Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Imagine that you are a SURF-LIFESAVER who works at Sumner beach. And you rescue someone who almost drowns. Well, they are taken to hospital to recover and a couple of days later you hear that they want to come back to the beach to express their thankfulness. So you get nicely dressed up for the occasion and you turn up at the appointed time. A newspaper journalist and photographer are there. And the near drowning victim comes in and delivers a speech in which he thanks the surf-life saving regulations rule book, without which he would have drowned. And the photographer takes a photo of the rule book for the paper. And there is a sense in which is he is right to appreciate the rule book, but you, the one who actually went into the water and carried him out, are left in the corner and completely ignored. That would be odd at best and rude at worst, right?
Well, I read a quote from CHARLES SPURGEON on Facebook during the week. Charles Spurgeon is a preacher and author of the 19th century. He said, “It is not the doctrine of justification that does my heart good, it is Christ the Justifier.”
And with these words Spurgeon was taking aim at those who could talk to you, at length, about the doctrine of justification, but run out of words to say about Christ the justifier once they have recited the phrases about Him from the Apostles’ Creed.
Ask them about justification by faith alone and their eyes light up and you get chapter and verse and book titles and hymn references; ask them about Jesus and what He means to them and you get ‘formulas’ – Fully human and fully divine … eternal … active and passive obedience …
Now, none of this is to say that we shouldn’t be interested in the CORRECT formulation of doctrine. Jesus was very concerned with the correct formulation of doctrine. The Apostle Paul was very concerned about the correct formulation of doctrine. Read his letters! But as you do, you will find many occasions where he speaks very personally:
• As he talks about suffering and the perseverance of the saints, for example, he says, “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” He says “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Christianity then, at its heart, is KNOWING JESUS. Christianity is about entering into a personal relationship with a person – Jesus Christ.
And here is why we consider this today. Thursday was Ascension Day. And it was only a few weeks ago that we looked at Lord’s Day 18. And LD 18 examines what the Bible teaches about the ascension of the Lord Jesus. And we looked at a number of passages in John 14-16, including this one, and we spoke of our Lord using the metaphor of Him as our heavenly lawyer.
• We saw that He advocates for us in heaven; He prays for us to the Father.
• We saw that He secures our heavenly real estate; He has a room or a place prepared for us in heaven.
• And we saw that from heaven He sends us the Holy Spirit to live in us permanently.
And our theme was communion with our Ascended Saviour; we sought an enriched communion with Him as the One who does all these things for us. But as we considered the opening verses of John 14, there was one part of what Jesus said that we didn’t spend time thinking about. If you turn back to 14:3 for a moment, you will see that as Jesus speaks of Himself ascending to heaven, He says, “I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am.” So yes, Jesus is working for us in heaven; yes, Jesus has a place ready for us, and yes, He sends us the Holy Spirit. But when you think about Jesus in heaven, is your chief joy knowing that one day you will be with Him there?
Perhaps you PARENTS can remember being with your children at the shopping mall. And while there, they ask if they can do this or go to that shop or buy this, but you have had to say no, and they are pretty upset about this. So you tell them that its just nice to spend some time together. But they give you this look that says that being with you ranks right down here compared to what they really want to do.
Well, there are many things we find very exciting in this life – outdoor activities, shopping, sports, holidays, eating out, concerts, movies, travelling, etc. Where do those things rank, in your mind, with the thought of being with Jesus in heaven?
There are many salvation benefits that are ours in Christ; how do those benefits rate next to the thought of being with Jesus in heaven?
And your answer to that question will very much depend on how important your personal relationship with the Lord Jesus is now. Some of you might have looked at the sermon title – communion with Jesus; Now and Then – and be a little concerned that I am speaking about an occasional communion with Jesus, communion with Him every now and then. But that is not what I am suggesting. What I want us to see is the link between our communion with Jesus now and our communion with Jesus then.
For in vv15-21, THE LORD JESUS REVEALS THAT HE IS AT THE CENTRE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. And we will see this as we spend a few moments getting a sense of the passage as a whole, then look at the essence of this passage, before we end by considering what it means for us. So three points: The PROMISE of Christ, the CHRIST of the Promise, and the CHRISTIANITY that proves the promise.
So first of all, the promise of Christ.
1. And we have spent some time on this promise and others like it in recent weeks as we have considered Jesus as our ascended Lord and as the Lord in session – the one seated at God’s right hand, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is about to be arrested and crucified. So He is preparing His disciples for the time coming when He will no longer be with them as He has been these last three years. And elsewhere in this extended conversation, He tells them that is it for their good that He goes, because then the Father and He CAN SEND THEM THE HOLY SPIRIT.
a. And that is what He is promising here also, isn’t it. In v16, He says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.” Jesus promises the disciples and indeed all who believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins that they will receive the Holy Spirit.
i. And in v17, we see how PERSONAL this is as Jesus talks about “knowing Him.” He says, “For He lives in you and will be in you.”
ii. So the disciples are not going to be left alone once Jesus is gone. They have enjoyed an intimate, personal relationship with God, in the person of Jesus, these last three years; they have walked and talked with Him. They have been able to ask Him anything. They have learned from Him. They have been encouraged by Him. They have been corrected by Him. Their love for Him has deepened. They have served Him and worshipped Him and adored Him. They have done what He asked them to do. If we could have asked these disciples what made these last 3 years different and better than all their years beforehand, they would say, Being with Jesus. Well, Jesus wants them to know that their intimate, personal relationship with God will continue after He ascends to heaven. He will send them the Holy Spirit who will live with them and be with them.
b. Now, when it comes to sermons, we spend a lot of time thinking about APPLICATION. We want good, text-driven, concrete application. Well believer, the Father and the Son have sent you the Holy Spirit “to be with you forever … you know Him, for He lives with you and [is] in you.”
i. So according to Romans 8, “You … are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.”
ii. And “the Spirit Himself testifies with [your] spirit that [you] are God’s [child].”
iii. And “the Spirit helps [you] in [your] weakness. [You] do not know what [you] ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [you] with groans that words cannot express.”
iv. (Hold up Bible) With the words of this Book, the Spirit teaches you, corrects you, encourages you, comforts you, trains you in righteousness, and deepens your love for your Saviour. So the Holy Spirit is the promise of Christ.
But secondly, and forgive its TV infomercial associations, But wait! There’s more! For having considered the PROMISE of Christ, we must now also consider the CHRIST of the Promise.
1. In vv18-19, Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore; but you will see me.”
a. And ORPHANS, boys and girls, are boys and girls whose parents die. And as you can imagine, to be an orphan is to feel all alone. Just imagine if your parents were gone! And we know how upset the disciples were after Jesus died. They felt very alone. So Jesus wants them to know here hat He will not leave them alone; He will come to them.
b. Now, in these words of Jesus we have prophecy with what we call MULTIPLE FULFILLMENT.
i. And multiple fulfillment is something I have illustrated before using the Southern Alps. From here, you would think there is one big mountain that you have to drive up and then down to get to the other side. But as you get closer and when you actually get to the Alps, you find a whole series of hills that you have to go up and down to get to the other side.
ii. So in the OT you read prophecies about the Day of the Lord’s coming. But with the NT, we know that He came once and that He will come again.
iii. Well, it is the same with what Jesus says here.
A. v19 points to the first fulfillment. Soon Jesus would die and be buried. And for the world, that would be the end of Jesus. In their minds, He was a man who lived and died like any other. But all of these disciples, barring Judas I, saw Jesus after He had died and risen again. So Jesus did not leave them as orphans, He came to them.
B. And ultimately, we know that Jesus will return to earth again – He will come at the end of time to bring the Day of Judgment.
C. But between His post-resurrection coming and the Second Coming, Jesus is also pointing to another coming that is actually repeated again and again and again. And that is the Day of Pentecost, which is repeated every time someone comes to faith in Christ. For on the Day of Pentecost and each time someone believes in Christ, Jesus comes to His people by His Spirit.
1) And here we are dealing with the wonderful mystery of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit that Jesus has promised that the Father would send, is the Holy Spirit of Christ. Jesus is saying, In the Spirit, I myself will come to you.
a) You see, the Spirit is one with Christ, the Spirit reveals Christ, the Spirit glorifies Christ, the Spirit applies the merits of the salvation Jesus has secured to believers, the Spirit makes the teaching of Jesus effective in believer’s lives. When the Spirit is poured out, Jesus Christ truly returns.
D. If you have confessed your sins and believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of those sins, you have received the Spirit of Christ; Jesus Christ has come to you.
1) If you look at v20, on the Day of Pentecost, by the Spirit, the disciples finally realized that Jesus was eternal God and one with the Father and that by faith in Him they were in Jesus and He in them.
2) And as a believer, by the Spirit, you know this also. You know that Jesus is the Son of God and that just as the Father and the Son are unbreakably one with each other, so you are unbreakably one with Jesus; you are in Him and He is in you.
c. Later, after His death and resurrection and just before He ascended to heaven, JESUS TOLD THE DISCIPLES THAT THEY HAD WORK TO DO. They were to go and make disciples of all the world, baptizing them and teaching them to obey His commandments. And it would be very difficult work. But to encourage them, Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
i. Now, He could have given them 7 tips for effective church planting, or 4 strategies for training office-bearers, or told them about the dangers of neglecting your family as you serve in the church, and all of those things would have been useful. But instead He said, “I will be with you always.”
A. And for the disciples, there were no words more comforting, strengthening, enabling, cheering and reassuring than these. What they needed, above all else, was an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
ii. And today, I could give you 7 tips for a happy marriage, 4 strategies for a better environment in the work-place, 3 ways to be more forgiving, or 6 steps to loving your church. And each of those would be useful. But Jesus says, “I am with you always.”
A. He is with you daily to pardon and forgive, with you daily to sanctify you and strengthen, with you daily to defend and keep, with you daily to lead and guide; with you in sorrow and in joy, with you in sickness and health, with you in life and in death, with you now and then.
B. “I am with you always”: Are there any words more comforting, strengthening, enabling, cheering and reassuring than these words, for you? Is Jesus your highest joy?
For if He is, and only if He is, will your Christianity be THE TYPE OF CHRISTIANITY THAT PROVES THE PROMISE; our third and last and brief point.
This promise of the Lord Jesus is sandwiched between vv15 & 21. v15 says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” v21 says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”
I have asked you several times in this sermon how much Jesus means to you. And if you have found yourself having to acknowledge that the doctrine of justification excites you more than Christ who justifies, or that the forgiveness of sins excites you more than He by whom you are forgiven, or even that the things of this world excite you more than He by whom this world was made, it is probably because obeying Him is not that important to you.
• Many Christians, you see, would be willing to do spectacular things if by that means they could come to know Christ better. But they are unwilling to do the commonplace things that are involved with simple obedience. They don’t forgive, they gossip, they don’t submit to those in authority over them, they don’t be the wife or the husband or the parent or the child or the employer or the employee that Christ calls them to be, they let the sun go down on their anger, they lie, they lust, they covet, they get into the habit of not meeting together with the saints, they spend hours with the world’s entertainments but can’t find time to read their Bible and pray.
• Well, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter warned husbands to love their wives “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” If husbands will not be considerate and treat their wives with respect, Jesus says, “I will not listen to your prayers.”
• If you fail to obey your Lord, it is evidence of your lack of love for Him. And He will cease to reveal Himself to you, and your own love for Him will weaken.
• But, if you obey the commands of Christ out of love for Him, He will increasingly unveil His heart to you. You will come to know Him and not just about Him. Your greatest joy will be knowing Him now. And your chief longing will be to be with Him, then, in heaven. Amen.