- Deuteronomy 1:19-33
- John 14:1-14
- Faith replaces confusion and anxiety
- The eternal home is being prepared
- Only one way to God
- Between now and eternity: work and pray
My dear fellow believer in the Lord Jesus Christ,
I remember sitting in the funeral parlour. The funeral director asked me all the questions about my brother’s impending funeral, and I had to think hard to be coherent. Usually, I would sit on the other side of the table and ask about the same questions to families who lost loved ones in death. To experience losing someone close made me trip over my words, not thinking clearly.
Our world can sometimes become undone when people around fail and disappoint us. Applied to the church, it is usually not what happens in the world which disturbs us; it is usually what happens within the church that brings confusion. We have our disappointments, people get their noses into other people’s business, they gossip, slander, but what really gets us is when someone openly disowns the Lord through public sin. We then just want to give up and walk away.
Faith replaces confusion and anxiety
Jesus had announced to his disciples that He would leave them.
Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. (John 13:33, NKJV)
Judas had left them to betray Jesus, and then there was the sad prediction of our Lord that another would deny Him. But Jesus comforted them with these words:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1, NKJV)
They were sobering words.
The disciples faced disappointment, confusion and loneliness: one of their leaders would deny that he ever knew Christ, and their Lord would be dragged before the courts, falsely charged, bitterly beaten and scoffed, only to be nailed to a cross along with two criminals.
But He had prepared them even before Judas walked out into the darkness of the night.
Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. (John 13:19, NKJV)
So now, on their way to the Garden of Olives, He instructs them again:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1, NKJV)
To the troubled means to be confused and as a result to go in some panic. That’s what shock does to one. It leads one to lose direction and hope. When Jesus comforted them in their hour of confusion, He gave them the antidote to uncertainty. “Believe in God, believe in Me also.”
This is infinitely more than us trying to comforting one another with words like, “Things will get better, just hang in there.” What our Lord said was to put our their trust in God, the One who created the universe, the One who had been faithful to his people up to that point in time by making all his promises come true in his Son Jesus Christ – the very same God who would carry them through precisely on account of what his Son accomplished in his rescue mission.
Faith is absolute trust that God will and can do as He promised because He is God. When Moses led the people out of Egypt through the terrifying desert on their way to the Promised Land, he had to remind them of the One who made their rescue possible. They too, like the disciples in John 14, were on their way to their Promised Land. So Moses said to them:
Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’ (Deuteronomy 1:21)
They decided to send a reconnaissance group to find out more about the land. Only two of the twelve men who returned had faith in God; the others wavered in unbelief. Moses then said:
The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:30–31, NKJV)
They, despite of this assurance, did not believe in God, and wanted to return to Egypt.
I think something of this was in the mind of our Lord when He spoke to his disciples in John 14. We will surely face difficulties and opposition in this world for the sake of Christ, but the antidote is faith – not blind faith, faith without any content, which is nothing less than so-called positive thinking – it takes one nowhere.
Believe in God, believe in Me. If they would keep their eyes on Christ, they would see Him suffer, crucified, but they would see Him overcome death, hell, sin and Satan. And this is exactly what happened. After his resurrection and his intensive teaching in the course of forty days before He went to the Father, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirt, these men feared nothing. All but one eventually died a brutal death. but they kept faith in God the Father and his Son.
Our eternal home is being prepared
The people of Israel was on their way to the Promised Land, but that was still a temporary stop. Jesus prepared his disciples for the good news that they would inherit a heavenly home. It is not a home built by human hands with bricks and mortar. It is not a home where thieves and break in and steal, or a place where moth and rust destroy. The Apostle Peter writes about it:
… an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4–5, NKJV)
Oh, we need to talk about heaven more! We are too anchored to this world. John writes about this:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4, NKJV)
He writes more about this city:
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). (Revelation 21:23–25, NKJV)
Our Lord assured his disciples:
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2–3, NKJV)
Christians don’t have a permanent address in this word. Our address is the city of God. When all around us seem unstable and insecure, yes, even after we have lost everything we have, our eternal home stands firm. As a matter of fact, what we accumulate here can stand in our way to serve our Lord unencumbered. It is really only when we turn our backs on what is dear to us now, that we can truely look forward to the home now being prepared for us by our Lord who opens the door to more than paradise for us.
Do you have your heart in that place? Are you longing to be in your eternal home? Are you looking forward to be with Him who saved you from eternal destruction? Or are you confused and anxious? May I then show you the way to Christ who said, “Believe in in God, believe in Me also”?
Only one way to God
When Thomas protested about not knowing where Jesus was and not knowing the way, Jesus said:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6, NKJV)
Jesus said so because He came from the Father; He said so because He came to take away the sin of the world; He said so because his Father loved the world and gave Him so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life; He said so because He laid down his life for those whom the Father gave Him; He said so because He is the bread of life and those who eat of his flesh and drink of his blood He will raise up in the last day. But He also said so because only his life was the righteousness which satisfy his Father’s wrath upon sin.
Let no one ever confuse you to think that all religions are the same, and that some will get in heaven through Allah or his prophet Mohammed, or through Buddha, or through reincarnation, or through any earthly deity or human representative. Jesus said: No one comes to the Father but through Me.
So, how do we get to heaven? Good works, effort, trying harder, having a good reputation? No, it’s only through Christ. He paid the price to rescue us from God’s wrath, He conquered death, He ascended to the Father, He intercedes for us, and He will return one day for those who loved Him, but He will also condemn to eternal torment those who did not love Him and followed other gods.
Between now and eternity: work and pray
Christ taught the disciples that they, between his going to the Father and his return to take home those who love Him, have work to do.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12, NKJV)
How do we understand this verse? Three things:
First. We’ve got work to do. Let’s not marvel in how spectacular the works should be, before we started doing some work in the Kingdom of Christ.
Second. Also, Jesus said that a servant is not greater than his master (13:16, 15:20). The idea that believers will outdo their Master does not come from the Bible.
What this verse teaches us is that not all of the revealed plan of salvation in Christ was revealed up to that point in time. He still had to die, raise again, return to the Father, and the Holy Spirit had to be poured out. Christ would use his church do go beyond the boundaries of Israel into all the world and bring in the nations. In this sense then what Christ began will be completed by his Church. In this sense their works would be greater, but it would surely not have more impact than what has been accomplished by Christ. To understand the “greater” in this verse as “more spectacular” is just not what it says.
Listen carefully what Jesus said: “and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father”. The success of the mission of the church rests upon the completed salvation of Christ.
Third. What our Lord added to this statement is also defined in the rest: “Whatever you ask in My Name, this I will do”. Can we do great things on our own? No, we need to pray, and to pray is to acknowledge that we stand with empty hands before our Lord. Further, who does what we pray for? Christ! It is never us; there is never any room for boasting other than to know that Christ is doing his work through his church on there knees before his throne.
We do not only need to have faith in the Lord, not only look forward to our eternal home, not only know that Christ is the only One through whom we can go to the Father, but we also need to be busy, doing his work in humble submission to Him who provides for us to work for his Kingdom to come. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 19 February 2017