John 16 Part 2

Resumed from part 1

The idea was that these followers of Jesus, or the Way, were now being persecuted, and Saul, as therapy, took particular zeal in pursuing them, all the way from Jerusalem up to Damascus and he got permission to do this. Jesus was predicting this would happen. They were actually thinking they were offering service to God if they persecuted them. In verse three, “These things they will do because they have not know the Father or Me.” Now, this knowledge is not just cognitive, it is relational knowledge. Frankly, it is possible to know God and not know God. You know what I mean? It is possible for you to recite the Creeds, but not know the Jesus to whom they point. It is possible to be a theologian, and know many things that are propositional truths about God, but not personally know God.
So, the issue is, what is the difference? One is cognitive, intellectual assent. Well, the “demons believe and shudder,” as James 2 shows us. The demons are actually more orthodox than most liberal theologians. That is a bit of an irony. Intellectual assent is one thing; personal reception is entirely another thing. Now we are dealing with the knowledge of the heart of a person, of a relationship, and God is a relational being and therefore He invites us to know Him in that way.
So, Jesus is saying they didn’t know the Father in this way. In verse four, “But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” He is preparing them in advance because He is about to leave. Recall, Jesus well knows that it will be only a matter of a few hours before He will be departing from His disciples. He will then go through the horrors of the mission for which He was sent, but the glory that is involved. The Cross, remember, is the lifting up of Christ, but it is also an image of the resurrection and the ascension.
So, there is a dual picture here, that it was for this purpose that He has come. Still, He is preparing them now, because there is almost no time left. So, He says, “These things I did not say to you at the beginning because I was with you.” In other words, He didn’t need to tell them about this because He was with them, empowering them, and teaching them.
But, now He is going to leave them, and you can well imagine that the disciples were increasingly despondent at these words and it became more and more evident to them that Jesus really is going to leave them. They were sorrowing, they were confused, and they were afraid. Jesus is offering these words of power and comfort. By the way, this is the way God works in your life. He does not teach you something until it is needful for you to know that thing. He knows what you need and he gives each person what they need at that time. If you do not respond to the Light you have, He will not give you more Light. Only when you respond to the Light you have will He give you more illumination.
So, in verse five, “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.” In other words, now they are afraid. They are scared to ask Him where He is going because they already know the answer. It has finally dawned on them. He says, But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” He knew them well. He understood their character, their nature, and the love that they had for Him.
So, He says in verse seven, “But 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.” So, it is necessary, then, for the Holy Spirit to come because He is going away.
Now, they will be empowered by the ‘paraklet’, the ‘Comforter’, and so this is the purpose for which He will send the Holy Spirit. It will go alongside them, in a universal way, and in the same way Jesus was physically alongside them during His earthly ministry.
So, it extends beyond the actual visual and tactile experience of Christ to the spiritual encounter with Christ. Remember “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That is what the Spirit of God mediates so that the presence of Christ on earth is not localized, but manifest, because, “I am with you always to the end of the age, where two or more are gathered together, there I am in their midst.” Now it is mediated through the power of the Spirit, who is not only with you, but will be in you. The rivers of living waters will then flow out of you when the Spirit comes.
So, He says, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” This is an interesting image, “sin and righteousness and judgment.” As to sin, the sin of unbelief is really the idea of refusing to embrace, not the commitment of individual sins as the ultimate issue, but the reality of refusing to believe. And so, the idea of sin is the thing that God has to convict us of, not to clean up our acts. A lot of people still suppose you have to clean up your act or become ‘perfect’ in order to come to Christ. You have to become a better person and then you can come to Him. My very point is that you need to come to Christ because you can not clean up your own act. You see?
Once you admit that and understand that, then you really are now in a position to grasp your desperate need. So sin, the understanding of sin, the experiential awareness, is a grasp of your genuine need before God. That is really what it comes down to. And only the Spirit can convict in that way. Let’s be frank, most people tend to compare themselves with other people. I’ll be honest, I’ve been guilty of that as well.
The last one they are going to compare themselves to is Jesus. Most people, as you know, think they are above average. The problem you have is that half the people you know are below average, but none of them will ever say that. Take any area of life you want. Would you say you are in the top quarter of all drivers? Everybody will say they are at least above average. Very few people will think they are below average in that department. And so, the mistake is to compare yourself with other people, rather than to compare yourself with God’s standard. God’s standard is, in fact, the life of Christ.
So, therein lies the issue, and once we come to see that, we see that we fall woefully short and the infinite abyss between ourselves and God becomes manifest to us and we begin to realize that separation. I still remember my own experience of encountering this abyss. It was this ‘mysterium tremendum’, as Rudolph Otto calls it. He calls it this idea of the ‘numinous’, the idea of God as being someone who is powerful and transcendent, but also terrifyingly imminent, and there is a sense of desire for Him, but terror at the same time because of the terror of Holiness. You see the idea? Frankly, I was in a tight spot until I came to the understanding that the only way that is going to be overcome, and the grasp of that, was in a relationship with Christ. That is something that had to be revealed to me, otherwise, I would not have known it.
So, He convicts the world of sin, first of all, and secondly, of righteousness. “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me.” Jesus was the standard of righteousness that was manifest. And so, unless people see Him, they will suppose they are better than most people and that is where religion comes in to play. Basically, the idea of religion is that God will judge on a curve.
The failure to see that Jesus is the One who lived perfectly and so He is the curve breaker because salvation is only available in two ways. One is to be perfect in thought, word, and deed all your life, or receiving the righteousness of the One who was perfect thought, word, and deed. You see the difference? So, this is the need for righteousness. God’s standard, the righteousness that God requires, as I have so often put it, is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require. In other words, God can not grade on a curve.
His righteousness is required by His own character. He can not have compatibility, or intimacy, or fellowship with that which is incompatible with His nature and character. What is the solution to this terrible dilemma, because no one can reach that area of perfection? The only solution is that for God to be the initiator, reach down to us, and to impute the perfect righteousness of Christ on our behalf, while He takes our sin and imputes it on His account. The key verse for that is 2nd Corinthians 5:21; “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
So, it is a double exchange, where He has taken our sin upon Himself and given us His righteousness, and that is what occurred on the Cross. Only in that way, then, can we be just, even though we are not perfect in our behavior, we are now perfect in our new nature. You see the difference? We are now participants in, and partakers of, His divine nature. 2nd Peter 1:4 illustrates that for us.
So, we have a new self that we didn’t have before and that new self is holy and righteous because it is the new self in Christ. Now, even though our practice is not perfect, nevertheless, your position is. That is the solution for how God, then, can embrace us as His beloved children, and accept us unconditionally, and at the same time satisfy His perfection in His character, in which He can not enjoy the presence of that which is sinful.
Now, in heaven, as you know, all of that will be removed. That is to say, the things that are still imperfect, which are in the deepest you, in your mind, your emotion, your will, that will be finally purified and what remains will be the real you. That is a glorious thought and a great hope, when we finally become the best that God has meant us to be!
So, we see Him saying that the third thing is judgment, “Because the ruler of this world has been judged.” And again, the popular phrase today is ‘stop being so judgmental’. You hear it all the time. Judgmental is one thing; that is a censorial attitude.
But, to be discerning is a different matter entirely. You can judge according to the truth. That is to say, you can discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. The issue that we have to keep in mind is that it is possible for us to embrace and love a person without embracing and loving what they say or do.
The world will tell you otherwise. We live in a world that says if you don’t buy what I say or do, then you don’t really buy me. That is not the case. A person can really love another without accepting their belief or their behavior. Understand, then, that it is not judgmentalism. Judgmentalism is a condemning and censorious attitude rather than using simple discernment and truth. The point is that judgment will come. If Jesus is right, then, He is judged the Prince of this world by His death, as chapter 12, verse 31 makes clear, and He has overcome the world and the devil.

 

 

Continued in part 3

 

 

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