:19a, 24-25), their faith would be restored at Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and ascension to heaven (cf. Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52-53; John 20:26-29; Acts 1:1-11). Christ did not share of His departure to trouble their hearts. He shared this with them, so they would not be overtaken by surprise. The disciples’ faith would grow stronger after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (cf. John 13:19). The disciples would then view Jesus’ teaching here as fulfilled prophecy. 7

Fulfillment of Bible prophecy is a great source of comfort and support to believers during difficult times (cf. Isaiah 46:8-10). God has revealed everything we need to know about our future in His Word so that we can prepare for those events.

For example, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed many details about our future in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation (see above diagram). The apostle John writes, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3). God promises a special blessing for those who read, hear, and obey [“keep”] “the words of this prophecy [in the book of Revelation]because “the time [of the prophecy’s fulfillment] is near [it could happen at any moment]. Bible Prophecy is given to us not only to make us knowledgeable of things to come, but to help us PREPARE for them so we and others can be ready to face the Lord.

This reminds me of the TV show called Early Edition (1996-2000). The main character, Gary Hobson, is startled to open his door one day to find a cat sitting on a newspaper, a newspaper that has a publishing date of the next day. It wasn’t today’s newspaper, it was tomorrow’s newspaper distributed today. Every single day, Gary Hobson would receive the newspaper for the next day. So the TV show was called Early Edition because he received tomorrow’s news today. The point of the show was Gary trying to save people from the tragedy that was going to happen tomorrow because he received news about it today. So every day he was rescuing people and changing the destinies of people because he had received the Early Edition.

Jesus Christ has given us the Early Edition in Bible Prophecy. He is telling us today about what is going to happen tomorrow, so we can change the destiny of our tomorrow and the tomorrow’s of other people today. The tragedy is for us to receive God’s Early Edition and keep it to ourselves. God has given us the Early Edition about the world we live in, so we can influence its direction by how we choose to live today. You cannot know someone’s house is going to burn down tomorrow and then keep silent about it today. God has told us that people who do not trust in Jesus Christ alone for everlasting life will spend eternity burning in the Lake of Fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15). It is imperative that we warn people of this today, so they can escape an eternity separated from God before it is too late.

If you have not yet believed in Christ alone yet, then hear and believe God’s promise in John 3:36: He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” To believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, means to trust or depend on Him alone for His gift of everlasting life.

For example, believing in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride on an airplane as a passenger, do you have to push the plane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you have to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No, not at all. All you must do is trust a person – your pilot – to fly you to your destination. In the same way, Jesus is inviting you to trust in Him alone to get you to heaven. No amount of your good works can help Jesus get you to heaven. Simply believe or trust in Him alone Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, and He guarantees you a home in heaven in the future.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do – you can tell God this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear God, I have been overwhelmed with all of the chaos in the world today. Thank You so much for getting my attention with all the drama that is taking place on our planet. Thank You also for warning me of the lake of fire that awaits all those who reject Your Son, Jesus Christ. God, I know I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. As best I know how, I am now trusting in Jesus alone (not my good life, my prayers, nor my religion) to give me everlasting life now and a future home in heaven. Thank You so much for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

If you have already trusted Christ for His free gift or you just did trust in Him, please share this good news with everyone you meet and then train those who believe in Christ to follow Him as a disciple because we do not have much time left! To help you be trained in discipleship or to train others in discipleship, please download our English digital discipleship training materials above.

Rather than fretting about what tomorrow holds, focus on Who holds tomorrow in His hands. Psalm 31:14-15 says, “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.”

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 266 referencing F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), p 307, n. 15.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 277.

4. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 447.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 531.

6. Constable, Notes on John, pg. 277.

7. Ibid., pg. 278.

8. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 324.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 1

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life – perhaps more so in some people than others – but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time. There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts. The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of people who would want to harm them. We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night. We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations. Many people are afraid of COVID-19 which may take their health, their job, or a loved one. And where there is fear, there is no peace.

Earlier in John 14 Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1a). The word “troubled” (tarássō) in the Greek is a picture of a stormy sea. Has that ever happened to you?  Have you ever had a heart that just feels like there is a storm surging inside of you? You talk to it, you tell it things, you read it Scripture, and you bring it to church. But the storm just keeps stirring inside of you.

Jesus understood that a storm was surging in the hearts of His disciples. Their hearts were troubled. Why? The same reasons our hearts are often troubled. They had troubled hearts because of failure. Remember what Jesus had said just before this? He had just looked at Peter and said, “Peter, you think you are going to follow Me even if you have to lay your life down for My sake?! No. You are going to deny knowing Me three times” (John 13:38). Christ had also told them that one of them would betray Him (13:21). So their hearts were troubled.

The disciples were also troubled by confusion. Not knowing what God is going to do next can be very troubling to us. Or not knowing why the circumstance is happening. Jesus was talking about going somewhere else and His disciples not being able to go with Him (John 13:33, 36). That was confusing. The disciples’ world was turning into chaos.

It was also very disappointing. They had a dream. When they marched into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday they waved palm branches, dreaming that Jesus was going to stay in Jerusalem to sit on the Davidic throne to rule over Israel and the entire world. And they would sit next to Jesus as His right-hand men, right? But Jesus was saying, “I’m going somewhere, and you can’t go with Me.”What does that mean?” the disciples must have wondered. “Is Jesus not going to be our King? Or He is going to be King and we are not going to be His right-hand men?” So they are very disappointed. Their dream is being shattered this very night. God’s got a different dream than their dream. Their dream seemed to be turning into a nightmare.

They also faced fear. The fear of not knowing what would happen next. The fear of the Roman Empire persecuting them. They knew that the Jews were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples were afraid of losing their beloved Shepherd.

All of these things combined to give them troubled hearts. Jesus could see this in their eyes and in their hearts. He then begins to share truths with them to calm their troubled hearts. Jesus can also see what is troubling us.

How do you deal with what is troubling your heart? Do you ignore it? Do you pretend it is not there and that everything is going to be okay? Do you hide from the storm that is stirring in your heart? There are many ways to hide from it. We can hide from our troubled hearts in alcohol, drugs, and sexual relations. We can even hide from our heart trouble by staying busy at work. Or we bury ourselves in a book, in the computer, or in the television. We hide from our heart trouble because we do not want to face it. But is that the best strategy?

No, for the next few days Jesus will teach us truths to calm our troubled hearts. We can calm our troubled hearts by focusing on THE PROMISE OF INSIGHT FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 14:25-26). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.” (John 14:25). The phrase “these things,” refers back to Jesus going away to a place where the disciples could not follow now (John 13:33). He would go prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14:1-3) and while He was gone the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell them (John 14:16-17). The idea in verse 25 was that Jesus was physically “present with” them now, but that would soon change because of His departure. Christ now speaks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26). This verse identifies “the Helper,” the One called alongside to help, as the “Holy Spirit.” We observe in this verse that the Holy Spirit is closely related to God the Father and God the Son. The Father had sent Jesus to reveal Himself and now He is sending the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ “name.” The phrase “in My name” means in Jesus’ place and for Him. In this one verse we see all three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 15:26).

The Holy Spirit will continue the teaching and work of Jesus Christ after Christ’s departure. Jesus promises that the Spirit “will teach you all things” that you need to know. We see that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is a Person because He teaches. The Holy Spirit would provide insight into the meaning of Jesus’ teaching. He would cause Christ’s disciples to understand those aspects of Christ’s instruction that had remained beyond their comprehension. The disciples did not fully understand all of Jesus’ teaching at this time, especially concerning His going away, that is, His death and resurrection.

In addition, Jesus promised that the Spirit will “bring to” their “remembrance all things that” He taught them. It is likely they would forget the things they did not understand. We do that, too, don’t we? If we don’t understand something, we tend to let it slip away from our memory. But God wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and remembrance. Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will supply what we lack.

Did you ever wonder how John remembered all those things that Jesus said in the Upper Room? The Holy Spirit reminded him. The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of the precise things Jesus had spoken to them. The Spirit would not start teaching something contrary to what Jesus taught. He would cause the disciples to recall Christ’s exact teaching, so they could write it down years later to form the New Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit would not only bring to their remembrance exactly what Jesus said, but He would also teach them what Jesus meant. When the apostles wrote the New Testament, the Holy Spirit empowered them to remember precisely what Jesus had said so that it was without error in the original manuscripts (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:15-16). These verses provide a strong argument for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

This truth was not limited to the apostles back then. “The Spirit also helps believers today, enabling us to recall Scripture at the appropriate time and helping us to understand its meaning and its application to our lives, as He activates ‘the mind of Christ’ in us (1 Cor 2:10-16).” 1 There is comfort, strength, and hope in the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us when we are troubled.

The Holy Spirit continues His teaching ministry today by enlightening Christ’s followers as they study Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit of God knows and understands the deep things of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:10-16). He is to be the true Guide and Teacher of every believer, with human teachers serving in a secondary role (cf. 1 John 2:27). 2

Before I got saved, the Bible did not make much sense to me. It seemed like a boring text book. But when I came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of nineteen, the Bible came alive because of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life. God’s Spirit provides direction for His church through His Word. He will not contradict God’s Word. If we let Him, He will lead us into a better understanding of the Bible. So many times, I come to God’s Word not knowing what is meant and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand and He does. Sometimes He uses other believers to give me more insight into His Word and sometimes He fills my mind with insight as I study.

We are told in I John 2:27, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”“The anointing” or Holy Spirit is a sufficient Teacher. As we grow in our spiritual lives, we become less dependent on human teachers. Do not always take what a pastor or teacher says as truth without checking it out in the Bible. Learn to depend on the Holy Spirit for insight, not human teachers. Many times, churches have a pastor or teacher move on and as a result, God’s people flounder because they were depending too much on that pastor or teacher for insight instead of the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are troubled, we must depend more on the Holy Spirit for comprehending and applying God’s Word to our lives. The Spirit’s insight into the Bible can calm the storm in our hearts.

I heard one preacher say that “the Holy Spirit is like a personal trainer in our lives. He’s not some video that you watch on TV where you find out how. He actually comes into our lives to be a personal, spiritual trainer. You know how you want to have discipline and do it on your own but if you could just get a personal trainer to come alongside you to encourage and tell you what to do? Wouldn’t that make it easier? Jesus is saying, that’s what the Holy Spirit is. So when you’re trying to pray and it’s like push-ups – You can’t do any more. The Holy Spirit comes alongside and says, ‘I’ll help you out. I’ll even pray for you.’ And He does” (cf. Romans 8:26-27).3 

When we feel so discouraged to the point of wanting to quit living for Christ, the Holy Spirit comes along side and He helps us and He encourages us in our hearts where we most need Him. Jesus said that is Whom My Father will send to you (John 14:26a).

May I suggest that you take time this week to read John 14:1-31 right before going to sleep. Then set your Bible aside, turn off the light, and go to sleep. Review the verses in your mind as you fall asleep. See what the Holy Spirit does for your heart the next morning as you put His word in your heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You that You understand us. You know what it is like to have a troubled heart. You did the night before Your crucifixion. And we praise You, Jesus, for giving us answers when we talk to You in prayer. We are so grateful we can talk to You about anything. Father God, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit so we are not left alone. Holy Spirit, we praise You for helping us remember Scripture at the appropriate time and for giving us understanding so we can apply Your Word to our lives. Lord God, when we look at the trouble in our lives and what it does to our hearts, the storms that it brings, there is part of us that thinks nothing can calm them. But we put our faith in You and Your Word right now. Thank You in advance, Holy Spirit, for the insight You will give to us that can calm our troubled hearts. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pp. 253-254.

3. Tom Holladay’s message, “Calming Your Troubled Heart” – John 14:1-27, May 29, 1996.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 2

“… The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:17-18

COVID-19 not only affects the physical health of people but also their emotional well-being. During this global pandemic, restrictive measures are being taken to contain the transmission of this virus by mass indoor quarantines and social distancing. Add to this the changing of plans, loss of structure, routine, and isolation, and you have a plethora of triggers for the fear of abandonment in many people. 1

All of us have a need to connect with people, but when that need is threatened by multiple restrictions, the fear of separation and rejection can easily overtake us. Day-to-day tasks can become burdensome because of our preoccupation with abandonment. This feeling of being left alone can overwhelm us.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? We are learning from Jesus’ interaction with His eleven believing disciples how this can be done. Last time we discovered we can overcome the fear of abandonment when we focus on the promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16). Today we see the second way to overcome this challenge is to focus on THE PERMANENT INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH (John 14:17-18).

Jesus now answers the question, “Who is the Helper?” Christ explains that the Helper is  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17). The Helper or Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus identified Himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Hence, the Holy Spirit communicates “the truth” about Jesus (cf. John 15:26). Jesus identifies the truth as the Father’s “word” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth about Jesus through God’s Word. It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit tells us what to do. He does not speak audibly to us, He speaks through the truth of the Bible. The Spirit of God will not lead us to act contrary to the Word of God. He will give us the ability to do what the Word says as we depend upon Him. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep Jesus’ commands (John 14:15).

In a sense the Holy Spirit replaces Jesus’ physical presence. This Helper would be unknown to “the world” (John 14:17) because He would be unseen and unrecognized. For example, without a radio, radio waves go unnoticed. So too, the Holy Spirit is unnoticed by the unsaved because they have no spiritual life. Why would we expect non-Christians to obey God? They do not have the ability to understand God’s Word properly without the Holy Spirit (cf. I Corinthians 2:11-15), let alone obey God’s Word. Jesus promised His disciples that they would “know(ginóskō) the Holy Spirit from personal experience because “He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17b).

Keep in mind that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was not given to every believer. Those called by God to do a special ministry were clothed or empowered by God’s Spirit (e.g. Gideon, Judges 6:34; David, I Samuel 16:13). Also, the Holy Spirit was temporarily given and could be withdrawn (e.g. Samson, Judges 13:25; 16:20; Saul, I Samuel 10:10; 16:40; David, Psalm 51:11). Before Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit generally dwelt with believers (by their side), just like Christ had been with His disciples in bodily form. The Spirit’s indwelling was selective and temporary. But Jesus is now saying that the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell all believers forever after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit can dwell individually in each of us, but Jesus could not do that when He was in a human body while on earth.

Then Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18). Christ promises that He will not leave them as “orphans” who are deprived of their parents. Jesus had been like a father to the disciples – comforting, protecting, providing, guiding, and instructing them as His own children. And now He was leaving them. But He would not leave them as “orphans.” He says, “I will come to you” through God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would fill the void left by Jesus’ departure. The Holy Spirit would comfort, protect, provide, guide, and instruct them. He would function as their Divine Parent.

In his book Living Faithfully, J. Allen Bair tells of a man who was struggling to get to Grand Central Station in New York City. The wind blew fiercely, and the rain beat down on him as he lugged his two heavy suitcases toward the terminal. Occasionally he would pause to rest and regain his strength before trudging on against the elements.

At one point he was almost ready to collapse, when a man suddenly appeared by his side, took the suitcases, and said in a strangely familiar voice, “We’re going the same way. You look as if you could use some help.” When they had reached the shelter of the station, the weary traveler, the renowned educator Booker T. Washington, asked the man, “Please, sir, what is your name?” The man replied, “The name, my friend, is Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt.” What a thrill it would be to have the assistance of a such a famous person!

But how much greater is the Helper God has sent! The God of the universe now indwells every person the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 11:15-17; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). At the moment of faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves in to stay so that your physical body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). In Romans 8:9, the apostle Paul tells us that if we do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we do not belong to Christ. When we believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, we receive all of the Holy Spirit, so there is no need to seek a second blessing or experience. The God of the universe now lives inside of you and will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!

One day Jesus will return for His church to take them to the place in His Father’s house that He has prepared for them in heaven (John 14:2-4). The Holy Spirit’s seal on every believer guarantees their safe and secure delivery to this heavenly home. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

When we “heard” and “believed” the “gospel… of salvation” we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (1:13-14). The word “sealed” (sphragizō) was used in the ancient world to refer to a legal signature which guaranteed the promise or contents of what was sealed. It signifies ownership and security caused by the backing of the owner.

The word “guarantee” (arrabōn) was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The “arrabōn” was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees that the remainder of our “inheritance” blessings will eventually be given to us. The primary aspect of our inheritance involves life in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Registered mail is a good example of the seal of the Holy Spirit. When something is registered at the post office it is sealed until delivered. Actually only two persons can open registered mail – the sender (if it is delivered back to him) and the recipient. When we believe in Christ for eternal life, we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until we go to heaven. God is the One who sends us on our way to heaven, and God in heaven is the Recipient on our arrival. There is no power greater than God Who can break the Holy Spirit’s seal. Only God can break this seal and He promises not to do so “until the redemption of the purchased possession” which is when the church is delivered safely and securely to God in heaven.  

No matter what I do or don’t do after being sealed by God the Holy Spirit, I am guaranteed a safe and secure delivery to God in heaven. Therefore, I do not need to look to anyone or anything besides the Holy Spirit to give me security in this life. My security is found in God the Holy Spirit, not in achievements, affluence, appearance, or the approval of others. This amazing truth must not be neglected or misrepresented because it is intended to bring “praise” and “glory” to our great and gracious God!

The Holy Spirit is not limited by COVID or government restrictions. When churches are not allowed to gather in one place, God the Holy Spirit can still meet with us and minister to us. And we can minister to Him as we worship the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the truth.

There are many physical orphans today in the world. They have been abandoned by their parents or by guardians. They are all alone. Some of you reading this article are all alone. Your family, your church, your friends, your co-workers, and neighbors have abandoned you. They act like you do not exist. But listen to what Jesus is saying: God will never abandon you! He will never give up on you. He is in your life to stay. Take time to get to know Him. Talk to Him through prayer about whatever is on your heart. Listen to Him as you read and study the Bible. He will help you understand what you are reading so you can apply it to your life.

Prayer: I come to You now, God the Holy Spirit, and I thank You for permanently indwelling me the moment I heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though there are many restrictions in our world today that hinder me from connecting with other people, I can still connect with You at any time and place about anything. I am so appreciative of Your presence in my life which provides everything I need to live for Jesus. Thank You for never abandoning me nor giving up on me. Thank You for sealing me the moment I came to faith in Christ. I am eternally grateful for the assurance that You will safely and securely deliver me to my Father’s house in heaven. I praise You that no one and nothing can break Your seal on my life except God the Father. And this will not happen until You safely deliver me to Him in heaven. Knowing this teaches me not to look to counterfeit substitutes for my security, but to solely rest in You for this deep need in my life. I give You all the glory, God, for this precious truth! In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7179484/; https://themighty.com/2020/03/coronavirus-fear-of-abandonment-borderline-personality-disorder/.

2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/illustrations/faithful-servants-11544480.html.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 1

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” John 14:16

A few years ago I watched the movie “Spotlight” which is based on a true story of how the Boston Globe newspaper’s spotlight team uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The many victims of abuse had been ignored by the Catholic Church and the Boston community. Near the end of the movie, many victims called in to the Spotlight department after they ran an article entitled, “Church ignores abuse by priests for years.” For years victims of sexual abuse were abandoned by people who knew about the abuse but turned the other way.

We might think, “Well, that is just the Catholic Church. That would not happen among true born-again Christians.” Evangelical churches would not ignore the victims of such abuse, right!?! Mission agencies would not tolerate such horrific treatment of their own people. Right?! Wrong! These assumptions are one of many factors that has hindered evangelicals and Bible-believing mission agencies from dealing with sexual abuse among their own people.

Former gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, says she was fifteen-years old when US Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar, started sexually abusing her. In an interview with Christianity Today, she says, Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church… 1

Mission agencies that once denied the possibility of sexual abuse among their missionary families have had to come to grips with the harsh reality that such abuse has and does take place among conservative evangelical missionary families. In fact, I was told by one mission agency leader in the Philippines, that sexual abuse takes place in every culture and subculture, Christian or non-Christian. All people are fallen and broken because of sin.

Sexual abuse victims are often isolated and left alone to deal with their pain and shame. Those who are abused within the church are wanting to know, “Where is God in all of this? Has God abandoned me? Why did He permit this to happen to me?”

The feeling of being left alone, not only haunts victims of sexual abuse, it also haunts the “divorcee in that apartment… or the one who just buried his or her life’s companion… or the couple whose arms ache for the child recently taken… the young nurse in 1967 who, after a shattered romance and broken engagement, went back to the Midwest to start over… like the disillusioned teenaged girl, away from home and heavy with child – wondering, ‘How can I face tomorrow?’” 2  Because of COVID-19, many people are experiencing abandonment by family, friends, colleagues, and churches. Some of you reading this article may be feeling as though God has left you or abandoned you.

The disciples of Jesus may have asked that question, “How can I face tomorrow?” After Jesus announced His departure to His disciples, they became troubled (John 13:33-14:12). They were afraid to be left alone without Jesus present. They did not want to fight battles and face issues alone.

Like Jesus’ disciples, we may struggle with the fear of abandonment. A word, a tone of voice, or gesture or lack of it can drive us to act in ways that we think will prevent someone from leaving us. But we do not have to yield to our fear of abandonment because Jesus has provided a Helper to encourage us during His absence.

In John 14:12-14, Jesus had promised His disciples that if they trusted Him, they would do greater works than He had done because He would go to the Father. Even though Jesus was leaving them, they were to continue His ministry of revealing the Father. Christ’s disciples would reveal His Father to a greater extent than He had done while He was on earth if they had faith in Him to work through them. The power to reveal the Father would be obtained through prayer in Jesus’ name.

For the next few days, we will learn how we can overcome the fear of abandonment. We can overcome the fear of abandonment by focusing on… THE PROMISE OF ANOTHER HELPER (John 14:15-16). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples,“If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15). While Jesus was gone, the disciples would have an opportunity to show Christ just how much they loved Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The present tense of the first verb, “love,” (agapate) could be translated, “If you keep on loving Me…” 3 They could reveal their love for the Lord through their ongoing obedience to Him.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “If you fear Me, keep My commandments.” The fear of Jesus is not the motivation for obedience to Him. Instead, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Love for Jesus is the strongest motivation for obeying Him. Our obedience to Christ is the outgrowth of our love relationship with Him. First John 4:18-19 say, 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.”The more I experience the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, the more my love toward Him will increase and express itself by obeying Him.

Some people may claim to love Christ while living in disobedience to Him. They may misconstrue that their love for the Lord is a feeling. But Christ makes it clear that our love for Him is revealed through our actions. Jesus taught His disciples that answered prayer is dependent upon obedience to Him (John 14:13-14; cf. 15:7). John writes in his epistle, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”(I John 3:22). We can say we love the Lord, but what truly communicates our love for Him is obedience to His Word (cf. I John 3:18).

Think about this for a moment. If Jesus just told us with His mouth that He loved us and never took action, we would still be dead in our sins. God’s love involves the commitment to do what is best for others. Our love for Jesus is expressed through our obedience to Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16). Jesus recognized the weaknesses of His disciples and their inability to fulfill the ministry of revealing the Father through their obedience to His commands, so He promises that the Father will send “another Helper.” The word “Helper”(paraklétos) literally means, “One who is called alongside to help.” 4 The disciples had been sent out to minister while Jesus was here on earth. But now they were being sent out to be His witnesses during His absence from the earth. Jesus had been their Helper while He was with them. In His absence, He would send “another Helper.”

This verse has much to say about the Trinity. Laney observes that “it is noteworthy that in vv. 13-14 Jesus commands His disciples to ‘ask’ (aiteō), the word used of an inferior asking a superior. But here Jesus uses the word erotaō (‘ask’), a word used of a request made to an equal. This has significant implications in terms of Jesus’ deity. Although submissive to the Father, Jesus regarded Himself as an equal (cf. 10:30; 14:9)5 to the Father.

Christ also considers the Holy Spirit to be equal to Himself by using the word “another” (allon) which means “another of the same kind.” 6 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another just like Myself.” According to Christ, there is equality among the Godhead (see diagram below). The Son is equal to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is equal to the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in every way as God, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity.

Christ is saying in this verse that the Holy Spirit will do for them all that He had done for them while He was with them. So they would not be abandoned or left alone to their own wisdom and strength. This Helper would be with them “forever.” There would never be a time when this coming Helper would be taken away from them in the way Christ was now being taken from them through His death and eventual ascension to heaven. 

You may ask, “If God the Holy Spirit is with me, why do I still feel all alone?” Because the Holy Spirit is not a feeling, He is a Person without a physical body. Rather than focus on our feelings to determine if we are alone and abandoned, we are to focus on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that this “Helper” will “abide with you forever.” The word “forever” is the English translation of three words in the original language and literally means “to the age” (eis ton aiōna). Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will continue with them (and us) until “the end of the world or time” itself to provide constant comfort, guidance, leading, power, protection, provision, and teaching. Unlike Christ who spent three and a half years with His disciples and then left them, Jesus now promises another equal Helper Who will never depart from them.

Think about this: how long is “forever?” It is permanent, isn’t it? It never ends. Even though you may feel alone, the truth is there will never be a time when the Holy Spirit is not “with you.” Feelings can lie to us. We may conclude, “I am alone because I feel alone.” That is a lie. We must not give our feelings more authority than God’s Word. Will we focus on a lie or on the unchanging truth of God’s Word? The choice is ours. If we feel alone it is because we are focusing on thoughts or feelings of loneliness which are contrary to the truth of Jesus. We need to follow the example of the Psalmist when he prayed to the Lord, “Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” (Psalm 119:29).  We can ask the Lord to remove this lie from our thinking and to graciously renew our mind with this truth that God the Holy Spirit is always with us to provide constant assistance and strength whether we feel this way or not.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending God the Holy Spirit to supply our needs in Your absence. I must admit that I have given my feelings more authority than Your Word when I believe I am all alone. Thank You for reminding me that I am never alone, Lord Jesus. Your Holy Spirit abides with me forever! Holy Spirit, I want to give You everyone and everything in my life right now. Please restore my union with You and guide me into a deeper connection with You, the Father, and Jesus. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://www.christianitytoday. com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html.

2. Adapted from Chuck Swindoll’s Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), pp. 164-165.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 260-261.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 438.

5. Laney, pg. 261.

6. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V., Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 252.

Comfort instead of Chaos

During this time of chaos and uncertainty, God has drawn me back to one of the greatest sources of comfort and hope that we have as Christians. It has to do with the next event on God’s Prophetic Calendar known as the Rapture or sudden removal of Christians from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air to be with Him forever (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11).
       

When the apostle John, a member of the Church, was caught up to heaven, he saw “twenty-four elders” sitting on thrones around the throne of God. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4).  These twenty-four elders represent faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” in the New Testament are leaders of the local Church (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28;  I Tim. 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1).
       

The fact that these elders are already sitting on “thrones,” wearing “white garments” and “crowns” indicates they have already appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive their rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:4-5, 21; 22:12), which means the vision John describes in heaven takes place after the Rapture of the Church. This is supported further by the absence of the word “church” and any references to Christians on earth in Chapters 6-18 of Revelation, which describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. The reason the Church is not mentioned in Revelation 6-18 is because it has already been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver her from “the wrath to come” as  taught by the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 1:10.
       

The apostle Paul then explains how Jesus will deliver us from the coming wrath of the Tribulation period in I Thessalonians 4. “For if [or since] we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thess. 4:14). The Rapture or Removal of the Church is just as certain as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At one point in time the death and resurrection of Christ were prophecy. But now they are history. We can believe the Rapture with equal certainty.
       

The apostle Paul expected the removal of the Church from the earth to take place while he was alive on earth and so should we. Paul wrote, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17). The words “caught up” are from the Greek word haparzo which means “to snatch up or away suddenly.”Paul describes it like this I Corinthians 15:52“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet… the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In the time it takes you to blink your eye, the Lord will snatch all believers in Jesus off the earth to meet Him in the air – not one will remain behind.
     

This sudden removal of all Christians from the earth is intended to comfort believers in Jesus. That’s why Paul writes, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18). If the Rapture of the Church is at the middle or end of the seven year Tribulation period of intense and unusual suffering on earth (Rev. 6-18), there would be little comfort and encouragement in this. But the prospect of Christ coming at any moment is a much greater comfort. Jesus could come back today for His Church. Are you ready? If not, here is how you can prepare for Christ’s coming for His Church.
       

You must receive Jesus’ free gift of everlasting life to leave this earth with the Church to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You may ask “Why do I need everlasting life?” Because all people have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23) anddeserve death (Rom. 6:23) or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). But Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth to die on a cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:3-6). Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone when He says,  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It does not matter how good or bad you have been. Jesus offers you everlasting life as a free gift if you would simply believe in Him alone for it.
       

When you believe in Jesus, He gives you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and He guarantees you a home in heaven when you die or when He returns, whichever occurs first (John 14:1-3). His Holy Spirit places you in the body of Christ, His Church (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Ephes. 1:22-23). Christ wants to use you now to share this message of comfort and hope with those who are perishing without Him (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). 
       

Rather than focus on the chaos and social unrest of our unbelieving world which is trying to advance a cashless system and other ways to track people, let’s focus on the comfort of our Lord’s glorious coming for His Church. By doing so, we will be more motivated to share the gospel with the lost people of this world and prepared to face Jesus as our Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 4:17-19).

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall have no want for comfort

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4b

About six hundred times, the Scriptures refer to sheep, lambs, ewes, sheepfolds, and shepherds. God seems to be saying to us, “If you want to learn something about the Christian life, watch the sheep. And if you want to know something about Me, watch a faithful shepherd.”

In the first half of verse 4, we saw that one of the paths our Good Shepherd leads us down goes through “the valley of the shadow of death.” David writes that he was comforted by his Shepherd as he led him through this dark time in his life. He says, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The “rod” refers to a great oak club about two feet long with a round head in which the shepherd pounded sharp bits of metal. He used the rod to defend his flock against wild beasts. A skillful shepherd not only swung the club to smash the head of a predator, but he would also throw the club like a missile over the heads of his sheep to strike a wolf or mountain lion lurking in the distance.

The “staff” was a long walking stick that was bent or hooked at one end. The shepherd used his staff to restrain sheep from wandering or hooked their legs to pull them out of holes into which they had fallen. He also used it to pull branches aside when a sheep got tangled in a thicket or to beat back the high grass to drive out snakes coiled on the path.

The sheep take comfort from the shepherd’s power.The word “comfort” means to give strength. To comfort is to give strength by supplying power. God offers us more than a handkerchief to dry our tears – He offers us His power and His might. But if we are honest with ourselves, we may be somewhat afraid of God’s power perhaps because we think He is like us – unpredictable. One day we are up and another day we are down. One day we are all smiles and another day we are all frowns. We suspect God is that way. One day He uses His power on our behalf and another day He wants to flex His muscles some and hurl a thunderbolt into our lives.

We need to remember that our Good Shepherd is as gracious as He is powerful. God cannot use His power outside of His love. His grace limits His power just as His holiness limits His love. God will not move in might except to carry out the desires of His heart.

For example, let’s say you have a daughter who becomes very ill with the coronavirus. When the doctor examines her, he then rushes her to the hospital. He tells you that he is not sure she will live through the night. You are standing there, watching helplessly as your little girl struggles for her life. In those moments, some great truths in Scripture come to your mind. First of all, you know that God loves you and He loves your little girl (John 3:16). After all, He loved you enough to die for you both (Romans 5:8). You know that nothing and no one can separate you both from His love (Romans 8:35-39).

Yet you loved your little girl, too, and you are helpless to do what your love desires. Then you realize that the God who loves you both is also the God of power (cf. Jeremiah 32:17). And you know that He has the strength to do what His love desires. If God chose that your daughter stay with you, He had the power to keep her alive. And if God chose to take your daughter home, this, too, would be His loving choice. He has the power to do anything that His heart knows best.

The comfort of God can calm our fears because we can rest our lives in His strength. Would it really comfort us if all our “whys” were answered? Why the child had to meet that deadly virus? Why all of this social distancing? Why did the train have to be there the moment those teenagers crossed the railroad tracks? Why all the flooding and property damage from the typhoon?

If God simply gave scientific or philosophical explanations to our bruising questions, could they really comfort us? A child is not comforted by being told why she has contracted the coronavirus. Nor is a child comforted by being told why her finger hurts when it is bruised in a car door, or why her tummy aches. She is comforted by knowing that her mother loves her, and that she can do something about her hurt.

We can obtain much comfort from the defending rod and staff of our Good Shepherd, not only for ourselves but for others. We may not be able to visit people face to face right now, but we can pray to the One who can be there with them to comfort them with His powerful love and presence.

Prayer: Good Shepherd, there is so much in life that I do not understand. Many people are going through dark times right now. There is much chaos and confusion in our world today. But this chaos and confusion begin to fade away when I turn the eyes of my heart towards You. I really do not need answers to my questions right now. I need You O Lord. Knowing that You love me without condition and that You have the power to take care of me always, is the greatest source of comfort and security for me at this moment. Thank You so much for Your rod which You hurl at the enemy when he whispers lies that provoke fear in my heart. Thank You for Your staff which You use to guide me or rescue me when I get into trouble. I need You Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less. Thank You for being a faithful, loving, and all powerful Shepherd. My trust is in You. In Your name. Amen.