LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 8 March 2020
Sermon Text: John 15:18-16:4
Sermon Recording: CLICK HERE to listen
I. The Fact
II. The Lie
III. The confusion
IV. The Word of Jesus
This world is a place of limitless competition. Economy is the priority for nations as personal wellbeing is the main concern of people. But, about three or four decades ago, ideology was more important than anything else. In that period of ideology, the world was divided by Communism and Capitalism and two blocs competed and fought against each other. Quite a number of people accepted Communism, thinking that the Communist ideology sounded ideal as its goal seemed to build a socially and economically equal society. They propagated that everyone would be equal to everyone else; no one should be a slave of another, they said, all were to have an equal portion of pie, share everything equally among people. It would’ve been great to have that happened in their world. But in fact, that was a lie; what happened was so distant – in fact, the opposite – from their propaganda. In reality, new sociological classes sneaked in and the majority became, literally, slaves of a minority. Until the Communist ideology was proved to be a lie, so many people over many decades had suffered greatly. So, with what took place in history, the Communist ideology proved that it was a lie against a fact and a lesson was learned. In fact, this is the pattern we Christians find and read from the Bible; and Jesus points out this pattern once again in our text passage. This pattern is a lie, the fact, and a lesson.
An example of this pattern is the time of Judges in the OT. The lie was that those Israelites thought that they could live by themselves, without God in their life and with things of their own ideas. But the fact was that without God they could not exist, let alone continue as a nation. So, the lesson was that they had to repent from their sins and trust God always.
Here, in our text passage from Jn. 15, Jesus our Lord spoke these words to His disciples with great urgency as it was the night he was soon going to be betrayed and arrested and suffer the death on the cross. He had not much time left and, counting every second, the Lord once again reminded His disciples of this pattern– a lie, the fact, and a lesson. As He warned them about this lie and urged them not to be confused of the danger, He also wants us all to know this pattern because the lie continues as long as the present era of sin continues, and we’re exposed to a danger of being deceived by this lie, forgetting our Lord’s promise. So, all followers of Jesus Christ must listen to our Lord’s words. That is to stand firm in our faith as Jesus has pointed out His purpose of telling all these things in Jn. 16:1, saying, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”
I. THE FACT
So, let us follow our Lord and listen to Him telling us about ‘the fact.’ This fact, this truth, is that ‘the world hates Jesus, therefore, hates God.’ Such is the fact. In this short, 19 verse-long passage, Jesus mentions this fact five times. Especially in vs. 18-25, He repeats this fact again and again. This is one of the most common techniques frequently used in speech. If someone wants to emphasise a fact, he repeats it. In fact, he wants to repeat it endlessly, but you don’t do that because if you do, you’ll make your hearers bored and disinterested. But a reasonable number of repetition is useful to achieve what is intended. So is the intention of our Lord Jesus repeating this fact in this short passage. He wants to tell us that it is seriously true and seriously stern fact that the world hates Jesus and His Father who sent Him.
Why does the world hate Him? V. 25 tell us that it hates the Lord “without a cause.” Here, ‘without a cause’ doesn’t mean that the world hates Him without a reason. Some say, ‘I don’t like it; I don’t know why I don’t like it, but I don’t like it.’ Such is a hatred ‘without a cause.’ But, this hatred Jesus talks about is not that kind of baseless enmity. Rather, there’s a clear and definite reason. Ps. 35 says that evil is the source of this hatred toward Jesus and all who belong to Him. V. 11 of Ps. 35 says that those who hated David – who was a representative of all true believers and ultimately a type of the coming Messiah – were malicious, spiteful ones. V. 12 of the same psalm says that those malicious ones repaid the righteous David ‘evil for good.’ This hatred is, as I said, based on the devil’s enmity toward God and Jesus and all Christians since the beginning, from the garden of Eden.
This hatred is fierce hostility; its intention is to get rid of, destroy and eliminate. This will continue till the end of this age and the present world. So, our Lord says in v. 19, “Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” and in v. 20, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” By this, our Lord is saying to us, ‘It’s the fact, My dear ones; you must know this hatred; you must expect this hostility to destroy and eliminate you; you must experience this aggression.’ Why? Because the world hated Jesus and His Father before it hated us, and because we’re of Jesus, we will face the world’s angry face and its clenched fist.
II. THE LIE
Telling us this fact that the world hates us, Jesus reminds us of ‘the lie’ the devil and this world employ to deceive us. See what He says in v. 19 again, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own,” and in v. 20, “If [the world] kept My word, [it] will also keep yours.” Jesus’ point is that the world seems to love us and listen to us; the world sounds like it’s telling us ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’ and ‘commonwealth.’ But, that’s a lie and there’s no true peace, no harmony, no commonwealth with this world. Our Lord is telling us that if this world sought peace, it would’ve welcomed and wholeheartedly loved Jesus who came as the Prince of Peace. From the beginning, the devil who is designated in Eph. 2:2 as ‘the prince of the power of the air’ and this world that belongs to him had no intention to uphold peace or harmony. In fact, they have no ability to provide peace because they only divide and destroy. So, the devil and the world always work together to divide one from the other, between individuals and peoples and nations, making each one an enemy against the other.
Evidence of this is found almost everywhere around us. There’s no peace at all, as was and as ever will be until the moment of Jesus’ return. Nations will always be against nations; people and tribes are against each other. Let me give you a clearest example that displays this lie. It’s the Olympics. This biggest event this world witnesses in every second year with summer and winter Olympic games not only represents but also actualises the philosophy and ideology of this world. It is advertised that the Olympics are to promote peace and harmony of all people on earth. But that is not true. The Olympic motto proves this. Its motto is in three Latin words, that is, ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius.’ They mean, ‘swifter, higher, stronger.’ In other words, they mean, ‘swifter than others; higher than other competitors; and stronger than anyone in the world.’ Being better than others is, according to the propaganda of this world, a good and commendable thing, thus, a higher virtue worthy of praise.
About this world, Jesus says, “If they kept My word,” meaning that this world and all who belong to the rebellious prince of the air have never been interested in listening to Jesus’ word, let alone keeping it. And the Lord continues and says that “If they kept My word, they will also keep yours,” meaning that this world will never listen to us, thus, there’ll be no peace, no harmony, between us and the malicious ones of this world. So, when the devil and his world say that they seek peace and harmony and promote commonwealth of all people, they’re lying.
I’m sorry to be so negative toward this world; I feel stifling with strong words I say about this world. I’m sorry to make you feel somewhat uncomfortable with how I describe this world. But, this is the nuance Jesus speaks in this passage. I cannot alter it or dilute it. If Jesus was so desperate to let His disciples know of this lie, I should employ the same urgency in this message as much as the Holy Spirit leads me.
So, we must know this lie and never forget that this will be the same always. After all, it began from the beginning of man’s history, that is, from the garden of Eden. Jesus Christ came to reveal this lie and preached the truth. And He still does through His word. This is why the devil and all who belong to him hate Christ and us. The fact is that only in Christ Jesus true peace exists. Apart from Him, there’s no harmony with our Creator God.
III. THE CONFUSION
Sadly, not all Christians agree with the fact and the lie I’ve just explained. Some Christians regard the world’s propaganda not as a lie, but something worthy of consideration or cooperation with Christians and churches. They think that promoting peace with the world is an important chance, worth paying any price. So, they say that various ideas and concepts and cultures and traditions could be embraced, if necessary, for promoting and achieving peace with the world. Stretching our hands out to reach and grab the hand of the world is regarded as not only a good move but also a wise move to make the world a friend of church, thus, of Christ. The supporters of this viewpoint say, ‘To achieve this peace with the world, we need to lower our bars; so, if the world doesn’t like the message of the Bible, it might be softened, watered down.’ They add and say further, ‘If the world likes to keep its certain way of life, certain tradition, we will accept that and change the teaching of God’s word.’ And they conclude and say, ‘Doing these things is to draw the world into church, thus, to Christ; therefore, it’s evangelism, it’s carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission.’ But, is that so? Is their claim acceptable, conforming with the very word of God? No, not at all!
Jesus says in v. 19 that we’re not of the world; we’re out of the world; and for this reason, the world hates us as it does toward Jesus. This hatred, enmity, hostility will and can never be altered or modified. “Remember the word that I said to you,” says Jesus in v. 20, “If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you.” Truth is, Jesus was already ‘persecuted,’ and so will we!
Being confused with the world’s lie that Jesus warns so strongly against, many aspects of churches’ understanding of the Bible have been altered. Knowledge of God and Christ has become unorthodox and superficial; the meaning and purpose of worship are changed and trivialised; Christian living no longer influences the society or appeals to the unbelieving eyes and hearts. These changes have caused church to drift significantly away from the teachings of the Bible to the point of Christians feeling numb toward some obvious sins of the world. We have many examples that may characterise ‘confused’ Christianity of this generation – such as churches that have adopted homosexuality, feminism, contemporary way of worship, operational pragmatism, and so on. This is what Jesus warns His disciples and us in this passage.
IV. THE WORD OF JESUS
Then, the Lord leads us to His purpose of telling all these, that is, ‘to keep us from falling away.’ Falling from what? That is, from faith, being deceived, thus, confused. So, He has spoken these words to us to empower, strengthen, assist us when we’re pressed to the point of falling away from our faith. This purpose is further supported by His words in 16:2, “They [the world] will put you out of the synagogues.” The world will change churches and make them reject even Christians. Simply put, true followers of Jesus will be surrounded by God-haters from within and without. It’s not only what will happen in the future, but also what is happening at this very moment. Every Christian is in such a situation and constantly challenged from all directions to abandon our faith or alter it through compromising with the world.
Yet, Jesus’ promise is to ‘keep us from falling away.’ He’ll strengthen us, empower us, guide and protect us so that we can not only stand firm, but also grow mature in our faith even being surrounded by enemies who hate Christ. How will Jesus strengthen us? He says in 15:26-27 that the Holy Spirit He’ll send – in fact, He has already sent Him – to us and this Spirit of God will teach us all that Jesus has taught us. So, Jesus will strengthen us by the Holy Spirit. In addition, every word He has spoken to us that is recorded in His holy book will guide and protect and nurture us. Hear what He says in 16:1 regarding His word: “I have said ALL THESE THINGS to you to keep you from falling away.” The very word of Jesus and God is the power and unction from above for us to be kept firm and strong! So, again, as is His usual practice, Jesus puts double-layered seals to His promise for us.
In fact, Jesus’ word is truly powerful and extremely effective. A lion’s cry can tear man’s mentality or wit apart, but it can never shatter his will; but the soundless word of Jesus breaks man’s heart and its strong defence mechanism and softens it to become a fruitful soil. How many cases have we heard of such a change took place in people’s heart and soul? John Newton of the 18th century is one of the unforgettable examples. The very word of God changed the hardened heart of a slave trader and slave ship master to a preacher of the word. And he preached God’s grace by writing the words of the famous hymn, ‘Amazing Grace.’ Going backward in time to the 16th C, just a sentence in the Bible – that is, Rom. 1:17, “The righteous shall live by faith” – changed Martin Luther, a stubborn catholic monk, into a preacher of God’s truth of justification by faith alone, and the whole world was lit by the flame of the Lord’s saving grace. Likewise, many people in our time and era are becoming Christians as the word simply reaches their ears and travels to their hearts, reviving their souls!
Finally, listen to Jesus in v. 4 of ch. 16 where He reconfirms His sure promise for empowering and strengthening us. He says, “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” He means, ‘when you see the world hating you so strongly and trying to get rid of you in every possible way, yet, you stand firm in faith and even see it grow in you despite omnidirectional attacks of the devil, then, you’ll know that I’m always faithful and keep what I say, thus, keeping you from falling away.’ He achieves it through His Spirit and word.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, let us hear and remember Jesus’ warning given to us. Let us hear the fact He emphasises. That as the world is against Christ, it is against us. That this enmity will never end until Jesus returns to us and ends Satan’s scheme forever.
Also, let us hear our Lord revealing to us this world’s lie that there’s no peace, no harmony, no salvation in this world. Let not our eyes and heart search peace, harmony or salvation from this world because they cannot be found from the world, and because this world never seeks any of them. Rather, it tries to destroy us whenever possible! Only Christ gives true and eternal peace!
Also, friendship between Christ’s church and this world will never exist. Rather, the world, hating Christ, will persecute all in Christ’s church. So, let us not be confused but know clearly that there’s no common share between Christ’s church and the world. While the world tries to drag Christians away from Christ, our Lord will never let us fall away, but strengthen us to follow Him alone.
Then, should we shut our door toward this world and segregate us from the rest of the world? No, that’s not what we should do. Instead, we must remember the souls lost in the world, suffering greatly without hope, without peace, without life. And pray for them, and share Jesus’ gospel with them so that they could also – like us – come to Christ, find their true Saviour and Lord, and bow to Him in worship and rejoice together with us in our eternal Lord! This is, in fact, a part of our Lord’s message in this passage; hear what the Lord Jesus says in 15:27: “you also will bear witness.” May the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen us continually in His grace and may we grow in understanding the lie of this world and standing firm in the truth of Jesus Christ. Amen. ***