Series > Worshiping the Spirit
The Spirit of Truth
Ryan Tompkins // March 24, 2019
scripture Passage // John 15:17–27 (ESV)
“ 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
A couple weeks ago we started a new sermon series for 12 weeks on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a little bit like that uncle that you know a little bit, but you don't see very often, at least I find that to be true of most Christians’ experiences. Definitely the most overlooked person of the Trinity, someone we often give lip service to, but someone we don't necessarily think about or rely upon for the role that he is intended to play in the life of the Christian. It's fitting that we should focus upon that and one of the questions for you over the next 12 weeks is how am I being conscious of the Spirit, how am I availing myself of the Spirit and his role in my life, and how am I getting in the way of the Spirit. All of this will contribute, of course, to us being drawn into worship of the Spirit as we also worship the Father and the Son.
What John emphasizes today is this notion of the Spirit of truth, so we're going to have to wrestle with what is it, the Spirit is the Spirit of truth and how does that truth aspect play in the role of the Spirit. We'll find that as we understand the truth that the Spirit brings we'll also have to see that to be in line with the world, which is the alternative, is to exist in a place of lies. The more you move toward the Spirit, the more truth you enjoy. The more you move toward the world, the more lies you will have to engage.
The way I'd like to break it down this morning is this, number one, the truth about the world. Number two, the truth about what to expect. Number three, the truth about the problem. Number four, the true hero.
Number one, the truth about the world. Well what is the truth about the world? The truth is as Jesus dives in during this farewell discourse is that the world hates you. The world not only hates you, but it hates you because it hated Jesus first and because you follow after him you now receive the hatred, the contempt, the disdain of the world. Now, we need to be a little bit careful about understanding what John is saying. You can't be completely literal here in the sense that you might read it and think there's always going to be a set people of God and there's always going to be a set world, and there's not going to be any change between the two. The world will just always be in a position of hate. We can't think that way about people because then we would say there's no change and there's no reason for mission and if those lines were drawn so starkly.
Some of the world that Jesus has interacted with has decided to turn and follow him. That's always the hope, so what Jesus is really saying is that we exist in a place that is organized and established by various goals and priorities, and belief systems that are contrary to Jesus and they will always be at odds with his kingship. Therefore, there will always be an adversity, a disagreement, a chafing, between the world and those who follow after Jesus.
If you look at Verse 19 we get a little bit more clarity in which Jesus says, "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you." If you are loved by the world, to be part of the world is to be loved as its own and to follow after Jesus is to feel that disenfranchisement from the world. A follower of Jesus should always feel out of place. You should always feel as though you're not at home, your citizenship is somewhere else, you're in exile, you're a sojourner, you're a foreigner in a strange land. You're always wearing sack clock underwear that don't quite fit and you're never going to be comfortable and get it quite right. That's your status in this world as a follower of Jesus is to exist in this place of chafing, so to speak, with the rest of the world.
Now, that's a hard place to exist in, not only because it's somewhat uncomfortable, but because the world is always beckoning to us to fall in love with it, the mistress outside the brothel. Come, there are delights in my house, enjoy it, so the world constantly speaks to us. We are always tempted and sometimes go in that direction to engage with what the lover has to offer and to be lovers of the world rather than lovers of Jesus.
As we go down this road, one of the things that I want you to realize is that in contrast to the Spirit of truth you will inevitably have to engage more lies as a result of loving the world. We can use a couple illustrations to flush this out.
One, for you guys and girls might be Pinocchio. Pinocchio is the puppet that comes to life and is challenged with learning what it means to be a good boy, to work hard and to go to school. But it's not very far down that road that honest John the fox and Gabriel the cat show up and they say to Pinocchio, "Wouldn't it be more fun to go to a puppet show than to go to school?" Pinocchio says, "Yes, I think it would be."
So he goes to the puppet show and he's a hit. He's a wooden puppet that can sing and dance but doesn't need strings, so the puppet master makes a fortune and at the end of the day Pinocchio goes to leave, the puppet master says, "I'm not parting with my fortune," and throws him in a birdcage. Later that night the Blue Fairy shows up to free Pinocchio and she asks, "Pinocchio, what are you doing here? Why aren't you in school?" What does Pinocchio do? He begins to tell lies. He doesn't say the truth because he wants to hide the love of the world that he's embarrassed of. Lies are always going to be part of our love for the world. Of course, he then is tempted to go to Pleasure Island, which he does and begins to be turned into a donkey. Indeed, the love of the world turns us all into donkeys.
Now, if Pinocchio seems a bit childish for you we could consider one of the great songs of the classic rock era, which is "Hotel California". Now if you grew up in a fundamentalist arena as I did, you know that you are certainly dancing with the devil by listening to such a song. However, the Eagles have always held that "Hotel California" was written about the hedonism of America, about the pursuit of pleasure, about self-indulgence. "Hotel California" is a metaphor for the addiction to pleasure and fun. In this spirit the Eagles wrote "Her mind" being the hotel, "Her is Tiffany twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz. She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friend. How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat, some dance to remember, some dance to forget. Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a lovely face. Livin' it up at the Hotel California, what a nice surprise, bring your alibis." Interesting whether we consider Pinocchio or Hotel California both dealing in different ways with the love of the world, what inevitably is the result of that love? Lies. You better bring your alibis to explain that you're not actually guilty of participating in what you are participating in.
One of the questions to you is what lies are you telling? Now, maybe some of you aren't, but I know plenty of you are because if you spend 13 years in ministry you see over and over again people come forward and say, "I've been lying for a long time and my lies aren't working out so well." Your lies are an indication of where your affections really lie. If your affections are really lying in the world and you're trying to cover that up and cloak it in a web of lies then this is an invitation for you to realize that there's only freedom in repentance. The only way that you're actually going to be weighed down in bondage and sin is to choose not to repent and to double down on your lies. Realize they're pressing in on us all the time.
Zach gave a very good example of Peter before. We could also consider as he stands in the courtyard. Peter has chosen to follow after Jesus and those gathered in the courtyard ask him, "Do you know him?" Rathe than being faithful, rather than saying, "Yes, I believe he's the King who is to come and I throw my lot in with him," rather than saying that, what does he say? "I don't know the man." He's the lure, the safety of the world, there's an option here where I don't have to suffer, where I don't have to be persecuted and so I'm going to choose a lie because it protects what I really love which is my own self-preservation, rather than truth, which is God's kingdom agenda. Peter, in that moment of course, sides with the world and shows his love in that fashion.
We're considering lies are certainly a good indicator that you're not really loving Jesus, but loving the world. But how do you know if you're loving Jesus in a positive sense? Well a great way to examine that is to consider the attitudes, just fitting, even though we started that, in the children's lesson. Do you really aspire to the disposition that Jesus chooses to especially bless or do you aspire to a blessing that comes only in the west?
Here are the beatitudes, one version that's gospel and one version that's America. The question to you is which do you really prefer. Blessed are the poor in spirit or blessed are those who are so distracted by entertainment and possessions that they forget they are poor. Blessed are those who mourn, or blessed are those who avoid all sadness. Blessed are the meek, or blessed are the strong. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for more. Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the judgmental. Blessed are the pure in heart or blessed are those who diversify their worship. Blessed are the peace makers and blessed are those who can win an argument. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, blessed are those who do everything in their power to avoid persecution and sacrifice.
Granted, we would all say I aspire to the beatitudes in the gospel. But I wonder if we really broke down your time and your energy, your commitment, your heart, your money. What set of beatitudes really governs your life? Which means another way of asking that question is where do you really think blessing is coming from? From the promises of the west and the American dream or of actually identifying with Jesus. This is the first question before us. If you were to wrestle with that, if you were to examine how you actually invest yourself, are you really one who is called out by Jesus and following him in faithfulness, or you are one who really has much more attention focus on loving the world and you're very comfortable in the world. You don't feel the chafing because the world would be very tempted to call you one of its own. This is the place that we exist in, striving after Jesus in the midst of a world that would invite us to worship it.
This is the first issue that we need to put on the table. The second issue is the truth about what to expect and to understand that you need to look at Verse 20. "Remember the word that I said to you, a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." Why do you expect to be treated better than Jesus? I'm just going to go out on a limb and say, "I know that's your expectation." We always get frustrated when we suffer and are persecuted, and have to pay a price for our faith. That reveals to us, that frustration and disappointment reveals to us that we must have an expectation that is informed by something else, rather than the actual words of Jesus who said emphatically that you shouldn't expect anything but what I've suffered. If they persecuted me and you follow after me then they're going to persecute you. You will live in a status with the world in which the world will hate you. That is what you have been called to.
Expectations are really important. I've always been impressed with parts of Buddhism. Buddhism, I think in some ways, has a degree of important insight in that they would say to you the reason that you are so frustrated and dissatisfied is because of your expectations. You have all these expectations of what you hope will happen. Therefore, when they don't happen you're disappointed and you live in that disappointment all the time and it frustrates your life. If you give up your expectations and you simply decide to sit and receive whatever comes then you're never going to be disappointed because you don't have an expectation to disappoint. Now, I don't think that's entirely human. Expectations in hope and desire are not necessarily in and of themselves sinful, but expectations do play an enormous role in how our hearts are shaped and how we look at the world.
This is not difficult, if you are 16 years old and you're coming up on Christmas morning and your expectation is that you're getting a car and you get a computer you're disappointed. You're going to be frustrated. But if your expectation coming up to that Christmas morning is I'm not expecting anything and you get a computer, fantastic, I got a computer and I didn't have one yesterday, and you're excited. What are your expectations for following Jesus? If they follow the American dream version, and my expectation is that Jesus saves me, he protects me from any pain and suffering, he's going to ensure that my loved ones are cared for. He's going to make sure that I'm successful in some capacity, then you will always lead a life of disappointment because Jesus doesn't promise any of that. Disappointment will always alienate a relationship. When you're disappointed in something or someone you don't move toward that person, you retreat to protect yourself.
If you're disappointed with Jesus because he's not meeting your expectations you will retreat from him and it will thwart any kind of relationship that you hope to have. If your expectations are actually informed by Jesus himself say, if I follow after Jesus I'm going to have to pick up my cross daily and follow after him. My old self is going to be put to death and I'm going to be persecuted, and live in a relationship the world has characterized by hatred. That's what I'm expecting. Now that my sound awful, but in truth, what it is is the way in which you are made new. Then you enter into this road with expectations this isn't going to be easy, this isn't going to be painful, but this is the road on which freedom and joy come. This is the road on which I experience the abundant life, so you are constantly surprised by the sweetness of God's grace that makes you new rather than living in a constant state of disappointment. If expectations are not set accordingly to truth, to God's word, then you sign yourself up for a world of disappointment.
This leads us into number three which is the truth of the problem. Now in each of these we're examining the lies and the truth, the truth that scripture reveals to us. What is the truth of the problem? Well the hatred doesn't begin with us. In Verse 18 Jesus says, "The hatred actually begins with me." The world hates you because why, because it hated me first. The question becomes why does the world hate Jesus? Now we're really not talking about the world, you read the word "world" and you think globe, you think planet this isn't the world that Jesus came to. Jesus didn't show up in Rome, didn't show up in Istanbul, he came very particularly to reveal God to God's chosen people. He came to Judea. This is the world that we're talking about and this is the rejection that we're talking about. In the midst of Judea we're asking why did Israel reject Jesus as messiah. Not all Israel did, but the majority of Israel. To understand why we need only back up slightly.
If you have a Bible you can see the beginning of the Chapter 15 is about Jesus giving his famous teaching that I am the True Vine. We hear that and we think that's a quaint agricultural analogy, Jesus is a vine, but it's so much more than that. If you were Jewish and living in the first century you'd be like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, you're not the vine, we're the vine." The profits say in numerous places that Israel, is the true vine of God, the special vine that he tends and he prunes. Now when you get in the later profits that language changes and God says, "Yeah, you're the vine that was supposed to produce good fruit so I could make good wine, but you've failed to be good fruit, so now I'm going to destroy the vine in the vineyard."
Coming into these words of Jesus in John Chapter 15, when he says, "I am the True Vine," he is unequivocally saying, "I am now true Israel. Israel, you have been displaced. Sorry, but you've failed in your role, you weren't successful and now I have to take it up. You've been fired." Very strong words, so now we start to say well why do the Jews hate Jesus? Oh, well Jesus is saying you've been fired from your role as God's chosen people. I've had to take up that role for you and now God's chosen people are all those who are unified by faith to me. Jews say, "Well that isn't a story we like at all. That's not what we were really looking for and certainly not what we were hoping for in a messiah. Jesus, we're going to say 'No thank you' we're going to look for another." But Jesus puts on the field, so to speak, what is at stake in that decision.
If you look at Verses 21 through 23 Jesus says, "But all these things they will do to you on account of my name because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me, hates my father also." In other words, Jesus is saying your rejection of me as messiah is not simply a rejection of me, I am God in the flesh and your rejection of me is a rejection of the father. Your hatred of me is a hatred of the God that you've worshiped for 2,000 years. We ask the question again why do the Jews reject Jesus? The Jews reject Jesus because Jesus is the God they don't want. God shows up in the flesh to die, to be a sacrifice for sin, to be resurrected and then to depart. The Jews say, "That's not the story we want. You're not the God that we want." In that, that has to resonate with us because we struggle with that as well.
We have places in our journey in which we say maybe with some frequency, "You know what Jesus, you're really not the God that I want. I would really prefer someone who shows up with greater power, who deals away with all this pain and suffering in a much more decisive manner, who makes the journey of faith quite a bit easier and you throw a few more bunts, you show up, do some miracles, we'd love to see that sort of thing still today." When we think that, how can you not think it, frankly? When a massive cyclone hits the poorest part of the world and God approves particular suffering to those who are already suffering dramatically and we don't say at some level, "Why?" When someone suffers chronic physical affixation or a chronic situation that's just terrible, or abuse of various sorts, we don't struggle with God you're good and loving, but why do you allow this to keep going and to keep happening. Why do you call me struggle with whatever it is that you may be called to struggle with.
One thing I want to point up here is I think it's so important for you to take that pain to him. The worst thing that I thin you can do is to say, "I don't want to disrespect God, I'm not being worshipful. I'm not going to be honest with God. I'm just going to hold this in." I'll tell you exactly what will happen, you will move away from him. The same way if you had a spouse who was super frustrated with their spouse but they say, "I'm not going to voice it. I'm just going to hold it inside," what's going to happen to that relationship? They're not growing closer together, they're growing further apart. That's what's going to happen between you and God, it's what happens with Israel, so it will happen with you unless you take that pain to him.
In each of these situations we've got this profound alternative. We've got the world and following after Jesus, a world of lies and the truth which comes with Jesus. We've got this notion of expectations where we can have false expectations that Jesus will give us whatever we want or we can have true expectations that the road of faith is a difficult one, but we're called to walk it. The truth of the problem is not simply that I have some struggle with sin, but the truth of the problem is that I actually ... Jesus isn't always the God that I want and it's particularly at those times that I have to decide am I going to follow, am I going to seek in my frustration, or am I going to move away from him.
We've painted a situation that's very difficult. This is a very arduous road if you're thinking about it as all. It would be sure nice to have help on that road. You may be thinking didn't we start a sermon series on the Holy Spirit? We going to talk about the Spirit at all? Well finally now we're ready to talk about the Spirit and Jesus is ready to throw it out there, and it comes in Verses 26 and 27. But as we talk about the Spirit it's going to be a little counterintuitive, because the Spirit's role is never about the Spirit, the Spirit's role is always about Jesus, so look at Verses 26 and 27.
"But when the Helper comes who I will send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me and you also will bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning." Jesus says, "Yes." In this grand discourse he's saying I am departing from you, but as a depart the gift is that the helper will come, the ‘parakaleo’, the one who is called to come alongside you and walk with you, to run the race with you to make sure that you are successful and strong in the mindset of that race. That is the role of the Spirit. God has not left you alone to walk a journey of faith that would be totally beyond your capability, but gives you a Helper, a Spirit, one who is called to assist to walk alongside of you in the midst of that.
How does the Spirit do that? The Spirit's chief role here is what, to bear witness, not to himself, but to Jesus. The Spirit constantly tells the story of Jesus, it constantly shines a spotlight upon the person of Jesus and reminds you the truth is not simply a propositional statement, the truth is a person just – the way, the truth, and the life. If you want to be conformed to the truth you become conformed to a person, which means, just as Jesus says, that not only the Spirit bears witness, but if you are relying on the Spirit and the Spirit is baring witness to Jesus then inevitably what will happen? You will bear witness. You will tell the story of Jesus, that's what it means to be a disciple. To be relying upon the Spirit is to see the story of Jesus' life pouring out as you seek God's glory in the midst of your job or activities, as you promote forgiveness and the proclamation of the Gospel. You also shine the light on Jesus and would invite others to come. Why is this? Because Jesus is the true hero of the story and there is only one hero. Why does the world have contempt for you? Because it doesn't like your hero.
It doesn't want a hero who shows up and says, "You know what? The problem is really your heart. In order for you to be made well you have to let me make you new." Just like the Jews of Israel said no, that's not the guy that we want the world, says that's not the guy that [inaudible 00:27:36], it's not the hero that we want. We want a hero that's strong and powerful, and praises us, and gives us the hope that we want. We are quickly becoming a society that is addicted to heroes.
Disney bought FOX a week or so ago fro $71.3 billion. I don't even know really how to make sense of that except that it's a terrible amount of money. Why did Disney buy FOX? Because Disney wants to own the entire Marvel universe. FOX still owns the X-Men, but not anymore, now Disney has everything, so you better be sure that you're about to endure a whole new generation of X-Men films. But to put things in context, Disney began the Marvel franchise in 2007, just 12 years ago. From which point, they've made 21 films, 10 are in production now, and it's grossed $18.3 billion in 12 years. Imagine $18.3 billion in 12 years, that's what I did. Disney's basically minting money off the Marvel franchise and this is why they want to acquire FOX. Now, Disney could only make money off the Marvel franchise if people want to spend $18.3 billion to go see the exact same story told over and over again, because every Marvel story is the same storyline.
Why are we addicted to that storyline? Because we, just like every culture before us, are wrestling with the same question, is someone going to save us? Because deep down we know that it's impossible for us to save ourselves. You could consider any number of facts, one will do the trick. We easily produce enough food to feed the whole world, 100s of 1,000s of people die every year of starvation and malnutrition, why? Because the corruption in the world prevents the food from being distributed equitably. When are we going to save ourselves? Never.
But, that's the story that the world has drifted to. We'll overcome all our problems through science, but we may need heroes that give us hope. In this sense, boy, you think back even the Greeks are a good example. The Greeks lived always in fear of the capricious will of the Gods. Zeus may do anything he wants to do. You never know when you're going to get on Athena's bad side, so who's going to save us? We need someone who's bigger and stronger than we are, but is still on our side, we need a demigod, we need a God man. In that sense, Captain America is Achilles. The Hulk is Hercules. It's the same story being told over again, but in Western culture, in the 21st century we've moved away from God and we said either God doesn't exist or culturally we certainly say we don't need God.
At the same time, we recognize that there are problems insolvable, that we just can't seem to get on top of. As a result of that, we personify them as all kinds of aliens like Thanos, but we still wrestle with the question who's going to save us. We tell the story over and over again to the tune of $18.3 billion that we need some kind of hero who will step in and do what we can't, but it's okay that he's powerful because he's still on our side. That's just the story of Jesus being told over and over again. The one true hero, the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, who comes in and actually affects salvation and will make all things new. The Spirit is his gift, the witness to him as a person, and as the Spirit equips us it invites us to tell that same story.
As we've gone through these various facets of John's passage today, the questions are still before you in terms of practicality and application. Are you at home in the world? Do you spend most of your time thinking about how you can make yourself more comfortable in the world or are you willing to say following after Jesus involves sacrifice and walking into persecution, and that is what I want to do because I want to be made new. It's a choice between lies and truth, or expectations. I'm going to continue to expect that Jesus is going to deliver whatever I need or want and whenever I want it. Well good luck with that, or the truth that my expectations ... I don't know what my story's going to be in this life. Probably it's going to involve a lot of disappointment because if I'm being made new and my old self is being put to death, that old self has to be disappointed over, and over, and over again. I have the choice between expectations that are a lie and expectations that are truth. Or if we think about the real problem and we think my problem is just sin, but Jesus has paid for it, so I can coast until Jesus comes back or I die.
Well I think the real problems that scripture addresses is from the get go God is not the God we want. Adam and Eve preferred to be a God of their own choosing, just like we prefer to be a God of our own choosing. In that, we can believe the lie that the creation is God or we can believe the truth that the Creator is God and fall into line behind Jesus, and rely on the Spirit to speak that truth. How will you know? It's actually pretty straightforward. When people look at your life what do you bear witness to? Do I see the lies of the world and lies of expectations, and lies of sin that's conceived of in silly ways? It’s that what you bear witness to or do you bear witness in a way that I look at you and I say, "There is an echo of a way, a truth, and a life that is supernatural and far beyond me. It's that witness that compels me to learn more about whom you testify to."
Lord Jesus, we praise you this morning. What a delight to be called your people. What a delight to be chosen out of the world to receive your love and to be called to bear witness to you. Life without such a calling is essentially meaningless and purposeless compared to the calling that you have for us. Would you forgive us for the ways in which we engage lies and we sell those lies, and we persuade ourselves that they aren't even lies? Goodness, we believe lies and we don't even know they're lies. Would you help us Spirit to walk into more truth? Would you help us to see the ways and the areas in which we need to repent, and would you help us to long to bear witness, to long to hear from another's lips, my goodness when I look at your life you remind me of Jesus. May we all aspire to such that we would, with the Spirit, bring glory and honor to you and make your name known. We ask it in Christ's name, amen.