God’s Best Gifts, Part 2

Christians are the most fortunate people on earth. Simply by virtue of our relationship with Jesus Christ through faith, we are the recipients of some amazing gifts from our Heavenly Father. We did absolutely nothing to merit those gifts. We certainly don’t deserve them. Out of boundless love and consideration, God has blessed us with things to make our lives worth living.

Last time, we looked at the first gift God has given His people: LOVE. He sent His Son in love, not condemnation, to catch man’s attention. There is so little genuine love on earth that God’s love in Christ Jesus stands out; man wants it; man can’t find that kind of love outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ. A side benefit of receiving God’s love is that you are made able to love others the same way God loves you! That Divine love isn’t in man naturally, it has to be placed there supernaturally by God Himself because it is His gift of love to you.

Love is in short supply in the world, but so is peace. Anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, fear, anger, and things like that are in abundance. When feelings and emotions like those pile up on you, you should remember this verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 1:27 | TNIV)

Setting the scene

Jesus didn’t just speak verse 27 for no reason. In fact, it really isn’t a verse at all. In real life, people don’t speak in verses, and neither did our Lord. And life doesn’t take place in chapters, either. The chapter divisions in the Gospel of John (and in every other book of the Bible, for that matter) weren’t put there by its human author. They were added much later, in the fourth century. What we call chapter 14 is just a continuation of the events of what we call chapter 13. Jesus’ admonition to “do not let your hearts be troubled” was given in connection this:

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (John 13:31 – 33 | TNIV)

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38 | TNIV)

Jesus knew that His followers already had troubled hearts, and the information He had just given them simply added to the trouble they already had. So the whole purpose of chapter 14 was an attempt to calm their nerves about the future, especially in light of what He told Peter in verse 38.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. (John 14:1 | TNIV)

The news that Peter would disown Jesus; that there was some question as to how serious Peter was about following Jesus; and that He Himself was about leave them were the explicit reasons for 14:1. How would you feel if you, as a Christian, were told by Jesus that He didn’t think you were a serious believer and that you would go so far as to disown Him and that from now on, He’d be hard to find? How would you feel? Of course, everything Jesus said to Peter and His disciples simply indicated that He knew what would happen. In spite of how shabbily He would be treated by Peter, Jesus didn’t chastise him. He told the apostle and the others to be calm; to keep on trusting God and to start trusting Him. And Jesus is telling you the same thing, too. Essentially, He knows we are all weak, fickle, somewhat untrustworthy human beings. It’s good to know that we, like the disciples, when confronted with their shortcomings, were encouraged to “trust in God” and to “trust in Jesus.” Because, in the end, our salvation doesn’t depend on us getting it right 100% of the time. It depends on being dependent upon the grace and love of our Lord.

Gracious provision

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so , I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2 | KJV)

My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”. (John 14:2 – 4 | TNIV)

This speaks to His impending departure. Jesus would leave for a time, but He would return. This is an interesting paragraph that has resulted in numerous hymns and gospel songs being written to celebrate our mansion in heaven that the Lord is, even now, building for us. Songs like this one, written by Elvis Presley:

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold.

What if you don’t want a big old mansion? What if you prefer a bungalow? Or a real nice single wide? The TNIV’s “plenty of room” as opposed to the more familiar “many mansions” is far more accurate. The Greek word is monai, and it’s a curious word. Some scholars write that it has a reference to an Aramaic term for “shelters along the way,” or a place where travelers could rest for the night. In other words, Jesus may be talking about preparing places of rest or protection along the walk of faith. Could be, but there’s no getting around the fact that these “shelters along the way” are being prepared, apparently, in Heaven. In that case, Jesus, in leaving the scene for a time, promised to prepare a place in Heaven for all of His followers, many of whom had left their homes to follow Him. Nobody would be left out because there is room for all. Maybe our Lord is referring to both ideas. The idea that God is not only a divine Person but also a place was a common one in the Old Testament:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. (Psalm 90:1 | TNIV)

Jesus, the way to God

Leave it to a guy like Thomas to ask the question that all the disciples likely had in their minds:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”. (John 14:5 | TNIV)

Our Lord’s answer is among the most profound declarations in all of Scripture.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”. (John 14:6, 7 | TNIV)

Jesus doesn’t show the way, He Himself is the way. There’s a difference. Our job as followers of Jesus is to show the way to God, and that way is a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Lenksi quotes Koegel’s sermon on this very topic:

Jesus doesn’t say, “I show you the way,” like a second Moses, but “I am the way.” Nor “I have the truth,” like another Elijah, but “I am the truth.” Not only, “I lead you to life,” like one of His apostles, but “I am the life.”

Philip also had his question, which lead to another profound declaration:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:11 | TNIV)

That’s an interesting statement. Followers of Jesus are presented with a choice: Simply believe that Jesus and the Father are one and the same, or if you can’t muster that kind of faith, at the very least believe the evidence of your experience. In the case of the disciples, they had seen all that Jesus did and those miracles were evidence enough. In your case, if doubts ever float into your head and you wonder about Jesus, read again all that He did and remember what He’s done for you. Pretty soon your doubts will fade away.

The Holy Spirit, obedience, and peace

But why did Jesus have to leave them? That’s really what the disciples wanted to know. To them, it didn’t seem to make any sense. If preparing a place for them was too much for them to conceive, Jesus gave them an immensely practical reason for leaving:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16 – 18 | TNIV)

Jesus had to leave so that “another advocate,” the “Spirit of truth,” could come be with them. That phrase, “another advocate” is misleading. The Holy Spirit is “another of the same kind,” in other words, having the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is just like having the Spirit of Jesus in us. When our Lord was here in the flesh, He was confined to a local area. He had to leave so that the blessing of His presence could be given to all people, everywhere. The Holy Spirit makes no sense to the world, but He does to you. He makes it possible for you to live like Jesus did.

Jesus took this occasion to give His disciples a gentle admonition:

If you love me, keep my commands. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:15, 21 | TNIV)

These two verses have to do with love, even though it looks like something else. Verse 15 is the why a Christian should live in obedience to the teachings of Christ and in verse 21, love becomes the test of love. A believer who knows the commands of Jesus and puts them into practice is the one who loves Jesus. These commands, by the way, serve a very important purpose, as one scholar put it:

The instructions of our Lord were given not to make us better theologians but better people.

To which we should all say a hearty, “Amen!” But then Jesus promises a kind of reward to those who love Him in obedience. Of course, that love will be returned by the Father and the Son, but the Son will “show Himself to them.” More than one scholar has pointed out that our Lord was speaking figuratively here. He didn’t mean that He would come to them in dreams and visions, but rather that the obedient, loving believer will enjoy the continual presence of Christ. This spiritual self-revelation refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16 | TNIV)

All this context is the background to this promise that so many believers cling to but few catch the connection:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 | TNIV)

Back in the day, “peace” was both a greeting and farewell. This is how Jesus used the word here, only in reverse order – on the eve of His leaving, He left them peace but then prophetically offers it to them. The Greek word is eirene, and the Greeks looked at peace as the absence of strife. But to the Hebrew, “peace” was a much deeper word that carried with it a “sense of inner well-being.” This is what Jesus was leaving His people and at the same time offering them: Complete well-being. But that well-being is a to be continual state that comes from a relationship with Christ through faith, resulting from the presence of the Holy Spirit and life lived in obedience to the commands of Christ. So many Christians think that this peace comes to them at moments of stress and anxiety – like at the funeral or during some kind of test. But that’s not the idea here. The idea is that the believer will walk in this peace all the days of his life as he enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit and endeavours to live in obedience to the Lord.

This promised peace is Christ’s own peace, and it’s nothing like the peace of the world, which comes and goes and sometimes has to be enforced at the end of a gun! What good is that kind of peace? The world’s peace always falls short. God’s peace, though, is exactly what you need because it meets all your needs.

If you, as a believer, find God’s peace elusive, the problem lies with you, not with God. You say you love Him, but are living in obedience to Him? You have the Holy Spirit within, but are you paying attention to Him? You have all you need to be at peace. Appropriate it by doing what’s right.

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