On Sunday, October 18, 2015, I had a priviledge of bringing God’s Word to God’s people at Charlotte Christian Reformed Church in Charlotte, Michigan. I preached from John 16:33. The sermon title was: “Rejoice, Christ Has Overcome the World. It can be listened to here It also happens to be my first sermon to be featured on sermon audio website. The Lord is good indeed. To Him alone be the glory!
John 16:25-33: May all God’s people pay attention to His Word:
25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
All men are like grass. The grass withers, the flowers fall but the word of our God shall stand forever. Amen.
Dear congregation, the title of our message this afternoon is: “Be of Good Cheer, Christ has Overcome the World.”
One preacher once remarked: “Everywhere you go you in this world, you will find three groups of people. Whether Christian or not, but there are always three groups of people. The first group is of people who are experiencing hardship or trials or suffering in their lives. The second group is of those who are just coming out of hardship, trials or suffering, and the third group is that of those who are just going into hardship, trials, or suffering.”
This is true, is it not? We are all familiar with suffering, hardships or trials. We all experience or have experienced or we will experience hardship in one form or the other and in our text for this afternoon which is John 16:33, Jesus is speaking to us regarding suffering in this world. However, before we look at our text in a more detailed way, I would like to provide some background or context of Jesus’ words in this text.
For us to understand the text better we need to go back chapter 13 of the gospel of John because Jesus’ words here are part of what he has begun speaking in chapter 13. In fact, chapters 13 up to 16 consist of one address or discourse that Jesus makes before he is arrested and crucified. John 16:33 are very the last words of Jesus to his disciples before he prays for them in chapter 17 and later arrested in chapter 18.
Chapter 13 begins with Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciples during the last supper. Then Jesus begins explaining to his disciples what he has to go through. As Jesus looks ahead to the cross before him, he tries to explain its meaning to his disciples but they are slow to understand. For sure, the disciples understand something about Christ’s imminent death but they still fall short of full comprehension of the cross and its meaning hence they ask questions like “Lord we know not wither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:1) or “Show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).
Jesus patiently explains the meaning of his death, resurrection and ascension and what these things will accomplish which includes the sending of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the disciples into all truth. Jesus also again and again comforts the sorrowful disciples that although time of sorrow and suffering lies ahead, their hearts should not be troubled. Two times in chapter 14, Jesus comforts his disciples and tells them that their hearts should not be troubled (14:1, 27). He goes on to encourage them to remain in Christ if there are to bear fruits (John 15:4).
Nevertheless, Jesus does not hide the fact that the disciples will face hardship in the world for the sake of his name. In John 15:20 Jesus assures them that just as those who hate the truth persecuted Jesus, the disciples too will also be persecuted. And now in John 16:33, Jesus concludes this discourse with these words which are our text this afternoon, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
As we reflect on this text, I would like us to grasp three important truths that Jesus points out:
1. Suffering is unavoidable in the world
2. Peace is available in Christ
3. Victory is inevitable in Christ
II. Suffering is Unavoidable
First, suffering is unavoidable. Look at verse 33, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Notice the certainty in the words of Jesus. He does not say that “In this world you might have tribulation” or “Perhaps you will have tribulation.” He clearly puts it that in the world, we shall have tribulation. The word translated “you shall have” here in the original language of the Old Testament literary means “you have and will have.” It is a verb which implies a completed action but with continuing results. In other words, Jesus is saying, it is sealed. In this world, suffering, hardships or trials are unavoidable. They will surely come. Primarily, Jesus is refering to persecution of believers here for their faith, but we can also apply the same truth to any suffering we experience in this world.
Dear congregation d, I will not be a faithful preacher of the gospel if I stand here and tell you that if you are in Christ or if you come to Christ everything will go well for you. I will not be a faithful preacher of our Lord Jesus Christ if I tell you that if you are in Christ you will be rich and prosper by worldly standards. This is not what our Lord is telling us and I don’t have any right to tell you a different thing rather than what our Lord says here. “In this world you shall have tribulation.”
One thing that troubles many people and even Christians sometimes is the problem of suffering. Why does God allow suffering in the world? Those who hate God even take advantage of suffering in the world and ask, “If God exists and he is good, why does he allow suffering?” Then they go on to conclude that the fact that there is suffering it means God does not exist or he is not a good God at all. Some also look at suffering in the world and ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” They look man and conclude that man is good and innocent and then wonder why bad things happen to this good man. Dr. R.C. Sproul responds well to this question and he says: “That happened only once, and he volunteered.” In other words, the only time that bad things happened to a good person was when Jesus Christ who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21) was crucified not because of his sin but because of our sin. But you might still say, “That still does not answer the question. Why is there suffering in the world or why does Jesus in our text says that suffering in unavoidable in the world?
Indeed, Jesus does tell in this text that suffering is unavoidable in this world. Of course, he does not give the reasons in this text; however, the entire Bible which is Jesus’s own word has an answer and we are going to look at three reasons why we experiencing suffering in the world. First, it is because of sin.
A. Suffering is unavoidable in the world because sin’s entry into the world
Let’s go back to Genesis where in chapter 1 and 2 we read that after creating the heavens and the earth, God saw that everything was good. However, when we come to Genesis 3, we find the entry of sin in the world when our first parents Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. With that act of disobedience, sin entered the world and with it came suffering. One of the reasons why we have suffering and hardship in this world is because of that sin. When our first parents disobeyed God, they were actually saying we don’t want to be guided and led by God anymore. We want to be independent of God. However, little did they know that divorcing God out of one’s life brings sorrow, pain, and suffering.
Friends, whenever we point our blaming figure at God for suffering in the world, the other four fingers of our hand are already pointing back at us. We need to realize that we brought pain and suffering upon ourselves when in the Garden of Eden through our representative, Adam, we said that we don’t want God to guide and lead us anymore. When we rebelled and refused to submit ourselves to the authority of God and wanted to be like God as the serpent deceived us. Oh, what pain and suffering that sin brought upon us! When God gave the judgment for that sin of rebellion, he declared suffering. To the woman he said: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). To the man he said: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” (Gen. 3:17-19).
So here my friend we see why Christ says that in this world we shall have tribulation. It is because of sin. Sin polluted the world. The world that was once declared to be very good after creation by God is now fallen and infected by sin. This is why Jesus says that in this world you shall have tribulation.
B. Suffering is unavoidable because of enmity between the seed of woman and seed of serpent
Secondly, in this world you shall have tribulation because there is warfare going on between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Genesis 3:15 shades more light on this truth. In the verse, God declares to the serpent that deceived our first parents and says: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” Here we have the first proclamation of the gospel. God puts enmity between his children and the children of the serpent. The gospel comes in a form of warfare. There shall be war between the two parties. There shall be war between the Church and the kingdom of darkness, and right away we see it happening in Genesis. The ungodly Cain against the godly Abel. The seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. Then again later we see it between Jacob and Esau. Then later on between God’s children, Israel and the ungodly children of Pharaoh in Egypt.
The warfare continues into the New Testament and reaches its climax in our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan fights hard against him from birth until on the cross where our Lord and Savior defeated and crushed the head of the serpent when on the third day, he rose again from the dead. And soon Satan will get his final judgment when he and his angels and all those that are not in Christ will be thrown into the eternal lake of fire and condemned for good. If you are not in Christ my friend, flee the coming judgment by running to the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.
So beloved in the Lord, we experience suffering because of the warfare that is going on between the seed of the woman and the serpent. This is why Apostle Paul in Ephesian 6:10-18 tells us to put on the full armor of God. He writes: “Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (11-12). My friend in Christ, you are at war! This is why Jesus says that in this world you shall have tribulation. But the good news is that Christ has already won the battle for us and that is what we shall be looking at later on in the sermon.
C. Suffering is unavoidable because God uses it to sanctify and strengthen the Christian’s faith
Thirdly, we sometimes experience hardship in this world because God uses suffering and hardships to sanctify and strengthen our faith. We see this truth in James 1:2-3 in which we read: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” One Bible commentator, Robert Johnstone commenting on this verse says:
“The heart of man, brethren, ‘is deceitful above all things,’ and even the Christian knows very little of himself. Affliction lets down a blazing torch for him into the depths of his own nature, and he sees many things which he little expected to see. He finds his faith weak where he thought it strong, his views dim where he thought them clear, his pride strong and stubborn where he thought it broken; and he cries to the his Father for a fuller sanctification. Thus afflictions of every kind are ‘trials’ testing and revealing agencies. Through them, the Master, Himself all-knowing, tries (us) as gold and silver are tried by fire.
Here in this verse we see another reason why Jesus says that in this world we shall have tribulation. God uses suffering, hardship or trials to sanctify and strengthen our faith. Friend, sometimes it takes suffering to purify our faith just as it takes fire to purify gold. Apostle Peter also writes in 1 Peter 4:12, 13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trail which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
So, Jesus assuredly tells us that in this world we shall have tribulation because of these three main reason namely sin, the warfare between the seed of the woman and the serpent and because sometimes God uses suffering to sanctify and strengthen our faith. But notice that this is not the end of the story. In the text, Jesus does not only say that suffering is unavoidable in this world but also goes on to show us that peace is available.
III. Peace is Available
Look again at John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is saying that for sure suffering is unavoidable but I am your peace. Oh, what a comfort to know that peace is available in Christ. As one hymn writer once put it:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
As Jesus Christ tells us that peace is available, I would like us to notice, first, the source of this peace.
A. The source of peace
Our text shows us that the source of this peace is Jesus himself. “In me ye might have peace.” The world today just as always desperately longs for peace. But sadly, often the world looks for peace in wrong places. Recently, I was talking to a friend in Kenya. One part of Kenya has been affected by terrorist activities from some Moslems in the neighboring, Somalia. Now, when I asked him, how things are, he responded and said, “Things are not fine here. Luck you, you are in America where there is true peace.” Then I responded and said, “Friend, true peace is not found in America. If you don’t have peace there in Africa you will not find it in America. True peace is not in America. It is not in Europe neither Asia nor Australia. True peace is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Jesus Christ speaking earlier in this same discourse in John 14:27 says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace, I give you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” True peace comes from Jesus who is our prince of peace (Is. 9:6). This is why also Apostle Paul writes and says: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1). Oh my friend do you have peace with God? Can you say that Jesus is your peace? If not, Jesus stands at the door and knock. If you open the door, he will come in and give you his peace. Please as you hear his voice today, do not harden your heart. Let him in. Let him in.
B. The nature of the peace
Secondly, notice the nature of this peace. Jesus says we will have tribulation in this world but in the midst of that tribulation, there is peace. It is a very unique peace. This peace of Jesus does not depend on the circumstances in the world. Thomas Boston preaching about this peace says, “This peace is durable. Let men rage and devils too, they may take away outward peace, but this they cannot carry away.”
I remember in high school studying Biology. My teacher taught us that animals are grouped into two: cold blooded and warm blooded. The difference between these two types of animals is that the body temperature of cold blooded animals depends on the weather around them. If they are in a cold place, their body temperature goes down and if they are in a warmer place, their body temperature goes up. However, warm blooded animals always maintain their body temperature whether they are in a cold or warmer place. Those in Christ are like warm blooded animals. Their peace does not depend on the circumstances around them because Jesus Christ who is the source of their peace is always with them even though they are passing through hardships, suffering or trials. This why the hymn writer once observed:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.
My friend, you can only say this if you know Jesus. You can say this only if you know that Jesus Christ the source of true peace is in your life. I pray that you are in Christ because without Christ, I don’t know how you will survive in this world of tribulations. Where is your hope you my friend who is not in Christ? Where do you get your peace in this world of tribulations? How do you respond to the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day Number 1: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Blessed are those who can confidently answer, “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.” It is only those who have experienced the peace and comfort of Christ that can answer in this way.
From our text, Jesus does not only tell us that suffering is unavoidable and peace is available but also that victory is inevitable.
IV. Victory is Inevitable
Look at the verse again, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus says that he has overcome the world. Notice that he does not say, “I shall overcome the world” but I have overcome the world. The word again here in the original language of the New Testament is a verb which implies a completed action with continued effects or results. Jesus does not wait to go on the cross and die and later rise from the dead in order to declare victory. He declares it right away because in him, the God-Man, victory is guaranteed. Our Lord looks back to the promise made in Eden by his Father in Genesis 3:15, “It (the seed of the woman) shall bruise your head (the head of the serpent).” Jesus then declares and says, now is the time, “I have overcome the world.”
Child of God, Jesus has overcome the world for you and if you are in him, you have also overcome the world. This is why Apostle Paul writes that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:27), and the Bible shows us three main areas in which Christ has overcome.
A. Victory over sin
First, Christ has overcome sin. The first Adam was overcome by sin but Jesus our second Adam has overcome sin. The first Adam when tempted failed miserably but the Second Adam was tempted in every way but never committed sin. When the first Adam yielded to sin, he plunged the whole human race into sin and misery, but the second Adam has overcome sin so that we should live in his righteousness and joy. Apostle Paul puts this truth in perspective when he writes in 1 Cor. 15:56, 57: “The sting of death is sin…but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ.” What a comfort to know that Jesus has overcome sin!
Therefore we can boldly rejoice with Apostle Paul and say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). My friend, be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world by overcoming sin. Through Christ, we need no longer to live in sin or according to the standards of the world because our Lord and Savior has overcome sin so that we should live in holiness and truth. Sin shall no longer rule in you my friend because Christ has overcome it.
B. Victory over Satan
Secondly, Christ has overcome Satan the greatest enemy of all God’s children. Remember the enmity that was established in Genesis 3:15? God said the seed of the woman shall crush the seed of the serpent. Indeed, this is what Christ confirms in this text, “I have overcome the world.” Jesus Christ also speaking earlier in John 12:31, 32 says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Friends, Satan is defeated, the chains of his slavery are broken and Christ calls you to freedom. Please do not let Satan hold you captive anymore through sin for Christ has overcome the world. Do not be discouraged my friend in your pursuit for holiness. Do not be discouraged in letting the light of Christ shine through you in the world that is infected with sin and evil. March on in the mighty of Christ for he has overcome the world.
But I know that some look at the world and wonder if Satan is really defeated. Sin seems to be growing and increasing. So much evil in the world. We hear of ISIS persecuting and killing Christians. In Northern Nigeria and Sudan, Christians are being killed almost every day. We hear of corruption in the world. We hear of wars and so many other evil things. “Is Satan really defeated?” They ask. Let me assure you friends that Satan is indeed defeated. Christ has overcome the world. Martin Luther commenting on our text says: “The world is a vanquished enemy; Satan is a humbled foe; and all that believers have to do is to put their trust in the Captain of their salvation, putting on the whole armor of God, assured that the victory is theirs, and that the church shall yet shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun.”
C. Victory over death
Thirdly and finally, Christ has overcome death. When the first Adam sinned, he brought death into the world but now through Christ all who are in him have life. What a precious gift Christ has brought us through his victory over the death. Apostle Paul again writes in Romans 5:17, “For by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Writing further the apostle also tells us in 1 Cor. 15:21: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Oh, my friend, have you experienced this victory of Jesus in your life. Can you say that you have life in Christ? If not, Christ is at the door of your heart knocking, please let him in. Why should you remain dead in the first Adam while there is life in the second Adam? For you my friend who is in Christ, may you be comforted with this truth that in Christ you have life. Though you face some trials, hardships or difficulties in this world, be comforted that you have King Jesus who has overcome the world for you. Jesus as your king defends and protects you from sin, Satan, and death as the Westminster Catechism Question and Answer 26 puts it: “How doth Christ execute the office of a king? Answer: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.” Blessed are those who can confidently say in their hearts that Christ has subdued them to himself and he defends and conquers all their enemies.
So dear congregation, in our text we have seen that Christ encourages us to be of good cheer because although suffering is unavoidable in this world, peace is available in Christ and victory is also inventible in Christ. Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ who has overcome the world for us. To Him alone be glory, now and forevermore. Amen!
TEXT: Luke 10:1-4
I have a friend whose emails always end with a signature: “saved to serve.” Every time I receive an email from him, I am reminded of this truth that as a Christian I am not only God’s child but also his servant. This truth applies to all believers. There are no spectator ions in the kingdom of God. There are no bench warmers in the Church but all are children as well as servants of Christ.
And in the passage we have read, we see three important things that Christ has to say to us regarding our role as servants in this world. As we go out to serve, we need to reflect and keep in mind these three truths that Jesus gives in the passage:
The first truth that Christ tells us is that the service is vast. The vastness of the service (v. 2)
Jesus says, “I am sending you out to serve but the service is vast. It is huge, therefore, pray that God should send out more servants into the field.”
Friends, the work of the Lord out there is very huge and the laborers are a few. But sometimes we don’t act like the laborers are a few, do we?
I remember meeting an old Christian friend of mine after so many years since we last saw each other. He asked me what I am doing nowadays. I told him I am in the ministry and asked him what he was doing. He told me that he is in business and he went further to say that there are a lot of people involved in ministry and thought that his services are not need.
I said, you are wrong my brother. The laborers are a few, God desires you to serve him as well. I don’t mean that you should stop being a businessman, not at all. But you can do business and still serve Christ.
I know many who think like that. Many who believe that service for God is only for pastors. But this is not right. “The laborers are a few.” For us who are already in the ministry Christ is also reminding us to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I don’t know how many of us in ministry do remember to pray earnestly that God should send out more laborers. I often fail in this area but Christ desires us to pray for more laborers to come into the field.
Another truth we can draw from Jesus’ words in the passage is that Christians ought not to spend time opposing or fight against each other instead of serving together because the laborers are already a few. For the years that I have been in ministry, I have seen that Christians can shoot at their fellow Christians for various reasons instead of forming a strong front to serve Christ.
So, Christ is reminding us that the service is so vast. Please pray earnestly for more laborers. Probably, Jesus said these words after noting that when he earlier sent out the twelve on a similar mission as we read in Luke 9, the twelve apostles met someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. And the Apostles stopped him because he was not one of them. But Jesus rebuked them and said, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.
As Christians, we are not competitors or enemies but children of one Father seeking to glorify him through the power and grace of Christ. Therefore, Jesus commands us to pray for one another.
The second truth that Christ is giving us in this passage is that as his servant I am vulnerable. The Vulnerability of the servant (v. 3)
Christ reminds his servants that they are very vulnerable when he says that I am sending you out as lambs among the wolves. Now, when you compare lambs to wolves you see a very huge difference. Lambs are weaker, wolves are stronger. Lambs are defenseless, wolves can defend themselves.
I wish Christ had said that I am sending you out as a strong lion among the weak deer or impalas. But no, he compares his servants as lambs among the deadly wolves. Why? Christ wants us to know that as we serve him, we need not to depend on ourselves but to always depend on him. We are lambs and he is our Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays his life down for his lambs. We should trust Christ to take care of us as we serve him. Don’t put your trust in your academic qualifications or your eloquence or your smartness. All these will fail. Only Christ will never fail you.
God in Proverbs 3:6 and 7 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Serving the Lord might be very challenging indeed because we are like lambs serving among the wolves. This calls us to trust Christ always. As we serve, we need to remember to trust in Christ always. He is our good shepherd and there is no way we can serve without his help and guidance. If we try to serve God without Christ, we will surely fail.
Martin Luther is one of the people that God has used greatly and graciously. However, as great as the story of Martin Luther sounds, Luther knew very well that he could do nothing on his own. Without Christ, Luther’s work was in vain. That’s why he confessed in that famous hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God:”
A mighty fortress is our God, a strong wall never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient enemy conspires to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
If we in our own strength confide, our striving will be losing;
Unless God’s Man is on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord of Hosts is His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
As we serve, we should remember that we are vulnerable and the battle is not ours. Only Christ can win this battle. We should trust him and him alone.
The third truth that Christ is giving us as his servants in the passage is that the service is urgent. The urgency of the service (v.4)
As an African when I first read this verse, you know what my reaction was? I thought to myself: “How can this be. Greet no one?” Yes, that’s what actually the verse says, “Greet no one on the road.”
Why? Because the service is urgent. The customary greeting of Jews was very similar to our customary greetings in Africa. The greetings are not short but long ones. We stop and inquire about family and other relations. We have long greetings. Similarly, the Jewish greeting was very long. And Jesus says if you greet everybody you meet then you will not have enough time to accomplish your mission; therefore, greet no one because the mission is urgent.
Friends, God has sent to us to serve him and the service is urgent. We should avoid all things that can delay and deter us in our service. It might not be a greeting as such but we should avoid all things that can distract and delay us in our service.
So many things we can think of that can distract us from serving Christ. Perhaps some elements of our culture. We might also think of the love for money. There are some people who are failing to serve Christ for the love of money. They know that they are called to serve but because they love money more they fail to go and serve their Master. This is not to say that money is bad. Money is good but the love of money is not.
God in 2 Timothy 6:10 tells us: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wondered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Friends, God is calling us to go. We should avoid any other thing that might distract us from going out to serve.
I remember reading somewhere that in some churches in China, a new believer is welcomed into the church by the pastor saying, “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, a new heart to love others with.”
As Christians we are the hands of Christ. May we be available to be used by him because as we have seen in the passage that the service is vast; the service is also urgent and the servant is vulnerable. Therefore, lets us joyfully go and serve in Christ’s might alone. Onward Christian Servants!.
Text: Ephesians 1:1-14
I remember teaching Sunday school some years ago and I asked the kids in my class what being in Christ meant to them. Some said happiness, others said joy but there was this one kid who said that being in Christ for her means blessings. She did not elaborate but just said that being in Christ means blessings.
And this is exactly what we are seeing in this passage we have read. In the passage, Apostle Paul is reminding us of the blessings we have in Christ. Of course, there are so many blessings that Apostle Paul highlights in the passage but we will dwell much on three blessings that have come to us Christians as a result of the life, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But before we can dwell on the blessings, the author of this Epistle we have read introduces himself to us and says, “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Paul was an apostle of Jesus. As an apostle of Jesus he was not there to advance his own interests or his own ideas but rather he was there to proclaim Jesus. He was made an apostle to proclaim the Cross of Jesus.
Similarly, we Christians are not on our own. We are of Jesus. We belong to Christ; therefore, our lives should proclaim Christ and glorify him because we are not of our own but of Christ by the will of God. This fact should also bring comfort to us as the Hilderberg Catechism Questions number 1 asks: “What is your comfort in life and death?” The answer in part reads: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and death to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.” Friends, we are of Jesus. We belong to Jesus.
Then Apostle Paul goes on to introduces the recipients of the Epistle and says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Every believer or Christian is a saint. I remember attending a Bible Study on this passage this other day. Then the leader of the Bible study asked “Do you think, you are a saint?” Then somebody replied and said, “No, I am not a saint.”
“Why?” The leader asked. Then came a reply: “A saint is a very holy person.I mean he is very righteous….” I cut him and said, that’s what you if you are a Christian. In Christ we are righteous not basing on our own righteousness but on the righteousness of Christ which God gives to us when we believe in him for salvation. In Christ, every Christian is holy basing on the holiness of Christ.” Friends, every one who is saved is a saint. If Paul was writing to us here today, he would have definitely wrote to the “Saints at…” (put in your place there).” Of course, I don’t mean that you should address me as St. Confex. It is not that necessary although that’s what actually we are in Christ. We are saints.
Then Apostle Paul moves on to praise God for the spiritual blessings He has given us in Jesus. In verse 3 he says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.” Paul has in mind here the risen Lord Jesus Christ. As the Scripture tells us, Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father and from there he pours out blessings upon his Church, upon believers. We need to praise God for these blessings which he gives us through Christ.
Apostle Paul then lists the blessings. First he says, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. For us to be saved. For us to be Christians today, it is not because we chose God but God chose us even before the world was created. So, you and I are Christians today not because we are smart or we are better or we made a right choice when we heard the gospel preached to us.
NO! It is God who chose us to be believers. Sometimes I know there is a temptation to think that we did something that moved God to save us. But according to this passage, God chose us even before we were born. Before God created the world, he saw us miserable in our sin. As a matter of fact, we were dead in our sin but in his grace and mercy, God chose to save us. Apostle Paul then continues to give us a reason why God chose to save us so that we should walk in a holy and blameless life. God desires his children to be holy just as he is holy. He desires us to be set apart from the world.
Then Apostle Paul mentions another blessing in verse 5 and says, God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will. Two theological words here: predestination and adoption. Predestination basically means that before creation, God already foreordained or planned what will happen in our lives. And Adoption is an act whereby God after he has saved us, he goes on to take or adopt us as his children in his family. Oh, what a blessing!
God took us we who were his enemies because of sin and turned us into his children. Oh, what an amazing grace. This is why John1:12, 13 clearly tell us: “But to all who did receive him (meaning Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of the blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Oh, what a blessing we have in Christ! I would like now to move on and concentrate much on three of many blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus as we have read in the passage.
The first one is that We have the forgiveness of sins in Christ (v. 7)
In Jesus Christ we have the forgiveness of sin and this forgiveness leads to redemption and salvation. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has forgiven and delivered us from the slavery of sin. The blood of Christ that was shed on the cross cleanses us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteouness .
And please mark the words all unrighteousness. In Jesus we do not only have partial forgiveness but full forgiveness of sins. In Christ we have forgiveness of our sins in the past, in the present and in the future. There is not limit in the forgiveness of Jesus. Christ does not tell us that I have forgiven you today but be careful because I won’t forgive you again. No, in Jesus we always have forgiveness of our sins if we approach his throne with a broken and repentant heart.
But here it is important to clarify about the consequences of sin and forgiveness of sin. If we sin we can face the consequences of sin although Christ has forgiven us. For instance, a Christian might cheat his or her partner and contract HIV/Aids Then this Christian might ask for forgiveness from Jesus after being convicted of his or her sin. Jesus will surely forgive but might not heal the disease. So, although forgiven in Christ, this Christian will still have to face the consequences or his or her sin.
Now, sometimes we are tempted to doubt if Jesus really forgave those sins we committed. Some times you can even hear the voice of the evil one whispering in your ear and say, “Do you really believe that Jesus forgave you those sins?” And you might doubt, but in the passage we have the assurance that in Christ we have forgiveness of all our sins. This is why the Word of God says in Romans 8:1 that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” because in Jesus we have full forgiveness of our sins.
Friends, I don’t know what sins you have committed but I know there are sins or evil things we have done which we, human beings, might find hard to forgive but t Christ alone forgives all sins. Therefore, let’s lift our eyes to the cross of Jesus where the forgiveness of all sin is. As we sing in that famous hymn, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Secondly, in the passage, we see that We have eternal life in Christ (v. 11)
Apostle Paul is telling us that in Christ we have obtained an inheritance. The inheritance that Paul is talking about in this verse is the gift of eternal life as well as all the benefits that belong to those who are in Christ. And note the way the Bible puts it. It says we have obtained an inheritance in Jesus. The gift of eternal life is a present reality. Every believer has eternal life right now.
It is sad that some people think that eternal life is what we will get in the future when we go to heaven. When you ask them, “Do you have eternal life?” They will reply and say, “I can’t tell. We will see when we get there in heaven.” It might sound spiritual but it is not biblical because in verse 11 Apostle Paul assures us that we have eternal life right now if we are in Christ.
It is very important for every believer to know that they have eternal life right now because this realization determines how we live our daily lives. If we do not know that we have eternal life, we are likely to live any how and like anybody without purpose. However, when we know that we have eternal life, we start looking at things differently.
When we realize that we have eternal life, we can confidently sing:
This world is not my home
I am just passing through
When we realize that we have eternal life, we also realize that we are strangers and a pilgrims in this world and our eternal home is where our Father is and that is heaven. As a stranger in the world you do not conform to the standards of the world because you know that your citizenship is not here but in heaven.
Furthermore, knowing that we have eternal life in Christ comforts us when our fellow believers depart from us and go to be with the Lord. We get comforted because although they have died physically, they still have life in Jesus Christ.
As Christians who have believed in Christ we should always know that we have eternal life right now. Apostle John writing to us in 1 John 5:13 says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” So, eternal life is a gift we receive when we believe in Christ not when we will go to heaven.
Friends, we have eternal life in Christ and this truth does not depend on how we feel or think. But if we have this risen Lord in our lives. If he is controlling our lives, then for sure we have eternal life.
Thirdly and lastly, We have a guarantee of our salvation in Christ (v. 13, 14).
Paul tells us that we when we heard the gospel and believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior, in him we received a guarantee of our salvation who is the Holy Spirit.
English is my second language. So when I saw the word guarantee I consulted my dictionary and according to Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, the word ‘guarantee’ means ‘a promise that something will definitely happen.’ It goes on to say, ‘if something is guaranteed, it means that you will definitely get it or have it.”
So when the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation, it means that no matter what, eternal life is ours in Christ Jesus. Nothing and no one can take it away from us. We cannot also lose it because it is guaranteed.
Jesus Christ in John 10:28 says, “I give (every believer) eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is the guarantee we have in Christ through his death, burial and resurrection. In Christ, we are safe and secure. There is nothing or any one who can snatch us away from the hand of Christ.
Apostle Paul also in Romans 8:37-39 assures us: “For I am sure that neither death nor things present nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Apostle Paul again writes in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In other ways, Paul here is saying: “He who saved you, will make sure that you remain saved, saved, and saved to the end.”
Now, for sure our salvation is guaranteed in Christ. But does this mean that we should deliberately sin more and more? God forbid! As the Bible says, God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation and eternal life. Now the work of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify or make us holy or make us become more and more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of our salvation convicts us of sin and helps us to live a holy life that is pleasing to God.
Furthermore, knowing what God has freely done to me in Christ can never make me sin against him deliberately. Instead, knowing all the good things that God has done in Christ for me provokes thanksgiving to God. Naturally, when somebody has done good to us, we don’t repay them back with evil. We pay back with good as well.
The fact that God loves us so much and that he allowed his son to die for our sins. The fact that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation does not mean that we should sin deliberately against him. Instead, those who have truly experienced his love and grace live a life of obedience to him out of love and appreciation for what God has done to them.
And Christ in John 14:15 says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” We show our love and appreciation for all that God has done to us in Christ by keep his commandments.” Not out of fear but out of love and appreciation for what he has done to us.
Therefore, let this assurance from God’s Word that in Christ our salvation is secure comfort us always. We do not need any other form of assurance more than this.
A story is told of an elderly man who came to a preacher by the name of H.A. Ironside. “I struggle with assurance of my salvation. How can I be sure about it?”
Ironside replied, “Suppose you had a vision of an angel who told you your sins were forgiven. Would that be enough assurance?”
“Yes, I think it would. An angel should be right.”
Ironside continued, “But suppose on your deathbed Satan came and said, ‘I was that angel, transformed to deceive you.’ What would you say?”
The man was speechless. Ironside then told him that God has given us something more dependable than the voice of an angel. He has given the Holy Spirit who is assurance of our salvation and this was made possible through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this Christ we have forgiveness of our sins; in this Christ we have eternal life and in this Christ we have a guarantee of our salvation.
TEXT: Psalm 126 and John 16:33
There is an old popular saying that goes, “When the going gets tough, it is the tough that get going.” However, according to the two passages we have read we see that, when the going gets tough, it is those who trust in the Lord that get going.
Psalm 126 which we have read is called the Song of Ascents. There are different explanations about the meaning of this but the one that most Bible Scholars agree is that all the psalms that are called song of ascents which are Psalms 120 to 134 were sung by pilgrims traveling to the mountain of God (Zion) to worship.
Psalm 126 was most likely composed for those who had returned from Babylonian captivity. It begins with rejoicing because the covenant people who were in captivity have been brought back to their covenant land by their covenant Lord. Then the restored people pray for complete restoration. Restoration from captivity meant more than a physical return to the land. God’s covenantal presence was also needed.
Then the restored people reflect on their past and say that Babylonian captivity was like sowing with tears but now they are reaping with songs of joy. The Lord has overruled evil with good.
In John 16, Jesus is speaking to his disciples. His days on the earth are almost over and he tells them that in this world they will face tribulations, but they should not worry because Jesus has overcome the world.
I would like us to reflect on this Psalm together with the words of Jesus Christ in John 16:33. Both passages talk about the suffering or difficulties that God’s children encounter and what God does in such situations.
As God’s children dearly and beloved, we experience difficulties in various ways. Sometimes we face difficult times because we have sinned against God and he is disciplining us as was the case with the covenant people of Israel. God sent them to captivity as a result of their sin. In the book of Hebrews, God tells us that as his covenant people like the Israelites, he disciplines us when we sin. God does this out of love so that we may share in his holiness as Hebrews 12:10 tells us.
Other times, we experience difficulties in form of trials. Again, God in the book of James 1: 2-4 tells us that God allows trials to come our way so that they should strengthen us in our faith.
Still other times we experience difficulties because of the warfare between the God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are at war with Satan and his fallen angels. Of course, it is not a physical war but spiritual and still its impact can sometimes be felt physically.
So, Christians will always experience suffering and difficulties in this world in one form or the other. This is why Christ says in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble…” He does not say that we might have trouble but he affirms that we will have trouble.
However, when we look at these two passages, we can sigh a sigh of relief because in these passages, God gives us three assurances when we face difficult times.
First is God’s assurance of restoration (vv.1, 2, 3)
After God disciplined his Covenant people, the Israelites, through Babylonian captivity, he restored them. God did not discipline his children forever. He restored them by bringing them back to Jerusalem. Similarly, with us, God does not discipline us forever. After disciplining us and putting us on the right track, he restores the joy of our salvation and fellowship with him.
When he allows us to pass through trials, a time comes when he restores us to a better life. Job after going through trials, God restored him and blessed him even more.
We also know that the warfare that is going on between the kingdom of light and darkness will not continue forever. One day, God will restore peace in the world. Satan together with his angels will be thrown to hell and there shall no longer be warfare between the kingdom of light and darkness.
God is speaking to us in our various situations today. Whatever the situation we are in, God will restore us. In 1 Peter 5:10, he tells us: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
For sure, in this world, we experience various challenges. However, God is assuring us that after passing through all these, he will restore us. The greatest restoration that all covenant people should look forward to is the restoration we will have when we go to our eternal home, heaven. There will be no tears, sorrow, sickness nor death. As John Newton composed in the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, “When we have been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
God’s assurance of restoration should comfort us when we face hard times in our walk with Christ. The Israelites after suffering in exile in Babylon, they were later restored and they shouted with songs of joy. God will always restore his covenant people.
From these two passages, we don’t not only have God’s assurance of restoration but also God’s assurance of joy and peace.
God’s assurance of joy and peace (vv. 2, 5, 6, 33)
When you look at Psalm 126 you find the word ‘joy’ appearing three times in verses 2, 5, and 6. In John 16:33 Christ also assures of peace. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.”
The Israelites expressed joy when God restored them. But Christians do not only experience joy when things are going well. We experience joy even when things are not going on well. We are supposed to rejoice all the time. This is why Apostle Paul could say in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say rejoice.” Joy is ever present in the life of a Christian because Christ who is the true source of joy is always with him.
Animals are grouped into two: warm blooded and cold blooded. The body temperature of cold blooded animals keeps changing according to the weather. If the weather around them is hot, their body temperature rises. If the weather around them is cold, their body temperature goes down as well.
However, warm blooded animals are different. They maintain their body temperature despite the change of the weather around them. Whether it is cold or hot, their body temperature remains the same.
Christians are like warm blooded animals. Their joy does not depend on the circumstances surrounding them. Whether they are passing through challenges or not, they always have joy because Jesus who is the source of true joy is ever-present in their lives. This is why God is assuring us of joy even in times of hardship and suffering because Christ the true source of joy is always with us.
The same applies to the peace of God. The peace from God is always available whether we are passing through hard times or not.
God assures us of his joy and peace when experiencing harsh times. When passing through challenges and we are tempted to feel sorry for ourselves and fall in the dungeon of self-pity, let’s remember the joy and peace of the Lord. As Nehemiah told the children of Israel, the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is this joy that Christ gives us that will keep us going when the going gets tough.
When I talk of a joy in times of difficulties, I am reminded of my friend and classmate in Bible college. Most of the times he had a song on his mouth. When coming from the hostels to the classes, he was sing. Even at night when we were out guarding, you could hear him singing even from a distance.
Being a friend and prayer partner we shared experiences we were passing through and sometimes he left me amazed at what the joy of the Lord can do in somebody’s life. Here was a man who was facing great challenges and very trying times, but challenges could not take away the smile and songs of joy from his mouth.
This joy of the Lord is our strength. This is why God assures us of joy and peace in our hard times. So, “Though Satan should buffet; though trials should come let this blest assurance control that Christ has regarded your helpless estate and has shed his own blood for your soul. It is well, it well with my soul” (Hymn by Horatio Spafford). So, when the going gets tough, let’s remember God’s assurance of joy and peace. This should be our strength.
And From the two passages we do not only find God’s assurance of restoration and joy and peace but also God’s assurance of victory.
God’s assurance of victory (vv. 6 and 33).
Bringing sheaves is a sign of success. It is a sign that after laboring in the field, they are now enjoying a great harvest. In verse 33 of John 16, Christ assures us that he has overcome the world.
Though we will experience trouble, we should take heart for Jesus has overcome the world. No matter how the Evil one seems to prevail, Christ has overcome him. Many discouraging and heart-breaking events are taking place in our world and sometimes we find ourselves asking, what is happening? The Devil seems to be winning. However, in these two passages, God is assuring us of victory. Christ is the victor not the victim.
When we are passing through hard times and the devil seems to be winning we should remember that it is like we are watching replay of a game which we already know how it ended. If you know that your team won the game, even though the other team seems to be winning, you don’t panic because you know that eventually it is your team that will carry the day.
We are in the winning team of Jesus, so don’t be discouraged saints. Please march on in the confidence of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom we are more than conquerors. As a matter of fact, Jesus is our conqueror.
When the going gets tough and you feel like quitting, remember the assurance of victory. Remember that the one who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
The Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic Christian Novel. In the book, John Bunyan tells a story of a man named Christians who sets on a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. As he is traveling, Christian meets another man named Hopeful who is also going to the Celestial City.
As the two travel together, they take a wrong path that leads them to a place of a cruel and merciless man called Giant Despair. Upon meeting them, Giant Despair takes the two as prisoners and put them in a very dark and stinking dungeon. Giant Despair keeps them without food for four days.
After the four days, Giant Despair picks up a crab and mercilessly beats Christian and Hopeful. He leaves them almost dead. The two are so helpless that they cannot do anything but just weep and weep.
The following morning, Giant Despair goes to the dungeon again and he is surprised to find the two alive. He mocks them and says: “You will not come out of this dungeon. You will just keep on suffering. Why don’t you just kill yourself with a knife or poison because there is no any hope for you. “
But Christian and Hopeful refuse to take Giant Despair’s ill advice. They encourage each other that this is not the end of every thing. If God wills, he can save them.
Their refusal angers Giant Despair very much and he tells them that they will regret their action because he is going to do something they have never seen or heard in their life. These words scare Christian and Hopeful so much that Christian faints with fear.
But later in evening, Christian comes to himself. Together with his friend, Hopeful they spend the whole night praying for God’s help. Upon the break of the day Christian remembers something. He joyfully shouts to his friend, Hopeful and say:
“What a fool I am! I have spent so many days in this stinking dungeon yet I have a key in my bosom called Promise which I believe can open the doors of this prison. How could I forget that?
Hopeful is very excited and encourages his friend: “That’s good news, take it out and try.”
Christians takes the key out of his bosom, tries it on the door of their prison, and click, the door opens to their excitement and joy. In no time, the two are on their way to freedom.
When hard and trying times come our way, let’s remember that God has given us the key of promise in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ God has promised to restore and to give us joy, peace and victory.