+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 14:1-9
Theme: Source of Certainty
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Heaven is a present possession for believers. It’s true not because the soul magically exists in an eternal state. No, the soul has no independent life. Death is a certainty for all who remain estranged from God. We have no life in and of ourselves. The fantasy that all people, regardless of belief or conviction, will automatically transition to a future existence of peace and happiness is a mere illusion. And it’s a Satanic one at that. Were it true there would be no need to proclaim the gospel at all and no purpose for the sacrifice of Christ. Heaven is a present possession for believers because the gift of faith means they are already participating in the eternal life of God. The risen Christ secures immortality for all the faithful.
It was these vital truths that Jesus was discussing with His disciples today. He said to them, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”1 Then He said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”2 The reassurances were necessary because the disciples were still full of uncertainty. The time of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion was near. They were feeling vulnerable and afraid. They were soon to receive a reality check. They would be facing a foreboding world of darkness, but they would be bearing the blazing light of the gospel.
Reality checks are a helpful exercise in rebalancing our equilibrium. Commonly, a “reality check” refers to the experience of being pulled back into line, dragged back out of some private world that is more of an illusion than a reality. It presupposes a lack of perspective. Perhaps you’ve said it to or heard it from your spouse or your children. Normally it means the individual is re-familiarized with the worldview of the majority. But the concept can also work in reverse. And it can be applied spiritually.
Do you sometimes wonder if you are living in an alternative universe? If most others are out-of-sync with what you know to be plain common sense and clear and evident reason? The culture we’ve been accustomed to is quickly transforming. Biblical perspective is quickly being lost. Past standards of truth and certainty are being abandoned. More trust is being placed in intuitive human assessment and less in God’s revealed parameters. It’s happened before. The reading from Acts is a reminder of the violent opposition often faced by the early Christians. Stephen received a stunning reality check: The Jews would not receive him, but God did.
Dear friends, the truths of Christianity have stood the test of time. We must be wise to the charge that the Bible is out-of-date or out-of-touch. God’s law of love is not obsolete, and the good news of Christ’s saving work is never irrelevant. God’s truth does not consist of ancient, arbitrary rules set by a fickle divine being. Do we really think we are the first society to grapple with the parameters of sexual expression, fidelity in marriage, and the vulnerability of the unborn and the aged? Are we so arrogant as to think we have greater understanding of the meaning of human existence than those who lived much closer to the time of creation, or others who lived near to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we think progress in technology equates to superiority in understanding the meaning of life? Or do we think accumulated wisdom translates to enlightenment of the soul?
People today are conceived as the same crass, selfish sinners as those of every generation. To be sure, we are born into different circumstances and different opportunities are open to us. We have privileges and material comforts that only the wealthiest enjoyed for most of the history of humanity. But, are we nearer to God than they were? Do we have easier access to divine things than they did? Do we understand God any better than others? We face the same foes they did and we’re no better equipped to deal with them. Sin is a clear and present danger. Hell is an eternal threat. Mortality is an insurmountable crisis.
Speaking into a climate of darkness and doubt, Christ gives light and conviction. Dear friends, faith is never strengthened by uncertainty. God does not want us to grasp at this, dabble in that, and fidget with every new idea and possibility that’s rolled out in hope of making someone rich or stroking another’s ego. “There is nothing new under the sun.”3 Today’s mantras of political correctness are just old ideas with new masks. Sin has no creative element, only the drive to express full independence from the Creator. For the unbeliever, sovereignty is the measure of success. Skepticism is the pinnacle of perfection.
True stability is found in dependency on the Saviour. Autonomy is the broad road that leads to destruction. All things must be measured by the plumb line of Scriptural truth. God has spoken. Hesitation, vagueness, and ambiguity are neither the methods nor the fruits of the Holy Spirit. See today, how the Lord Jesus Christ seeks to bolster the faith of the disciples with rock-solid confidence. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.”4 The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic. The Holy Spirit is the Counselor and the Comforter. We know we are in God’s good graces. “We believe, teach, and confess that our righteousness before God consists in this, that God forgives us our sins purely by His grace, without any preceding, present, or subsequent work, merit, or worthiness, and reckons to us the righteousness of Christ’s obedience…”5
What could give us greater confidence than the promise of Jesus that He prepares a place for believers in the home of the Father! These are not hollow words. They are not fictional wishes providing emotional crutches for those too weak to stand on their own. This is the rock-solid gospel pledge that gives perspective to all that we would call prosperity and adversity in this life. What good is all the temporal prosperity in the world if we are bereft of Christ when we draw our final breath? Conversely, what temporal adversity can overcome us knowing the eternal joy that awaits us?
The same promise is made to us in baptism. In this sacrament of water and word the Holy Spirit claims us for the Crucified One. The power of eternal death over us is made null and void because death’s strength has already been shattered by Christ’s resurrection. Having risen Himself, imagine what an easy thing it is for Him to raise us also! In baptism we are placed on the narrow road and the journey begins. The same promise is reinforced in Holy Communion; our food for the pilgrimage.
It’s a journey within the fellowship of the saints and among the sheep of His flock. The Scripture says, “But you are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”6 Think of the opportunities you have to be salt and light! You know those who are caught in cycles of darkness. God is not asking us for miracles, He does those. He’s calling us to be faithful in our vocations. Mothers, today we recognize your vocation as one that serves the most fundamental purposes of God: The provision and protection of life. Yet, we shouldn’t really need a designated day as we already have a commandment to honour mothers and fathers every day.
Today Jesus gave His disciples a reality check. Their hope and future resided in the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ. It didn’t rest in His temporary accomplishments or theoretical ideas. The same is true for us. Christ is not the author of ideas; He is the determiner of outcomes. He does not pledge Himself to us in concepts, but in blood. He bears scars, not hypotheses. There is nothing unclear about His mission, His passion, His identity. His love is unexcelled. A life time of appreciation will never plumb its depths. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Fifth Sunday of Easter
14 May, 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 14:6
2 John 14:9
3 Ecclesiastes 1:9
4 John 14:1
5 FC, Epitome III
6 1 Peter 2:10