Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Perfect knowledge, perfect joy, perfect peace

Scripture readings

  • Ezekiel 36:24-29
  • John 16:12-33

Introduction

Herman Lange, a German Christian was to be executed by the Nazis during WWII. In his cell on the night, before he was to be killed, Lange wrote a note about two feelings which occupied his mind: “I am, first, in a joyous mood, and second filled with great anticipation.” Then he made this beautiful affirmation: “In Christ, I have put my faith, and precisely today I have faith in Him more firmly than ever.” Finally, he urged his parents to read the New Testament for comfort: “Look where you will, everywhere you will find jubilation over the grace that makes us children of God. What can befall a child of God? Of what should I be afraid? On the contrary, rejoice!

A non-Christian said,  Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” “God has no religion”. But his deathbed he uttered his last words, “My days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness…” His name was Mahatma Gandhi. 

Jesus was approaching his last moment before they apprehended Him, and handed Him over to be crucified.  On his mind was his ministry from his Father to reveal Him to those would continue the work of global evangelism after He returned to his Father. He prayed, 

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4, NKJV)

When He announced his departure to his disciples, they were filled with grief.  On the one hand, they were called to be fishers of men, but their rabbi was leaving them. On the other hand, since they began to follow Christ, they learned to love Him and be close to Him.  His words were the words of life. But now his announced his departure. They would miss Him. 

How would they survive without Him?  Where would they get the same level teaching from when they needed answers and guidance?  And then Christ said this:  

Nevertheless, 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 depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7, NKJV)

Perfect knowledge

Christ did not expect of his church to tackle the wise and the philosophies of this world on their own.  He promised to give them a Helper.  

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8, NKJV)

The work of the church would have vaporised towards the end of the first century were it not for the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  He is the One convicts the world of sin, those who do not believe in Christ.  He is the One who convicts sinners of righteousness, because of Christ’s complete redemption, because there is no righteousness in man, and no other can or will be able to do what Christ has done; He is now at the right hand of his Father.  The Holy Spirit is the One who makes clear to unbelievers that the prince of this world is condemned and of powerless against the judgement of the Father; no one who comes to the Father by any other means will ever be saved (John 16:8-11).

Paul writes about the work of the Spirit:  

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NKJV)

With these words, Jesus Christ comforted his disciples.  And it should be our comfort too.  We must speak the words of Christ, we must declare his grace to this world, however, we in some sense will only be onlookers as the Spirit does the conviction, the preaching of the righteousness of Christ, and as He convicts people of their sin.   

Is it no so that the Holy Spirit will teach us all sorts of ecstatic gifts so we can prophesy, speak in tongues and do miracles?  We need to understand these things in its context as Paul wrote it to the Corinthian church.  We cannot now dwell on all the issues, but here are a few principles:  

  • The Spirit gives gifts as He determines, not as individual members desire it. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
  • The gifts of the Spirit are always for the common good of the whole body of believers; if they serve no purpose for the upbuilding of the church, they are not needed. (1Corinthians 12:7)
  • There are gifts which are more important than others.  Paul prioritises the gifts beginning with the apostles, then the prophets (or preachers), then others, and then at the bottom of the list the speaking of different tongues (1Corinthians 12:28)
  • Not all believers will or can speak in tongues, or do miraculous deeds, or heal others (1Corinthians 12:29)
  • But all believers must love one another as Christ loved them (1Corinthians 13) and all believers must tell of the wondrous deeds of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-21)

It is for this last universal task of evangelism we all must be involved in we need the Holy Spirit.  Why? 

“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12–14, NKJV)

The Spirit inspired Paul to write:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12, ESV)

The Holy Spirit has no new agenda other than that of the Father and Son.  His work is to continue the work of Christ.  He is the One who teaches the church of Christ the will of the Father and all about Christ.  

The ultimate work of the Holy Spirit was the inspiration of the Scriptures.  Of these we read:  

…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15–17, NKJV)

This is the point.  Everything we need to know about salvation, everything we need to preach, everything we need for comfort, everything we need to defend ourselves with against the attacks of all the wise and learned of the world, is written in the Bible.  Who reads and studies the Bible as the World of God has perfect knowledge.  The remarkable aspect of it all is that while we present this Gospel to the world and to every lost sinner, the Holy Spirit does the rest.  We are like the sower in the parable of Jesus who sows wherever he can, but then rest and sleep, leaving it all in God’s hands.

Perfect joy

We touched in this last week.  Let’s just recap.  Christ taught his followers a crucial lesson:  his death and resurrection, together with the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word, give incomparable joy. 

Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22, NKJV)

David knew something about this:  

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm 16:5–6, NKJV)

In another Psalm:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26, NKJV)

What is the source of our joy?  

  • First of all—Christ completed which the work the Father gave Him:  He taught his disciples, He revealed the Father to them, He took their sins on them and paid the penalty of sin, He rose again to overcome death, and He ascended into heaven to intercede and prepare a home for those whom He was sent to rescue.
  • Second, His work of teaching is complete.  John 16:23 is an interesting one: 

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23, NKJV)

The first “ask” is to inquire or to want to know more.  The second ask is the same as prayer.  Our joy is connected to the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us to teach us and in that sense, we do not need to inquire outside of what He teaches in the Bible.  It is only by diligent study that we will get all the answers we need to equip us for service.

The second “ask” is prayer.  What we need to be successful as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lies in diligent and faithful prayer.  In the Name of Christ who is our complete salvation and all-sufficient Saviour, we approach God to ask Him to give according to our needs.

The joy of the church of Jesus Christ is anchored in these things.  What more do we need?  Are we robbed of our joy if we don’t get the Lear Jet we are praying for?  If this is your expectation, then surely you will be disappointed.  But if it is Jesus Christ and the fullness of his grace you desire, you will never be disappointed.  Your cup will overflow with joy.

Perfect peace

Just one last thought.  Our chapter also speaks of peace.  Our Lord  said to the small band of disciples moments before He was arrested: 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)

What peace is perfect peace?  I have overcome the world.  The Greek tense is the perfect tense which describes an action brought to its conclusion in such a way that its results stand firm. In other words, when Jesus says He has overcome the world, it is complete, and nothing can change that fact.  

In Revelation, we read,

“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome [is victorious] to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NKJV)

Does it give you peace to hear the words of Christ:  

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4, NKJV)

Does it give you peace to hear Christ’s promise:  

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12, NKJV)

Conclusion

So, my friends, because you can trust the Holy Spirit to guide you, because you can ask God in the Name of Jesus Christ, and because Christ has overcome the world, then it should be true of all of us:

And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! wrath, because he [Satan] knows that he has a short time. (Revelation 12:11–12, NKJV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 3 February 2019

 

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Christ, the Holy Spirit and joy

Scripture Readings

  • Romans 8:6-17
  • John 16:12-33

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

They say the American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection.

Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was very proud of it.

Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.

John records what happened in the night before Christ was arrested, only to be crucified the next day.  It was in more than way a night of confusion and agony. First, Jesus— like a slave—knelt before  them and washed their feet.  Then one of them walked out into the night to betray their rabbi to the Jewish leaders, and then they heard that another would disown Him.  Next thing is He announced to his small group of disciples that He was going to the One who sent him. But He also assured them that He would send them the Holy Spirit so that they would not go astray, or trip and fall (16:1).

Jesus Christ—the completion of his ministry

The road to the cross

The Father sent Jesus into this world to gather a church for Him.  Christ left the eternal throne of glory, was born like a human being—although not from an earthly father—walked the face of the earth like all other humans beings, yet without sin. To complete the mission of the Father, He had to perfectly obey the Law, and also take the curse of disobedience to the Law as his own to become the perfect righteousness which satisfy the holiness of God.  That’s the only way we can be saved.

Now, in the last hours of his earthly ministry, He taught his disciples what they could expect, and how they had to be his voice, hands and feet when He went back to his Father.  He had to go back to the Father to stand in perfect righteousness before the Father, and as such intercede for those whom He saved. Although they would love to have Him with them all the time, He could not remain with them; He had to finish what the Father sent Him for.

Now, what did He mean with “In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me”? (John 16:17, NIV)

In John 14 our Lord was referring to the place in heaven, the rooms in his Father’s house, which He is going to prepare for them, and then come back to take them to where He will be.  This clearly refers to the second coming of our Lord at the sound of the last trumpet.

But in 16:17 He did not point to that event.  He pointed to his death on the cross—and all which would happen before that;  He also referred to his resurrection from the dead.  In other words between the night He was arrested in Gethsemane, and the Sunday of his resurrection when He appeared to them.

His suffering, death on the cross and resurrection was the pinnacle of his ministry.  As a matter of fact, without the cross his ministry would fail.  Those mocking Him while He was dying with his hands and feet nailed to the rugged wood of the cross—“Others you could save; save yourself”—was the final attempt of Satan to avert the necessity that He paid the price for sinners to set them free.

The night Jesus spoke these words to them He was arrested.  The next morning, the morning of Good Friday, the disciples would have felt like lost sheep.  The One they came to love and worship was handed over, tried, falsely accused and forced to drag the cross on which He would be nailed to the place of execution.  On the way He would be mocked, ridiculed, spat one, beaten until He was not physically able to walk, and sank on his knees in agony.  Peter who once said that he would give his life for the Lord, followed in a distance with a heart heavy because He denied his Lord.

Then, when it was time for the lambs of Passover to be slaughtered, at about 3.00.pm on Friday, Jesus cried out, “It is finished”.  There the real Passover Lamb died and took the sin of the world on Him so that they might go free.

Jesus prepared them for those three days of confusion.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20, NIV)

Joy restored

So when on the Sunday of his resurrection Jesus appeared to Mary at the open grave, and she went back to tell them the good news that He had risen, they still didn’t believe.  The death cloth folded by itself in some ways helped their unbelief, but they went back to the place they were gathered and locked the doors for fear of the Jews.  Then our Lord appeared in their midst.  Luke records:

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:37, 41, NIV)

What He prepared them for in John 16 came true:

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22, NIV)

While they were grieving in unbelief, the world rejoiced (16:20): they at last got rid of Christ. Not so!  He conquered death, hell, sin and Satan. This completed his ministry of reconciliation. It is therefore no surprise that Christ adds:

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23, NIV)

Unfortunately some translations do not clearly translate the “ask” of this verse.  They are two different words in Greek. The first “ask” (In that day you will no longer ask me anything) should be enquire—something someone does who is not sure about things. On “that day” Jesus Christ met them and everything was different. Yes, they still needed teaching, but his mission was then complete—after that the Holy Spirit would take over the ministry to the disciples.

The second “ask” (my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name) stands in connection with prayer.  Christ now goes back to what He taught them in 15:11 about joy:

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24, NIV)

With his mission complete, He stands at the throne of the Father interceding for his church.  In his name his church now prays and the Father listens.

Paul writes:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31–32, NIV)

John continues:

The Father Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27, NIV)

The Holy Spirit

But all of this would not be possible without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  With the Saviour at the throne of the Father, the Spirit continues the ministry of Christ, but not in the sense that He adds to this ministry; no, He takes what belongs to Christ and makes it known to us (16:14).  He does not reveal new things apart from Christ. It is the Spirit who does the convicting and convincing work in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement as the disciples does the preaching of the Gospel of Christ; the Spirit guides the church in truth, which is the Gospel inspired by Himself.

Our Lord said:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15, NIV)

The main ministry of the Holy Spirit was to constantly take the disciples—and us— back to Christ.  Like the flowers in the John Sargent’s picture when he became doubtful, the Spirit holds up the picture of the Saviour before us so that we would not stumble and fall in confusion.

Further, the Spirit connects us with the righteousness of Christ. Paul writes:

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11, NIV)

Moreover, the Spirit is also interceding for us when we pray—that “asking” from the Father:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26–27, NIV)

In another place Paul writes:

… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:11–13, NIV)

Christ and the Spirit:  a reason for Joy

Jesus said:

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24, NIV)

To this He adds:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

Christ’s complete salvation brings joy.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit brings joy.  That our prayers in the Name of Christ are answered, brings joy. That Christ has overcome the world, brings peace.

So, when Christ, after the forty days of intensive teaching, on the glorious day of ascension, returned his his Father we read about the disciples:

While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24:51–52, NIV)

Add to this the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

Conclusion

O, that we will have this vision:  the completed work of Christ, now interceding at the Father’s throne, only to return and judge the living and the dead; the ministry of the Spirit, constantly taking us back to Christ like Sargent who went back to his painting, to sustain us in our task of evangelism and mission; joy, because the Father loved the Son and He loves his church and gives them what they need; joy, because our Lord has overcome – once and for all. Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 19 March 2017