Saturday, June 27, 2015

Do You Really Believe? Take Heart (John 16:26-33)

“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. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 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.” Jesus answered them, “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. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 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.”” (John 16:26–33, ESV)

I’ve been taking walking through Jesus prayer to the Father just before His betrayal, but between a combination of looking back into the wrong chapter (oops) and rereading these words, we are going to back up to chapter 16 in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, last week’s mass murder in a church, and the widespread terrorist attacks. The reason for this is the combination of the words in verse 31, “Do you now believe?” and verse 33, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus had been talking with His disciples and was ready to begin praying to the Father in their presence as as if bringing them into the greater conversation representing the truth that He was handing them over to the Father. No longer would they go to Jesus, but they would go directly to the Father in His name. Having said this, His disciples responded that they understood clearly what He had said, affirming that they now knew without any doubt that Jesus really did come from the Father.

To this Jesus asked them if they now believed. This was an important question to ask because their faith was soon going to be put to the test. At His arrest they would flee and after His resurrection and ascension to the Father they would become the focus of the enemy’s attacks. There would be those who would persecute them and even put them and other believers to death, and in the face of this they would be scattered. Initially after His arrest his disciples would be scattered to their own homes, but later believers would be scattered throughout the world. There would be very dark and oppressive days coming, and their faith was going to be critical to them. When it looked like they were going to be crushed, knowing that God had them firmly in His hands and was hearing their prayers was going to be vital to their walk and their peace.

And today nothing has changed about the importance of this truth. When things look their darkest and evil seems to be at its most prominent there can be no greater contrast between man bound in the chains of sin and enslaved to his father the devil and the light and freedom that is found in Christ. John wrote, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5–9, ESV) We are told that God is light and that we are to walk in that light. Having said this we know that even Christians can listen to lies and be led astray. But the truth of God’s Word and the indwelling of His Spirit has been given to shine light on those lies and draw us back to Him. Man’s response then is to admit his sin to God (confess) and commit to living as He has called us to live knowing that our sins have already been forgiven and the intimacy of our daily relationship with Him can be restored.

Many Christians have been very faithful in standing strong for those things that God has called good, even suffering for this. Many others have faithfully prayed for and affirmed those who have been taking these public stands. Others have quietly hoped that good would prevail in the face of growing evil. Regardless of our place along this spectrum in the face of things falling apart around us we are called, as maybe we have not felt before to believe, take heart, and stand firm knowing that God is still in control. He will make us to come out standing on the other side regardless of how hard things might get here.

But there are those who are saved who have been silent and even endorsed the lies based in the priority of the happiness of man and who might even be rejoicing in some of these decisions. As things worsen, we can pray for them with the assurance that God has not let go of them and that when they admit their participation, complicity, or complacency He will hear them and answer their prayers.

And for the rest we know that their chase after happiness will never bring a satisfactory response. There will always be an emptiness that can only be filled by the love of God. As we walk among and speak to them we can do so knowing that God wins and He has an answer to their greatest need. We are always to remember the words of Jesus, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” Knowing this we can tell them why we believe and why we live according to the truth of His Word.

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