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Loved By Jesus

The Helper

Rev. Philip Miller | June 6, 2021

Scripture Reference: Psalms 35:19, Psalms 69:4, Psalms 110, Matthew 5:10—12, Matthew 5:44—45, John 14:16—17, John 15:18—16:15, Acts 2:22—23, Acts 5:40—41, Acts 32:36, Romans 8:16—17, Philippians 3:8, Philippians 3:10—11, 2 Timothy 3:12, Hebrews 12:1—3, James 1:2—4, 1 Peter 2:20—21, 1 Peter 4:12—14, 1 Peter 5:6—6:11, 1 John 3:13

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Scripture Reference: Psalms 35:19, Psalms 69:4, Psalms 110, Matthew 5:10—12, Matthew 5:44—45, John 14:16—17, John 15:18—16:15, Acts 2:22—23, Acts 5:40—41, Acts 32:36, Romans 8:16—17, Philippians 3:8, Philippians 3:10—11, 2 Timothy 3:12, Hebrews 12:1—3, James 1:2—4, 1 Peter 2:20—21, 1 Peter 4:12—14, 1 Peter 5:6—6:11, 1 John 3:13

Selected highlights from this sermon

We are in the early hours before the crucifixion. Betrayal, arrest, flogging, and crucifixion await Jesus, and He knows it. But He doesn’t fixate on what is about to break upon Him, instead, He focuses on preparing His disciples for the battle ahead.

Pastor Miller says that we, as American Christians with sizable religious freedoms, often read past verses regarding persecution rather quickly. But the vast majority of our brothers and sisters around the world don’t. Christianity is the most persecuted religious group in the world—today’s world. And perhaps, here in America, we may just need to linger on Jesus’ final words to the persecuted .

We’ll look at three points to prepare us for the suffering, persecution, and hostility that Jesus’ disciples face. Christians need a distinct allegiance, a distinct witness, and a distinct bearing to stand strong in the Lord.

The Helper

Boy, it’s good to see all of you this morning. I want to give a quick shout-out to Pastor Michael Best. He did a wonderful job opening God’s Word for us last week, and we’re really going to miss him. Let’s give him a big thank you (applause). He did an excellent job.

Well, the hour grows dark. The oil lamps are guttering late into the night, and Jesus is lingering with His disciples. Betrayal awaits. His arrest is crouching in the shadows. The whipping, the mocking, the crucifixion, it’s all coming for Jesus, and He knows it. But He mustn’t fixate on this tidal wave of agony that is about to break over Him. No, right now He must attend to them. They’ve got to be ready. They’ve got to be prepared. This road that awaits them will test them beyond anything they have ever known. His disciples must be ready.

In John 15, verses 18 all the way through John 16, verse 15, which is page 902 in the blue Bible that’s there in the rack by your knees. In this passage we come to today, Jesus is preparing His disciples for battle. At the very heart of this passage are a number of verses. But John 16, verses 1 through 4 say this: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”

So at the very heart of this passage Jesus is arming His disciples for what is coming. He’s preparing them for battle. The persecution that comes for Jesus will also come after his disciples as well. And as American Christians with sizable amounts of religious freedom, we often just read past sections of the Scripture like this. We just go by them rather quickly, but do you know who doesn’t read past these sections quickly? The vast majority of our brothers and sisters around the world and throughout history.

According to some research done by Gordon-Conwell Seminary, the number of Christians that were martyred for their faith throughout the course of human history amounts to over 70 million people. Over half of those martyrdoms took place in the 20th century under communist and fascist regimes. But in case we’re tempted to think that all of that is behind us, in the first ten years, the first decade of the 21st century (That would be 2000 until 2010.), some 1,093,000 Christians were martyred around the world according to the World Christian Database.

As we speak, there are over 100 million Christians who are experiencing real persecution around this globe, which makes Christianity (It’s hard to believe) but it makes Christianity the most persecuted religious group in the world. The U.S. State Department estimates that there are at least 60 countries where followers of Jesus are facing active persecution from their government authorities or from their neighbors because of their religious commitments.

If current 2021 trends continue, 322 of our brothers and sisters will lay down their lives for Jesus this month. And if you’re one of those 322, you don’t read past passages like these. You cling to these words. They are your life, they’re your strength, your endurance. They give you courage. And who knows, friends? Those of us here in America, in the West, may need these words sooner than we realize. Perhaps Jesus is preparing us for battle as well.

Jesus is preparing His disciples for suffering, for persecution, and for hostility that they will face in this world because followers of Jesus are not like the world, and the world views us then with suspicion because we’re different, because we’re distinct. And there’s three distinctions that Jesus is gonna highlight for us in this passage, that Christians have a Distinct Allegiance, we have a Distinct Witness, and we have a Distinct Bearing. A distinct allegiance, witness, and bearing. We need all three of these for what’s coming.

Would you bow your heads? Let’s pray together as we open God’s holy Word.

Heavenly Father, as we now turn to your Son’s final words, some of His final words, in which He is utterly realistic about the cost of discipleship, may we draw strength in reality from these words that we may face all that comes our way no matter what. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.

First, a Distinct Allegiance. A distinct allegiance. John 15:18: “If the world hates you,” Jesus says, “know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

Just pause for a second. As we’ve been studying the Gospel of John, wherever Jesus has gone, we have seen this, that He has a polarizing effect, doesn’t He? There are people who are attracted to Him and people who are repulsed from Him. There’s attraction and repulsion, just like a magnet. Neutrality, we find, is impossible when it comes to Jesus. Either we will find Him the most magnetic person in history, and open wide our hearts and receive Him, or we will find Him unnerving and disturbing and threatening, and we will push Him away. And similarly Jesus is saying Christians who are now filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and who bear the presence of Christ in the world, will have a similar magnetic, polarizing effect on the world around us. There will be attraction, yes, but there will also be repulsion. And Jesus’ followers, He says, should not be shocked when they experience the very same hatred that Jesus Himself experienced in this world. John put it this way in one of his epistles. 1 John 3:13: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

Now, before we move on to the very next verse here, I want you to notice that Jesus is saying, “Yes, the world will hate us,” but He does not say that we are to hate the world. In other words, it’s not a reciprocal hate. The world will make us its enemy, but we are never to return that in kind because how does Jesus call us to respond to our enemies? Hmm? What does He say?

Matthew 5:44–45: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” And after all, that’s the way that Jesus treated us when we were His enemies, yes? He loved us and laid down His life for us, and now He calls us to do the same with our enemies.

So we will be hated by the world, but being hated never, listen, never gives us the right to hate back. Some of us need to go delete some Social Media posts right now, I suppose. I’m only half joking.

Now, why would the world hate Jesus’ followers? Verse 19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Remember as Jesus has chosen us out of the world, this world is not our true home. Our home is with Jesus in His kingdom forever. In other words, we are citizens of heaven. We are aliens and strangers here, exiles who are awaiting a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God. Our allegiance is with Jesus and His kingdom. He is our King. He is our Lord. He is our Master.

Verse 20: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” See friends, we have a Master and His name is Jesus. We have a Word that we live by, and that Word belongs to the living Word, Jesus Himself. He is the King of kings, He is the Lord of lords, and we answer to Him alone, which means that this world ultimately has no hold over the followers of Jesus (Yes?) which is why so much of this world considers Christianity such a threat.

If you go to China, for example, Christianity is viewed as a threat to the authority of the state. The communist party insists that the state alone deserves the highest authority. But Christians answer to an authority even higher than that, don’t we? And so they apply pressure.

Now likewise, here in America, Christianity is still viewed as a threat, not so much to the authority of the state, but to the authority of the self. In China, the ultimate authority is vested in the state, in the communist party, but in America, the ultimate authority is vested in the self. “I have the right to do anything I want.” Right? This is called Autonomous Expressive Individualism. American culture insists that the self alone deserves the highest authority, but Christians answer to an authority even higher than that. We answer to Jesus, and so the culture applies pressure, you see. It’s the same thing—just where the authority is vested.

Verse 21, Jesus says, “But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

To follow Jesus, friends, means that we will encounter hostility “on account of my name,” Jesus says. The world’s estrangement from God the Father, its hatred of Jesus the Son, will inevitably bring pressure upon those who claim the name of Jesus because we follow the way of Jesus and His kingdom. We follow the way of Jesus and His kingdom.

Now notice, friends, that Jesus is telling us that we will encounter hostility from the world because we bear the name of Jesus in the world, not because we’re obnoxious. (chuckles) There’s a huge difference. If we’re encountering hostility because we’re winsomely sharing and displaying the light of Jesus Christ in the world, that’s to be expected. Jesus prepared us for that eventuality. But if we’re experiencing hostility because we are tactless or because we’re obnoxious, that’s nothing to be proud of. We are to love our enemies. We are to pray for those who persecute us. We are not to be anyone’s pain in the neck. That’s our Distinct Allegiance.

Secondly we see a Distinct Witness, a distinct witness. Look at verse 22: “If I had not come and spoken to them (to the world), they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

See friends, Jesus’ presence in the world brings accountability, doesn’t it? He came, He spoke, He revealed who He was, and now they are accountable for what they know. In the same way, what He did–His miracles, His signs, as John has called them—are revealing who Jesus is, and now they are accountable for what they have seen and heard. The Son of God has come in the flesh and revealed the Father to us to reconcile us to the Father through all that He is doing. And now in rejecting Jesus, they’ve rejected the Father. In hating Jesus, they hated the Father just as Psalm 35:19 and Psalm 69:4 foretold: “They hated him without a cause.”

Verse 26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but this passage, verses 26 and 27, almost feels like a massive shift in topics, doesn’t it? You know, he goes from rejection and hatred of Jesus, now to the witness of the Holy Spirit and His disciples, but it’s not an abrupt shift. Just as Jesus bore witness to Himself in the world in His words and His works, very soon God will send, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit from the Father, who will bear witness about Jesus in the world. Jesus is leaving the world, and He will no longer be able to bear witness about Himself. No more words, no more works, but the Spirit will come, you see. The Helper will come and He will bear witness to Jesus in the world. And the disciples will bear witness as well because they have been with Him from the beginning, and because the Helper will enable them to bear witness.

Remember what Jesus said in John 14, verses 16 and 17: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,” He said, “to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth....You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

So the disciples will be Jesus’ witnesses from now on. Jesus can’t bear witness to Himself. He’s leaving, but the disciples will be His witness as the Helper enables them to be His witness, as the Spirit Himself bears witness through them and in their lives.

Now, if you will, jump down with me to chapter 16, verse 7 where Jesus unpacks what this witness will actually look like. Verse 7 (16, verse 7): “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 go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

And it has always perplexed me when Jesus said, “This is to your advantage that I go away.” You know, what can be better than Jesus with you? You know, right with you? He’s right there. You could see Him. You could talk to Him. You could have some questions. You could reach out and touch Him. What could be better than that?

Jesus says, “Look, you want to know what’s better than God alongside? God inside. That’s what’s better. God on the inside. I can only help you so much from the outside, but if I come inside you by the power of my Holy Spirit, my life can enter into your own life, and become your life, and you can be in me and I can be in you, and we will abide with one another, and there be mutual indwelling and perichoresis as I enfold you in my love, and as the Spirit comes and dwells in you, my life will flow in and through you and bear much fruit as you abide in me. And this Spirit, this Helper, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment as this is all happening.

Look at verse 9, “Concerning sin, because they do not believe in me…” Let’s just unpack these phrase by phrase. On the day of Pentecost when God sent the Holy Spirit (this is Acts, chapter 2), when God sent the Holy Spirit to come with wind and fire and dwell with his people, it brought conviction of sin.

Listen to what Peter said in his sermon right after the filling of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2, verses 22 and 23: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Convicting of sin.

Verse 10 here, “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.”

Again, Peter’s sermon, Acts 2:32 and 33: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” Do you see it? Convictions concerning righteousness.

Verse 11: “[and] concerning judgment,” Jesus continues, “because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Again, back to Peter. Acts 2:34–36 (recording from Psalm 110): “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Here He is, the crucified and risen King of kings and Lord of lords, victorious, risen, enthroned above sin, death, and Satan himself, forever. And that Spirit is bearing witness in His coming concerning sin and righteousness and judgment, but not just in Peter’s day, but in every life of followers of Jesus Christ, the Spirit continues this convicting work in my life and yours. Through our lives, the abiding of Christ, filled by the Spirit, bearing much fruit in union with Christ. This Helper, this Spirit continues to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment, friends, because we embody the convicting presence of God.

We embody the convicting presence of God in this world. Wherever we go into the world, friends, we never go alone. Do you realize this? You never travel alone. As a follower of Jesus, indwelt by the Spirit, God goes with you wherever you go into the world, and wherever God goes, He brings conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

It’s not our job, friends, to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is to come in right behind them and to share the good news that Jesus died for our sin, and that He offers us His righteousness, and that He has already won the judgment, and that His victory can be ours by faith in Jesus Christ. That is our distinct witness, Amen? Amen. (Applause)

So we have a distinct allegiance. We have a distinct witness. And now finally a Distinct Bearing, a distinct bearing. Back up with me to chapter 16, verse 1. “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”

Jesus is saying, “Look, I don’t want any of this to catch you off guard. I don’t want you to expect an easy life. I don’t want you to expect comfort. Listen, America, I don’t want you to expect luxury or a pleasant life. If you follow me, you will suffer. You will be excluded. You will be sneered at. You will be ostracized. You will be persecuted. You will be canceled.”

Verse 4: “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” What does that sound like, their hour comes? What does that sound like? Remember all along through the book of John, Jesus has been saying, “My hour has not yet come, My hour has not yet come”? And then that last evening, His last evening, He says, “My hour is at hand; It’s here.” The hour. The hour of what? The hour of His suffering, the hour of His glory and exaltation, right? “I will be lifted up, and as I’m lifted up on the cross in shame I will draw all people to myself, and there will be glory.” He’s saying, “My hour of greatest shame and suffering is my hour of greatest honor and glory, and so it will be with you when this hour comes for you. When your hour comes, the hour of suffering, the hour of persecution, when you are hated and shamed and persecuted, it will also be for you an hour of glory.”

“I did not say (verse 4, the second half) these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”

“Look, I’m telling you now what’s coming. I’m preparing you for battle. I’m about to leave. I can’t stay and protect you. It’s all going to come at you now. And you’re going to have to stand on your own feet. You won’t be able to hide behind me any longer. I know this brings sorrow in your soul.”

And then He goes through verses 7 to 11. We’ve already looked at it. “But the Spirit is coming. The Helper will be with you. You’re not alone. He’ll convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment through your eyes.” Verse 12, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

“This path of discipleship, as you follow me, is a costly path, and if you knew all the cost that it would cost you over the course of your life, if you knew it up front, it would be too much to bear.”

But verse 13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

The Holy Spirit, friends, will guide us, walk with us each step of the way, and when the hour of persecution and pain comes, and you need to know what’s coming and you need to know what to do, Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit will tell you exactly what you need to know.”

Verse 14: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” It’s a little convoluted. He says, “The Father is coming. Everything the Father has, He will give it to the Son, and the Son will give it through the Spirit to us (You see this), that whatever trial we face, whatever fire we endure, whatever hostility we receive, He says, ‘I will be with you always, to the very end of the age’ as we suffer in the glorious strength of the Spirit.” As we suffer in the glorious strength of the spirit, all that the Father has is Jesus. And all that is Jesus’ is ours through the Spirit.

And, friends, here’s what’s amazing. Jesus’ hour of suffering was the same hour when there was the highest level of conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment in the world, yes? When He hung on that cross it was the most convicting moment in all of human history for the world. And Jesus is saying when we suffer that same conviction happens in the world through us.

The world is convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment as the Spirit enables us to suffer well in the glorious strength that He provides. As we suffer in the glorious strength of the Spirit, friends, we embody the convicting presence of God in the world and proclaim our ultimate allegiance to the way of Jesus and His kingdom.  

Our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the world tell us that a suffering church is an unstoppable church, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, that persecution breeds perseverance, that hostility unleashes holiness, and that crucifixion is the only way to resurrection glory. (applause)

Our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, when they ask us to pray for them they don’t ask us to pray that the persecution stops. Do you know what they ask us to pray? That they would persevere to the end.

Could it be, friends, that the vast majority of Christians down throughout human history and around the globe this moment know something we don’t know? That is, the power of suffering like Jesus in the strength of the Spirit for the glory of God. What if our knee-jerk reaction to always be quick to assert our own rights actually throttles the power and presence of God in our lives? What if suffering like Jesus grants us access to the depths of all that God is for us in Jesus Christ by the mediation of the Spirit? What is suffering like Jesus is actually our moment of greatest witness to the world of the presence of God? If that’s true, it would make a whole lot of sense of a bunch of passages.

Let me just read you a few.

James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

1 Peter 2:20–21: “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

1 Peter 4:12–14: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Hebrews 12:1-3: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s clear enough. Let me just read that again. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Romans 8:16–17: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Philippians 3, verses 8, 10 and 11: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Matthew 5:10–12: These are the words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Acts 5:40–41: “[After this they] called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. [The apostles left rejoicing,] rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the [sake of his] name.” (applause)

So friends, here’s the takeaway: Stand strong in the Lord. Stand strong in the Lord. Take up your cross and follow Him.

1 Peter 5:6–11, and with this we close: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (applause)

Let’s pray.

Father, help us learn the way of Jesus. Help us learn the power of the cross. Help us learn to endure for the sake of His name. Sometimes I think we’re so quick to try to get rid of the suffering that we forget who we are becoming in the suffering, which is really what you care about. May these tests, these trials, become moments of glory through the power of your Spirit, as we follow your Son to the glory of your name. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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