The hardest moment for one who has been in the spotlight of adulation, is when the lights go off. When the season ends, many stars of the field don’t know how to live OFF the field. They seem to survive, and even thrive on the roar of the crowds, and the hounding of the fans. I am sure it seems like a hassle, but the fame brings a rush to their soul – and they become addicted to the popularity.
Can you imagine being the losing candidate for the office of the President of the United States? What is getting up the morning after that loss like? For two solid years, you changed shirts in a moving bus, met countless people, flew across the country, were hounded night and day… your every word was a recorded statement. Your every expense was scrutinized. You couldn’t speak ad lib, nor could you get a nap when you were completely exhausted. You plowed endlessly, spoke powerfully, pondered aloud insightfully….and then suddenly… nobody, not anyone of importance… seemed to care what you thought. Who remembers the names of all the losers? They are left for obscure trivia games and memory buffs.
I mention this because it happened long ago to the followers of Jesus in the Gospel account we have been studying together. This “season end” was something recorded in the Gospel accounts that is incredibly instructive to our time. When the disciples reclined at the table of the Last Supper and then walked down the hill of Jerusalem on the night in which Jesus was betrayed they faced a huge change. They went from walking at the center of crowd’s affirmation and attention of the crowds to becoming an underground movement – struggling for their very existence. Fame is fleeting, and popular movements have a way of becoming a sword against the once lauded…
Why is this lesson so incredibly important? Beloved, we may well be living a “change of season” again. It may not last – another revival of truth may be rising again. We are working for it. We are praying for it. We are longing for it. At the same time – like the Cross itself – it may not be the Father’s will to turn our nation again to its knees. If it is not – we will need each lesson from the hours of instruction Jesus gave on the “night of the reversal of fortune for the disciples” all over again.
Key Principle: When our message goes from accepted to despised, we have a plan, a partner and a promise.
It was only hours before the nails, the lashes and the thorns. Jesus felt the end coming, and the weight of man’s sin was already pressing upon Him. The Spirit of God flooded John’s mind with the powerful memories – the sights, smells and the sound of the Master’s voice. The last night of Jesus’ teaching was recalled in great detail.
First, the seven important teachings were recorded in John 13 and 14 were from the “Upper Room” sayings of Jesus, earlier in the evening around the dinner table.
Cleaning was required to be a part of Jesus’ team: Jesus explained cleansing to His men as the basis of our relationship to God (John 13:4-20). This was the essential precursor to a relationship with God, and contained a necessary maintaining act to enable us to follow the marked path for life God provided.
The battle wasn’t on in the physical world: Jesus removed the cloak over the battle with His enemy (John 13:22-30). Jesus knew that for His people to follow God, they would need to be shown the markers of the spiritual struggle. They would stand against the powers of darkness – and they would need to learn to see what they were really fighting.
His departure was planned, and their work together was essential: Jesus explained His course – it began with a departure (John 13:31-38). Jesus wanted them to know that NO WILL POWER was sufficient to carry them through the days and hours ahead. They would NEED each other. They would need to care for one another in their wounds. They would need to be HUMBLE and not BOASTFUL, other person centered and not self-centered.
Jesus wasn’t done in His first trip here: He proclaimed another coming – but leaving served a vital purpose (John 14:1-6). He wasn’t abandoning them – He was working on their behalf in another place – preparing for their coming. He promised to rejoin them and bring them home to a wedding feast.
Jesus wasn’t just a well-intentioned teacher: He described His connection with the Father in Heaven (John 14:7-15). How could He make the bold claim that He will return? How can we elevate this builder from ancient Nazareth to the level of one that can surpass time and space, and even conquer death? Jesus unflinchingly claimed a relationship with God that was a direct reflection of the Father’s will, the Father’s power, and the Father’s access. A mere human Jesus, an ancient humble teacher, an honorable actor on humanity’s stage – leaves man LOST and UNFORGIVEN.
Help was on the way: Jesus explained the Comforter to come (John 14:16-25). He claimed that His departure would not leave the disciples alone, but the Spirit would be our constant companion until our Prince returns.
Jesus left simple instructions: Jesus outlined the call to follow Him (John 14:27-31): The call included walking in peace (14:27), rejoicing in Jesus’ work (14:28), recognizing the greatness of the Father (14:28b), trusting in His Word (14:29) and moving out from the protection of the huddle (14:31).
Out the door into the night air they walked. With each step He was saying a goodbye that was painful and accepting the harsh blows that would soon be His. The walk was filled with His words in John 15 and 16 – reminders of the journey from the Upper Room to Gethsemane where Jesus touched on six subjects (recalled by John):
The follower’s attachment to Jesus – Vine and Branches (John 15:1-11): Without constant drawing from the source of strength in Jesus – the followers would fail. No other source could replace their utter dependence on His work done for them, and His power flowing through them!
The follower’s relationship to other followers – Love one another (John 15:12-17): Jesus commanded followers to imitate His love – seen in His availability, His compassion, and His hunger to help the hurting.
The follower’s relationship to the lost world – expect trouble ahead (15:18-16:4). Jesus promised they would be increasingly unpopular, unloved, falsely accused, and badly treated – just as He was about to be. They were to stay the course and speak His Word regardless of its popularity or common acceptance.
All of these teachings we have seen in our journey – but the last three of these six teachings we want to focus on for a few minutes. These incredible words offer a PARTNER, a PLAN, and an important PROMISE to the believer who faces a change of the winds of popularity.
The follower’s relationship to the coming Holy Spirit – you have a coming helper (John 16:5-14): Jesus came back to the theme from the Upper Room (cp. John 14:16-25) and added that this new helper would make the truth shine through them.
Before we get lost in the many words that have been spoken concerning God’s Spirit in the modern church, stop and examine what Jesus said about our partner…
First, Jesus made the point that His followers needn’t be saddened that He is not walking among us now, because the Spirit offers us something even greater than His physical presence with His disciples (16:5-7). He said:
John 16:5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Second, Jesus made it clear the Spirit was sent here on a three-part mission from Heaven:
John 16:8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [them] now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you.
Take that apart, and you will see that the Spirit has these three objectives:
First, He will work in the LOST to bring conviction that He spoke and lived the truth (16:8-9) and help them become convinced He is exactly Who He claimed to be (15:9). Look at what a comfort that truth is!
o We do not ARGUE people into the Kingdom of God.
o We don’t PROTEST them into the throne room of the King.
o We don’t SHAME them into following Jesus.
We teach His Word – and do it with love and grace. We accept their harsh words, as those who “know not what they are doing” but stand un-apologetically by the Word of the King.
How does that “weak” and “un-aggressive” method work in such a “dog eat dog” world? It works incredibly well – because the transformation isn’t dependent on our snappy methodology and our pointed arguments – it is underscored by the work of the Spirit of the Living God! It is by His power, His conviction, His permeation of the hardest heart – that lives are pulled from darkness to light. We carry the message; He brings the convicting power. We have the privilege of laboring beside the powerful partner of the Spirit of God.
Second, He will work in the HARDENED MEN to bring about the signs of judgment that are already planned for those who maintain a mutiny against God (16:11).
The Spirit will make it clear, even to the most casual observer, that apart from the Word of God and the work of God – things are heading the wrong way. An example? When the Boy Scouts last week looked squarely in the face of their LOGO bears the phrase ‘Timeless Values’ and then voted to change positions to openly accept homosexuality in its ranks – they established clearly the organization’s values are not timeless, but governed by changing tides of polls, politics and public opinion.
I like what John Stemberger said: “The BSA is teaching our kids that when your values become unpopular, just change them. …when your convictions are challenged, just cave to peer pressure…The BSA is teaching our kids that public opinion polls are more important than principles. Today, the BSA is teaching our kids that you should not stand up for what is right instead you should stand up for what is popular….The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law…BSA is teaching our kids through its new mission that we don’t make ethical and moral choices through the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law but we make them like a rank Washington DC politician, by putting your finger in the air and seeing which way the wind is blowing or by looking at the latest polling results…What kind of a message are we sending to young people about being brave when its top adult leaders don’t even have the courage to stand up to the peer pressure of their own adult peers when the bullies in Washington DC, Hollywood or even some of their own renegade councils start pressuring and harassing them?”
We didn’t want this change. We don’t believe that such a position will teach true masculinity – nor do we any longer believe those who promoted this change even understand the concept apart from the winds of culture. The Bible has definitive words about what a man and woman are, and what they were made to be for each other. The Bible has words about the behaviors this group now endorses. If you put your young boy in that place, expect to reap a whirlwind of trouble – because trouble is coming.
Churches will withdraw our support, and the government – ever ready to pick up the slack to promote a “new morality” will step in. What happened with daycare a decade ago will now happen with scouting – we will find increasing numbers accepting government help at the expense of being able to speak plain truth. Frankly, young boys might as well be lumped with young girls and camp together – if there is to be no moral distinction about sexuality. Make no mistake: this social experiment will end up devastating lives.
Is there a precedent? Sure there is. Under the guise of “fairness” our politicians thrust women into combat units. The aftermath is a raft of complaints of all kinds of sexual harassment. What do we do about it? More courts, more trials, more regulations, more laws – fewer safe places and even fewer consistent values. In the absence of a decimated morality –all we can do is continually sue each other.
Do we despair? No, because truth – though languishing – is not dead. The Spirit of God is at work convicting people in the world that their solutions just aren’t working. People keep chipping away at all vestiges of the Bible in our modern life – but they feel less safe. They see the uncertainty rising, and they feel something is wrong. We don’t have to get in their faces – they will see it when they sit beside the bed of a boy scout that suffers the effects of this ridiculous kowtowing to a minority of senseless bullies.
Finally, Jesus didn’t ONLY tell us what the Spirit would do in the UNBELIEVER. He also carefully told us that our Spirit partner in the work was going to do some incredible things in OUR LIVES.
• The Spirit will work in the BELIEVER to point out error – as Jesus did when He was walking with them (16:10).
• The Spirit will bring further revealed words (16:12) to add to the explanations the Savior offered us.
• The Spirit will remind the believer of God’s Word, guiding the believer in the meanings of the words (16:13a).
• The Spirit will lead us to more deeply worship and adore Jesus (16:13b).
• The Spirit will warn us of the turns in the road ahead in future events (16:13b).
• The Spirit was given to care for us (16:14).
Our partner is the HOLY SPIRIT, and that makes our message far more powerful and our lives far more sensitive to God’s leading. We have a partner, but we have more… we have a plan…
The follower’s relationship to Jesus at a distance – with the departure of Jesus the time for tears was near (16:15-22). For the men that walked with Him, the transition to prayer was going to take some adjustment. Jesus told the men three things:
First, since all the Father’s knowledge and possessions are also His, and He knew the departure was about to happen (16:15-16). John 16:15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose [it] to you. 16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.“
Second, He knew the hearts of men and what confused them (16:17-19). John 16:17 [Some] of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while? We do not know what He is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’?
Third, He knew the tears they were about to shed would quickly give way to an unstoppable joy! (16:20-22). John 16:20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. 21 “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one [will] take your joy away from you.
Beloved, we have seen this all the way through Scripture. Despite the voices of those who try to drown out sound principle with popular pablum – God hasn’t directed our lives to always be easy. He walked the disciples through the pain and loss – so that He could lead them into JOY. Paul captured it so well in Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. … 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for [our] adoption as sons, the redemption of our body…”
The partner is the Spirit of God. The plan is to pass through the troubles and pain and continue in stubborn JOY, awaiting God’s promise to make all things new again! Yet, there is something more… there is the PROMISE of God.
The follower’s relationship to Jesus’ promises – they would need to grow in trust of what He told them to get through the days ahead (John 16:23-33).
Jesus promised that God would supply any need we had in the mission, because we asked it in the name of our Master. John 16:23 “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
Jesus promised that the Word would get CLEARER – not fuzzier. He would be even MORE DIRECT than He was walking the hills of Galilee long ago. John 16:25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.
Jesus said that we would have access to the Father directly, and He would respond in LOVE, because we have followed the Son. John 16:26 “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.
Jesus promised that even though the disciples appeared to understand the Word of Jesus clearly, they would find following Him difficult in the days ahead – when the pressure was turned on them. John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. 30 “Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 “Behold, an hour is coming, and has [already] come, for you to be scattered, each to his own [home], and to leave Me alone; and [yet] I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
Jesus promised that in the final day – there would be no one to defeat Him. He will overcome all who attempt a final mutiny. No one, no one, no one …will stand before the power of His Word. John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Near the final words of the Bible are the fulfilling words in Revelation 19:11-18:
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it [is] called Faithful and true, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes [are] a flame of fire, and on His head [are] many diadems; … 13 [He is] clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white [and] clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great. 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
The collected bodies of mutinous men lay strewn about the earth before the power of the Words of the Savior. Let them rage against the truth. Our day of popularity may have passed – but the truth will not die. It is far too stubborn to be bent by the polls of men who press forward in their own folly.
They will ignore God’s principles – and break down the family – only to quadruple the need for public mental health services because of their social experimentation.
They will call truth intolerance, and redefine lust as love. They will make the lie believable and proclaim the truth as bigotry.
Do not run! Do not withdraw. We have a partner at work where they cannot see. We have a plan to stand through the storms affixed to the Word of the Master. We have a promise that NOTHING set up against Him will stand at His coming. Take courage, follower. Smile, we aren’t done yet.