Phil Cox

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The way it works

29th May 2009

Why do things have to be the way they are? Why do we have to suffer?

Why did JESUS have to suffer? That seems stranger still - He didn't deserve to suffer - but He did.

It took the twelve a long time to understand. Jesus had explained to them several times that He was going to die, and, on the evening of the last supper, He did so again (see John13v18 - 14v14). This time, he went on to explain that God would send us the Holy Spirit to be with His followers for ever:

John 14v15-21
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

Jesus was telling the disciples that if we OBEY Him, then God will send the Holy Spirit to us. The Holy Spirit will come alongside us (the Greek word translated "Counsellor" here really means “one who comes alongside”) and He will reveal Jesus to us.

There were two men called Judas among the twelve. One was Judas Iscariot. He had already left the group to go to betray Jesus to the religious authorities. The other Judas asked Jesus this question:

John 14v22
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

This question has been asked by Christians through the ages. It asks two different things, both of them valid:

  1. Why did God choose us rather than others to receive the revelation of Jesus Christ?
  2. Why did Jesus have to die in order to bring in his Kingdom, when He could instead just reveal his glory so clearly that everyone could see it?

The answer to the first question is quite unknowable. I know I don’t deserve to be chosen by God. But I know I have been chosen by him. I know that I would never had understood the gospel if God had not revealed it to me. But he did.

We know the answer to the second question, however, because Jesus gives it here.

This second question amounts to “Why not do it the easy way?” Why go through all the pain of crucifixion, when Jesus has the power to demand worship from everybody? Why suffer when you don’t have to?

This has echoes of Peter’s tempting of Jesus:

Matthew 16:21-24a
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

For Jesus to suffer on the cross was unthinkable. But it was necessary.

We’ll look now at Jesus’s answer to the question. Jesus starts by saying:

John 14v23-24
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

This is very similar to what Jesus said in verses 15-21. He’s saying that things will be done the way GOD says they will be done. This is not necessarily the easy way. But it is the right way. God will NOT force people to choose him. Instead, God will respond to those who love Jesus and obey His teaching.

This is the way it works

Jesus was saying: If anyone wants a relationship with God, then they will make some effort to start doing things God’s way. That is, they will repent. And if anyone repents of their sin and seeks God, then Jesus promises that they will find God. More than that, Jesus promises that God with make His home with them. That is, they will know the presence of God in their lives, just as they know the presence of anyone who lives in their home. That is the way it works. There is no short-cut.

Why do many Christians live without that level of experience of the presence of God? Because God’s presence in our lives is proportional to our level of repentance. To repent fully, to love Jesus fully, is to obey Him fully. To fully know his presence requires us to fully give up our attempts to control our own lives, and our own futures, and to trust in Him and obey Him in all things. Like it or not, the truth is that we all compromise to some extent – some more than others. And our experience of the presence of God in or lives is diminished as a result.

Jesus then says this:

John 14v25-27
All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

God comes to all Christians in the Holy Spirit. He makes His home with us. And He gives us His peace.

Do not be afraid.

Trust in God.

Yield all that you are and all that you have to Him.

And you will know His peace. He will make His home with you. You will know his presence day by day. And He will prove that He is trustworthy.

Can you do that?