Jesus Would Never Abandon His Followers

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John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 

19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

                                

Jesus gave these encouraging words to His disciples on the last night that He shared a meal with them before He was killed upon a cross the next day.  It is very clear throughout the whole evening of this Last Supper that the disciples really did not know what was going on right then, nor were they ready for what would happen next.  They were clueless.  Jesus knew this, and so He gave to them all of these precious promises.

Let’s make a list here of the wonderful promises that awaited the disciples beyond the crucifixion of their Lord, once He had risen from the dead.  Jesus told them:

    • The Father will give you an Advocate/Helper who will never leave you.
    • The Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth.
    • The Holy Spirit will live within you.
    • I, [the Son of God], will never abandon you as orphans — I will come to you.
    • You will see Me again.
    • You also will live again [both physically and spiritually].
    • You will know that I, and the Father, and you will all be united together.
    • I will love you.
    • I will reveal Myself to you.

    

It was very important that Jesus spoke these words of encouragement to the disciples that night, for it was only a few hours later that Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to die upon a cross.  I’m sure that the disciples must have gone through some very agonizing emotional and spiritual conflict when their great Master was killed.  Truly, they would have felt as if they were abandoned, that they had become spiritual orphans.

These words of Jesus though, were not meant to apply just to these early disciples long ago.  Notice how Jesus ends his talk with promises for “those who love Him”.  This moved the scope of Jesus’ talk beyond the scope of just the Upper Room, and is meant for any person throughout history who has come to know who Jesus is, and has accepted Him as Lord and Saviour of his/her life.  We too can receive all of these same promises which Jesus gave to his first disciples, for we too who believe in Jesus are also His disciples today.

    

I can testify to the truth of these promises which have been real to me in my life.  When I accepted Jesus into my life at age 12, it was not just some mental assent to a doctrine about Jesus.  No, I had come to know Jesus as a real Person in the months that I spent reading the Bible to discover Truth.  I knew that when I put my faith in Jesus, that He indeed did send a Comforter to help me and guide me in the path of righteous living before God.

In addition to the inner prompting from the Holy Spirit as to how to live my life and what choices to make, I often also have felt the presence of Christ being with me.  I knew that when I gave my life to Jesus, that He would be my companion and Friend in life.  And that was something very huge for me, as my growing up years were difficult and lonely in so many ways.  And yet I never ever really felt alone, as I knew I could always talk with Jesus, and He would comfort my heart and heal my emotional wounds.

    

Now there are still many people who do not accept Christ or believe in God who would say that “religion is an emotional crutch for those who are psychologically weak”.  I take offense at this statement as I cannot deny all the times that God has acted in my life in very real ways that could never be explained away as some “psychological delusion”.  But there is one part that I have to agree with here in that statement.  “Religion” is not the answer.

You see, “religion” is for the most part, man-made rule and rituals that have been developed over time by those who want to control and define the “spiritual”.  This was the great problem of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who could not accept Jesus because He did not fit within their narrowly defined ritualistic set of rules.

But Jesus did not come to set up new rules.  In fact, these “commandments of mine” that He spoke of were not really new.  His two great commandments were “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind”, and “to love your neighbour as yourself”.  What Jesus was offering was not rules and rituals, but genuine relationships of men with God, and with each other.

    

And so I ask you, “Where are you my friend in your spiritual life?  Are you still pursuing rules of religion in the hopes that God will accept you?  Or are you basing the future salvation of your soul on a relationship which you have built with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?  I pray that you are doing the latter.”

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The Practice Of Forgiveness

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There is no doubt that we all understand that it is important to forgive others.  We may not always feel like we want to forgive others who have wronged us or offended us.  But then we have to accept the forthright bluntness of the word’s of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 verses 14-15, right after He taught His disciples how to pray to God the Father.  Jesus says:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We have plenty of material and many sermons that tell us the importance of forgiving others.  But what I think is more helpful for most of us today is seeing in person or at least hearing about real situations that exemplify and flesh out what forgiveness looks like.  That is why the following message written by a close missionary friend of mine caught my attention.  I hope that it encourages and challenges you like it did for me.

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When You Hurt Someone

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”   Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

“An email I wrote last month hurt someone I love. I was in a hurry and I carelessly communicated the exact opposite of what I meant to say. For weeks my friend carried the burden of thinking I was angry at her when nothing could be farther from the truth. Another friend finally wrote and bravely, lovingly confronted me with my seemingly rude, uncaring words. I was shocked and could not imagine how I could have been so terribly misunderstood.

Until I found and read that email from her perspective. Ouch. Ever done something like that? To quote an Accenture billboard, “It’s what you do next that counts.” I firmly believe that mistakes like mine can actually strengthen relationships if what you do next is to ask for forgiveness – as fast as you can.

Don’t make excuses or try to avoid humiliation. The Bible says, leave church and go! The truth is we only avoid hurting others if we keep our relationships shallow. Misunderstandings, purposeful angry words and other hurtful things will happen and they will change the relationship, for better or worse.

In the last month I listened to a preacher confess during a sermon that he let his long work hours hurt his marriage, and I heard an elder in a different church confess that he spoke hurtful words when his preacher came to him with a problem. Both of these godly men quickly made things right with the person they hurt, and when they realized that their sin involved more than just one person they publicly confessed it – in tears.

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 What an impact that must have had on the two congregations to have that pastor and that elder make their public confession and to ask for forgiveness in such an open way.  Wow!!  I’m sure that it was not easy for them.  But the personal peace they must have felt after taking care of this issue of the heart, plus the relationships that are repaired are worth the risk.  This reminds me of what happened in our village in PNG in 2001.

For six months I had been holding a “Bible School” program with people under our house.  (In PNG, most houses are built up on posts due to the flooding of the river, the chickens and dogs that run underneath, for good shade, etc.)  Our area back then was almost completely a Catholic oriented region.  At the end of the six months of Bible teaching, I challenged the people to consider making a public declaration of faith in Jesus and mark it with adult baptism in the stream behind our house, if they felt God was asking them to do that.

We did have three baptisms that were witnessed by most people in the village.  I thought this was a tremendous event for the sake of the Kingdom.  But about a week later I was “chastised” by some leaders of the village Catholic church and told not to preach or teach the people any more.  I knew that theology was a big part of the reason for this, but I also realized even more importantly that in this Papuan consensus-and-discussion culture, I had offended the leaders simply by not asking them to be involved with the overall decision making process that occurred.  I believe that if I had, they very likely in the end would have been happy to see these individuals making a stand for the Gospel.

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Very quickly I went about to restore these wounded and broken relationships by doing the culturally correct Papuan action.  Namely, Jill and I cooked a huge rice and tinned meat meal and invited the leaders to a meeting where I could apologize to them.  Not for the baptisms, but rather that I had not respected their village leadership.

At the end of the meal, the other correct thing to be done to show full forgiveness and acceptance of one anther was to shake hands with each other.  This then marked the end of the “wrong”.  And you know what?  The regional Catholic Bishop just happened to be there that night, and he shook my hands and said, “I am so glad you are in this village and teaching the people about God.”  Wow!  So restoring our relationships restored me to a place where the Catholic leaders even approved of the teaching and evangelism I was doing.

I am grateful for this reminder from my friend about practising forgiveness.  May we all follow this example and see relationships restored, lives impacted, and God glorified through it all.