Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 27, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 14:1-11. Today we will begin to unpack this amazing chapter, John 14. Because of the depth of Jesus' teaching, we will only get through verses 1-4 today, but I thought we should read a little bit more so as to get a feel for the conversation. After this week, we will take a break for the month of December and then get back on the horse in January and pick up again in John 14:5. Even though we are only looking at a few verses, we have a lot to cover this morning, so let us jump right in by reading our text, then we will pray that God will open our eyes, and then see what God has for us this morning.
Trouble on the Horizon
Verse 1 of our text begins with the famous words, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Many times these words are uttered out of context. In fact, if you watch Fox News, you hear Sean Hannity use this phrase almost every single night on his TV show. Unfortunately, very few of Hannity's listeners understand the eternal realities and magnificent consolation of these words. So let us turn our attention to the events at hand so we can grasp the sweetness of Christ's words.
Approximately three years prior to this particular night, the disciples heard the call of Jesus and left their jobs, their homes, their families, and their dreams and followed Jesus Christ. The best way to explain their devotion is summarized in the parable of the Kingdom of God found in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” For the11 disciples still sitting around the table, they had found the hidden treasure and it was God in the flesh of a Galilean Carpenter.
The cost of following Jesus was not easy. They were pilgrims. Regularly moving about from town to town, caring for the sick, managing the crowds, baptizing converts. According to Mark 3:20 there were times when they were so busy they couldn't even eat. And the times they did eat, the plucked grain from the grain fields, which was the food for the pauper not the prince. The life of a disciple was not easy street.
However, no matter how hard their life was, they wouldn't want it any other way. They were in the presence of Emmanuel. You can see this in John 6:68 when Jesus asked the disciples if they want to throw in the towel and stop following him. Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” As long as they had Jesus, they were satisfied, and they were not going anywhere.
However, as we saw last wee, this night in the upper room, Jesus tells them that he is going to leave them and they cannot follow. In John 13:33 Jesus tells them, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.” As we saw last week, the work of the cross is a singular event reserved for Jesus alone. Only Jesus can drink this specific cup of God's wrath.
This news of Jesus leaving was devastating to the disciples. Christ was all they had. Couple this with the betrayal of one of their own, Judas, who had just walked off into the night, probably with the only money to their name. Then there was Jesus telling Peter that Satan has specifically requested to sift Peter like wheat, and Jesus' revelation that Peter will deny Christ three times. Not to mention that the entire town was abuzz because of the presence of Jesus and everyone knew that the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead.
As this night unfolds, it also appears to unravel. And as Jesus peers into the hearts of those whom he loves, he sees anxiety. He sees a troubled heart. The Kingdom of God that Jesus had been proclaiming from town to town isn't shaping up the way the disciples thought it would, and they were beginning to worry.
The Narrow Way of Trials
My guess is that all of us, to an extent, can relate to this. When we think about what it means to be a Christian, what do we tend to think about? Forgiveness, eternal life, hope, peace, love, joy. All those things are true, but they only tell half of the story. Later on in the night Jesus will say in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” This statement is not made to those who have rejected Jesus, this is spoken to the 11 disciples who he has loved to the end.
If we are honest with ourselves, as Christians, we can relate to the tribulation more than we can with the joy. Life is difficult. Families are broken, health is failing, money is lacking, work is hard, natural disasters loom, nations are falling, tragedy is around every corner. In our 24 hour news cycle, the reality of the fallenness and brokenness of the world is always thrown in our face. As Christians, we are not immune from these influences.
In addition to this, as Christians we are called to live differently then the world. We are called to be Holy, swimming against the cultural current. Many times this pursuit of holiness leads to us being called closed minded, intolerant, bigots, ignorant, etc. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” On top of this, we are called to go and make disciples as sheep among wolves. I am not a sheep farmer, but that relationship doesn't sound good for the sheep.
Make no mistake, the life of a Christian is not easy, which causes stress, anxieties, and troubled hearts. In fact, it seems to be an epidemic within the Church. I don't have any stats to back this up, but from my vantage point, it seems to be one of the largest problems in the American Church, worry.
And Jesus is not oblivious to this. As he looks down upon your life, he knows what is in your heart, and the words that he speaks to the eleven, he also speaks to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”
The War Against Worrying
To begin, lets state the obvious. Sometimes the obvious is the most neglected truth in Scripture. First, notice that Jesus does not approve of a troubled heart. As he sees it in the hearts of his disciples, he does not shrug it off. He does not tolerate it. He addresses it and corrects it. He does not want his disciples heart to be trouble.
In this moment, Jesus is doing the same for all of us. If you are anxious, Jesus wants it to end. Anxiety is not something that we should acquiesce to, but we should fight against. We should war against worry. Too often, I think this is the largest problem. Instead of doing something about our troubled hearts we wallow in it. This should not be. The Church should not be known for its anxiety, but instead should be known for its peace that surpasses understanding. A peace that is supernatural. A peace that the world stares at in awe and wonder.
Second, which is connected to the first, not only should we not tolerate our troubled hearts, but we should recognize that it is a choice. Notice the phrase “let not.” As Jesus speaks into the life of the disciples he tells them that they have a choice; that they have a power to be troubled or not to be troubled. The solution, in a sense, is in their hands.
The Greek Word for troubled is tarassō, which means to stir up, to agitate, to put in motion things to and fro, Just think of troubled waters, waves. Jesus is telling them, do not set in motion this stirring of your heart. Stop stirring. Stop putting into motions these wave of worry. Don't let it happen.
My guess is that everyone knows someone, perhaps yourself, who is stirrer. You turn ever moment of life into a potential moment of tragedy. What if I lose my job? What if our child gets sick? What if we get into a car accident? What if every white van is driven by a kidnapper? What if I get malaria or zika? With each thought the waves get bigger and bigger and bigger, until you feel like you are drowning. But let's be honest, the problem is not the risk, the problem is that you are letting it happen. So Jesus' command to you is to stop it. Stop worrying. Stop stirring up anxiety. This is the first step in warring against a troubled heart, let it not.
The Shield of Faith
Having said that, the first step is not the only step, nor the most important step. The second step is where the secret truly lies. Look at the end of verse 1, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” The way that you fight against a troubled heart is by faith; faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ. By this point, we should not be surprised that faith in Jesus is the answer. This is the entire theme of John's gospel, faith. Believing in Jesus seems to be the answer to everything. Faith to receive forgiveness, faith to receive eternal life, faith to quench your spiritual thirst and hunger, faith experience joy, faith for everything. Everything is this world boils down to one thing, faith in God. This is one reason I am so opposed to secular psychologist, and secular counselors. The answer to a troubled heart is not lying on a couch or venting about your problems. The answer is faith in Jesus Christ.
But what is this belief, what is this faith? Perhaps the best definition of faith in the entire Bible is found in Hebrews 11. This chapter is commonly dubbed the Hall of Faith, listing such people as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and David. The author of Hebrews said this about these people in 11:36, they “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Talk about trouble. What was one thing that these people had in common? Faith. And this is the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Faith is not wishful thinking. Faith is characterized by assurance and conviction. And this conviction, this assurance, is not unfixed and nebulous it is anchored in God and anchored in his Son Jesus Christ. And as Jesus looks into the eyes of those whom he loves and he sees their troubled hearts he says to them, “Trust me.”
Because of sin, we have a tendency to look for security in our circumstances, and when the shifting sand of our circumstances changes, and the storms of this life beat against our lives, we are swept away and our life is a mess. What Jesus is saying instead, is to repent and believe in Him. To build your life, not upon the circumstance of this world, but on God himself. He is the rock that is the firm foundation. So that when the storm comes, you are not swept away, but your house stands.
This is where many of you struggle in your warring against worry. You sweep out the demons of worry from your house, yet you do not replace it with the Word of God, so as Satan prowls looking to devour you, he finds a foothold and he attacks, and you are standing their vulnerable, lacking the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit to fight back against the spirit of trouble, stirring up your heart.
If you recall, earlier I mentioned John 6:68, when Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In the moment of their anxiety they had forgotten all the words spoken to them by Christ over the last three years, but were only focused on their circumstances.
This is Not Our Home
Now what is important, is that there is one more aspect to fighting against a troubled heart. First, we are to stop worrying, Second, we are to believe in Jesus. Third, we must remember that this is not our home.
Look at verse 2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
The faith that we have in the Father and the Son is a faith in what he has promised to those who believe in Him. What has God promised? He has promised us salvation through Jesus Christ. This is the reason why Jesus, God himself, took on flesh and became a man, to reconcile us to God. 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
Because of sin, we have no place in God’s house; for sinners cannot stand in the presence of God. He is holy and we are not. if you have one blemish upon you, you are not welcome in His presence. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” However, Jesus prepared a place for us through death on the cross. Without his death, there is no place for you in the Mansion of God. You must be washed in the blood.
However, praise the Lord, there was a death, and following that death there was a resurrection. And as we speak Jesus is in the presence of God waiting for those who believe in Him to finally come home. And where is home? Home is where Jesus is. Verse 3, “I will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
For those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, this is our destiny, living in the presence of God. Through faith in Christ, we are God's children, and our father has made for us a place through the blood of His Son. The House of God is our eternal abode. Once we are there we will never leave.
Life here, on the other hand, is but a vapor. The moment we are born, we begin to die. The way I like to think about it is that our life is like a grain of sand on an endless beach. Every difficulty we face must be viewed through this gospel lens.
Paul, a man who was more acquainted with trials and tribulation than any of us, said this in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Paul was beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hungry, poor, rejected by those he loved, undermined in the Church's he planted, and how does he describe these events? Light...momentary...can't even compare them to what is in store for us.
This is they way Christians should live, above the fray. With a resolve, a peace, a joy that flows, not from the ups and downs of life, but one that is rooted in the promises of God. This is they way that you live worry free, take you eyes off the world, believe in Jesus, eagerly await for the Courts of God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 20, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 13:36-38. Today we are focusing on just three verses. I have to confess, I considered just passing over these verses and referring back to them when we get to Peter’s denial in John 18, but I decided against it for I think there is something here that we need to allow to convict us.
And with that said, let me just take a moment and talk about the Bible. For those who have been attending Cornerstone since the beginning, you have heard me say this a number of times, but as we slowly grow, it is something that I need to bring up periodically.
Here at Cornerstone we believe in the Bible, not just some of it, but all of it. I embrace the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And again the words in 1 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Word of God is the way of God. It is the way that God feeds our hungry souls. It is the way that God equips us to live the life that God intends; a life of power, and righteousness, and hope, and joy, and purpose.
And this is why we do what we do at Cornerstone, preaching and teaching the Word of God, resisting to desire to skip over things. We desire for God to transform us with his hands through the Word of God and the power of his Spirit. However, it shouldn’t end when you walk out of these doors. Every single one of you needs to be reading the Bible every single day, not just some of it, but all of it.
Charles Spurgeon said, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” So with that reminder, let us read our three verses, pray, and see what God has for us this morning.
Briefly in review, our passage this morning takes place in the Upper Room, the night before Jesus crucifixion. This night was intense to say the least. If you recall, just being in Jerusalem was extremely dangerous for Jesus and his disciples. If you recall back in John 11, Jesus was away from area of Jerusalem when Lazarus died. Jesus was going to return to the area and raise Lazarus from the dead. However the disciples said to Jesus in John 11:8, “The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” This question was just a mask for their fear. They know if Jesus went back to Jerusalem, there was a good chance that he would be arrested and killed. In fact in verse 16, Thomas of all people says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Such a valiant and bold statement made by Thomas. This is very similar to the one we see Peter makes in our text today, verse 37, “I will lay down my life for you.” Now why does Peter say this? For the same reason that Thomas says it, he was caught in the moment.
Peter had a tendency to just blurt out whatever popped into his head. If you recall in Matthew 16 when Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and be killed, and then be raised on the third day and then we are told in verse 22 Peter responds by saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Jesus then says to Peter in verse 23, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter seemed to have a hard time wrapping his head around spiritual matters. He seems to be a man who is caught up in the physical. He regularly failed to see the world through the proper lens.
Our text today is no different. Peter is still not connecting the dots regarding what Jesus must do. With the words, “Lord, where are you going?” we see that Peter does not understand that this is the hour of Jesus' death, and this is something that Jesus must do alone.
Verse 36, “Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now.” Jesus is referring to his arrest and crucifixion, and he is telling Peter that the cross s not a joint effort, it is a work completed by Christ alone. As Jesus has made abundantly clear, Jesus is the one and only Lamb provided by God to take away the sins of the world. His sacrifice is a single offering.
The independence and sufficiency of Christ to save us is a theme that runs through the entire Gospel of John and the entire Bible itself. As the famous words of John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world,i that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is the single and narrow gate for the sheep to enter into the pastures of God. And this is why I think Jesus says this to Peter, this is an hour set aside for Jesus alone.
Later on in John 18:8 Jesus says this when he is arrested, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” Jesus is setting the stage so that all of history would recognize that this is not about squashing a rebellion of revolutionaries, it is about the death of Emmanuel. When he hangs on the cross the spotlight will be on him and him alone.
This seems to be an easy concept to understand, but unfortunately so many people fail to allow Christ to be completely sufficient to save them from sin and death. Every other religion has an element of works associated with salvation, and all other religions are counterfeits. Islam is based upon the works of men, Hinduism is base on works of men, Judaism is based on the works of men, Mormonism is based upon the works of men, and Catholicism is based upon the the works of men. Every single one of them is a false religion. True Christianity is based on Christ alone. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
I am asked regularly, usually by Catholics, do I believe Catholics are Christians. My answer to them is to say it is not whether you are a Catholic or Protestant that makes you a Christian, it is whether you believe in the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus. That his blood fully and completely paid for all your sins, past, present and future. If you believe that you must add something to the sacrifice of Christ, then you do not believe in the sacrifice of Christ, and you are still condemned to Hell. This is not according to me, it is according to the Bible. This is, in fact, why the entire book of Galatians is written and Galatians 2:16 cannot be any clearer, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
This is why Jesus says, “.Where I am going you cannot follow me now.” The cross is a one many show.
A Sovereign Christ
As we have already said, Peter's response was “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” These confused words of Peter sounded good. They sounded heroic. They appeared to be courageous and admirable. However, here is the problem. They weren't true, at least not in the immediate sense. How do we know this? Because Jesus says so, “Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
First, what does Jesus 's response tell us about Jesus? It tells us that he knows the future before the future happens.. This is not true for Peter and it is not true for you and I. The next several hours, even though they have not taken place, are as good as locked in as it relates to Peter. No matter how bold Peter is in this moment, this is Peter's destiny, and Jesus knows his destiny. Peter will crumble. Once again, it is verses like this that cause me to be a Calvinist. God is regularly revealing to us that He has already written the story.
How can Jesus make a statement like this before it happens, unless it is predestined. Peter, even knowing that it was gong to happen could not stop it. It was as if Jesus had read play before it was performed. My guess is, prophecies like this by Jesus to Peter is why Peter later says in Acts 4:27, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Very few Christians would argue that the crucifixion of Jesus was predestined, but so were the means to reach that end. Herod's apathy, Pilates weakness , the existence of Roman cross, the hate of the Sandedrin, the rejection of the Jewish crowds, and even Peter's denial.
Jesus knows our sins before we commit them. He knew our sins before we existed. And even with that knowledge, he still chose to die for those who are his sheep. Why? Because this is what a Shepherd does for his sheep. He lays down his life for them, even if they deny him three times before the rooster crows.
The Vanity of Man
What does this destined denial tell us about Peter? First, as we said, it tells us that Peter can't see into the future. He has no clue what is in store for him. He is as we are, blind to what the next second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, or decade will hold. Peter is merely a creature bound by time. He is no where close to being on the same plane as Christ, and his words have no authority. Just because Peter speaks them does not make them so, in fact they are false. When spoken from the flesh, and not by the Spirit, the word of man is mere vanity.
Second it tells us that Peter does not know the sin of his own heart. As Peter stands in the midst of Christ, with freshly washed feet and a full belly surrounded by his friends it is easy for him to pridefully proclaim that he would die for Jesus. It reminds me of Jesus rebuke in Matthew 15:8, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Sure he talks a good game in this moment, but there is no substance to these words. Peter's heart lacks faith, and this will become very apparent to Peter when the rooster crows. In fact, it will bring him to tears as he realizes the wretchedness of his heart.
I can't but wonder if we, in this room are a group just like Peter. Think about the songs we sing. Last week we sang these lyrics, “Where you go, I'll go; Where you stay, I'll stay When you move, I'll move; I will follow.” Are we not Peter when we sing these verses out in the comfort of our Church, and then cower like wimps in the presence of our co-workers? Do we brashly claim to be fellow soldiers fighting for the Kingdom of God, but never going on a week long mission trip for fear of the latest virus, or terrorist attack? Many times I have pondered these questions in my heart, do I just talk the talk, or do I walk the walk. Unfortunately, I fear I am like Peter and likewise do not know the depths of my wretched heart.
The Call to Lay Down Your Life
Now your response to this could be to commit yourself to never sing certain songs, or never declare your radical allegiance to Christ, but to instead to hedge your bets and become the Christian Eeyore. However, I do not believe this is the right response. We should not lower our mouth to match our heart, we should instead raise our heart to match our mouth. Peter's mouth was not the problem, his lack of faith was the problem.
Notice that when Jesus heard Peter's claim that he would die for him, Jesus did not say, “Wait a second, don't go getting all zealous and radical on me, Peter. What I want from you is to just make sure you go to Church every Sunday, put some money in the plate every now and then, and say your prayers like a good little boy.” No Jesus wasn't bothered by Peter's words, he was bothered that the words weren't true.
Prior to this particular night Jesus said these words in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
To be a Christian means that you are willing to die for Jesus. If you do not hate your own life, you cannot be a Christian. If you do not bear a cross, you cannot be a Christian. If you do not renounce all that you have, you cannot be a Christian. To be a Christian means to let go of everything and grab hold of Jesus. On the night of Jesus arrest, Peter was not there, but some day he would be.
In Luke's more detailed version of these events found in John 13 we are told this in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Did Peter deny Christ, yes. Did Peter after his denial, hang himself like Judas? No. Why not? Because he had an advocate, Jesus. Jesus had interceded for him and therefore, he would persevere, and there would come a day when Peter would lay down his life for Christ.
If you notice, in verse 36 Jesus says this, “but you will follow afterward.” What does this mean? It means that some day, Peter would go the way of Christ and die for the glory of God. John writes about this in John 21:18 when Jesus is restoring Peter, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Eusebius, writing around 325 AD in his Ecclesiastical History claimed that Peter was crucified upside down while in Rome under the rule of Nero. Are those details true, I am not sure, but we do know that Peter gave up his life for the glory of God. This was Peter's call to follow Jesus, and our call is no different. We are called not to change our songs, but to allow Christ to change our hearts.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 13, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 13:31-35. Today we find ourselves in an upper room in a house located in Jerusalem, during the feast of the Passover, the night before Jesus’ death and hours before his arrest.
Last week we looked at the high drama of the night when Jesus outed his betrayer and Satan moved in to strike the heel of Jesus. We closed our study with the actions of Judas described in John 13:30 which said, “So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” As we discussed last week, Judas enter the longest of all nights for In this moment, Judas abides in Hell, where he will remain for all eternity.
Today, we turn our attention away from the darkness of the night and back to the light of Christ. Let us read our text, pray, and be encouraged by Christ.
As Judas stood up, turned his back on Jesus, walked away from him and into the night, all eyes were on Juddas. With the shutting of the door, Jesus turns the eyes of his 11 remaining disciples away from Judas and upon the glory of God. Verse 31, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” What is Jesus referring to? He is referring to the brilliance of the cross.
For it is at the cross where we see the attributes of God so vividly and beautifully displayed. God who is a God of justice, who is a good judge, cannot and will not allow for the sins of man to go unpunished. However, we also know that God is not only a God of justice, he is also a God of love. Therefore, he sends His Son who lives the life we could not live and had him die the death that we deserve, so that all who believe in Jesus can be forgiven for their sins and receive the gift of eternal life.
The cross is the collision of God’s justice and God’s love, and this is the glory that Jesus is pointing his disciples to in these final hours before he is arrested and taken away from them. As Jesus says in verse 33, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ We are not sure if Jesus is referring to his arrest and crucifixion or to his ascension, but either way, the time is short. Jesus is heading home and he is going to be leaving the Church in the hands of these 11 men, and this is the final pep talk and game plan.
What is New About Love?
And with that, let us turn our attention to verse 34 and 35., “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The first thing that I want to draw our attention to is the word “new.” How is the command to love one another new? In Matthew 22:37 when he was asked what the greatest command was didn't Jesus already say, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” So how is the command to love one another new?
In fact, the second command to love your neighbor as yourself is a quote from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” This was a law for the nation of Israel, given to Moses by God 1500 years before Christ came. So, once again, how is the command to love on another new?
Likewise, isn't love just a part of life. The first time love is mentioned in the Bible is between Abraham and his son Isaac. Isn't love intertwined in the life of a parent and a child? Love seems instinctual. How is love one another a new command?
Similarly, we can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Wasn't it love that was being expressed by Adam the first time he laid eyes upon his wife, Eve. Wasn't it love that bound them together? Isn’t' this what marriage is built upon, love. How is the command to love one another a new command?
What is Love?
To answer this question, I think we need to define love. What is love? My guess is that if you go around and ask people on the street you would find a lot of vague, nebulous, wishy-washy answers. Merrian Webster defines love as “ strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties and attraction based on sexual desire.” Based on this definition you can easily see why the LGBT camp uses the phrase “love is love.” If love is good and love is defined by relative affection then love becomes a license to do whatever you want: adultery, homosexuality, polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. In fact, why not extend it beyond people and say you have an strong affection for money, stuff, food, power, you name it...love is love. But is that what love is? A subjective feeling?
Why don't we go the the Creator of love and see what he says about it. What does the Bible say about love? The bible gives a very express definition of love. 1 John 4:8 says simple, “God is love.” Notice that it does not say, God has love, or God is loving. It says, God IS love. So the Biblical definition of love is God. Not a feeling, but a being.
Therefore if you want to know love, you must know God. And if you do not know God, then you do not know love. If you do not know God, the love you think you know is not love, it is merely an imposter.
A New Revelation of Love
So if the way to know love is to know God, how are we to know God? Simple. His Son. In just a few minutes Jesus will say these words in the Upper Room, John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” As John wrote in the beginning of this Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ..and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” To know Jesus is to know God, to know God is to know love.
And this is how the command to love one another is new. Jesus is the revelation of God and therefore the revelation of love. You can see this in our text this morning, verse 34, “that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Until he came and revealed himself, there was only vague, nebulous, wishy washy, subjective feeling that we called love. All we could do was to define love through sinful experiences. But all of this changes when Jesus steps on the scene. Jesus is love on display. He is the radiance of love.
When we look at Jesus what do we see when we look at Jesus? Right after John in 1 John 4:9 says that God is love then goes on to say, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The way that Jesus displays love is to die, so that we can be forgiven of our sins and be reconciled to God. Jesus makes the ultimate sacrifice, to give us the ultimate treasure.
Jesus says this himself, once again in the upper room, just a few minutes from when he commands his disciples to love one another. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The greatest display of love is death for another. The greatest means to display this love is God, but how can God die? He must become a man, so that he can die, and so the world can see love in its purest and greatest manifestation possible.
A New Power to Love
The second way that this command to love one another is new is that for the first time, the power of love is unleashed upon the world through the hearts of his disciples. As I stated earlier, the command to love another had existed is some form since the beginning of time, but the capacity to love as God intended did not exist until Christ unleashed rivers of love through the hearts of his followers through his death upon the cross.
Once again, if we turn our attention to 1 John we see the explanation of this. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” The catalyst to our love is God's love towards us. Without first being loved, we have no hope to love. The love of God poured out on us through Christ is the power that enables us to love. Until God loves us, our hearts are stone. Hardened to the things of God, including the love of God.
Practically speaking, how does this unleashing happen? It is the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended to heaven he sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and births us into spiritual existence. Once again 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love is the evidence of being born by the Spirit into a relationship with God. Love is the fruit of the Spirit.
For those who have not be born of God, whatever they are doing, it is not love, for it is not of God. It is of their flesh, it is of their sin. It is for the sake of the glory of another, not the glory of God, therefore it is not an act of love, it is an act of rebellion.
And we if look we can see this truth of the new power of this command in the life of the 11 disciples. Before Jesus sent the Holy Spirit they were extremely self-centered and afraid. After the Spirit came they were empowered to love in a way that the world had never seen before. Their love compelled them to leave their homes, their family, there dreams, their jobs, and even their lives. It was a love that this world didn't know how to handle, for they had never seen true love before.
I always enjoy how the Jews in Thessalonica expressed it in Acts 17:6, “These men who have turned
the world upside down have come here also.” How were they turning the world upside down? As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.”
Therefore the second way that this love is new is that the disciples now have the ability, through Christ, to truly love, as Christ loved.
Commanded to Love
Now that we understand the newness of this command to love one another, let us not forget what Jesus is doing in this moment. He is commanding his disciples to love. If you notice, Jesus in this section of teaching calls the disciples “little children.“ Why does he do this? He does this to express his authority over them and over the Church. This new commandment is just that...a commandment. It is not a suggestion, it is a requirement. To love one another is not optional, it is expected. If you follow Christ, you are to love one another.
And if you notice, there is no qualifiers to this commandment. Jesus does not say love them, but only if you like them. Or love them, as long as they are nice to you. Or love them until you find something better. No, the command to love is without exception. If you are a Christian this is a directive, no matter what the circumstance, we are commanded by our Lord to love each other, not matter how undeserving they are. For this is exactly how Christ loved us, not based on merit, but based on grace.
And who is Jesus referring to when he says, “one another?” He is referring to Christians. The 11 were commanded to love the ones sitting across the table in that Upper Room. We likewise are commanded to love those who are sitting in this room.
Now let me just state the obvious, it is hard to love the people in this room if you are never in this room. So many people claim to be followers of Jesus, yet they fail at one of the first commands that Jesus gives, love one another. You can't love who you never see. Christians are called to community. To love one another we must worship together, we must pray together, we must study the Bible together, we must break bread together, we must live our lives together. This starts with Sunday mornings and flows into the rest of the week. Claiming to be a follower of Christ and not going to Church every single week is hypocrisy.
But it is more than just attendance, it is sacrificial living. How did Christ love us, not by just living among us, but by dieing for us. We are commanded to love this same way. When we come together we should be tripping over each other in sacrificial serving. Giving up our time, our money, our comforts, our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And once again, this is not a suggestion, it is a command, and this should be the environment of Cornerstone.
People will Know
And what will be the result of this obedience to love in a way that the world has never seen before? Verse 35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is such a convicting statement. Ask yourself, do people know you are a Christians because of how you love fellow Christians? Do people out there see how well we love each other in here that they see Christ in us. Is our behavior towards our brothers and sister in Christ so radically different than what they see on the news, on facebook, at work and even in their own homes? We are called to be Holy, set apart. We are called to be set apart by our love, the aroma of Christ.
Or instead is our relationship with each other so superficial that it looks no different that our relationship with the world. Unfortunately for many of us, we fall way short of loving one another with the love of Christ. Why? We are too busy loving ourselves.
It shouldn't be this way in the Church that Christ built. Let us commit ourselves here at Cornerstone to hear the words of our Lord and joyfully embrace them. Doesn't it sound wonderful to be a part of a community that loves with supernatural unconditional love? We can, and it starts with each one of us obeying the command of Christ and being empowered by the Spirit of Christ.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 6, 2016
Open your Bible to John 13:18-30. If you recall from last week, we began our study of Jesus’ last night with the disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. John 13- 17 narrates the teachings of Jesus in the Upper Room the Thursday night before his death. To say that this night was a night of high drama would be an understatement, as we will see from out text today.
Last week we unpacked how Jesus set the tone for the night. Jesus, the Son of God, wrapped a towel around his waist and took the form of a servant and washed the filthy feet of the 12 disciples. After doing so he then commands his disciples to do the same to each other. As we examined this text we was that Jesus was revealing the means by which the Church would internally operate. Jesus, as the head of the Church, was teaching that leadership in the Church would be one of humility and self-sacrifice. When we come together we are not to be focused on ourselves, but instead focused on each other. And our focus is not to be on the physical, but on the spiritual. The washing of feet by Jesus had nothing to do with the physical, but was merely the object lesson he used as an example. We saw that foot washing represents Holiness. Jesus indicates that he has made completely clean those whom he has chosen. This is justification. Romans 5:18-19 sums up this truth, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
The washing of feet that takes place between Christians has nothing to do with justification, but instead has everything to do with sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus in your life. It is the process of being Holy, as God is Holy. It is the process of sinning less and glorifying God more. As we saw last week, justification and sanctification go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” If Christ has made you perfect through his death on the cross, than you are being sanctified. If you are being sanctified, then you have been made perfect through Jesus death on the cross. Lastly, the way in which this is achieved is not through volunteering to do the most demeaning task at the Church, it is done through the Word of God. The way our feet are washed, the way we are transformed to be more like Jesus, the way we are sanctified is through the Word of God. The Bible. Once again, this is why we do what we do at Cornerstone. We are Bible people. Why? Because we don’t want stinky feet. We want to smell like the aroma of Christ.
After this, the events of the night become even more unusual with a pre-ordained twist. So with that let us read out text, pray and examine the Scriptures.
Preaching and Proclaiming
Let us begin by reminding ourselves of who was present at this special meal. This gathering was an intimate one. Jesus was there with his 12 disciples. This group was an inner group closely connected with Jesus. In fact, Jesus gave them a special name, apostles. The word apostle means, a delegate, a messenger, one sent for with orders. We see the alluding to this fact in verse 20 when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” This is the nature of the apostles role, to go an proclaim the Gospel. Not only are they to be feet washers, concerned about the Holiness of the Church, but they are to be sent out from the Church to go and share the Gospel.
In a way, this is a terrific understanding for what it means to be a Church. It can be boiled down to two basic functions. First, we are to be Holy, as God is Holy. And second, we are to go out and proclaim the Gospel. That is the blue print, or the DNA of Church. Sanctification and evangelism. After being chosen by God, this is our heartbeat. This morning we are gathered together to scrub each other’s feet through the preaching and teaching of the Word. At around 11:30, we will put back on our sandals and we are to go in the name and power of Jesus to proclaim the good news of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. If a group of people are meeting regularly and there is no preaching of the word of God and no evangelism, then that is not a Church.
Proximity to Christ
These events, we must remember are taking place during a formal supper. During these types of meals where you sat was of some importance. We actually see this in some of Jesus teaching, specifically Luke 14:19 where Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him.” For the sinful culture of Israel, where you sat was an indication of your greatness. If you recall John and James had asked this specific question in Mark 10:37, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” In the minds of the disciples, proximity equals power.
During this supper, however, we see something very interesting regarding who is sitting by Jesus. If you look at verse 23, “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,” This is the first time we see John mention a disciple “whom Jesus loved.” John uses it again in John 19, John 20, and John 21. For some reason, John does not want to mention this disciple’s name, however, he had no problem mentioning Judas’ or Peter’s. So the most likely answer the disciple whom Jesus loved, was none other than John himself. The author of our text. This is how John defined himself, not by a name, but by Jesus’ agape, self-sacrificing love towards him.
Now on the other side, we have a stark contrast. On the left side of Jesus was Judas. The reason we say this is because of the exchange verse 26, “So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” Because of how they ate this meal, they would have been reclining and to hand a morsel of bread would have meant he was sitting right next to Jesus. Now why? Why were these two sitting right next to Jesus during the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples? The answer lies in verse 18 and 19, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”
I love this. Every event, even the betrayal of Jesus, is dripping with God’s sovereignty. Jesus has set the stage. He is pulling back the curtain on his betrayer before the betrayal so as to increase the faith of his disciples, and he has John and Judas sit next to him so that our faith can likewise be increased. Jesus gives John inside access to the treason, providing evidence that Judas’ betrayal is not random, or unforeseen, but according to plan.
And this is not the first time that Jesus has pulled back the curtains on his betrayal. He also mentions it in John 6:71 right after the feeding of the 5,000 by saying to the disciples “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” Why does he say this? Once again, to demonstrate that Jesus willfully lays down his life.
However, it should be understood that not only does Jesus know of his betrayal, but it is etched in stone, more specifically etched in Scripture. Verse 18, “But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” This is a quote from Psalm 41:9 which says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” This was a Psalm of David written 1000 years before the last supper. And Jesus is saying that this Psalm foreshadow's Judas betrayal.
This is not the only place in scripture that points to Judas betrayal of Jesus, we also see hints of it in Pslam 55:12, and Zechariah 11:12-13. God wants to make it clear to us that He is completely in control.
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
What is interesting about the betrayal of Jesus, even though Jesus knew it was Judas, no one else seemed to know. Verse 22, “he disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.” The disciples were clueless that it was Judas. He apparently showed no obvious outward signs that he was not a true follower of Jesus. He was a wolf in sheep's clothing.
As I stated, this night he was sitting in a seat of honor, right next to Jesus. In John 12:6 tells us that he was in charge of the money bag. Judas was a modern day deacon in the Church of Christ, yet his heart was not for Jesus, but for himself. Even though he was a part of the 12, he was never a part of Christ.
Now if you go back to John 13:2 we are told, “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,” This type of statement may cause you to think, that Judas is not to blame for his behavior, but Satan made him do it. But this is not the way we should understand how sin works and how we are accountable. The way we should think about
this is that Satan and Judas are co-conspirators. They were working together against Christ.
And this is how all betrayals of Christ work. In Genesis 4:7 God says to Cain, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Likewise in 1 Peter 3:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is what had occurred to Judas. Satan had been lurking, and looking for an opportunity to work his way inside the inner circle of the twelve disciples. Crouching, prowling, looking for an opportunity. Then what does he see, he sees Judas helping himself to the money out of the money bag, then he sees, Judas mocking Mary for “wasting” an expensive jar of ointment. Satan observed that Judas cared more about money then following Jesus, so he put an idea into Judas' heart.
If I were to guess, the idea of betrayal would have gone something like this. “The gig is up. Jesus is going to be arrested. This revolution is over. He isn't going to be the strong, powerful, rich Messiah that we thought he was going to be. He tricked us. I better join the side of the Pharisees, before I get pulled down with him.” My guess is that Judas had rationalized every thought in his mind, because this is exactly how sin works. To us it makes sense, but in reality it makes no sense.
The triggering event of Satan's demonic possession of Judas was the morsel of bread. That was Satan's que. His permission of sorts. After this Jesus says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” This leads to the question, who is Jesus speaking to, Judas or Satan? I believe the answer is both. Even though Satan has entered him, Judas is still a rational actor, a co-conspirator. However, I also think Jesus is speaking to Satan. Which gives us another glimpse into Jesus' sovereignty. He commands Satan and Satan obeys. Too often we wrongfully see Satan and Jesus as equals. In fact, Mormonism calls them brothers, which is absolute blasphemy. Jesus and Satan are not equals. Satan is a creature, created by God through Jesus for the glory of Jesus. In this moment we see that Satan is just a dog on a leash doing the will of Christ, and Judas leaves the fellowship of the 12, never to return again.
And this is a reality of a wolf in sheep's clothing. False Christians, never endure. They never make it to the end. They never persevere. As we studied about last week in Sunday School, from Luke 8. The Word of God gets choked out by the cares of this world, or persecution causes them to abandon their faith. We are told that this is how we can tell who is a true and a false christian, their endurance, or lack thereof.
Our author, John, wrote about this in 1John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” There are many people who say they believe in Jesus, maybe they will come to Church for a while, perhaps join a small group, perhaps even become a member, or even a deacon or a pastor, but if they don't have true, living faith, they will not make it to the end. Satan will tear them apart, and they will turn their back on the community of believers and go it alone. With each step away from the Church they will rationalize their separation, but the truth is they are not saved. They are deceiving themselves.
I have seen it dozens of times at Cornerstone, and if I continue to preach here for 30 years I will see thousands more. People who claim to be Christians, but are merely wolves in sheep's clothing.
And it was Night
And with that we read the words in verse 30, “And it was night.” These four words are not just descriptive of the scene, but are descriptive of redemptive history and the eternal state of Judas.
Despite the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus all being according to God's plan, let us not belittle the wickedness of this moment. As we saw earlier, the death of Christ is a judgment of this world. Humanity has turned on its maker with the betrayal of Judas the dominoes have begun to fall; Christ would be dead within 24 hours. The Sons of Adam are about ready to murder the Author of life. This is the absolute darkest moment of all of history.
As it relates to Judas, this is the greatest sin ever to be committed by an individual. The murder of God for 30 pieces of silver. This is blood money, and this is the blood of God. Jesus says in Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” As Judas stepped out of the upper room and into the night, he would never see Jesus again until judgment day. He had spent three years walking in the light of Christ, but the patience of Christ had come to and end, and he was sent away from Jesus and into the physical and spiritual night.
Judas had chosen to live the rest of his short life, not in the Kingdom of the Beloved Son, but instead in the domain of darkness, in love with this world, a co-conspirator with Satan. A short while later, once Satan was done using him, he drove him to commit suicide. And when he opened his eyes, what did he find? Hell, a place that is described as outer darkness. In this moment as I preach, Judas is weeping and gnashing his teeth, being eternally tormented for his sins.
So where does this leave us? I believe there are three things we can take from this. First, the death of Christ was orchestrated down to the morsel of bread. Jesus proclaimed it, before it happened. And this reality should increase our faith in Jesus. Once again, let us be clear, faith is not built upon wishful thinking, the faith of the Bible is built upon strong irrefutable evidence. Christians are the ones with the evidence, not the world.
Second, we must recognize that there will also be a Judas among us. They will come into this Church and will look like a Christian, smell like a Christian, and talk like a Christian, but they are not Christian. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. As Jesus has told us, Satan will always sow tares among the wheat. And at times, their fall from Grace will be great, but it should never undermine our confidence in the Lord. When Judas' are exposed, it does not change who Christ is, nor does it change our mission. We are called to be Holy and make disciples.
Third, some of you in this room may be Judas, and this sermon is meant for you to wake up before it is too late. You think you are part of the God's people. You are enjoying the benefits of God's grace through fellowship with believers, but inside your heart is still dead and cold towards Jesus. You are a hypocrite. And unless you repent and believe in Jesus, there will come a moment when Jesus' patience with you will run out and he will order you out of his presence, and in that moment you will enter into an eternal night. If that is you, I pray that God would grant you repentance.