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?

 

 

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91. Mere men in the story of God – one day there by the lake…

Is there somebody in your life that you admire so much that you can remember the day the two of you met? People often asked that of married couples. The story is then related with lots of smiles and interjections in the detailed description of the circumstances that worked together for the meeting of two people that made a life long commitment to each other. The whole audience to this narrative listens attentively with smiling satisfaction.

Just think of the massive historical implications of the meeting described below.

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). (John 1:40-42)

Andrew is thrilled to have found the man he calls the Messiah and the first thing he does is share the news with his brother, Simon Peter. It is a momentous occasion – this meeting of Jesus and Peter. Just think on their relationship in the luxury of hindsight. It all started this day at the shores of a lake somewhere in the middle of the world.

These verses mention Messiah and Christ, which are the Hebrew and Greek words that mean God’s anointed King. All through the ancient world kings were anointed.

Andrew is identified as Simon Peter’s brother and plays an important role in bringing people together. He brought the boy with the fishes and loaves to Jesus in the narrative of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:8-9). He is prepared to take second place in the greater story. He also brings the inquiring Greeks into the presence of Jesus. He could not keep Jesus to himself. He has the heart of a missionary.

Andrew takes centre stage in the meeting of Peter with Jesus.

Jesus looked at Peter. The word used for look means intent gaze, seeing into the heart. He gives Peter a new name, there and then. You are going to be called Cephas, which means rock.

Two names were common in those days. People often had an Aramaic name and a Greek name, like Thomas and Didymus (Greek for twin). Tabitha was Aramaic and Dorcas was Greek for gazelle. Peter and Cephas was the same name in different languages.

In the Old Testament a changed name denoted a new relationship with God. Jacob became Israel in Genesis 32:28 and Abram becomes Abraham in Genesis 17:5. A new man needs a new name.

Jesus sees with purpose and potential. He sees what he is, but also what he can become. In that moment Jesus saw with Holy Spirit insight a Galilean fisherman. He see that in every person committing his life to God. He saw it in Gideon and David and so many other Old Testament faith heroes.

It should be our way to look at people. Just think of the powerful, visionary Jesus-words over our children’s lives when we look at them with the purpose and potential of the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 16:13-20 another discussion between Jesus and His disciples is recorded. He starts with an easy question: Who do the people say I am? The disciples answer: Elijah, Moses, a prophet, John the Baptist etc. That was the easy answer. Suddenly Jesus turns it and makes it personal.

 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Trust the ever audacious Peter to blurt it out.

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This inspirational, Holy Spirit-infused answer prompts Jesus to speak an everlasting blessing upon Peter, that echoes throughout the church today.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This is the revelational-speech we desire from God. Not the things that flesh and blood reveals. We want to speak what the Father in heaven reveals to us.

He pronounces the words of Peter as the rock on which the church will be built. Note, it is not the man Peter, but his revelation that is the rock on which the church is built. The church of Jesus is not built upon a man; it is built on the revelation of who Jesus is.

The revelation of Jesus as the son of the living God is the rock on which the church is built.

This is the deep disparity between Peter and Judas. Consider their roles in the dark hours of the trial of Jesus.

Judas was a zealot. He was part of a political party that aimed to overthrow the Romans by force. He walked with Jesus for three years and many times witnessed the anger of the Jewish leaders flare up against Him to the point of stoning and violence. Many times the Gospels state that Jesus just walked away. To Judas this was a miracle. Maybe if he forced the hand of the authorities against Jesus, Jesus might overthrow the Romans in a miracle-like way. Without even giving a second thought to the warnings of Jesus that He was on a collision course with the rulers and will be put to death and rise again (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; 10:33)), Judas set his own plan in motion, “using” Jesus for his own goals.

He received the 30 shekels of silver (the price of a slave on the market at the time) from the High Priest and led the soldiers to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Very soon he saw that things were not going according to plan. He witnessed Jesus’ peaceful surrender to the soldiers to be led away to the house of the High Priest. Later that night He was taken to Pontius Pilate, and to Herod and back to Pilate. Judas panicked. He saw that the whole thing was going south. He stumbled back to the leaders and uttered the words:

I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (Matthew 27:4)

To the very end Judas did not realize that he was a player in the life of the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, the One man the whole world was waiting for. He died a self-inflicted death alone in utter darkness.

Peter and John very courageously followed Jesus to the courtyard of the house of the High Priest on the night of the arrest. It was not the time to be seen as one of the supporters of this man that the leaders put on trial. When he denied knowledge of Jesus three times and heard the cock crow, he wept bitterly and fled to his fellow disciples.

That is exactly where you should be in the midst of spiritual struggle.

There he waited with desperate hope and great remorse. Jesus knew his soul struggle and specially mentioned him to Mary to bring him the good news of the resurrection.

Peter’s life ended in great victory.

In John 1:43-51, other ordinary men meet God.

Jesus leaves the south and moves north to Galilee. He calls Philip. Philip finds his brother, Nathanael with the good news. Nathanael is skeptical. He was probably following a discussion on the details of this Jesus everybody was talking about. Rivalry between villages was common. Nothing good can come out of Nazareth, he reckoned. Even more, the prophets said nothing about Nazareth – they said the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Only by deeper investigation, the true searcher would have known that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem.

Nathanael is from Cana. He argues with Philip. Philip is wise. He says: Come and see. Arguments end well when the person is brought into the presence of Jesus. Arguments can only happen in love, never in hostility or arrogance. Jesus revealed is the goal. That often happens in testimony, rather than argument.

Jesus’ compliment would have been understood by any Jew. Psalm 32:2 and Isaiah 53:9 stated that no deceit will be in his mouth.

Sitting under the fig tree was any Jew’s idea of peace. Undisturbed under thick shade was a place to pray and meditate. Jesus was aware of the cry of his heart. He was clearly part of the remnant , who kept the vision of the expected Messiah alive. The promise still stands, even after so many years of waiting. Do not grow weary. Great is His faithfulness.

Jesus knew the cry of his heart; he knew his prayers. He can interpret the soul. He communicated with Nathanael on a deeper level, spoke prophetically into his life and stirred up his vision for greater things to come.

Nathanael does not appear in any of the other Gospels. John describes it as an encounter to illustrate Jesus’ nature in dealing with people.

It was in Jesus’ nature to satisfy expectations.

Nathanael stands symbolically for the person whose heart is cleansed of pride and prejudice and who sees in Jesus the one who satisfies the longing of his waiting, seeking heart.