The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Cause of Christ

For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” - John 18:37


What is truth? Do your eyes glaze over in disinterest when you read that? What is the truth? Have you been duped into thinking no one can really know the truth about anything? Have you bought into the worlds’ propaganda that truth is relative; what’s true for one person is not necessarily true for another? Try applying that to everyday living and you won’t get past the first traffic intersection. But what about truth, is “truth” something we should be interested in knowing? Is it something we can know?

The passion of the cross and resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of a plan of God that existed from the foundation of the world (cf. Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4:3; Revelation 13:8; 17:8). In John 18 Jesus is taken into custody, brought before the high priest, and then brought before Pilate. When Jesus is brought before Pilate He makes a statement about the cause or reason He came into the world. At this critical moment what did Jesus say was the cause for which He came? Jesus came as a physician to treat the spiritually sick and dying (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17: Luke 5:31). Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus came to give His life a ransom for our sin (Mark 10:45).  Jesus came to show and provide us with abundant life (John 10:10). But when it came down to this pivotal point in the inspired revelation of God what was it God in Christ through the Holy Spirit expressed as the cause for which Christ came?

Teaching, healing, saving, and serving are all things Jesus did because of who He was and is. Jesus is God incarnate. At the heart and root of what Jesus came to do is what Jesus came to be. Being precedes doing. There is a principle revealed in this: What you are determines what you will do. When Jesus stood before Pilate He was asked about who He was; whether or not He was a King. Jesus acknowledged He was a King, but not of any earthly kingdom (at least not yet – cf. the Second Coming and Millennium – Rev. 20). Jesus went on to add to His answer something that is very revealing. Jesus told Pilate, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). The cause of Christ, the reason Jesus came, was to “bear witness to the truth.” What does that mean? Evidently “truth” is (according to Jesus) something we should know and care about.  

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). He seems to have been much like the skeptics of history and our day. He didn’t have much time for the truth; he had a riot to squelch and people to appease. Maybe you’re asking the same question? “Who cares about the truth? I have a life to live, problems that need solving.” Maybe you feel a bit like Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men .Maybe you feel like saying, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Maybe you feel like you can’t handle or get a handle on the truth. Maybe you’ve been avoiding the truth; excusing or rationalizing it away. Ignorance is bliss. And really, is the truth of any practical use? Let’s look at the truth about truth.   

Before we go any further we need to say something about testing or how we gather evidence to determine the truth. There is truth determined by scientific analysis and there is truth based on the testimony of witnesses in history. Scientific truth can be determined by reproducing circumstances and combinations of data in a laboratory. Truth in a lab is something that can be quantified mathematically: 1 + 1 = 2. Scientifically we can repeat the sequences of events such as in repeating the splitting of an atom to cause a repeatable chain reaction. Atomic bombs and the like are true to their formulas.

When we speak of truth based in history we are speaking of events in history that can’t be reproduced. You can’t repeat the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., or Robert F. Kennedy. You can’t repeat the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War. How therefore do we determine the truth about such historical events? The truth about these historic events is based on eye witness accounts. The truth about historic events is based on weighing the evidence of eyewitnesses and determining probability. In a court of law jurors are asked to weigh the evidence in the case and make a determination based on “reasonable doubt” or probability.

Historic truth may sound like a lower or lesser degree of dependability but it really isn’t. It’s just a different way of measuring the truth. For instance, what if you found a notarized letter from your dear old departed aunt Bessie that said, “Dear Aloysius T. Xavier, I leave you the entire contents of my _ank account serial number 777056 in the Bank of New York safety ­_eposit box” and was signed in her own handwriting? Now mathematically there is a possibility that the blank letters smudged out of her document for the words “_ank” and “_eposit” don’t really mean “bank” and “deposit.” But there is a very high probability that those actually are the words; beyond a reasonable doubt. Plus you have the testimony of a notary witness. When we weigh the rest of the verifying evidence such as if Bessie had such a bank account, how many other Aloysius T. Xaviers there are, the notaries testimony, etc., we can increase the probability all the more. In the end we can through weighing evidence come to a very reliable high probability for the truth as it relates to historic circumstances. We can take it to the bank.

Where is “truth” found? The Bible contains scientifically relevant truth about the creation of the universe, the sphere of the earth, astronomy, and natural cataclysmic events etc. But the Bible is not a science book. God’s truth touches on many different physical topics: healing; marriage; family; society; government; etc. But the Bible is primarily aimed at revealing metaphysical truth about God, humanity and our existence. God’s word gives concrete truth about those things we ponder as human beings, e.g. What is life all about? What happens after we die? Is there a “God”? Is God personal or impersonal? etc. The truth about our existence is found in God’s word (Psalm 119:142-160; John 17:17, 19). Jesus said, “Thy word is truth.”

What we as humans need to know is revealed by God’s sovereign determination in His Holy word: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has not only provided a tangible word for us to absorb and live by, He has come in the Person of the Holy Spirit to help us learn His truth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit will indwell the person who through faith accepts Jesus as their Savior (John 3; Romans 8:9-11). God has provided easy access to His truth. There is no excuse to not know His truth. You have to reject and rebel against God and His truth to not know His truth.

Despite perpetual attempts to denigrate and destroy the Bible, God’s word has stood the test of time and attacks of critics. God’s word contains the most important truth; truth about our existence and eternal destiny. The Bible provides truth about existence, reality, humanity, the material as well as the spiritual world. When we weigh the internal and external evidence; the manuscript, archeological, prophetic and statistical analysis of Biblical contents we arrive at an incredible, even miraculous probability that God’s word is true and the truth about our existence. God’s word is reliable, trustworthy, and true. When you read your Bible you are reading a love letter and manual for life from God.

The word “truth” occurs 962 times in 904 verses of the Bible. It’s an important word of God. In the New Testament the word “truth” (Greek aletheia) means that which is in accordance with fact, that which is dependable, or that which is disclosed and not hidden. Someone has said, “What you see is what you get.” Or, “It is what it is.” These are common expressions that something is true (even though we may not like it.) But we know from life that what you see is not always what you get.  The “truth” about what something or someone actually is, is often quite different from what is presented. That is because in reality truth is often hidden or misrepresented.

God’s truth about eternal life is bound up in the Gospel (Galatians 2:5, 14). The Gospel tells us the truth about humanities sinful state and its need for a Savior. Jesus described himself as “the truth” (John 14:6). He described the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). Jesus is the culminating truth about how we can receive spiritual life and spend eternity with God. The Spirit of truth reveals such truth to us.

Jesus taught that His truth frees us (John 8:31-32). He taught that the truth is found in God’s word and sanctifies us or makes us suited for God’s use (John 17:17-19). Since, according to God’s truth, we exist for God’s pleasure (Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 4:11 KJV), when we live by the truth of God’s word we discover and experience our true meaning and purpose of our existence. That’s fulfilling and satisfying. That’s good. Peter would later write that the truth purifies us (1 Peter 1:22). Paul would later write that the truth establishes us or puts us on steady stable ground (Ephesians 4:15).

It’s important that we respond to God’s truth in the right way. It’s wrong to try and alter God’s truth and make it into a lie (Romans 1:25). Instead we need to come to the truth of God and accept it (2 Timothy 3:7). Sinfulness is disobedience to the truth of God (Romans 2:8). It’s sinful to walk contrary to God’s truth (Galatians 2:14). We ought to believe and love God’s truth; when we don’t it is sin (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 12). To live without God’s truth makes us destitute (1 Timothy 6:5). Some resist God’s truth to their own harm (2 Timothy 3:8). Some turn from the truth trusting in their own ideas (2 Timothy 4:4). When that happens people die spiritually.

How should we respond to God’s truth? Jesus said we should worship God in truth (John 4:23-24). When we look further into the New Testament we see we are called to come to the truth of God (1 Timothy 2:4) and believe and know it (1 Timothy 4:3). We need to handle it accurately (2 Timothy 2:15). We need to obey God’s truth (1 Peter 1:22) and base our lives on it (2 Peter 1:12). We should take it to heart and speak it to others (Ephesians 4:25). We should declare God’s truth openly (Acts 26:25). We should walk in and live by the truth of God (3 John 3-4).

Something that is not true is false. Deception is presenting something as truthful when it is really something else. Lies are speaking falsehoods. No one likes to be fooled by false truth. Relationships are based on truth. When someone lies to us it betrays our trust in them and it causes emotional and relational fracturing.

Relativism is not true. We are living in a time when the prevalent world view is relativism. Relativism is “the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.”[1] Relativism is not true because it does not hold up to testing. “If what is true for me is that relativism is false, then is it true that relativism is false? If you say ‘no,’ then what is true for me is not true and relativism is false. But if you say ‘yes,’ then relativism is false. Relativism seems to defy the very nature of truth; namely, that truth is not self-contradictory.” [2] Got it? Confused? Confusion is the consequence of relativism.


Relativism leads to instability and uncertainty because “truth” is constantly changing with the whims of humanity. Relativism is akin to the way people lived during the time of the Judges; the low point of God’s people in history. During the time of the Judges it was said, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). The time of the Judges was a very unstable and chaotic time. That is exactly what we see in the world today. The truth be told, relativism is simply a means to ignore truth and do what you want when what you want to do goes against the truth.


Society would fall apart without absolute truths. Truth is absolute. Truth, if it means anything, is absolute. If truth changes from day to day or societies whims then it breeds instability and chaos. We need to be able to depend on the truth. For instance, if a red light didn’t always mean “stop” and a green light didn’t always mean “go,” then we literally wouldn’t know if we were coming or going. If “right” and “left” meant different things to different people we’d literally be running into each other. Truth can be pretty practical.


If there were not standards of being truthful nothing could be trusted. Without standards of being truthful when promoting products people would be unfairly taken advantage of (some say this does happen too often already). Ever heard the expression, “If something seems too good to be true it probably is?” Sales people frequently sell you things based on false presentations. Advertisements usually focus on the best quality of a product while distracting you from the truth about it. “’It is good for nothing,’ cries the buyer; but when he has gone his way, then he boasts” (Proverbs 20:14). As our society has adopted a more relativistic worldview we see such a view expressed in everyday life through lax standards of truth and lax enforcement of what standards of truth are left. It’s getting harder and harder to depend on what you see and hear. That’s unsettling.

A legal system is based on people telling truth. It’s a crime to lie under oath in a courtroom. A witness who lies under oath is guilty of perjury. The truthfulness of witnesses is important so that the guilty are punished and the innocent are not. Truth is necessary for justice to occur.

To break the law is a kind of breaking truth. People use lies and deception to break the law. When the law is broken it leads to unrest. Laws based on lies are detrimental to the peace of the people they govern. That is why in the resolution of conflicts in court those who testify are required to swear an oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” (and they used to add, “so help me God”). As more people operate under relativism more people are presenting “truth” in manipulative ways to promote their personal agendas. That is a dead end street as far as the truth is concerned.

It’s important that media communications be based on truth. The media is (or should be) taken to task when it does not report events in a truthful way. Media reporting that is not truthful degenerates into propaganda and can’t be trusted. Media today, regardless of network, is becoming more a presentation of opinion than objective sharing of news. That’s dangerous and deceptive.

A political system requires truth to last. God has offered to provide order for government. Governments relying on human resources alone degenerate. Government based on God’s truth lasts and flourishes. America used to be a nation flourishing because of its connection to God and His word. As we have moved further away from our holy roots, our nation has degenerated into something much less than she could have been (cf. Romans 13).

When leaders lie to their constituency they are removed because trust in leadership is very important. Populous needs to know the truth about where resources are being used and how they are being used. We need to know who is contributing to our politicians and whether or not such contributions are payoffs to influence politicians in some way.

People feel betrayed by politicians who promise the world during their campaigns for election only to deliver little to nothing once elected. The confidence in government is undermined when politicians manipulate, ignore, and bend the truth for their own purposes. In extreme cases the failure of the government to adhere to truth leads to revolution.

Betrayal is breaking truth in a relationship. History is filled with those who betray people and nations by betraying the truth. In a time of war truth is essential. Those who lie to their compatriots are usually determined to be traitors. Judas betrayed Jesus trust and truth and was entered by the devil. Benedict Arnold betrayed the truth and the trust General George Washington placed in him. Arnold almost stifled the American Revolution. During World War Two Tokyo Rose used lies and deceit to try and demoralize American soldiers. The Cambridge Five were spies for the Russians during the Cold War. Falsehood is a weapon in warfare.

Lies are used to deceive and manipulate people. “The lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11), the first lie, was used by the serpent to deceive Eve and Adam into disobeying God. The consequence of that first lie was devastating; it led to the contamination of the entire human race with sin (Genesis 3). The serpent Satan used untrue false statements in order to bring Adam and Eve and humanity under his control. When untruth and lies are used to deceive and bring persons under the liar’s control in some way, Satan, the father of lies, and his demons are in some way involved.

We can deceive ourselves. Jeremiah was inspired to write, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The apostle John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Do you know the truth about yourself? Are you self-deceived?

To deny God’s truth is to call Him a liar. When we say and accept things as true that are really contrary to God’s word we in effect accuse God of being a liar - “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). “He who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5:10b).  Are you calling God a liar by contradicting or denying His word of truth in some way?

People use lies to deceive and get an advantage over others. People use untruths or false impressions in order to use people for their own devices.  In the Old Testament Delilah lured Samson to his demise using love in a deceptive way (Judges 13-16). Amnon, son of King David, lured his half sister Tamar into a compromising position and then raped her all by way of deception (2 Samuel 13). Judas betrayed Jesus with lies. Falsehoods destroy relationships. Relationships are built on truth.

Hypocrites present themselves as something that in truth, they are not. Our sinful nature is inclined to hide the truth about who we are. Ananias and Sapphira presented themselves as benevolent givers when in fact they were using their giving to manipulate the church. The Holy Spirit would have none of that and disciplined these two hypocrites with the cost of their lives. The Spirit sent a message to the fledgling church from the start; hypocrisy is not acceptable; live in truth (Acts 5). We all want to put our best foot forward but we cross the line when we say we are something that, if truth be told, we really are not. The truth is important. Falsehood breaks trust and makes building relationships impossible. Truth brings us together. Falsehoods separate us.

A heresy is a half-truth. Cults deal in partial truths. They lure their victims in with partial truth and then hold them in a web of falsehoods. Many people are deceived and devote their entire lives and all they own to cults based on half-truths and outright falsehoods. The truth is important. Truth directs us to the way to eternal life. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Jesus. The truth you need to know is bound up in God’s Holy Word. If you want to be safe from spiritual deception, you need to know the truth of God’s word.

Satan is the father of falsehoods, untruth and lies (John 8:44). Whenever we lie or are deceived we can be sure that Satan and his demons are in some way involved. Our mandate as believers is to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Jesus said, “Your word [God’s word] is truth” (John 17:17). We need to be people of God’s word who stick close to and live within the truth-full parameters of His word. Truth without love is harsh. Love without truth is weak sentimentality. Truth shared in love is powerful.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus was and is the embodiment of truth. Everything about Jesus is truthful; full of truth. Jesus reveals truth and wherever He is the truth, or lack thereof, is exposed. The Gospel of John is a revelation about the truth of Jesus: He is God; He is the solution to humanities sin problem; He is the way to live, the truth about God, and the Source of eternal life, abundant life. If you want to know the truth about anything you have to look to Jesus.

In John’s gospel we see Jesus reveal many truths. Some of these truths are:

  • Jesus is the Word made flesh; God – John 1:1-2 and 14
  • Jesus is the Creator of the universe – John 1:3
  • Jesus is the source of life – John 1:4
  • Jesus came to His own but His own rejected Him – John 1:10-12
  • Those who received Jesus by faith are children of God  - John 1:12
  • Jesus came to take away the sins of the world – John 1:29
  • Jesus said a person must be spiritually born (“born again”) in order to experience eternal life and spend eternity with Him in heaven – John 3
  • Jesus gives us the water of everlasting life – John 4:13-14
  • Jesus said we must worship God in spirit and truth – John 4:23-24
  • Jesus has power to heal – John 4:46-54; 5:1-15; etc.
  • Faith in Jesus results in everlasting life not judgment – John 5:24
  • Everyone will be resurrected, some to eternal life, others to eternal damnation – John 5:29
  • Jesus can defy nature; walk on water – John 6:15-21
  • Jesus can provide for our needs, e.g. feeding thousands of people with morsels of food – John 6
  • Jesus’ teachings are rejected by some – John 6:60
  • Jesus will give the Holy Spirit to those who come to Him – John 7:37-39
  • Jesus has the truth that can free us from our sins – John 8:31-36
  • Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life to save the sheep – John 10
  • Jesus came to give us an abundant life – John 10:10
  • Jesus can raise the dead to life – John 11
  • Jesus is worthy of worship – John 12
  • Jesus was a servant – John 13
  • Jesus gave us an example of love to follow – John 13:34-35
  • Jesus would send the Helper; the Holy Spirit to help us live for Him – John 14-16
  • Jesus prayed and we should too – John 17
  • Jesus came to testify to the truth – John 18

That is only a short summary of the truth Jesus conveyed in John’s gospel. These are life changing destiny altering truths.  Are you living by such God revealed truth?

The abundant life of Jesus is true; you can depend on it. The abundant life Jesus spoke of is one based on truth, births truth and breeds more truths about life and our existence. The more you live the truthful abundant life of Jesus, the more truth you learn and experience. That an abundant life is described and offered to those who believe and follow Jesus is an abundant truth. The abundant life is based on truth, filled with truth, and leads to more truth. The abundant life of God’s truth is the life God intended for His creation from the beginning. Tell the truth, are you living the abundant life of Christ? Has Christ’s cause impacted you? Are you true to Him and His word? Really, truly, where are you in relation to God’s truth?

[2] What is Truth? By Matt Slick at

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jesus Prays

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said . . . John 17:1a


Of all that Jesus did there was only one thing His disciples asked Him to teach them about, His prayer life. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1ff.). The disciples didn’t ask Jesus how to teach or clue them in on the finer aspects of hermeneutics. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how they could do miracles or walk on water. They didn’t ask Jesus how to defend the faith. They didn’t ask Him how to conquer the world. No, they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. There was something extraordinary and attention getting about Jesus’ prayer life. Of all that Jesus did, and all they could have asked Him to teach them, they chose to ask Him to teach them to pray. Wouldn’t you want to pray like Jesus?

We are about to look into the prayer closet of Jesus. We are about to examine the holy ground of John 17. We need to continue to keep in mind as we enter this chapter that the context is Jesus’ definitive teaching on the Holy Spirit (John 14-17). We need the Holy Spirit to understand this chapter and to apply it to our lives. Do you have the Holy Spirit within you? Have you been born again?

When Jesus responded to His disciples request to teach them how to pray, His teaching culminated with saying, “If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). If you aren’t sure you are born again or have the Holy Spirit, our Helper, indwelling you right now, then by all means pause right now and prayerfully ask God the Father in Jesus’ name to forgive your sins and give you spiritual life by indwelling you with the Holy Spirit. You aren’t His unless the Holy Spirit is indwelling you (cf. Romans 8:9-10; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Pause now and settle the issue. Simply ask His forgiveness for your sins based on your trust in Jesus redemptive work on the cross. The debt of sin is death. Bu the free gift of forgiveness and salvation from sin is through faith in Jesus (cf. Romans 6:23). Salvation from sin is right here for you now. God offers you spiritual life; eternal life right now. All you have to do is receive this wonderful gift; now. Then you’ll be able and suited for the journey of eternal life with Jesus.

Maybe you do know the Lord and have been born again but feel dry and distant from God. If you’re dry and running on empty ask the Father in Jesus’ name to refresh you in the Spirit. Ask His for personal revival. Ask Him to point out anything that is hindering your walk with Him and then repent where needed. Then move on in a Christlike prayer life. Lean on your Helper the Holy Spirit to teach you and lead you and empower you to enjoy a dynamic prayer life; one like Jesus has. We need the Holy Spirit to help us pray. Wouldn’t you want the Holy Spirit to teach you and help you to pray? Pause now and ask Him in prayer.

In the book of Romans, chapter 8 is the pinnacle of that book and perhaps the entire Bible. At the heart of that great chapter of the Bible Paul teaches us that it is the Holy Spirit who will help us in our prayer lives. He says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercessions for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). We need to the Holy Spirit to help us to pray.

The best way to learn something is to live it out. Jesus taught His disciples powerfully because He lived out His messages with them. They saw His teachings come to life each day. Throughout the gospels Jesus called people to  Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 16:24; 19:21, 28; Mark 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23, 59; 18:22; John 1:43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19, 22). It is one thing to tell someone how to do something. It is another thing to show them how it’s done. That is what Jesus does here in John 17. Here we see Jesus praying personally. Jesus said He was giving the disciples an example to follow when He washed their feet (John 13:15). Can we think He is doing anything less as He prays in the presence of His men? John the apostle said we should walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). Peter said we are to follow in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21). Both John and Peter were there when Jesus prayed His prayer in John 17. This prayer is recorded in Holy inspired Scripture for us to see and imitate. Jesus’ John 17 prayer is an example of how to follow our Savior Jesus in our own personal prayer lives.

Haven’t you ever wondered how Jesus prayed? Haven’t you ever wondered how Jesus approached His Father in prayer? What did Jesus say and do behind the closed doors of His prayer closet? Let’s pull back the veil of His holy room. John 17 is an open door into the prayer life of Jesus. Here we will see Jesus, God in the flesh; the Word made flesh, the Creator of the universe, our Savior and Lord, pray. It is with this great expectation that we approach this incredible chapter.

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven,” (John 17:1a). Jesus prays with His focus on the Father. Don’t miss this. The first thing John is inspired to reveal is his personal recollection of how Jesus prayed. Jesus has spoken to His disciples about the Father throughout John’s gospel. Now He turns to talk in prayer to the Father.

We often focus on our position in prayer; kneeling; standing; head bowed; hands clasped. But Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven” when He prayed. This is significant but not because we see a physical position of Jesus. It’s important because when Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven we see He is focused on His Father in heaven. His looking to heaven communicates “I’m looking to You. I’m focused on You Father.” That is more a position of the heart than a position of our body. Remember that, our prayers should begin with our focus needing to be on the Lord. When we pray we should direct our prayers to the Father in the name of Jesus as directed by the Holy Spirit.

The account continues, “and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,” (John 17:1b).  Jesus prays with an objective to glorify God. Yes, Jesus prays and asks the Father to glorify Him. To be glorified in this sense means to fulfill His heaven sent purpose of paying the death penalty for the sins of the world; paying the price of redemption for sin on the cross. The Father is glorified as the Son Jesus fulfills His mission of redemption. God is always glorified when we fulfill our heaven sent missions.

Jesus transcendent objective is to bring glory to the Father. In what sense is the Father glorified here? It is the Father who is giving His Son. It is the Son Jesus who is giving Himself. And it is the Holy Spirit who is enfolding and unfolding this grand glorious God ordained plan of redemption for humankind. Similarly we belong to the Father. We are not our own. We have been bought with the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  God gives us to be spent in this world for the lost. Our sacrifice is His sacrifice. We are not the Son of God; only sons and daughters of God. But it costs the Lord to give us in ministry. He loves us. It hurts Him when we suffer or go through trials in this life. God is not emotionless or without affect. God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Do you think God doesn’t grieve when He sees one of His children tortured, bludgeoned, beheaded? Do you think the One who says, “weep with those who weep” does not weep when we weep? (Romans 12:15). Ever think of that, really ponder and meditate on that? As we cooperate with His mission abiding in God’s love and living in His presence by prayer the Triune Godhead is revealed in and permeates our purposes. We become an “epistle”; the words and life stories in a living love letter from God to this lost world. God is glorified in us in this way; as we learn Him in prayer and live in His love. This glorifies God. At the end of your life will you be able to look back and see a life lived for the glory of God?

This puts a pure perspective on prayer. Someone has said, “Prayer is not the way to get God to do our will in heaven. Prayer is the way to get man to do God’s will on earth.” [1] That’s how Jesus prayed; to fulfill God’s will on earth. That’s how we should pray; to get people (including ourselves), to do God’s will on earth. If we do that, we will glorify God.

Jesus continues, “as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him” (John 17:2). Jesus prays in the authority given Him by the Father. Just as Jesus operated in the authority of the Father we operate in the authority Jesus gives us. Jesus emptied Himself when He came to earth so that He would give us an example of how men might live (e.g. Philippians 2:1-11). And now Jesus has commanded us to go and complete the “greater works than these” to fulfill the heavenly mission (John 14:12-13). Jesus has commanded us to go into all the world in His name in His authority and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20); disciples known by His love (John 13:34-35). He has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to do that (e.g. Acts 1 and 2). When we pray we pray in the authority of Jesus; we pray in His name.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). Jesus prays for the eternal life of others. That eternal life is described by Jesus as a personal relationship with God. “That they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life is not just forgiveness for sins so that a person can get into heaven. That is a necessary part of it. But there is a greater broader deeper definition of eternal life and that is knowing God and Jesus.

The word “Know” (Greek ginosko) means to have an awareness of, to feel, to perceive, to understand, to be sure, to speak to, to have knowledge of and/or be conscious of. This is a word that implies an experience and relationship with someone. You are aware they are present, you feel for them, you perceive their feelings, you understand what they are about, you interact and speak with them, you are conscious them. Do you know God and Christ? That is what eternal life is. Do you know what gives Jesus pleasure, what brings Him joy, what grieves His heart? Do you know what is important to Him? Do you know the things He wants to be a part of? Do you know the things he doesn’t want to be a part of? Do you know how He would do things? Do you know how He loves? That is what our objective should be for ourselves and for others in our prayers.

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:4-5). These verses reveal the perspective Jesus had in prayer. Jesus prays from a position of victory. Jesus had yet to go to the cross but He prayed as though he had already gone to the cross and completed His mission. That is an important perspective to adopt for our prayers. We don’t fight for victory; we fight from a position of victory. The end result is secure in the Lord. Jesus had a rock solid confidence and trust in His Father and the Spirit that He would accomplish that for which He was called to do. That should be our perspective in prayer too. God will do in and through us what He has purposed to do.

This is what the apostle Paul meant when he was inspired to write that Christians are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37-39). How is that so? By faith in God; Jesus trusted in the Father and the Spirit to empower Him to complete the most difficult part of His mission; the cross. We too must trust the Lord; that the Holy Spirit will empower us to complete the life tasks He sets before us and calls us to do.

There is an aspect of Jesus’ prayer which we cannot apply to ourselves. We are not God incarnate. We are not the Second Person of the Trinity. So we do not pray for the Father to glorify us like we were glorified with Him before. When we pray we pray only for the Lord to be glorified. In everything we do we should do it with the purpose of glorifying God (e.g. 1 Corinthian s10:31; Colossians 3:17, 23-24).

Jesus prayed from a point of completion of His mission. Jesus prayed from a point where He finished the work He was assigned. A lot of times we start out with a commitment to God but then don’t finish it. Jesus finished what He came to do. We’d still be lost if He left the cross an unfinished loose end. He came to go to the cross and to the cross He went. He came to rise from the dead and from the dead He rose. Have you finished those things you’ve set out to do for the Lord? Have you finished what God has called you to do? (cf. Ecclesiastes 5). When we finish our God given mission tasks it brings glory to God.

Have you completely dealt with an area of sin in your life that the Lord has been talking to you about? Or have you done only a haphazard incomplete job of dealing with it; putting it to death? In the Old Testament King Saul was instructed by the LORD to wipe out the Amalekites. He disobeyed and let some live. It was an Amalekite that killed him in the end (1 Samuel 30). It was an Amalekite that almost annihilated Israel through a plan of genocide (Esther 3:1). If you leave loose ends it will come back to bite you. Finish what God directs you to do.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. (John 17:6-7). Jesus says, “I have manifested Your name.” Jesus prays for those He has invested in relationally. The word “manifested” (Greek phanero) means to shine forth. The idea is not, “so much declaration as it does illustration. . . . [not] “I have preached about it verbally,” but rather, “I have lived it out observably.”[2] Jesus prays for those He has lived and spent time with. We can pray with greater wisdom and knowledge when we pray for those we have interacted with. Relationship preceded effective praying. Praying edifies and enhances relationship. Relationship and prayer are a symbiotic relationship; both feed off each other.

Jesus prayed for others with an awareness that they belonged to God. The disciples belonged to the Father and to Jesus. No one belongs to us. When we pray we need to understand that we are praying for people that belong to God and are under His sovereign watch. We never pray for people as though they were our property. We intercede on behalf of others from the perspective that they belong to God.

For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. (John 17:8). Jesus prayed for others to receive the right words at the right time. Jesus said the disciples had received His words and that they had believed that the Father sent Him. Jesus got His words from the Father; “which You have given Me.” This is something significant to recognize.

The word “words” is translated from the Greek term rhema. Rhema means a word spoken and implies an appropriate word. Rhema is a word from the Lord; the right word from the Lord at the right time. Rhema is a word directed by the Spirit to address a particular situation with a person. Jesus spoke a rhema word to the woman at the well when He informed her she had not one husband but five and the one she was living with was not her husband (John 4). Jesus spoke a rhema word to the Pharisee Nicodemus when Jesus told him “You must be born again” (John 3). Jesus spoke a rhema word to the woman caught in adultery when He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8).

The only way we can speak a rhema word is by the enabling and leading of the Holy Spirit who helps us to do so. Jesus said, “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matthew 10:19-20). That is the idea of a rhema word.

When “Christians” shout offensively at people caught up in sin they aren’t doing God’s work or fulfilling God’s will. They are merely venting their own petty angers. Whatever we speak and especially when we speak the truth of God’s word, we are to speak it in love. There is no other way to speak for God than to speak what He gives us in His love to others (cf. Ephesians 4:15).

When we pray we should pray that the Spirit helps us and others to receive God’s scriptural word. But we should also pray that we and others receive a rhema word or a word from the Spirit that is right for the moment and circumstance; the right words at the right time to people. And we should pray that the words received would lead people to a belief in Jesus.

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.  (John 17:9). Jesus focused His prayers on His disciples. When Jesus says He doesn’t pray for the world it doesn’t mean He never prays for the world. He came to save the world (e.g. John 3:16). This prayer contains prayers for people in the world (John 17:23). So what does Jesus mean?


The term “world” (Greek kosmou) can refer to planet earth, or humanity, or a world system. When Jesus says He doesn’t pray for the “world” here He is saying He doesn’t pray for a world system. Jesus didn’t pray to change a system of government in the world. Instead He prayed for those who have answered God’s call to exit world systems and live the life of a disciple. We may live in such systems of government, but we are not of them; we live by God’s higher standard; by God’s word. Our citizenship is first and foremost in heaven (cf. Philippians 3:20).


Jesus priority is to bolster with prayer those who have followed Him and are His disciples. We should not neglect praying for those who have accepted the Lord as though everything that needs to be prayed for them has been accomplished. Those who follow Jesus still face temptations and the attacks of the enemy. We need to pray for one another in the body of Christ. Anyone who knows Jesus knows this to be true.


And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.  Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”

(John 17:10). Jesus prays for the unity of believers. Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of His disciples who will be left in the world behind Him. He prays to the Father to “keep through Your name those whom You have given Me.” Then Jesus prays to the Father that His disciples would “be one as We are.” One of the greatest concerns of Jesus for believers in the world is unity. This is the first thing Jesus prays for on behalf of His disciples. The history of schism and conflict within the church throughout history shows us why Jesus included this petition in His prayer. The church historically is too often more carnal than spiritual. Historically the church is more Corinthian than crucified with Christ (cf. Galatians 2:20). Jesus taught, “A house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). The enemies’ most effective tactic is to divide and conquer. Are you praying for the unity of believers? You should be. The unity of believers should be one of our top prayer priorities.


While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:12-13). Jesus prayed that His joy would be fulfilled in His disciples. Joy is the assurance and stabilizing comfort that no matter what trial, source of confusion or calamity one is experiencing, God is still in control. God has a plan and He will complete that plan. That is good to know when all hell is breaking loose around us. Pray for others that their joy would be fulfilled in a close deep abiding saving relationship with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.


Judas chose to become “a devil” (John 6:70). It’s not likely Judas was ever saved. He walked in the group of Jesus disciples, but he was never one of them. Just because you come to church or hang out with Christians or disciples of Jesus doesn’t make you one. You may spend time with Christians, but are you one? Do you “know” Jesus? That is what eternal life is.


I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14-16). Jesus didn’t pray for His disciples to be taken out of their difficulties, He prayed they would be protected through them. Difficulties and trials are the instruments through which a strong faith is built (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Therefore Jesus doesn’t pray for His people to be removed or spared difficulties and trials, only that they would be kept safe from the evil one who tries to use the circumstances of life to destroy faith and life. Next time you are going through a difficulty don’t forget to pray for God’s will to be done; for His purposes to be fulfilled in and through whatever He has ordained to happen.


Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:17-19). Jesus prayed for His disciples to be sanctified in the truth of the word of God. Sanctify” (Greek hagiadzo) means to make holy, purify, consecrate, sanctify, to make distinguishable from the common, and /or to set apart for service. Jesus’ ministry and this prayer are filled with references to the use of the word of God in His disciple’s lives.  Jesus prays to the Father for His disciples to be helped to apply the Holy Bible to their lives. He prays for God’s word to distinguish them from the world just like Jesus was distinguished from the world. Jesus was sanctified. His disciples should be too. The best definition of what it means to be sanctified is “that you love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Pray to God for your own sanctification.  Pray for others to be sanctified in the word of God.


The term translated “word” (Greek logos) means simply statements, words, message, declaration, etc. But Jesus identifies this word as “Your word” or God’s word; the written word of God; the Bible. Jesus particularly referred to God’s word as “truth.” “Truth” (Greek aletheia) means free from error, dependable, integrity, and true. God’s word, the Bible is free from error; it is inerrant. The Bible is our source of truth: “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. . . . The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:142, 160). The truth of God’s word is the scalpel with which the Spirit performs spiritual surgery on us. The truth-full word of God is our manual for life. And that word will go with us into eternity. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).


Jesus died so that we might be sanctified. Jesus died to make us individually holy – “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). We are righteous through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). When we put our faith in Jesus as Savior our sins are forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is put to our account. But because we are spiritual birthed when we accept Jesus as Savior (e.g. John 3; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5-7), we are to put off the “old man” of sinful ways and put on the “new man” of Spirit led ways (e.g. Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:12-17). Once we are saved from sin there is a new continuing Christlike walk in the Spirit that we are called to live (e.g. 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:1-6). This is a new way of life, a life set apart for God’s use, is the sanctified life.


Jesus died so that corporately we would be a glorious blemishless church bride. No pock marks on this bride. “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Jesus died to make us “holy, and blameless, and above reproach” (Col. 1:22). The blood of Jesus scrubs us clean of sin (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). If Jesus shed His precious blood to cleanse us and free us from sin, then we ought to seek living the sanctified life that fulfills His purposes in us.


Remember, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13). God’s word is full of His truth because God the Holy Spirit inspired it through holy men of old (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). The Holy Spirit is the One who uses the truth-full word and works this sanctification in us. That is why He is called “the Holy Spirit.” There is a “sanctification of the Spirit” that we are to surrender to and seek to have worked in our lives (1 Peter 1:2). “Sanctification by the Spirit” is something that is done through “belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Living holy involves growing in the fruit of the Spirit which is love (Galatians 5:22-24). The Holy Spirit pours His love into us when He enters us at our spiritual birth (Romans 5:5). The maturing of the Spirit’s love in us is the best definition of sanctification (1 Cor. 13:4-12).


Therefore, to be sanctified means to be sided with the truth of God’s word in contrast to falsehood that opposes God’s word. To be sanctified means to have a Biblical world view. It means to look at the world through the lens of scripture. God’s word helps us make sense of this fallen world. God’s word gives us direction and purpose in life. We have meaning and worth based on God’s word. The word of God is the determining factor in what is sanctified and what is not sanctified. You can’t discard God’s word and be acceptable to God.


“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;” (John 17:20).  Jesus prays for you and me and all those who believe in Him through the historical ministry of His followers. Jesus prays for you and me. He is praying for our sanctification and preservation. He is praying for you and me right now – as you read this. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercessions for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Just think of it, right now, Jesus is praying for you. That should be a great comforting thought. Have you come to Jesus? Have you repented of your sins and asked the Father’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you been born again? Have you received spiritual life? Does the Holy Spirit live in you enabling you to closely abide in Jesus? Jesus has a perfect plan for you. He wants you to spend eternity with Him. The life in Christ is a wonderful life. What are you waiting for? Jesus is praying for your salvation right now. And if and when you do know Him He will continue to pray you through to eternity with Him. When you feel all alone or are tempted to despair, always remember, Jesus is praying for you!

Jesus continues, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:21-23). Jesus prays for all Christians in all ages to be united and that the world would believe in Him through the testimony of that unity. Unity is so important in Jesus’ prayers. He emphasizes it by repeatedly mentioning it in His prayer. The unity of believers is one of Jesus’ greatest concerns. That’s because the world will come to know Jesus through the testimony of the unity of the church. IN the church there should be unity; no racial, cultural, ethnic, economic, intellectual, gender or any other division. We are to be one in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

In our brittle fragmented world the church should be a shining example of how people can come together into one God’s family united and abiding in the love of Jesus. The united church is a POWERFUL instrument of God in a fragmented fighting world. It’s no wonder that the unity of the church has been so persistently and unfortunately effectively attacked by the enemy. Whenever there is disunity in the church amongst believers it takes away from the churches effectiveness to reach the lost and tarnishes the name of Jesus. What a tragic and stupendous lost opportunity when the church is divided or bigoted in some way. Pray for unity in the body of Christ.

Please don’t mistake what I mean when I speak of unity in the church. I am not saying the church should overlook or condone sin. The church should not overlook or turn the other way when willful rebellious sin tries to establish itself within its walls. Paul dealt firmly with such situations (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9-12). There is no place in the church for the ordination of immorality. The standard of the church is the word of God. What the word of God calls sin the church must call sin. To disregard scripture and follow sinful secular trends is offensive to God. But just as Paul advised to welcome back those who repented of their sin so should the church (2 Corinthians 2:6-9). The goal of the church should always be reconciliation and restoration (cf. Galatians 6:1).

Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). But love does not overlook sin. Love speaks truth (Ephesians 4:15). It was Jesus who told the sinful woman to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). The church reaches out to the sinner with a powerful gospel that provides forgiveness for sin as well as changed lives with the power to overcome sin (Romans 1:16-17). The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ enables “fornicators . . . idolaters . . . adulterers . . . homosexuals . . . sodomites . . . thieves . . .  covetous . . . drunkards . . . revilers. . . [and/or] extortioners” to have said of them, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). To those we say, no matter the background, praise the Lord and welcome to the family of God.

Grace is extended to those caught up in sin and struggling with it. The church ministers to those in the battle against the flesh and sin. The church needs to disciple and help people to live Jesus’ abundant life. The end product and aim of the church is for its members to come to a life of victory in Christ. Unity should never cost complacency or condoning sin. That is to cheapen what the church is. No, unity is made up of those who like Paul say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:24-26). Jesus concludes His prayer in worship. Jesus ends His prayer in a final petition that His followers would one day be with Him in glory and see His glory. And Jesus prays and associates that glory in the love between Him and the Father. Jesus exults in the Father’s love. Jesus proclaims the righteousness of the Father. He worships and requests that people would come to know the love of God. That is how we should conclude our prayers.


When we end our prayer time with God we shouldn’t just get up and leave. We should end our prayers in worshipping the Lord for His love and grace all to His glory. Maybe we should get into a holy habit of ending our prayers with a time of worship singing something like the Doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above the heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Or maybe we could praise Him with words like the Gloria Patri, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.” If that is too formal or conjures up dark religious memories, then maybe as we close in prayer we should pause and ask the Spirit how we might bless Him with worship. Why not ask Him to bring to our mind and heart a song that would please and bless Him. Whatever you do, end your prayers like Jesus did, in worship.  


Jesus prays. Do you pray? How do you pray; like Jesus? What do you pray for; what Jesus prays for? How do you end your prayers; like Jesus did? Is the Holy Spirit in you guiding you in prayer? Have you been born again? Jesus lived a wonderful and glorious prayer life. Such a prayer life attracted the attention of those around Him. Let’s seek the Lord to help us pray like He prays. Let’s pray to the glory of God.


[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 572). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 573). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stumble Proof Your Life

These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.” – John 16:1


We live in very confused and violent times. Just like the days of Noah. Evidence for confusion is seen in the gender related battles. People in the world are so confused that they are promoting the idea that there should be no definite or permanent definitions of gender. They contend that allowances should be made for people who wake up one day feeling like a woman and other days feeling like a man. Marriage, the very fabric of an orderly and child-healthy family and society is being ripped apart. Marriage is being redefined in a way that will in reality dissolve any meaning to “marriage” as anything other than just another contract. The definition of “morality” has become as shady as smoke. In this social climate can anyone give a solid definition of what is “moral” is anymore? Walk through a major city and you’ll almost certainly see a naked cowboy or cowgirl or some other indecent exposure of some kind. And on top of all of this it seems there is a daily shooting, riot, new war, atrocity, natural disaster or some other upheaval on the news. What’s a follower of Jesus to do in such times?

It would be easy to pick up some of this muck and mire. As you plod through the days filled with such sinful gum it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of it tracked into your home. It’s not uncommon to see believers tripped up and entwined in the entangling tentacles of temptations. What can we do? The night Jesus would be arrested, falsely convicted, spat on, beaten, abused, mocked, and the next day crucified He shared some precautionary words with His disciples. Jesus shared instructions that would serve to protect them from stumbling when faced with the upcoming confusion and difficulties. And those words are helpful to us too. These words of Jesus can help us to stumble proof our life.
John 16 contains the opening words of Jesus who says, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble” (John 16:1). As we look at Jesus’ words to help us not stumble we need to keep in mind that John 14, 15, and 16 are Jesus most detailed teaching on the Holy Spirit. He refers to the Third Person of the trinity as “the Helper.” And so we must keep in mind that it is the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who will help us implement His instructions. So how can we stumble proof our life?

Stumble proof your life by listening to Jesus’ word. The word “stumble” (Greek skandalizdo) means to entrap, trip up, to entice to sin, apostasy, offend, displeasure. We get the English word “scandal” from this Greek term. A scandal is something that exposes a shameful breach in behavior. A scandal also involves a lapse in integrity and character; it’s something a person does that is contrary to what is expected. It’s offensive and displeasing to God and those who follow Him. Such stumbling is the result of the entrapment and enticing of the devil, this world and our flesh and it often involves apostasy or false teaching and false sinful behavior.

What Jesus is now sharing with the disciples is to help prevent them from being tripped up by the events that were to soon unfold. Jesus was going to be crucified. He was going to die on the cross. He was going to be placed in a tomb. For three days for all intents and purposes Jesus would be dead to the disciples. But the third day Jesus would rise from the dead. The third day He would defeat death; the final enemy (1 Cor. 15:55-58).

There is no substitute for God’s word, Jesus’ words, when it comes to stumble-proofing your life. In His word God says, “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165).  Jesus gives us His word to keep us from stumbling in our faith. Saint it is so important that you read and study and dig into and familiarize yourself with God’s word. Someone has said this word will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this word. The choice is yours.

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service

Stumble proof your life by being ready for hard times. The synagogue system of gathering for worship was a network of meeting houses created to weather the storm of the Temple’s destruction, the nations defeat and the captivity of God’s people. Synagogues were created so people removed from their land could continue to meet and preserve the Faith of the Old Testament. After God’s people were allowed to return to their land the synagogues remained in the land and people would meet there instead of only going to the Temple. The synagogue was integral to the faith and community of God’s people. To be put out of the synagogue, their place of worship was a tremendous blow to their identity as a Jew and their worship of the Lord. Jesus is saying, “Get ready for attacks from the religious community.” We see this today as apostasy is creeping into the church and those who hold to a Biblical world view are being marginalized even by other segments of the church.

Jesus also spoke of those who would kill His followers and think they were doing God a favor to do it! This is what the apostle Paul did; he pursued and persecuted Christians before God knocked Him off his high horse (cf. Acts 8; 9; 1 Tim. 1:12-17). In our day there are those who murder Christians and think they are doing “God” or “Allah” a favor. This was true in New Testament times. It has been true throughout history. It will continue to be true up until the return of Jesus.

 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

Religious persecution and murdering Christians in particular is all a product of not knowing God. And when in history “the church” murdered and pillaged in the name of Jesus understand such people did not know God or Jesus either. 

But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. “And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Jesus told the disciples of what was to come so that they would remember what He said to them and what the final outcome would be. Going through persecution and trials in life are hard and test our faith. But if we know what Jesus said about persecution and trials and see that come to pass, we can be just a certain and hopeful that the victory he speaks about after the trials will come to pass.

“But now I go away 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. 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 depart, I will send Him to you.


Stumble proof your life by appreciating what Jesus has done for you. It seems the disciples were dumbstruck by what Jesus was saying to them; as though they didn’t want to know or couldn’t receive any more of these difficulties Jesus was predicting.


But even though what lay ahead was difficult to receive, Jesus said it was to their advantage. Note this – sometimes difficulties are a necessary part of God’s plan. Such was the case here. It was hard to see Jesus go away. But unless Jesus left, unless He went to the cross, died, was buried, then resurrected, and then ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit could not come in His power to all of them. When things look bleak or we can’t understand God’s plan, we need to trust Him. Trust Jesus in the dark times and His promise is that you will enjoy Him when His light shines through.


We also see that the Holy Spirit’s coming is something Jesus does. He sends the Spirit. Again we see how the Triune God is alluded to by Jesus. God works in perfect fellowship with Himself.


And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.


Stumble proof your life by realizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. Earlier in Jesus’ conversation with the disciples he said the Holy Spirit was “with” them and would be “in” them (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit is “with” a person before they are born again leading them to repentance and faith in Christ so that they would be born again. The Holy Spirit is the Agent of the Triune Godhead who goes before and draws people to God through faith in Jesus. This drawing is an example of God’s prevenient grace; the grace that goes before. We are sinners lost in sin with no idea of our need of salvation or how deeply our sinfulness has offended God. God demonstrates His love to us in that while we were rebellious unrepentant sinners He sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). He is still graciously going before us while we are still sinners and by the Holy Spirit working in us to expose our sin and lead us to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.

God the Holy Spirit initiates the saving work in us. We deserve none of what He does. That is why we say salvation is not a work we do but a work Jesus has done for us. That is why salvation is a gift of God’s grace not something we work for. That is why salvation is by grace through faith and not a work we do; we have no reason or basis for boasting or taking credit for our salvation.

Generally speaking the Holy Spirit works in this world as a Restrainer. Things are not as bad as they would be if humanity were left to its own devices. Things are not as bad as they could be because the Holy Spirit through the church is restraining evil in the world. The apostle Paul speaks of this when he writes, “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”  (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7).

“He who now restrains” is s reference to the Holy Spirit and His work in the world. The Holy Spirit creates an environment where evil is checked enough to allow a person to exert free will to make a decision regarding salvation.

Here in John 16:8-11 Jesus teaches us that the more particular work of the Holy Spirit is as a Convictor of the sinful unbeliever. The Spirit convicts the unbeliever of their need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit “convicts.” The word “convict” is translated from the Greek term elegcho which can be defined as to expose a fault in a way that admonishes, convicts, convinces of a need to rectify or resolve, rebukes, or reproves. Jesus uses this word when He states, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed(John 3:20).  And when He writes to the seven churches of Revelation, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19; cf. also Ephesians 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:20; James 2:9; Jude 14-15).

What is it that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of or exposes to the sinner? The Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved world of three things.

First, “of sin because they do not believe in Me.” Jesus paid the penalty (death) for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The sin that dams to hell is rejecting the Spirit’s plea to accept Jesus as Savior (Mt. 12:31 – also called the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). A persons’ eternal destiny is determined by whether or not they believe or trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as their Savior and Redeemer. There are not many roads up a mountain to heaven. The only way we get to heaven is through relying on Jesus and His singularly satisfactory and atoning work on the cross. This is what the Spirit convicts the world of.

Second, “of righteousness because I go to My Father.”  Jesus died for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead. His resurrection indicates God was satisfied with His atoning sacrifice for sin. Jesus then ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God demonstrating that He is the standard and only acceptable means by which a person can enter heaven (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:11-18; 1 Peter 3:22). The Spirit convicts the world that any human efforts or works are inadequate to make one righteous. Works are of no help to gain access to heaven because the standard of righteousness is Jesus; nothing less will be acceptable. If you want to work your way to heaven you’ll have to be sinless and as perfect as Jesus (e.g. Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Nicodemus was a very religious man but Jesus said he needed to be born again (John 3). The Holy Spirit exposes the futility of trying to do religious works to make oneself acceptable before God.

Third, “of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.” The Holy Spirit convicts the world that the god of this world Satan was judged on the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:13-17). The hold of Satan on the unbeliever can be broken when a person accepts Jesus as Savior. Jesus in the heart of a person is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).

That is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever. And it is a powerful work the Spirit does. Just think, if you have been born again it was because of the work of the Holy Spirit with you to draw you to see your sin, see your need of a Savior, see how you could only be saved from your sin through faith in Christ, see how your salvation is a gift of God’s grace not your works, and see how you can experience a saving eternal personal abiding relationship with God in Christ. Thank You Holy Spirit!


12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.


Jesus would give more details of the ministry of the Spirit after He had risen from the dead.


13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.


Stumble proof your life with the guidance of the Holy Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13a). The Holy Spirit does not lie. If you need the truth in a situation seek the Spirit’s illumination.


The Holy Spirit “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13b). The Holy Spirit is the great Bible teacher. He is the great Revelator. He is the great Illuminator. He is the great Expositor. And when you have been born again the Holy Spirit with all His truth guiding ways is in you. Remember that the next time you sit down and begin to study the Bible. You are not alone. The Holy Spirit is there to help you understand!


The Holy Spirit “will not speak on His own authority; but whatever He hears He will speak” (John 16:13c). The Holy Spirit speaks in agreement with Jesus and the Father; they never contradict one another. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, the Bible is a product of the Triune God. When you read your Bible it is God in His fullness speaking to you.


The Holy Spirit is prophetic; “He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13d). Sometimes people look at prophecy as impractical. They see it as more a novelty than noteworthy. But the Holy Spirit inspired almost one third of the Bible with prophetic content (approximately 27%). If the Spirit felt prophecy was important enough to devote nearly a third of His inspiration to, then we out to accept that and determine to know it as much as possible. Prophecy as “things to come” are for the purpose of our preparation. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Don’t neglect this work of the Holy Spirit. Study and examine what the Spirit says in the Bible about things to come.


The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14 and 15). When the Holy Spirit is working it’s easy to tell; Jesus will be glorified. If a person other than Jesus is focused on or being given credit apart from Jesus, you can be sure it is a product of the flesh and not of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit points people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit steps behind Jesus and puts Jesus in the forefront. If you want to have the Holy Spirit involved in what you are doing, just glorify and exalt Jesus and the Spirit will make His powerful presence known.

16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

Stumble proof your life with the understanding that Jesus has a beneficial plan He is carrying out. Jesus is referring of course to His crucifixion – “A little while, and you will not see Me” and then His resurrection – “a little while, and you will see Me.” It’s insightful that Jesus saw the crucifixion and resurrection in terms of going to His Father, “because I go to the Father.” When you know you’re going to the Father you can face anything.

The disciples were grief stricken that Jesus was leaving. That’s really all they could focus on. But Jesus tells them even though He will leave them for a time, He has a plan and would return to them. Jesus is reassuring His disciples that He has a plan and that plan involves reuniting with them. And here is a great truth for us to grasp. Even though Jesus appears to be leaving and out of the picture, He is working with purpose to fulfill a greater plan. And that plan will benefit us. His plan of the cross worked our redemption. For that we praise Him. Jesus is always working for the redemption of the lost. He prays constantly for the salvation of the lost and for the sanctification of His followers (Heb. 7:25). That is stumble proofing information.

17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”


The disciples are still confused. They do not as yet have the Holy Spirit indwelling them to help them understand.


19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.


Stumble proof your life with the understanding that Jesus is able to turn your sorrow into joy. Jesus was always willing to patiently explain Himself to the disciples. And Jesus did not hold back. He honestly told them some tough times lay ahead. He said they would “weep and lament.” “Weep” (Greek klaio) means literally sob, wail aloud. “Lament” (Greek threneo) means bewail, mourn, to sing a dirge, deplore a lost loved one. We sometimes try to spare people grief by not giving them all the details. But Jesus here shares the details of their upcoming sorrow in order to help them be prepared.


Jesus said, “but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful.” What causes Jesus’ followers sorrow is a cause of rejoicing for the sinful world. “Sorrowful” (Greek lypeo) means to be in distress, sad, grief, heaviness of heart, full of sorrow, sorry. The world just doesn’t understand the burden of eternity God’s people often bear.


Along with the truth about their upcoming sorrow Jesus shared the hope that, “but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” Joy” (Greek chara) we have seen previously (John 15:11) and it means the same here, a steadying stabilizing comforting awareness and assurance that God is in control and working out his eternal plans. There is a great important truth here; sometimes darkness precedes the dawn in the workings of God. Sometimes it can seem that all hope is lost. But with Jesus there is always hope; living hope (1 Peter 1:3-4). That is a gloriously blessed hope.


21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.


Stumble proof your life by seeing it as a pregnancy; your pain will be overshadowed by what God births through you. I have been blessed to experience by the side of my wife the birth of my three children. The birth of a human being is an incredible experience. I remember the birth of our first child, how it was all new and uncertain. We didn’t know what to expect. And in those later stages of the pregnancy when the labor pains were coming it was a hard time. But you know what? When that little girl came out and they handed her Mom for the first time, all the pain was forgotten and our joy was so full!


My wife and I had issues with infertility when we first tried to have a child. So when my wife did get pregnant and did deliver we tried for another soon after. And God blessed us with another child, a boy! We waited awhile to go for three. When my wife was pregnant we had a routine in place and felt like we knew what we were doing. Only at 12 weeks my wife experienced a placental tear; we thought we lost the baby. But God was merciful and the pregnancy, with bed rest, continued.


When the due date for our third child came and passed we wondered what was going on. It was a particularly hot year and my wife was BIG with child. We couldn’t understand why this baby wouldn’t come out. Finally it did come time to deliver him and when he came out it wasn’t long before we discovered there was a problem.


My third child was born with a heart defect. After four hospitals, three ambulance rides, an air ambulance ride to Boston, and a heart surgery, we discovered that the extra time in his mother’s womb allowed our child to put on mass that helped him survive his heart defect. At 10 pounds and an ounce my son was the largest infant (can you call a kid that size and “infant”) the surgeons had every performed such a heart surgery on.


I share all this to make the point that God knows what He is doing. When Jesus was telling His disciples all of what was going to happen and then He was being beaten, spit on, viciously scourged and violently crucified, I’m sure it shook them to the core of their faith. At that point all they had to hang onto were the words and memories of Jesus. But Jesus did rise from the dead, just as He said He would. Jesus ALWAYS comes through like He says He will. He knows what He is doing. Jesus is in control. No matter what you are going through or how much you don’t understand keep your eyes on Jesus! Remember that next time things aren’t working out the way you thought they would or you face a situation you just don’t’ understand. Be joyful; rest in the steadying stabilizing unshakable assurance that Jesus is in control. Ride out the storm in the helpful hold of the Spirit, in the comforting arms of Jesus.


23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.


Stumble proof your life with confident praying in Jesus’ name. The time was going to come when the disciples wouldn’t have to ask Jesus anything; the Spirit would be informing them. When Jesus fulfilled all He spoke to them about it would transform their prayer lives. When they saw Jesus fulfill all His words and rise from the dead they would have a newfound holy boldness to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, receive their requests and live in the fullness of Jesus’ joy.


25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”


Jesus has spoken to the disciples about Him being the vine and they being the branches. He has spoken to them about childbirth. But it wouldn’t be long before Jesus words would be plainly understood by them. It wouldn’t be long before the disciples grasped the relationship Jesus has with the Father and the significance of that relationship of Jesus with the Father.


29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! 30 Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”


The disciples are beginning to understand but without the Spirit they still have much to learn. They would soon go to the school of life in Christ with the Holy Spirit as their Teacher.


31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.


Stumble proof your life by understanding you are not perfect. Maybe the disciples were getting a little cocky. Jesus kept them humble with the news they would all leave Him alone. We are not perfect. There are times in life when the variables in our life circumstances will lead to us giving into temptation. That doesn’t have to be, but that likely will be. God always provides a means of escape when we are tempted (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and overflowing if we are to live victoriously in this life. But if we fall, remember, you are human. We will grieve with those who grieve and mourn with those who mourn. We are not emotionless automatons. We are humans, living in a fallen world with a sinful nature that lurks in the shadows looking to rear its angry evil head at every opportunity. That is why we need to be consistent and persistent in our devotional life and personal relationship with Jesus. We need to walk in the Spirit. We need to follow in Jesus’ steps who told the disciples He was not alone but the Father was always with Him.  


33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”


Stumble proof your life by understanding in the world you will experience tribulation but Jesus has overcome the world. When we understand by the Holy Spirit the relationship and closeness of Jesus we can experience, no matter what we encounter in life we can know and experience “that in Me you may have peace.“Peace” (Greek eirene) is a quiet restful sense of wellbeing. The peace of Jesus surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:6-9). His “peace” is like nothing you can find in the world (John 15:27). This “peace” is rooted in the deep assurance that we can “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus informed the disciples, “in the world you will have tribulation.” “Tribulation” (Greek thlipsis) refers to pressures of life, affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, trouble, tribulation. The disciples and we can expect difficulties in this world. These difficulties are not to be confused with the tribulation that comes on the earth during the seven year Tribulation period of The Time of Jacob’s Trouble in the End Times. That seven year period will be a time of tribulation that results from God’s outpoured righteous wrath (e.g. Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15). Christians are saved from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). The Christian will be raptured by Jesus out of this world before that Tribulation hits (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:10The tribulation the Christian experiences in the world is generated by sinful man and ultimately the devil (e.g. James 1:20; Revelation 12:12). 

But we need not fear or tremble at the wrath of man or the devil. Jesus says, “Be of Good cheer” (Greek tharseo) means courageous, confident, comforted, and cheerful with expectation of a good outcome. Why does Jesus say we should take courage and expect a good outcome? Because “I have overcome the world.” At this point Jesus hasn’t gone to the cross, but He has resisted every temptation of the devil to this point. And we know Jesus will be victorious up to and including the cross. The Holy Spirit will communicate to the world in a mighty conviction that Jesus has gone to the Father in triumph and that “the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11). That is more than enough to fuel our courage. 

These are confusing times, these are violent times, these are times that have the potential of causing us to stumble. The only way we can walk a steady secure walk through this pre-Tribulation stuff is to rely on the Holy Spirit’s help and stay close to our Lord Jesus. I pray you heed His words and stumble proof your life. Difficulties are increasing. They will only get worse. But you don’t have to stumble. You can walk courageously and surely with the help of the Holy Spirit.