Kingdom Livingby Ed de la Cour on April 7, 2015
March 29, 2015
John 14: 1 – 14
The biggest question most people have about the Christian life is: how are we ever supposed to do that? How are we supposed to live for God when we are powerless over sin in our lives? How can we live for Jesus when we are powerless over our own inclinations, not to mention that we are unable to resist any addictive attraction? Try turning a blind eye to a Double-Stuffed Oreo!
The Jews in the days of Jesus answered those questions by requiring obedience to a long list of rules and regulations. Their answer was found in being careful to observe every rule. That only served to create lifelong frustration because no matter how careful you might be, you could never fully satisfy the demands of all those laws. You would be always and forever dogged by failure. In the face of that, Jesus came proclaiming a wonderful alternative. Even here as John 14 begins, Jesus was calming the troubled hearts of His friends. He spoke the peace of God into their lives even as real and sinister trouble was brewing. Everyone could sense it was quickly approaching.
As I read these verses in preparation for today, I began to wonder if this discussion between Jesus and His disciples is really much more about living life today in the Kingdom than about any pining away for heaven. It always scares me when I listen to people giving up on living life and throwing in the towel because they have this hope that Jesus will come for them quickly, that He will scoop them up, and bring them home to heaven. That is simply not the Biblical view of the way we are to live. If anything, the Bible teaches we are to live life with enthusiasm and gusto. We are to do everything to bring God glory. I Corinthians 10: 31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Now, we often forget that as the account of what happened on the night Jesus was betrayed is unfolding, Jesus and His men are simply living their lives. In real life there are no chapter divisions such as we see between the end of chapter 13 and the beginning of chapter 14. All this happened over the course of an hour or two, as the Passover meal came to an end. Jesus entered into this last teaching discourse that continues through John 16. The first point He made was to remind them to love each other. He declared that their love for one another is key. People around them will be able to understand that the disciples of Jesus have a real and eternal relationship with God when they see us actually loving each other. What follows then is not a break in the theme, but a continuation of Jesus teaching us how to live in the Kingdom of God.
We have been saying that the Christian life is a life of trust. When you come to believe in Jesus, you have not been called to believe in a set of propositional truths. If you can believe in some long list of spiritual truths, all that belief means is, you could pass a test in philosophy. No, when you become a Christian, you have made a decision to put the full weight of your life in the hands of Jesus. You are placing your hope in Jesus. You are trusting Jesus with your life now and with your life in the future. That’s how chapter 14 begins. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.”
Your heart can be at peace today, not because the wind is calm, not because the rolling and crashing waves of your life are suddenly made still, but simply because you are trusting and hoping in God. Jesus asks that you take the same trust you have in God and that you entrust Jesus with all that remains of your life. You’ll notice Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” That means you need to give your heart permission to rest. Give your heart permission to be at peace today. Permission is given when you trust God, and that’s when you find peace.
Several years ago, Marian had to take me to the emergency department because I was experiencing ever increasing levels of pain in my abdomen. For many hours the pain not only persisted, but grew in intensity. I remember I began to bargain with God, and then I stopped because I made a conscious decision to trust God. If I were to die, I decided I was ready and my life was in God’s hands. My trust and hope was in Him. I gave my heart permission to rest. Aside from going through those awful waves of pain, my time in the ER proved to be an honestly liberating experience.
It is truly no easier for a 90 year-old person to trust God than it is for a 20 year old. The 90 year-old is about to die and he knows it. He is trusting Jesus will carry him all the way Home. The 20 year-old is just beginning to live life. That person is trusting that Jesus will continue to walk with him throughout the course of all the ups and downs of his life.
In verse 5, Thomas popped up to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind. I have always felt that Thomas has been much maligned as “Doubting Thomas,” as though any of the other disciples were towers of trust and faith. No, he merely said what was already on their hearts. Thomas was honest. He gave voice to the kind of questions our neighbors are asking: We don’t know how to live, so do you have a clue as to how to help us? Thomas asked Jesus, “How can we know the way?”
Most Christians understand that John 14: 6 to be one of the great texts of salvation, because Jesus pointed to Himself as the way, the truth and the life. I have used this text as a barometer of doctrinal accuracy, and it is. But I now also believe Jesus was saying this to give us a blueprint for how to live life. Our view is that we believe life is all about what we want to achieve, so Jesus is interested in correcting that self-focus. For the one whose faith is in Jesus, for the one who trusts Jesus with his life, life is now all about Jesus. Life is not all about me. Life is not all about what I want. I may be all about me, but when I become a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, that is when the tables turn. I now become all about Him, all about His will, all about living for His glory, and all about following His plan for my life. My life is no longer mine. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Jesus is everything. When I am trusting in Him, He is the focus of my life. The old hymn writers called Jesus their “all in all.” Jesus meant everything to them. Therefore, the way Jesus walked, that’s the way I want to walk. The way Jesus believed, that’s what I want to believe. The way Jesus lived, that is how I am going to choose to live. Jesus is not only the avenue, He is not only the way to live; He is life itself. If I am going to live my life, I want to live it trusting God. I want to live life trusting that no matter what happens, whether I am rich or bankrupt, whether I have cancer or I receive a clean bill of health, God is my Source and God is my Hope. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Next, Philip was emboldened to speak and he said, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” People want to see God. It turns out that’s not an unreasonable request. They want to see God faithfully portrayed in the ones who claim they are trusting God. Our neighbors may not know much about God, but they will recognize God when they see Him. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” When your neighbors look at you, who do they see? Does your life radiate Jesus as your Way? Can they see Jesus is your Truth? Can they see Jesus is your Life?
Thomas and Philip speak for you and me because they don’t have it all figured out. Jesus came to the needy and the broken, to the ones who need a doctor; to the ones who know they’re in trouble. Just like them, I know I cannot hope to live a perfect life. If l am going to live in the Kingdom of God, I am going to need God’s help. I cannot do this in my own strength or my own ability. So, like Philip, people all around us are saying, “Show me the Father!” Jesus invites us to be the picture of God our neighbors can see.
Jesus personifies the Way to God, the Truth about God and the Life of God. It is who He is. He is the Way and He is the Truth and He is the Life. People who trust Him also become little versions of Jesus. That’s why the early believers were called Christians. It means they were considered little Christs – people who lived and behaved and acted just like Jesus.
The other day, I was watching a repeat of “The Big Bang Theory.” Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz, can do some great impressions of famous actors. Although he can impersonate Al Pacino, or Christopher Walken, or Nicholas Cage, you would never mistake him for one of those people. He’s just doing impressions. Here is the question: are we doing stage impressions of Jesus or is there something real about us that truly reminds people that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?
We are talking about living in the Kingdom of God. You cannot live the Christian life in a church pew. You can’t live the Christian life sitting in your recliner. Christian living is proactive. Kingdom living is doing whatever God is doing and our job as followers of Jesus is to find out what is God doing. Jesus said in verse 12, the one who trusts God “will do even greater things than these.” If the Kingdom of God is real, if it is more than just some fanciful theological concept, then God must mean it to be accessible to you and me. Therefore, it’s not too hard. It’s not too deep, and it’s not over our heads.
There’s that old hymn, “Living for Jesus.” The title speaks to our concern today; that God is calling us to live for Jesus, to live in the Kingdom of God. You may know someone who claims to be a Christian, is regular in church attendance, but has the personality of a viper. They try to justify their bad behavior by saying, “I am a Christian, and you’ll have to accept me as I am.” If that’s what you think, that’s not faith, friend. God says you are deceived. If you would begin to trust Jesus, if you would base your life in His life, Jesus will remove the viper from your personality. It was not when I believed in Jesus, but when I trusted Jesus, that is when He removed my addiction to marijuana. You can trust God to set you free from your addiction. You can trust God and He will carry you in His arms. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Isaiah 40: 11 says, “He tends His flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young.”
There is another verse in Scripture that has been helpful to me, and it’s found inGalatians 2: 20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul is saying here what Jesus said in John 14: 10, that the Father was living in Jesus, doing His work. God is working out His purpose in you and in your life. You can trust Him.
A disciple of Jesus is a person who is learning how to live in the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t take much to learn how to live in the kingdom of this world because we come by that talent naturally. A disciple is someone who is learning how to trust God. The way you learn to trust is to start trusting. You decide to allow certain Scriptural truths to become settled truths for your life. For example, you have been crucified with Christ. Some people choose to live on their own terms and they insist on remaining independent from God’s influence, but that’s not you, because you are united with Christ.
You will make the decision that you are now dead, that you are crucified with Christ and that Jesus has taken up residence within you. You are alive because you are alive in Him. If that becomes a truth you can live with, your ability to trust God will grow. You may feel this is all counterintuitive, so feed yourself with God’s Word. Allow the seed of faith within you to be nourished by the Spirit of God.
You learn to trust God by living in real life situations in real time. You learn the old-fashioned way, by succeeding and failing, over and over. You can learn the Bible verses and the spiritual principles of the Kingdom of God in a church classroom or listening to sermons, but you do not learn to trust God in those hypothetical situations. You learn to trust by trusting. The character of Jesus in your life needs to be developed. You don’t become mature over a weekend. Growing in Christ takes time. If you will put your faith in God today, if you’ll trust Him tomorrow, you will find yourself beginning to grow. If you will trust God for the way the situations of your life will turn out, you will begin to see God work in your life. That is when you will start doing life the way Jesus did. That is when you will actually begin living in the Kingdom of God.
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
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