130. A discussion about the future.

[John 16]

Anybody who reads my little pieces would know that I am fascinated by time. Past, present and future – oh how I had to study to express myself in English (not my mother tongue) with the intricacies of the past and future perfect, continuous tense in the past, present and future and the endless verb conjugation to be studied and memorized. So many words to express time past, time present and time ahead that we need to convey our chronicle. Rightly so. Time governs our lives, relentlessly, constantly without a blink of a change of pace. It is the rhythm of our existence, the beat of our days. It may feel cruelly slow in pain and fleetingly swift in joy, but scientifically firm and fixed throughout every day for centuries and millennia.

Growing up a Christian I was taught that the future belongs to God and that I cannot make claims about it in any way – again rightly so. In this tradition I respect the future as God’s territory, a time span for Him to direct. I hear the Word that says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little timeand then vanishes away.(James 4:13,14)

In Christian tradition there is a reverence for the future. We add the Latin DV (Deo Volenti), which means God willing, as a sign that we realize that the future is God’s territory and do not speak impertinently about it. It should, however, be added to our words about all time, as our past and present also belong to God! Serving a great God who stands outside time, we should recognize how brief our existence in this world is.

The future is uncertain. We control only our moment. It is only in this moment that we can make the wise decisions that will handle our past under the blood of Jesus and determine the future as a ” field of action for the promises of God” [Eugene Peterson]. What if our future outcome and victory can be guaranteed? This is the good news of the Gospel – it is!

Jesus tells of things beyond the present. He is already preparing the disciples for the time after the crucifixion. In Jewish thought there were two ages – the present age and the age to come.

The present was bad and under condemnation.

The age to come was the golden age of God.

In between the two ages was the Day of the Lord – a terrible day in which the world was shattered and destroyed to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and the dawn of the age to come.

Especially in the time between the Old and New Testament the prophecies of the Day of the Lord were rife and rough. They echoed the words of Isaiah 13:9:

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate;
And He will destroy its sinners from it.

and Joel 2:1-2:

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the Lord is coming,for it is at hand:
A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.
A people come, great and strong,
The like of whom has never been;
Nor will there ever be any such after them,
Even for many successive generations.

Jesus promises a blessing on the ones who can endure the terrible days.

With the coming of the Messiah the trumpet has blown. The people great and strong are the church of Jesus, the invisible Kingdom of God on earth, the like of whom has never been.

Sorrow will turn to joy in a life filled with the Holy Spirit.  Faith endures to turn the world around.

Christian joy is independent of circumstances and changes. Worldly joy is attached to worldly things. Christian joy comes from Christ. Nothing in the world can take it away.

Our joy will be complete – lacking nothing with no regrets. It is perfect and to be found in the presence of God.

Pain is forgotten just as the pain at childbirth (16:21,22)

Jesus promises the fullness of knowledge (16:23). On earth there will always be unanswered questions and unsolved problems, but we walk by faith and not by sight. Full knowledge will bring new dimensions to our relationship with Christ. The door of heaven is open; therefore we van live with insight and understanding.

This fullness in relationship is only possible through Jesus. It is in His name that we ask and receive.

Jesus speaks in paroimia (Greek), which means it is obscured to the casual listener. It is veiled until revealed. It means that a statement demands more thought to become clear. The word is used for the parables of Jesus.

He says He is going to speak the truth unveiled. He tells them He comes from God and is going back to God. This is a tremendous claim. The cross is not the criminal’s death, which the world sees, but His way back to God.

The revelation to us is that through Jesus men can approach God directly because God loves them. Jesus changes the attitude of mankind to God. He reveals God’s heart and presents Him as a loving Father and not the angry God that the Old Testament prophets have portrayed. For this revelation Jesus died – to illustrate God’s love.

His work is now done. He comes from the Father and by the Cross He is going back. They are now the beloved of God since they are lovers of Christ.

The disciples surrender to everything Jesus said (16:29-33). They leap into faith of all the hard-to-understand-things. In verses 17-18 they are puzzled. In verse 19 Jesus answers the questions of their hearts without them asking them. This brings them to belief. He shows them the glory of God as well as the questions and doubts in their own hearts. He has full knowledge of God and the human heart.

Jesus is realistic. He knows the dark time ahead around His Cross and death. He knew how they will react and still loved them, even in their failure and fear.He also still trusted them with His message and church to come – how amazing is that!!

Their desertion will not rob them of their victory in life.

In this unique historic moment – forgiveness and trust are integrated and combined. Trust in Jesus and from Jesus after the guilt of failure.

Jesus knew He would be alone on the Cross. He trusted God to take Him through – not man.

Jesus forgives – even ahead of time. He knew His best friends would abandon Him. He knew their weakness and still loved them.

He has sympathy for them and gives them peace. He told them that He knows about their coming failure and that it is fine. They did not fall into despair when they realized their own failure. Jesus displays the miracle of divine pity on mankind.

Jesus knows how your sin would hurt you. Your sin cannot hurt Him. He is above it and He knows His father. He wants us to conquer our sin and never let sin keep us away from Him. The devil will attack with guilt and shame, but His forgiveness is guaranteed.

The gift of Jesus in these last hours is courage and conquest.

The disciples will be witnesses of this fact: The world at its worst will not defeat Jesus.

Do you hear the word of the Lord over your future?

Your failures, life’s tragedies, the worst of the worst will not alter your ultimate outcome in victory. Life at its absolute worst will not defeat you.

You are a child of the most high God!

 

 

 

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129. Revelation of truth.

[John 16]

It might have happened to you too. Somebody would say: don’t worry, this is the better way and you would gasp in exasperation and confusion as to how on earth this could be better. Maybe it happens to children more often, when they just cannot grasp the full extent of circumstances and adult decisions. We are God’s children and we often don’t understand. Sometimes we say things to superficially explain things with empty words. Success would come because of luck, good fortune, “things” working out, the stars lining up. Pain and failure would be ascribed to bad luck, misfortune or cruel judgments on a person’s own inability to handle life or cope with demands.

I have often made the case for revelation knowledge. It is one of the central themes of my life and the goal of all my study and writing.

My first experience of God’s word becoming the “spoken” word, “hearing” in my inner being and being aware that God is speaking into my specific moment and immediate situation, came when I was just 14 years old. For a few years of my elementary school we lived on a remote farm. I went to the local school, but when finances dwindled and my parents had to move back to the city, I was in Grade 7 back into the school I left four years previously, towards the end of the academic year. It was clear that I was academically far behind my peers. It took me all of Grade 8 to try and catch up and by the end of Grade 9 I felt a little more confident. Exams were formal and strict.

I was really stressed on the evening before I wrote Latin and Maths with just a short break in between the two papers. At the time my mother was studying the Bible with desperation to “hear” from God in our very severe financial crisis. That evening I took my Bible and thought I would open in the middle and read a Psalm, any Psalm to calm me down. I opened to the book of Isaiah, which I didn’t even know existed and read the first verse that my eye fell on. It was the following:

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God,

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Slowly the deep realization established itself in my heart that this was God speaking to me. Today I know it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit that communicates the truth of the Word to the inner man. I was overjoyed. My stress and fear were answered and I was calm to study further and sleep well. I had great success in that exam, but I cannot even remember the details. What I do remember is my experience that God spoke into my situation. My situation was not important in the greater scheme of things, not even particularly in my life, but God answered the cry of a stressed schoolgirl. On this day, 44 years later, this incident is fresh in my mind, quickened by the Holy Spirit to write as a testimony to God’s love and His provision in our lives.

It is here in John 16 that I much later learned the teaching of Jesus on my experience. He discussed the role of the Holy Spirit when His physical presence leaves earth.

In their grief-stricken bewilderment after the crucifixion, the disciples remembered that Jesus said it is good that He goes away because the Holy Spirit would come. In the body He was confined to place and time. In the Spirit there is no limitation.He is with us always, just as He promised in Matthew 28:20.

We have the gift of uninterrupted fellowship.

Jesus gives a perfect summary of the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit convicts. The word is elegchein in Greek and it was used in the cross-examination of a witness.

Questioning somebody until a person admits his errors or acknowledge the facts in such a way as to shed light on the case, often happens in court when human legal experts have to establish facts and truth. The testimony of a witness will convict of weakness or strength of argument.

We have the perfect litigator in the Holy Spirit who knows every detail of our hearts and lives better than we ever could. He convicts in love to show our weaknesses and failures to our own self in order to cleanse, redeem and restore.

1) The Holy Spirit will convict of sin [amartias = to miss the mark, failure in goal] in the most loving way so that our conviction will lead to restoration with God.

Sin is not always clear. The Jews were convinced they were doing the right thing to kill Jesus. Later, touched in their hearts (Acts 2:37) they confessed. Only the Holy Spirit can convince people they are sinners.

2) The Holy Spirit convinces of righteousness [dikaiosunēs = condition acceptable to God, a state approved of God, integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting].

 Just like the centurion at the Cross (Matthew 27:54) in that moment came to the supernatural conclusion that Jesus was the Son of God, the truth of who Jesus is, is ministered to our hearts. Isn’t it amazing that the trust of the church is in a Jewish criminal executed so long ago? Belief in the resurrection is a work of the Holy Spirit.

3) The Holy Spirit helps us to judge with insight and understanding [kriseos, krisis=selecting and distinguishing to make a decision].  Our circumstances and life situations are complicated and not always clear. We need true wisdom to make the right decisions.

By the Cross evil is condemned and defeated for all eternity. The discernment of evil is a work of the Holy Spirit.

All these together are our salvation and liberty in Jesus. He is our Saviour and our punishment for sin was on Him.

What is truth? The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Truth,who reveals to us who Jesus is.

Revelation is a process – it is more and deeper for those who seek it out. We start out with the basics and then move on to more life-changing revelation.

All revelation has consequences.

Faith explores revelation.

In truth we will understand the full revelation of God also in the more complex passages of the Old Testament. The wiping out of heathens and idols is for the preservation of the faith, to be interpreted spiritually as the discernment of evil and the full liberation of our lives from any bondage.

God’s revelation is dynamic. God speaks, God works, God saves and blesses continually. Jesus is alive and is therefore the living truth.

Truth is a gift from God. It is not man’s discovery. We learn it slowly, but it is there and the source of it is God.

Revelation of truth is to reveal the significance of Jesus to us. Jesus is inexhaustible. We will never fully grasp it; we will never know Him in full. The more we become like Him the more we know Him.

He is the only person on the face of the earth that ever said I am truth. All the people who claim to be God or the Messiah have never made such a bold, all-inclusive statement, to be remembered and upheld by so many over such a great span of time.

Can we be still, open our hearts and receive from the Holy Spirit the deep conviction of who Jesus is?