December 21, 2014

The Exalted Christ & His Victory Over the World

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 16:25–33

Sermon from John 16:25-33 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on December 21, 2014

The plan is to finish John 16 today. But I want to finish John 16 with a very specific goal in mind. I want to use Jesus’ words to encourage our brother and sister, D** and A**.

For a couple years now, D** and A** have been praying and studying and taking steps toward more frontier mission work. As many of you know, they’ve served overseas before. Now they’ll be leaving to serve the advance of the gospel in Eurasia—and so this is their last Sunday with us for a long time.

The Lord has put a holy ambition in them much like that found in the apostle Paul to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named (Rom 15:19, 23)—not in cities like Fort Worth, in other words, where hundreds of churches exist and where the gospel is so accessible. They want to spend themselves in places where little-to-no churches exist and where no God-glorifying, gospel-centered, disciple-making efforts exist. In fact, a while back I asked D** if he was still sure he wanted to pursue going overseas instead of serving at Redeemer. And his response was, “if Redeemer were the only church around, and the rest of the metroplex had no access to the gospel, and there were threats against those who convert, then [he’d] consider it.”

D**’s passion and A**’s passion is to see Christ named among peoples who have never heard of and who have no access to the riches of God’s love in Christ. And we should thank God that he has brought D** and A** to our congregation—to use their gifts to grow our passion for Christ to be named among all peoples, here and there.

D** and A**, we are stronger and all the more healthy as a church, because of what you have stood for and taught us in the gospel. Thank you for laboring so hard through Care Group Leadership and Discipleship Hour and Sunday Night Big Idea and preaching and VBC and all the various relationships you’ve developed with others. D**, you’ve been a Barnabas to me on Wednesday mornings—a son of encouragement—and I’m going to miss you starting with this commissioning service.

We are commissioning D** and A** this morning as Redeemer missionaries, which means they’ll go out as part of us and remain part of us. We will maintain the privilege of encouraging them in their work and praying for them while away and even joining them with others from our body if the Lord sees fit. So, this is why the sermon will have a bit of a different feel and focus. And what better words to commission them with than these words of peace and courage rooted in Jesus’ victory over the world. Let me read them to us now, starting in verse 25.

25“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

As I said before, I’ll focus my encouragements to D** and A**, but that doesn’t mean the encouragements are only for D** and A**. They’re for all of us. So, as you listen to these four encouragements I have this morning, don’t merely listen for D** and A**’s sake; listen for your own sake. Listen for your own encouragement in Christ. Listen for your own peace in the midst of tribulation. Christ came for us all, and we’re all united in the same work alongside D** and A**. So, here are four encouragements to note as you go into the world.

1. God’s Complete Revelation in Christ

First of all, remember that when you go into the world, you go with God’s complete revelation in Christ. Jesus says in verse 25, “I’ve said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.”

There’s a time when Jesus’ words remain veiled to the disciples. And then there’s also a time when that veil would be lifted for the disciples. There’s a time when the disciples seem to be stumbling around in a dark house. And then there’s a time when Jesus, as it were, would flood the house with light, so that they no longer stumble over what he says. And what lifts the veil, what turns on the lights, what enables the disciples to understand the Father plainly is marked by the “hour” that is coming.

An hour is coming when the disciples’ misunderstanding would become understanding. Now, that doesn’t mean anything was lacking in the way Jesus had revealed the Father to this point in his earthly ministry. Jesus is very clear that both his words and his works perfectly reveal his Father (10:37-38; 14:10-11). The issue is that nobody can understand their deepest significance until after Jesus’ cross and resurrection. His cross and resurrection would initiate the hour of understanding, the hour when all the world would hear the fullness of God’s plan through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And sure enough, the Bible tells us that when Jesus rose from the dead, he opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), and that he appeared to the disciples for forty days, speaking to them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). And on top of that, he sends the Holy Spirit to come and teach the disciples what was meant by all he said and did (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit has been sent to make sense of Jesus words and works for us. He does this by inspiring the written word of God through the apostles, and then also by illumining our minds to that written word and convincing us about the Father’s love in Christ.

Paul picks this up as well in 1 Cor 2:7-12, “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (cf. Eph 3:3-11).

Now, we may very well ask why God did it this way? Why would Jesus wait to disclose the Father so plainly? And the Scriptures give us several answers to that question. For instance, the most basic answer is that of 16:12—the disciples couldn’t bear to hear Jesus speak so plainly at that point. Jesus doesn’t just push them into the deep end. They must first learn to swim by experiencing the resurrection and by learning from the Spirit all that the Father has done in Jesus’ cross.

Another answer is that God planned it this way, so that no human could boast in his presence as if they figured out God’s plans on their own. No. The Lord’s plans in the cross confound even the wisest people. If anyone comes to understand the glories of God’s salvation, then they will only do so with understanding given from above. And that’s exactly what happens to John when the Spirit gives him insight.

But one of the most central answers John wants us to walk away with is this: by waiting Jesus centers all of the Father’s self-revelation on his marvelous provision at Calvary. If anyone is to know and enjoy God the Father rightly, they must know and enjoy him as the Father who gave up his Son. That’s where we see the grandeur of God’s holiness; that’s when our minds open to grace and truth in Jesus Christ; that’s when our hearts fill-up with the depth of God’s love.

D** and A**—and Redeemer Church—you do not go into the world with confusion and uncertainties about what God is like. You do not enter the mission with theories on how God may save people and may relate to people. You go into the world with clarity and certainty about your Father and what he’s like, because Jesus has come down to tell us the whole story through his life, death, and resurrection. He’s turned all the lights on in the house, such that whatever room we enter, more of God’s majestic worth and grace is revealed.

You minister in the hour of the gospel spreading to the ends of the earth to give all people understanding about the Father, when all questions about God’s final salvation have been answered sufficiently and completely in Christ. Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done explains the Father perfectly—how the Father is a God of holiness, who doesn’t wink his eye at sin; how the Father is himself righteous, always true to himself in everything, even in his dealings with sinners; how the Father is loving in his disposition to a rebellious world, offering up his own Son to take away their sins; how the Father patiently forgives when people turn to his Son in faith.

You minister in the day of the Spirit’s ministry, who shines the spotlight on the crucified and risen Christ. And when days of confusion set in—and they will; when difficult questions arise from your Muslim neighbors about knowing God—and they will; when you doubt whether God is good as you suffer dark days—and you will; turn to the words of Jesus and the Spirit’s help to know the truth about your Father.

The Spirit will be with you as he was present with the disciples following Jesus’ departure. The Spirit came to them as a teacher—to reveal God the Father in his Son—and he will be your teacher as well. He will illumine Christ to you; and in Christ, you will know the Father rightly and perfectly, and then be enabled to lead others to him as well. As you look to the risen Christ and the written words of the Spirit, you will be a competent minister of grace as was Paul. You will have all you need “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph 3:9). All this because you possess God’s complete revelation of himself in Jesus.

2. Open Fellowship with the Loving Father

Second, when you go into the world, you go in open fellowship with the loving Father. Jesus tells them in verses 26-27, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

Jesus’ point isn’t to undermine his ongoing intercession based on his priestly role as our mediator—like we see in Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25. Rather, his point is simply to stress the direct access we have with the Father himself. Yes, Jesus stands forever as our only way to the Father. But when he brings us to the Father, it’s not in such a way that Jesus has to beg the Father to hear our requests—as if our fellowship with Jesus isn’t enough for the Father; as if Jesus’ cross misses a few sins that keeps the Father at a distance. No, Jesus has opened the way of direct access to the Father, such that when we relate to Jesus in love, the Father relates to us in love.

And what’s even more beautiful about this reconciliation is that it was ultimately rooted in the love of the Father himself for us. The Father himself loves you, and that’s proven by the fact that he provided a sufficient mediator in his Son. Without Jesus we would have no access to God at all; but with the sending of Jesus, the Father gives us himself in full. And so to love Jesus is actually to enter a loving relationship with the Father—not a relationship where he’s withholding himself from you, but giving himself to you day-in and day-out, listening to your requests, never once being bothered by your asking, but delighting in your dependence on him.

And it’s really here that we see the point of Jesus’ entire mission, to restore sinners like you and me , who were once estranged from God, to restore us to a right relationship with God. D** and A**—and Redeemer Church—because of the work of Christ, you have open fellowship with God the Father. The one who created all things and controls all things; the one who is self-sufficient and in need of nothing; the one who orders your every moment and knows the numbers of hairs on your head; the one to whom God the Son will one day hand over the kingdom so that God will be all in all—this God has given you open fellowship with himself.

Seek him earnestly as you enter the world. Keep walking with him daily as parents, looking to his fatherly care for wisdom and grace in leading Yan and Josiah. Run into his arms when you encounter trouble. Know his delight in you at the end of every day—that his delight in you is real and full because he has given you his Son and sees you in his Son. Remember that his love does not waiver towards his elect; if he didn’t spare his only Son, but gave him up for you, how will he not also with him freely give you all things. The Father sent his Son to bring you into their triune fellowship. Let that fellowship continue to fuel your own love for God and others.

3. Assurance of the Never-failing Father and Son

A related encouragement from our passage is this one: when you go out, you go with the assurance of the never-failing Father and Son. Jesus summarizes his entire mission in verse 28: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

And the disciples all of a sudden think they understand him. In verse 17 they didn’t get a lick of what he said. Now it’s as if they know everything: “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! [when he just told them that wasn’t going to happen till after his resurrection.] Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

Now, we shouldn’t dismiss their remarks as insincere. But regardless of their sincerity, they’re full of pride. The disciples have gone from confusion to confidence in a matter of minutes. They’re like people who read one article on the internet and become doctors overnight. It’s sheer pride. And Jesus calls them on it: “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.” That’s how much you understand, in other words. That’s how strong your faith really is—it’s unable to endure the pressures of my cross.

Jesus knows the disciples better than they know themselves. But the point of his rebuke isn’t merely to point out the failure of the disciples; but more so to point out the faithfulness of the Father and Son: “Yet I am not alone,” he says, “for the Father is with me.” This word from Jesus develops a crucial theme running throughout John’s Gospel; and that is the Father’s faithfulness to his Son as the Son obeys his Father.

In John 8:29, we get this: “He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone [why?], for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” The Father will be with Jesus when the disciples abandon him, because Jesus will do what pleases the Father even unto death. Faithfulness of the Father to the Son as the Son always obeys the Father—that’s what’s going on here. And what this means is that when the Father and Son set out on a specific mission to save sinners like us; that mission can never fail, because it doesn’t rest in the hands of feeble and failing men. Rather, it rests in the Father, who always remains faithful to his always obedient Son.

D** and A**—and Redeemer Church—when your faith waivers, keep looking to the unwavering Christ, who pleased his Father in all things even unto death on your behalf. When you stumble, keep trusting the one who never stumbled on his way to endure the Father’s wrath for you. When you know you have chosen ways that do not please God, turn to the One who always pleased God, and now stands in heaven as your righteousness and Advocate. Keep holding onto Jesus with the knowledge that he never let’s go of his Father’s own. Your power to follow Jesus isn’t rooted in what you will do for Jesus, but in what Jesus has done for you. There’s a theological reason why God built the church using weak and failing men like the disciples: because never did God want us to think our existence was owing to the perfections of men, but to the power of God in Christ.

In the same way, Jesus’ mission wasn’t dependent on the disciples’ perfect faithfulness, still today, Jesus’ mission isn’t dependent on your perfect faithfulness. Faithfulness is necessary, but you will fail and fall short and wrestle against unbelief. Trials will come and your faith will be tested and at times found wanting. Temptations to despair will present themselves and you will see no way around them. We’ve even walked through some of those difficulties together already—when fears and tears were present. But in those moments, you must trust that the success of the mission doesn’t fall on your shoulders; it’s ultimately carried on Jesus’ shoulders. He is able to withstand the day of testing; he is able to stand the day of trial; he is able to lead when you cannot; he is able to keep sinners, when you find yourself exhausted; he is able to endure all that is necessary to win and keep his own and finish his Father’s plan.

4. Peaceful Courage in the Victorious Christ

And that brings me to one last point of encouragement: when you go out, go with peaceful courage in the victorious Christ. Jesus closes his final discourse with these great words: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart [or some of the older translations have, “Be of good cheer”]; I have overcome the world” (16:33).

How the health-and-wealth prosperity teachers ever get around this one baffles me. People actually teach that if you just have enough faith, if you just have enough obedience, you will not suffer. But to say such things is antichrist. Jesus is clear and real about the fallen world we live in: “in the world you will have tribulation.”

Trouble will come your way. Most immediately Jesus has in mind the hatred and persecution and martyrdom the disciples will face because of their identity with Jesus (15:19, 20; 16:2). But we know from other places in Scripture that tribulation comes in a variety of forms. It could come as a result of living in a broken created order (Rom 8:19-22)—floods, mudslides, cancer, famine, economic downfalls, unknown physical ailments. Tribulation could come as a result of living in a rebellious humanity (Ps 10:2-11; Rom 1:18-32)—betrayal, rejection, power-struggles, thievery, drunk-drivers, and especially threats from those who want preachers of the gospel silenced. Or the tribulation could even come from the powers of darkness (Eph 6:11-20)—temptation, oppression, fear, lies. And the majority of times, all these sorts of tribulations are intermingled and mounted on one another as they assault our soul’s peace.

But Jesus says the way to peace amidst all this tribulation is not to escape the world, but to walk with him in the world. And why would being with Jesus, believing in Jesus bring peace, bring courage to endure? Well, because he has overcome the fallen world. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus breaks the power of sin, shatters the shackles of death, and casts out the ruler of this world. He overcomes the world in tat he even now reigns over a new world, and will bring it in full on the last day.

Because of his work, we’re assured that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21). Because of his work, we’re assured that sin will have its end when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. Because of his work, we need not fear people’s threats of death or listen to the devil’s hopeless lies. Jesus has overcome. All the world’s fallenness is accounted for in what God accomplishes in Jesus. And so in him we should find peace and courage amidst tribulation. He is not shaken by the world’s tribulation. He is God. He is the sovereign Rock, who cannot be moved.

I’ve read of this same peace playing out in a number of saints. One of them is John Paton. Paton was a minister from Scotland. He served for several years teaching in Glasgow before answering the Lord’s call at age 33 to take the gospel to the peoples that lived on a stretch of islands called the New Hebrides.

Paton faced tribulation. Within four months of his arrival, his wife and infant son died of disease. He even had dig their graves himself. But this is what he writes,

Stunned by that dreadful loss, in entering upon this field of labor to which the Lord had Himself so evidently led me, my reason seemed for a time almost to give way…But I was never altogether forsaken. The ever-merciful Lord sustained me to lay the precious dust of my beloved ones in the same quiet grave. But for Jesus, and the fellowship he vouchsafed to me there, I must have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave! (John Paton, Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides [Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2002], 80).

Paton then went on to labor four more years, and saw almost no fruit—just a few converts. And on top of that, he faced ongoing threats from the natives. At one point he even spent the night in a tree to escape them. The situation even got so bad at one point, he thought for sure he was going to die. And again, this is what he writes:

They encircled us in a deadly ring and one kept urging another to strike the first blow or fire the first shot. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus. I saw Him watching all the scene. My peace came back to me like a wave from God. I realized that I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done. The assurance came to me as if a voice out of Heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow…without the permission of Jesus Christ, who is all power on heaven and earth. He rules All Nature, animate and inanimate, and restrains even the Savage [that’s his word] of the South Seas (Paton, 206-207).

D** and A**—and the rest of you—I don’t know what tribulation has come to you already; or what tribulation will come to you in the days ahead. But I can send you out with this encouragement: regardless of the tribulation, God’s grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient for it and ensures you peaceful courage amidst it.

You may be tempted to find your peace by changing the circumstances. And while wisdom may call for a change in circumstances at times, true peace will only come by holding on to Jesus. He has overcome the world.

You may also be tempted to believe that your suffering is a sign that God’s love toward you has somehow wavered. But let these words remind you that such a conclusion is false. This world is a painful place and God’s love isn’t to be sought in a pain-free, comfortable life. Rather, God’s love is to be sought in the cross of Christ. This is where he demonstrated his love, and this is where you must return when your soul suffers affliction and trouble.

More than that, his resurrection gives us hope for the future. That even our present sufferings will not last forever. The day is coming when the clouds will be rolled back like a scroll, Jesus will defeat all our enemy’s, and usher us into his glorious presence—where we hunger no more, neither thirst anymore…for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be our Shepherd, and he will guide us to living water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev 7:16-17).

So those are my encouragements from this text for you—and also for you all. We have so much in Christ: he reveals the Father; he brings us into the Father’s loving presence; he assures us of his own faithfulness; and he provides peace through his victory. You enter the world in his strength.

other sermons in this series