Monthly Archives: July 2017

Overflowing Joy (John 16.19-27)

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As in the glorious first three elements of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22, Jesus here assures his followers concerning three wonderful gifts from the Lord – joy, love and peace. This week we are just looking at joy. Next week we shall follow this with love and peace.

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Joy (16.19-24)

For a short while during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion the disciples will suffer a time of separation when they will not see Jesus, but then in the glory of the resurrection they will see him again. So suffering gives way to joy. Jesus further cites the example of a woman giving birth. The fearful pain and suffering of childbirth finally leads on to the tremendous joy of welcoming the newborn baby into the world and into the loving embrace of the mother.

So Jesus strongly underlines the suffering which his followers will face in this world with its fundamental opposition to him and the good news he brings to us. But we can be encouraged that, whatever our suffering, it will certainly yield finally to the overflowing joy of his resurrection life.
Then we are encouraged to ask the Father for whatever we want and he will give it to us. What a promise! Such requests are to be ‘in Jesus’ name’ (16.23). The Father hears these prayers because we are linked with his beloved Son, Jesus, and we come to the Father with the glory of Jesus as our aim and longing. So Jesus urges his disciples to “ask” with the sure promise that “you will receive” (16.24) – and still today we should remember these words as we come to the Father with our prayer requests.

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   ‘Ask and you will receive in order that (not “and” as in NIV) your joy will be filled full’ (16.24) – the goal of our prayer is that God’s gift of joy may fill our lives. We cannot conjure up true joy for ourselves, but the Greek use of a passive for ‘filled full’ underlines the fact that this fullness of joy is given to us by God himself. Surprisingly, the goal and purpose of our prayer is his gift of joy! These words are identical with 1 John 1.4 where the purpose of our proclamation is also that ‘your joy may be filled full’. In 1 John 1.1-4 it is assumed that followers of Jesus will witness and share what we have experienced of the Lord. We have as our aim (“in order that”) that others might also share in the wonderful love and fellowship that we enjoy together – and of course our fellowship is not just the sort of friendship and companionship enjoyed in a secular club, but it is based on the deep and lasting fellowship we have with Jesus Christ and the Father. So our witness is ‘in order that’ your joy may be filled full. In the Greek, alternative texts allow “your joy” or “our joy” – if ‘you’ join ‘us’, then you are part of us and we are part of you! So it makes no difference whether we translate 1 John 1.4 with “your joy” or “our joy”!

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These words come as a challenge that our lives individually and together as fellowships should demonstrate this deeply fulfilling joy of the Lord. As Christians we should be so evidently happy and joyful, that people will really want to belong to our fellowship. Christians should be known as people of God’s joy, people with the smile of deep inner rejoicing – not a sick superficial smile, but the heartfelt reality of God’s joy filling our hearts in all circumstances.

When asked how I am, I like to answer “flourishing, thanks” rather than the rather insipid and negative British “o.k.”! The more modern British “I’m good, thanks” sounds better, for ‘good’ should be a strong adjective. Sadly, most people don’t think of the true meaning of ‘good’. In the Bible it is used to describe the fundamental nature of God himself – “God is good”. And in Genesis 1 God looked at his creation and called it “good”. When he completed his work of creation and had made Adam and Eve in his own likeness, God “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1.31).

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We have so much to be joyful about. As the old hymn says, “Rejoice, the Lord is king . . . rejoice, again I say ‘rejoice'”.

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‘Their hour’ and the Paraclete (John 16.1-16)

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Their Hour
Jesus commonly referred to his coming crucifixion and resurrection as ‘my hour’, the time of his glorious purpose being fulfilled. Now he talks of ‘their hour’ (16.4 – not just “the time”) which was to come so soon. ‘The world’, the Roman and Jewish leaders, would seem to rule supreme with power over Jesus’ followers. Rejecting Jesus and his followers, people would think that killing Christians was bringing service to God (16.2) and Jewish believers in Jesus and the Father would be thrown out of the synagogue.
In such circumstances it is easy for Christians stumble in their faith, but Jesus warns his disciples of what is to come so that they should not go astray (16.1, 4). In today’s world too in many countries Christians face real weakness as we suffer under non-Christian societies. Even the law seems stacked against us. Jesus’ teaching in these chapters therefore has particular relevance for us today as well as for his first-century followers.
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The Paraclete
In our last blog we looked at what Jesus taught about the coming Paraclete in John 15. Now in 16.8/9 we learn more about what the Holy Spirit brings to us. Jesus declares that he convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.

a) Sin
Unlike Paul’s letters John’s Gospel does not emphasize justification and redemption from sin, stressing rather that we can come into a living relationship with the Father and know him. Through faith in Jesus and following him we are brought into a new life by the Holy Spirit in which we know the Father. Nevertheless in 16.8 Jesus teaches that the Paraclete will convict the unbelieving world of their sin. Recognition of our sin is essential if we are to relate to a Holy God. Sadly the world refuses to believe in Jesus, so their sin remains. It is in this context that the Holy Spirit continues his work of convicting the world of their sin. It has been said that a large proportion of British psychiatric problems come at least partly from a sense of guilt. Is this the Spirit doing his work of convicting people of sin and thus opening the way towards faith in Jesus?

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b) Righteousness
Whose righteousness is Jesus meaning? Is it the purpose of the Paraclete to convince the world that God’s righteousness is available for them if they believe and trust in Jesus? That is a possibility. It is certainly true that a lost world can find the Lord’s salvation and thus his gift of righteousness through the resurrected and ascended Jesus. What a glorious offer in our times too that our post-truth and morally bankrupt society could find a new holiness! Even economically this would revolutionise our nation. It is said that 6% of the cost of everything in our shops is due to shop-lifting and crime. Revival and therefore a new life of righteousness would solve our economic problems. Why doesn’t our government therefore advocate faith in Jesus and the revolutionising work of the Holy Spirit?!
But it is more probable that Jesus was talking about his own righteousness. There is actually an alternative text in the Greek which says ‘his righteousness’, the righteousness of Jesus himself. The Paraclete will convince the world that Jesus is indeed the righteous Messiah and redeemer.
This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus does not remain as a dead body in the grave or live on in resurrection life in this world, but is ascended back to his Father. The ascension shows irrefutably that Jesus is indeed not just a great man or a prophet, but was sent by his Father from glory into this world as Messiah, Saviour and Lord. He is shown to be the personification of God’s perfect righteousness.
No longer is the world faced with just the incarnate person of Jesus which must have tempted people to think of him as merely human. As they watched him eating, drinking, walking and sleeping, they may well have thought that he was just an ordinary human being. But now he “goes away”, returns to his Father in glory and they can no longer see and observe him in his human activities (16.10). So, by his ascension Jesus is indeed vindicated to the world in his perfect righteousness.

c) Judgement
The Holy Spirit convinces the world that judgement is not just some old Victorian scare tactic in the preaching of ultra-conservative evangelists! God’s judgement is a reality which lies before us all. As the ultimate judge, Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats. What a relief for believing sinners that we are covered by the total righteousness of Jesus and cleansed from our sin through his shed blood!
In John’s Gospel both God’s gift of eternal life and his judgement begin already in this life on earth. So in 3.36 it is stated that”Whoever believes in the Son has (present tense) eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains (present tense) on him”. Likewise the ruler of this world has been, is being and will finally be judged – the Greek perfect passive tense in 16.11 means that the judgement of the ruler of this world has already taken place, but is still effective now.
So God’s judgement has already begun. Although we are now living in days which can be called “their hour” (16.4), actually Satan, the ruler of this world is already under God’s final judgement. The Greek word used for ‘prince’ or ‘ruler’ means one who has authority and power – it is the ‘arch’ that we find in the English words ‘mon-arch‘ or ‘olig-arch‘. The spiritual leader and indeed also the human leaders of this world are already living under God’s judgement. In our society we can see God’s judgement in the sad realities of broken relationships, crime, warfare, slavery, natural disasters, ecological and environmental degradation etc. How we long for such judgement to be replaced by a new faith in Jesus as the Saviour of the world and the source of new resurrection life! We are surely faced here with an urgent call to evangelism and mission.

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 A month ago I mentioned Elizabeth’s life story “God can be Trusted”. I too have written my autobiography “Life’s Tapestry” which is also published by Authentic Media. In it I describe my conversion and some of the lessons of faith which the Lord graciously taught me in my early years as a Christian and in later years as a Christian worker in pioneer Muslim situations and in the wonderful Indonesian mass movement. God also had much to teach me through my 24 years full-time work on the staff of All Nations Christian College. The book further describes the very varied experiences of a travelling ministry in conferences and among churches in Britain and in every continent. I hope that many of you will enjoy this.

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The Paraclete and the Father (John 15.18-27)


Traditionally the word ‘Para-clete’ has been thought to mean the one who is called (‘clete‘) alongside (‘para‘). It is a beautiful and encouraging thought that we have the Holy Spirit alongside us and always with us to work powerfully on our behalf. But the preposition ‘para‘ only implies ‘alongside’ when followed by an accusative. However, here in John 15 Jesus’ following references to ‘para‘ are followed by genitives. ‘Para‘ with the genitive means ‘from’: the Spirit of truth is sent by Jesus “from (para) the Father” and  goes out “from (para) the Father” (15.26).
It would seem that Jesus is not so much thinking of the devotionally beautiful thought that the Spirit of Truth walks alongside us, but rather that the Spirit issues from the Father. Thus Jesus underlines the Spirit’s authority and power from the Father rather than our human centred desire for comfort and support. This fits Jesus’ repeated emphasis in John’s Gospel that he himself is sent by the Father, is one with the Father and does the will of the Father in obedience to his commands. So in this verse Jesus is stressing that the Holy Spirit also comes from the Father and is one with the Father. The Holy Spirit issues from the Father, but is also sent by Jesus to us as his disciples. So we rejoice in the glorious implications and gift of the Spirit of Truth coming from the Father himself. The three-fold ‘para‘ underlines Jesus’ emphasis.
The Consequence
“He will testify about me” (15.26). It is the Spirit of Truth who witnesses concerning Jesus and none of us can appreciate Jesus in his beauty and glory without the working of the Spirit. And his testimony is absolutely true, for he is the Spirit of Truth and it is embodied in the Word of God. In New Testament teaching the Word and the Spirit go hand in hand inseparably together, so we are assured that the Spirit of Truth will reveal Jesus to us as we read and study God’s Word in the Bible. The Word without the Spirit becomes dry and dead. The Spirit without the Word becomes dangerous froth. Let us keep the two together, for this is Jesus’ purpose in sending us the Spirit of Truth from the Father.
Immediately after Jesus’ assurance that the Holy Spirit will witness concerning Jesus, he goes on to state that his disciples too ‘are witnessing’ (Present tense). In the original Greek this is a firm statement that the disciples are witnessing; he is not telling them that they ‘must’ witness (NIV) nor that they ‘will be’ witnesses (KJV) for the Present tense assumes that they are already doing so. Likewise the Present tense “you are with me from the beginning” underlines the reassuring reality that they are walking with him – however inadequate they may feel in their faith. How encouraging for us too these Present tenses are! We are witnessing and we are with him.
The Context
The context for these final verses in John 15 is that as disciples we are not greater than Jesus, our Master (15.20). He is severely hated and persecuted, so we as his followers should not be surprised if the world hates and persecutes us too. This not only applies to those first disciples of Jesus, but also to us today. In Britain we are beginning to feel the reality of such hatred of all who witness faithfully to Jesus as the unique Saviour and Lord. In our world of pluralism with its grave intolerance of all claims to unique truth true Christian witness can bring strong opposition and we can be found guilty in respect of hate laws. In society generally and in the workplace particularly our witness may lead to persecution today. In such a context we need the divine assistance of the Spirit of Truth in our witness concerning Jesus.
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