Monday, May 16, 2016

Sermon on John 14:23-31, for Pentecost and Confirmation Day, "A Welcome Home for God"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. In our reading John today Jesus is answering a question—so to better understand the answer, we need to know the question! In John 14:22, just before our reading starts, Judas the son of James—not Judas Iscariot, asks this question: “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” It’s the only recorded words we have from this second Judas.
Jesus’ answer begins our reading: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s, who sent me.” So Jesus’ answer is that the way He shows Himself to us and not to the world, is by making His home or dwelling place with believers, and creating in them a love and obedience toward God. Just think of what this means! God is going to make a welcome home for Himself, among us!! In John 14:2, Jesus talks about a dwelling place or a home for us in His Father’s heavenly mansion—but here, in vs. 23, Jesus also promises that He and the Father will make His home with believers now!
Hospitality comes to mind when welcoming a friend, guest, or relative into our home. Warm hospitality makes a person feel at home and welcome. Where does God find such a welcome home? Among those who love Jesus and keep His Word—which is also the Father’s Word. Love and obedience to God go hand in hand. On the other hand, if we were defiant of God and His Word, rejected it, ignored it, or treated it as an unwelcome burden—this shows rejection and unwelcome to God Himself. It would be inhospitable—and we would risk driving God away. This is why the Scripture warns us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), which is to sadden the Spirit of God by our evil words or actions.
Having God at home with us is like another passage of Scripture: “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). God’s home is in our body, as a temple. God doesn’t live in “temples made by man” (Acts 17:24), but “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This elevates this teaching of Jesus to an extraordinary level. Not only are we as human beings, valued and made in the image of God, but by the price of Jesus’ redemption, we are made holy by the Spirit, as God’s Temple and dwelling place. God’s home is more than just living quarters—it’s His Temple. A place that He makes holy.
To have such holiness, and to have such worth and value in God’s eyes; or to even just to be those who love Jesus and keep His Word—these are awesome treasures and gifts. How can this even be? In ourselves we struggle with pettiness, self-centeredness, with laziness, and sometimes even disregard for our bodies as God’s Temple. We hardly seem a fitting place for God’s Temple. We acknowledge as Jesus said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. How can I love Jesus and keep His Word well enough, that God would still want to dwell in me? How can I have the necessary holiness of life, to be God’s Temple?
It all must come from God and go back to God. Just like our confirmands learned some weeks ago about worship; God’s love also originates and returns back to Him. “We love, because He first loved us”… “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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:19; 10-11). God’s first love creates our love. We don’t love or obey Jesus out of fear, or cold attention to duty, but love and obedience is born out of God’s first love in sending Jesus to sacrifice Himself for us. His greatest love, that Jesus laid down His life for His friends, creates and stirs in us a love that returns to Him, and multiplies outward toward one another. To become a loving person and disciple of Jesus, you must know and receive His love. Then your love will grow in return, because God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, make His dwelling in you. God’s love is always pouring into us infinitely more than He receives in return—but it grows and increases our love, so that we can His suitable dwelling place.
Jesus goes on to promise the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, sent from the Father, in Jesus’ Name. “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit is our heavenly teacher, and the subject that He tutors us in is broad—everything that Jesus taught. Learning and understanding Jesus’ teachings is followed by doing them. It’s not learning abstractions that stay in our head. Just like our confirmands have begun to learn, and will continue to learn Jesus’ teachings, we too must grow in learning and in doing. Today our confirmands confess to you, that this is also their faith. This also is evidence of God showing Himself among us—in actions that display love, and in the boldness to confess our faith before others, that Jesus is Lord. Just like Jesus’ disciples were taught by the Holy Spirit, to remember all of Jesus’ teachings, so are we today. The Word of God is the Spirit’s ever-active toolkit to work faith and obedience in us. Bringing Jesus’ teaching to our memory, we learn to love and believe what He has said.
Gregory the Great, a Christian bishop from the 500’s AD, famously said, “The truth is not known unless it is loved.” That is to say, if we don’t love the truth, we don’t really know it. Knowing the truth is not just an engaging of our mind with an abstract fact—it’s also engaging our heart and life with the truth in love. Disciples of Jesus, confirmands, children and adults who follow the Lord, ought to love the truth. To love God’s truth is to love what is pure, noble, and good, and to detest what is false, filthy, and wrong. We are learning to love and choose the good that God intends, and to avoid selfishness and sinful desire. God shapes in us the love and desire to keep His commands, as we learn His truth. God begins the good work in us, and will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has begun His work in these youth of our congregation, and He is not done with them, nor with us! Our whole life should be a growth in loving Jesus and keeping His Word.
Peace 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” Being a disciple of Jesus brings us an incredible gift—the gift of Jesus’ peace. Jesus is careful to set His peace apart from the peace that the world gives. Why is the world’s “peace” so different? One interpreter sums it up well—the “world is powerless to give peace. There is sufficient hatred, selfishness, bitterness, malice, anxiety and fear that every attempt at peace is rapidly swamped” (Carson, 506). We certainly hear many cries for world peace. There are large sections of the world that protest and decry the evils of war, and desire peace. But for all the efforts and talk, the world is increasingly violent and bloody—to the point that most are forced to face a brutal reality—that not all people in the world actually want peace. Hatred, selfishness, fear, and all the other factors make us enemies of each other, so that we provoke one another instead of pursuing peace. We cannot simply leave it up to the imagined “goodwill” of men, leaders, or nations, to keep us from rushing into war and destruction. We have to face the ugly reality that sin runs deep in all of us. In short, the peace that the world gives—whenever it appears, is fragile, unsteady, and all too short-lived.
Jesus’ peace, by contrast, is lasting as eternity, and it’s a peace that cannot be stolen away. It’s a peace that rests in our hearts and keeps us from fear, even in the midst of trouble in this world. It’s the peace that assures us that Jesus has overcome this sinful world, so we know that there will be lasting joy for those who believe in Him. It’s not the fragile peace between men, but it is the peace between God and man that is established by Jesus’ heavenly pardon.
To be this deeper, stronger, everlasting peace, God must take serious stock of our sin. He must drive us to repentance, so that we acknowledge sin as a deadly poison, and wish to be rid of it. He commands Jesus to go to the cross, so that the world may know that Jesus loves the Father. But even as Jesus goes to His death, the devil has no claim on Him. The devil has no charge or accusation of sin that can stick to Jesus—he’s got nothing on Jesus! Jesus obeyed His Father’s every command, without sin. But by taking our sin upon Himself at the cross, by standing in for our punishment, Jesus can decree our pardon and peace. He can issue that verdict of innocence for those who lay their sins upon Him, and look for His pardon and forgiveness.
Why is this peace so superior to the peace of the world? The peace of Jesus cannot be assaulted by the weapons of the flesh—this peace is secure because it is declared by God. It’s the peace of having our relationship to God restored through Jesus. As the quote in the bulletin beautifully explains, it’s a peace that individually helps us face trouble or fear, and guards it against worry. And on a community level, its Jesus’ peace that gives us harmony with each other, as it leads us to follow His teachings of mutual forgiveness and love toward each other.  This peace endures great hardship and crosses, because this peace is built on the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world. John 16:33, Jesus says it all, “I 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.” May that peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. The setting for Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in John chapters 13-16 was the Last Supper with them, on the night He was betrayed (Maundy Thursday). It’s sometimes called His, “Farewell Discourse.” In John 14:28, what does Jesus mean about going away and coming?
  2. What is the relationship between loving God and keeping His Word? John 14:23-24. If someone doesn’t keep His word, what does this mean? 1 John 4:7-11; 4:18-21.
  3. How does God and Jesus make His “home with” believers? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 2:24; Colossians 3:3 How does it affect us to have God’s presence with us in this way? How does it transform our lives and actions?
  4. Jesus promised the disciples the supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, bringing them what amounts to “total recall” of what He taught. John 15:26. How would this be important for the work of the apostles as they carried on Jesus’ ministry? Acts 2:42; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21
  5. Read John 14:27. What kind of “peace” does the world give? How long does it last? Why is Jesus’ peace different and far superior? John 16:33
  6. Who does Jesus call the “ruler of this world?” John 14:30; 12:31; Ephesians 2:1-2. What does it mean that he has “no claim” on Jesus? What would soon happen that might make the disciples worry that the devil had power over Jesus? How does Jesus show that this is not true, and that He remains in full control of the situation? John 14:31; 10:18
  7. Describe the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus has promised, for your life, based on John 14:23-31.

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