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My Peace I Give to You

October 5, 2014 Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John

Passage: John 14:25–31

Sermon from John 14:25-31 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lacking Peace Without and Within

Our focus today will be on the peace that Jesus gives his disciples. If there is one thing we’re all familiar with, it’s a lack of peace within our own souls and within the world around us. We might think of the brutality and disregard for the image of God in man with the abortion holocaust. We might think of the injustice and exploitation of women in the world-wide pornography and sex-trafficking industry. We might think of the international havoc raised recently in Ukraine with Russia or in Syria with Islamic State. We might think of the bloodshed and hatred displayed on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, or the anxiety and panic unleashed by the spreading Ebola virus. The world around us lacks peace.

But we do not even have to look to the world around us to find a lack of peace. We have a lack of peace that’s much closer to home. Our relationships with others at times suffer strife and hurt. Marriages experience times of bitterness and offense. Sometimes our children despise our instruction and fill the day with rebellion. And even closer, our own souls grow anxious with the circumstances around us. Our own souls borrow trouble from tomorrow and grow fearful of not having what we think we need. Our own souls know the temptations of the enemy, who rages against us and seeks to devour us like a prowling lion. Our own souls spiral into despair, wondering when the darkness will lift and sometimes if God even cares to lift it.

More than that, our own conscience torments us with its awareness of our sin. The anger we see in Ferguson, we soon find in our own souls toward others. The rage we see in Islamic State, we soon realize tempts us as well in our desire to retaliate with equal bloodshed and violence. The same self-absorbed idolatry in our culture also exists within ourselves just playing out in different ways as we neglect to love our neighbor and disregard the needy. Even the peace we attempt to create by our own hands amounts to a temporary experience of self-rule that’s then dashed to pieces by somebody else who attempts to do the same, just in their way instead of ours.

Peace Found Only in God through Christ

What becomes clear is that true and lasting peace cannot be found within the world or within our own souls. It must come from somewhere else. Peace must come from outside ourselves, from outside the world in which we live. And the Bible’s answer is that it comes from God through Jesus Christ. There’s no anxiety in God—no chaos or strife, no disunity or fear. God is whole, complete, lacking in nothing that is good and right and true. Wherever God rules instead of sin and Satan, the result is peace. Wherever he’s truly present with his people, peace will reign and the world is right. In the Bible, peace has less to do with the absence of strife and more to do with the presence of God blessing the world with his perfect rule.

In fact, the Old Testament looked forward to a day when such peace would cover the earth. The peace offerings under the Law taught God’s people that peace with God is costly. They looked forward to a day when better blood would be shed to solidify peace with God and peace with one another. The prophets even looked forward to a Prince of Peace would come and rule and establish a kingdom of peace on earth.

And into this context steps Jesus, the embodiment of peace itself. He enters a humanity without peace and says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” Can it be so? Can it be that Jesus offers us a peace the world has never and could never produce on its own? Can it be that we, who claim to be his followers, can know this peace even now when the world is still such a mess?

I hope you will see today that the answer is “Yes.” You can know true peace—a peace the world cannot give you. It is a peace that can only be found by joining Jesus in his victory over sin, death, and the devil. The world cannot give you true and lasting peace, because the world cannot make your relationship with God right. Only Jesus can make your relationship with God right. And when your relationship with God is right, peace rules your soul and peace rules the way you relate to others—both of which are only the foretaste of God establishing comprehensive peace throughout the entire earth in the person and work of Jesus. But let’s hear it from Jesus himself. I’ll begin reading in verse 25. He says,

25These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But 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 that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Jesus Gives Heart-Strengthening, Fear-Dispelling Peace

Jesus’ primary aim is to ensure his disciples find peace in him. He’s not telling them to look within but to look to him: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” He also clarifies that the peace he gives cannot be found in the world, regardless what attempts humanity may try: “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” How could it be found in a world ruled by the devil (14:30; cf. 1 John 5:19)? The peace he gives them is his own to leave with them, his own to give to them. And by implication it is the peace the disciples must receive as Jesus’ gift.

But just to be clear, Jesus gives us a couple more components bound up with the peace he’s talking about. Having peace in Jesus includes first of all a strengthened heart—verse 27 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Remember, Jesus is on his way back to the Father. He’s on his way to die, then rise, and then ascend into glory. He won’t be physically present with the disciples much longer on earth. They’re confused; they’re growing anxious. And he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” One component of the peace is strengthened hearts.

Then he also says in verse 27, “neither let [your hearts] be afraid.” So now we’ve got the ability to overcome fear as another component of the peace Jesus gives. The peace Jesus gives fortifies our hearts and dispels our fears. This is something the world apparently cannot do. Anything the world gives cannot strengthen our hearts the way they need to be strengthened; and the world cannot overcome our fears as they need to be overcome. The peace Jesus gives does both.

How Does Jesus' Peace Come?

Now, having said that, I want us to see what exactly it is that brings the sort of heart-strengthening, fear dispelling peace Jesus is talking about. What is it that gives this peace in Christ’s absence on earth? Because we’re all in the same boat as the disciples will soon be. Jesus isn’t physically present with us either right now. He’s in heaven now and he’s coming again in the future, but right now, we’ve got the same issue the disciples are facing in our passage—namely, where are we to find peace when we can’t see the King of Peace yet face-to-face?

Let me work backwards in our passage and show you where we find peace as we wait for Jesus to return. Four things stand out.

1. The Resolve of Christ’s Love for the Father

First of all, the resolve of Christ’s love for the Father. We find peace in the resolve of Christ’s love for the Father. I get this from verses 30-31: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” What’s he talking about? He’s talking about dying on the cross. The ruler of this world is gathering Judas and the soldiers and the Jewish authorities to arrest him and crucify him. And he wants them to know that all this is happening, not because of Satan but ultimately because of love.

Jesus’ love for his Father is taking him to the cross, even when it means he gives himself into Satan’s hands. Jesus has loved his Father for eternity. That love for the Father didn’t waver when the Father chose to give him up as a sacrifice for you. His love for the Father didn’t decrease when the Father set your sins before him, and set your punishment before him, and he saw what your peace with God would cost him. No, he embraced the whole mission with unflinching resolve to see his Father glorified in saving you. The cross is first a testimony that Jesus loves his Father, and therein lies the only hope that we might experience peace with God unworthy as we are.

True Peace Stems from Christ's Resolve, Not Ours

We all need to hear this. True peace doesn’t begin with our own resolve to love God more; it begins with Jesus’ resolve to love God. Let’s face it, we lack the ability to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That’s why we sin. Sin is our failure to love the Father and why there’s a breach in our relationship with God. Our sin is war against God, not peace with God. That’s not the case in Jesus’ relationship with God.

He is resolved—he is unwavering in his love for love the Father—and so there’s no breach in his relationship with God. There’s no discord with the Father. The Father relates to him in perfect peace. Now, let me ask you this: what happens when his resolve to love the Father leads him to the cross? What happens is this: forgiveness for your failure to love the Father—since he dies in your place—and total peace with God—since his resolve to love the Father becomes yours.

His resolve to love the Father at all costs to himself, wins the two things you need to have peace with God—forgiveness of sins and a righteousness that’s not your own. That’s why Jesus went to the cross in loving obedience to his Father—to become a peace offering for your sins and to become your righteousness before God. All your sins went on him; and all his resolve to love the Father is given to us. And this great exchange is the birthplace of our peace with God. Paul puts it this way, “He made him who knew no sin [that’s Jesus’ resolve to love the Father] to be sin on our behalf [he paid it’s penalty on the cross], that we might become the righteousness of God in him [his resolve becomes ours]” (2 Cor 5:21). And Rom 5 says that when Jesus’ righteousness—his resolve to love the Father—becomes ours by faith, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The peace we could never obtain by our own resolve was obtained for us in Jesus’ resolve. That’s what this Table reminds us of this morning. We will not eat in the kingdom because of anything we resolved to do, any decision we made to “turn over a new leaf,” any work we performed to win God’s favor. We will eat with Jesus in the kingdom, because of his resolve to love the Father. His resolve prepared us a place at the Table. But get this, Jesus’ resolve to love the Father extends beyond winning us peace with God. It also includes winning us victory over our chief enemy, the devil.

2. The Assurance of Christ’s Victory over the Devil

That’s actually our next point: we find peace in the assurance of Christ’s victory over the devil. Look again at verse 30: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world [that’s the devil] is coming. He has no claim on me.” Jesus isn’t saying, “I’m sovereign over the devil”—though that’s totally true (6:70-71; 13:3, 11, 27). It’s just that here, we’re still dealing with a context where Jesus is doing as the Father has commanded him (14:31). It’s a legal context. He’s saying, the devil has no legal claim on him. There’s nothing in Jesus the devil can lay hold of and say, “Ah hah! I’ve got you, you guilty sinner!”—which we know is what he would love to do to Jesus—that’s why he tempted Jesus in the wilderness—and we know it’s what he loves doing to us.

Part of the devil’s tyranny over sinners is to stand before God as an accuser. He shames us with our guilt (cf. Rev 12:10). He tells heaven how we’ve soiled our garments with sin (Zech 3:1-5). Colossians 2:13-15 pictures evil rulers and authorities holding a certificate of debt over our heads that consists of decrees against us. They shove it in our face—“This is the penalty you deserve for breaking God’s law”—as if to blackmail us and keep us under their control. It’s even connected with the devil’s power over death in Heb 2:14-15—if we’re guilty before God, death is a fearful thing. He can threaten us with death because he holds our certificate of debt.

The devil can’t do that to Jesus. He has no charge he can bring against Jesus—no legal right to stand up in heaven’s courtroom and point the finger at Jesus—because Jesus has no sin (John 8:46; Heb 4:15). He is resolved to love the Father, and so he keeps all the Father commands of him. The devil has no claim on Jesus.

Devil Has No Claim on Those Jesus Represents

That’s significant for your peace, because if the devil has no claim on Jesus, he has no claim on the people Jesus represents on the cross. Jesus didn’t give himself over to death, because Satan had something on him. He gave himself over to death, because Satan had plenty on us. We were guilty, but Jesus went to the cross innocent to be slain for the guilty. He died to remove, to cancel our certificate of debt. The penalty required by God’s law was paid in full by Jesus standing in our place. The certificate Satan once used to wreak havoc in our lives, was nailed to the cross in Jesus’ body.

And more than that, Satan’s power over death can no longer enslave us, because Jesus also rose from the grave, three days later victorious—proving he was guiltless. And everybody united to Jesus is freed from Satan’s tyranny—transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. And it’s there, in that kingdom where we find peace—the fullness of which is still coming, but the blessings of which we already taste, forgiveness of sins and victory over the devil. Sure the devil’s temptations will come. He will threaten your peace with all kinds of lies and false gospels. He will still try to shame you with your sins. But the truth of the only gospel, is that whoever comes to Jesus by faith, on them the devil can claim no victory. He cannot stand in God’s courtroom and accuse you any longer, because Christ is your forgiveness and your righteousness. The victory belongs to Christ and all who join him.

This is what we preach to ourselves, brothers and sisters, when the devil tries to paralyze us with guilt, when he shoves in your face the shamefulness of your past, when he holds over you your past sexual immorality, your lustful thoughts, your love of money, your lack of love for others, your fears to talk about Jesus, your secret sins nobody else sees, your hidden idolatry; and he sends your soul spiraling into despair without any escape from the darkness; and tells you that you might as well keep on sinning since God doesn’t care. And this word says Christ is your rescue. If you repent and put your trust in him, Christ is your victor. He disarmed the Serpent of Old and smashed his head in the ground beneath his bloodied heel, that you might know peace. And even though we have yet to experience that peace in full, Paul says this in Rom 16:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

That’s really good news on dark days. That’s really good news to announce to your neighbors who sit in darkness without hope.

3. The Joy of Christ’s Exaltation to the Father

And there’s still more to this picture. Third, we find peace in the joy of Christ’s exaltation to the Father. We’re moving chronologically here: Christ’s love for the Father takes him to the cross; the cross and resurrection wins us forgiveness and victory over the devil; now we’re at his ascension back to glory.

Verse 28, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced [that’s where I’m getting the joy from], because I’m going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

The disciples lack love for Jesus. And this lack of love is seen in their self-centered sulking over Jesus’ departure. They’re not rejoicing in Jesus going to the Father, because they’re too hung up on themselves and the present circumstances. They’re questioning Jesus—how it can be better for them if he goes away. Now, Jesus promises in verse 29 that the disciples will eventually change. But for now, that’s not the case. They’re struggling to rejoice over his departure.

They’re just like us—they’re so focused on their own problems that they lose sight of what’s best for Jesus’ glory. If they truly loved Jesus, they would see that Jesus’ departure was better for him, and in turn also better for them. The reason Jesus gives is this: “for the Father is greater than I.”

Now, some—like Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who follow the Arian heresy, which says that Jesus is less than God—they will take this verse and diminish the truth of other verses which clearly teach Jesus is God. One of the easiest ways to spot false teaching is when people use the truth of one text to negate the truth of another text instead of seeing how the truth of both texts stand together. Chapter 1:1 already set the stage for how we should view Jesus: he is equal with God even though distinct in person—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” So this verse can’t mean that Jesus is less than God.

Since Jesus is equal to God, I take it to stress the personal priority the Father enjoys in his role as Father over the Son. That doesn’t diminish the Son’s divine equality with the Father, any more than saying a husbands headship over his wife diminishes her equality with him as God’s image-bearer (1 Cor 11:3). The Father and Son are equal in divinity, but relate to one another in differing roles—the Father over the Son (cf. 1 Cor 15:26-28). In that sense, he is greater than Jesus.

It’s in this greater role as Father, that the Father sends the Son from glory to take on the humble state of a servant. Jesus prays in 17:4, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Meaning, Jesus was clothed in glory with the Father before the world existed; and he then set that glory aside when the Father sent him into the world. And what we’re getting here is that Jesus desires to be clothed with that glory once again alongside the Father.

All God's Purposes Heading to the Day of Worshiping Jesus

Now here’s why the disciples should’ve rejoiced over that. For Jesus to return to his Father is for Jesus to return to the place where he belongs—in glory with the Father. Only now, the difference between the glory he enjoyed with the Father before the world began and the glory he would enjoy now would be this: he would enjoy that glory as a man, the God-man. And they should know from their Bibles that all of God’s purposes in creation are racing toward that day when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord.

All of history will one day break forth in reverent adoration and praise of Jesus. Everybody will see him reigning with glory and splendor alongside his Father. Even the mountains and the hills before him will break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands for joy (Isa 55:12). For him to return to his place of glory with the Father would mean that final day of peace was near. Everything that needed to be done was finished. All that would be left is for the world to hear the peace of God’s final rule announced in Jesus’ name.

We Can Rejoice in Jesus' Present Reign

This is why they should have rejoiced. This is why we can rejoice. We live on the other side of Jesus’ exaltation to the Father. He is there right now, alive and interceding for us, fighting for our peace until he brings the final kingdom. There’s nothing and no one who can bump him off the throne or stop his purposes to bring the world peace. Preach that to yourself when you see an Islamic State provoking fear among the nations, when you experience the uncertainties of this evil world system, when you hear of the hostility in a city like Ferguson. Jesus is in heaven and he will bring peace on earth. He’s already broken sin’s power and paid sins’ penalty; all he has left is to eradicate its remains. That will include destroying everything that raises a fist against his Father.

We can trust him to do this, brothers and sisters. We don’t have to live in fear or let the troubles of this life overwhelm us. Jesus is already exalted to God’s right hand. To let the troubles overwhelm us and the fears control us is to live as if he isn’t there. But he is, even though we cannot see him he is. The Bible tells us he is.

4. The Help of Christ’s Spirit-inspired Word

Which brings us to one last point: we find peace in the help of Christ’s Spirit-inspired word. Verse 25, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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 that I have said to you.”

Now it is true that the Holy Spirit teaches all believers of all time. He illumines our minds to the truth. He helps us understand Jesus’ words. But that’s not the promise Jesus is making here. Jesus has in mind something more specific. He is giving a specific promise limited to the apostles. Jesus spoke things to them, which they heard while he was on earth. And the Spirit’s job is to help them remember what Jesus said and teach them the meaning of Jesus’ words. Your New Testament is a result of that work.

Let me show you two places where John makes the Spirit’s work in teaching and remembering Jesus’ words very explicit.

We see it once in 2:21-22. This is where Jesus confuses the Jews by saying, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Then 2:21 we get John explaining what Jesus means: “He was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

Same thing happens in 12:16. After we get a quotation from the prophet Zechariah, John gives us this: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” So this whole book of John, is a result of the Spirit’s work causing the disciples to remember Jesus’ words and understand them rightly.

Confidence in an Inerrant Word

How might that bring us peace? I think it brings us peace in a few ways. First off, it gives me a lot of confidence that the disciples weren’t just making things up on their own. God himself is teaching them and helping them remember. The words they wrote down weren’t just the result of their own pondering; it was the result of God’s Spirit who cannot err. All of his words are totally trustworthy.

Confidence We Have God's Word Amidst Chaos

I think it also gives us peace to know that when we read these words, we’re not merely reading the words of men. We are reading the words of God. He hasn’t kept the truth about himself or the world from us. He’s revealed it on the pages of Scripture. That means if I ever want to hear a word from God in the midst of turmoil or unrest or anxiety, all I need to do is open this book and start reading. He isn’t silent in the chaos. He speaks words of peace and hope and joy. In the same way these words of Jesus were meant to give the disciples peace in the midst of their doubts; Jesus’ words give us peace in the midst of our doubts. They quiet our unsettled souls.

Have you ever been in a situation when the world feels like it’s caving in on you? You feel turmoil in your family, stress at work, fears of losing someone, discouragement over a lack of direction, worry over false promises by political leader, fainthearted over the long evenings your husband spends at work, disoriented by the illness of a loved one. We all face these situations. And then you read a word from God that quiets your fears and fortifies your heart to endure—you ever been there?

I remember walking through some difficult circumstances—when I couldn’t even comprehend the evils that were committed or how I was going to lead through this situation—and I remember the Lord speaking to me as I read Isa 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

On another occasion, I remember literally running out of the library one day at school, because of the weightiness of the responsibilities before me. I was weary and crying over the pain sin was causing in people’s lives; and I went and hid behind a big pillar and just opened up to Ps 56:8-9, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.” And I can just remember through tears, peace covering my soul like Paul says in Phil 4:6-7 when we offer our prayers to him, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It’s peace-giving to hear God speak in the word.

Peace in Christ Amidst Difficult Circumstances

Let me close with this: to have Jesus’ peace doesn’t mean your difficult circumstances will change right now. That’s not what Jesus is promising here. Not even Jesus’ suffering changed as he spoke to the disciples these words of peace. But that didn’t mean he didn’t have peace. He just had a kind of peace the world cannot give us.

The circumstances will eventually change when Jesus returns and establishes his kingdom in full. But right now we haven’t been promised the relief of hardships in this world. What we have been promised is a peace amidst the world’s hardships, because of what we know Jesus accomplished for us. Peace has less to do with escaping the circumstances and more to do with a faithful resolve to enjoy Christ amidst the circumstances that come.

So where will you go for peace the next time your heart is rocked and your fears arise? May you find it in the resolve of Christ’s love for the Father, in the assurance of Christ’s victory over the devil, in the joy of Christ’s exaltation to the Father, and the help of Christ’s Spirit-inspired word.