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 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.



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