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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

God will NEVER abandon you.

John 14

There is a confidence we have when we are part of a group in which we have experienced acceptance. We are all searching for acceptance and through it, we gain both strength and confidence. We find our place in the world through it. Consider the shy person that seems to break out of their shell once you "get to know them." We have learned from early history that there is a strength in numbers, a strength in unity. To be a part of something helps you find an identity and we learn through the process of being socialized within a group. We gain a sense of self worth and comfort with ourselves knowing that we belong and that we are accepted. As we grow in the knowledge of people and are known and accepted by them, we are able to live under an umbrella that we are validated in our lives.

The same thing occurs in romantic relationships as well. Many people enter into relationships to fulfill and satisfy the desire that someone will validate them, accept them, love them, and adore them. Some relationships are great as both parties turn towards each other, move towards intimacy with each other, and learn to delight in each other. Most relationships in my opinion, fall shorter than a standard that I believe we can attain. Most people who have a strong desire to "complete" themselves through relationships, find themselves stuck in a place where they know they aren't in the best of relationships. However, they choose to stick with it because they have already committed to it and don't want to experience the pain of loss.

What I propose is that Jesus can fill you up where no one else can and that Jesus is the source of satisfaction you have been searching for all your life. The best part is, although Jesus roamed the earth nearly 2000 years ago, He promises to this day, to never leave us abandoned.

In John 14, we see the chapter begins with Jesus telling the disciples, "Let not your hearts be troubled." Prior to this statement, Judas had just left them to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and said to the disciples, "yet a little while I am with you. Where I am going you cannot come." (John 13:33) To this, Simon Peter asked Jesus, "Where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow me afterward." Then Simon replied, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." To this, Jesus said, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow til you have denied me three times." (John 13:36-38)

As chapter 13 comes to a conclusion, we see the beginning of what appears to be the end. Christ tells His disciples that they will not be able to go where He is going, giving them a sense that the person they left everything for will be abandoning them. If we place ourselves in the sandals of the disciples, we will quickly come to the realization that whether we were once a fisherman or a tax collector, that we left our careers to follow someone who said we would have bread, life, and freedom from want for the rest of our lives. The disciples dropped everything that they had built their lives around to follow Jesus; they forsook their aspirations to follow a man that seemed to have something that was extraordinary even if He didn't look like it. They gathered a crowd of people who depended on them and saw the great works that He did and became famous because of Him. They were given the authority as His disciples to heal, chase demons, and help the helpless. But they always had Him to go back to. They knew that at the end of the day, they would be able to gain insight and fellowship with the source of their peace and confidence.

Now, they were about to be left alone, to fend for themselves, with the growing expectation that people had of them coupled with the mounting pressures that the religious leaders were placing on them. On one side, they were pursued for their authority and message by people who needed a hope to be fulfilled within them. On the other, they were being persecuted by the religious leaders because they seemed to be anarchists who wanted to turn over the existing order of things. On both sides, they knew that they had to keep turning and pointing to Jesus who was both the hope and the very thing the religious law pointed to as its ultimate fulfillment.

So Jesus said, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me." Jesus recognized the flood of worry that abandonment would cause. He quickly addressed it by being the voice they needed to hear and giving the words that an authoritative voice could give to calm their anxiety about the uncertain future. Then He reminds His disciples that as they place faith and trust in God, to place it in Him also. He elevates Himself to the same position of God because He is God, warranting all trust, dependency, and faith to fall on Him and the things He says.

What Jesus does next is astonishing. He uses an analogy that many people today fail to recognize as a cultural tradition of the time. He says in 14:2-4, "In my Father's house, are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." The common custom of the time was for the bridegroom to return home to build an addition to the his father's house during the time of his engagement. This is where he and his future bride would live until he was either able to start his own family or inherit the house from his father. This was not intended to be used to compete with fellow followers about who would get the bigger room.

Thomas then replies, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Immediately, we can see that Thomas and the rest of the disciples have heard only that Jesus was leaving them and discarded that they should not worry. To this, Jesus points to Himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Without missing a heartbeat, Philip says to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Their fear of losing Jesus is a panic as Jesus seems to only be telling them that 1. He is leaving, 2. one day they will reunite, so 3. don't worry. There seems to be no indication of where they are going. However, we know that they don't need to know anymore. Jesus, over and over again calls us to trust in His person over His promises. He wants us to know that the object of faith is what matters. This is why Jesus replies, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?"

He goes on, "The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." What is comforting about this passage is that Jesus is passing a relational authority over to his disciples. Up to now, they did works in Jesus' name and all was dispensed through Christ. This was done so that they would learn to depend on the completed works of Christ on the cross and so that He would be preached by them. This allowed them to recognize that Christ was the ultimate atonement for sins, something they learned growing up was necessary for them to be "right" with God. Here, Jesus tells His disciples that the relationship between them is what makes them right with God.

He continues, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you." At this, the disciples are called back to the revelation of the law into two fundamental commandments: 1. love God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength and 2. love your neighbor as self. In other words, Jesus says, "If you love me, you will continue to love me, and love others." Through this continued fellowship, He says that even in the absence of Christ, there will be no abandonment, that whether they recognize it or not, there will be power in the fellowship. This trust that they place in Christ will allow them into the fellowship that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit participate in. As Christ leaves, the Holy Spirit will come in power to lead people into the truth of the Gospel; that we are all saved by grace through faith in Christ.

Christ builds into the conversation something that the disciples (and the rest of us) should take to heart, that "He will not leave us orphans." (v.15). He promises us that we will do greater things, and it will be covered with peace that we may not be troubled or afraid. We must remember that God adopted us and took us in when we rejected Him. We can be comforted in that even as we rejected Him, He kept pursuing us to the point of sacrificing His Son so that we may be able to stay adopted by Him through eternity. His love for us came when we were the ugliest and most horrible of people and remained with us at the most excruciating cost to Him. On this reality, we can rest that God will never abandon us - because even when we try, He sends out His Son to find us, rescue us, to the point of death. In this, we can be comforted even when life seems too hard to bare.

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