2008-08-10 (pm) John 14:15-30 Where’s Jesus?
You’ve heard it said, “Seeing is believing.”
Indeed, many people reject Christianity because they can’t see God.
They want proof, they want empirical evidence. They want something they can view with their eyes, touch with their hands.
Recently, Steven Curtis Chapman and his family were on Larry King Live. During the interview, Larry expressed his amazement at the Chapman family’s faith. “But,” he said, “I could never take that blind leap of faith.”
Is it such a blind leap? Didn’t he just hear the Chapman’s giving testimony concerning their faith? Didn’t he see Jesus in their lives, in the very fabric of who they are?
And yet, he confesses, that he still cannot believe. He cannot see Jesus.
Now, we know that because of Christ’s ascension, he has physically gone up to heaven. No one will see him with their physical eyes unless Christ returns in their lifetime.
But does that mean we cannot see Jesus?
What can we tell people who ask, “Where’s Jesus?”
Well, the first thing we can tell them is that Jesus is in heaven. He really, truly rose from the dead, in his resurrected body, and appeared physically to more than 500 people. His disciples watched this resurrected Jesus, body and all, ascend into heaven.
Then they told others all about Him. They were eyewitnesses to the life and ministry, the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And people believed them on account of their testimony.
This morning, I mentioned the crows in my yard. Do you believe me? Did you see the same crows I saw? Did you see the worms? You didn’t see them, and yet you believe my testimony concerning them.
Is it much more of a stretch to believe the testimony of the Bible? Not really. But people make it much more of a big deal than it really is. Larry King is like many others. Christ appears before them in the lives of Christians everywhere, but they are blind to seeing him.
There’s a very good reason why.
They reject the Spirit.
Let me back up just a bit.
Jesus ascended to heaven in order to return to his Father. I’m sure that he loved his disciples very, very much, and I’m sure he would have loved to stay and linger with them. But Jesus obeyed his Father and went home.
But there was more to it than simple obedience. Jesus also knew that by returning, all power and authority would be given to him. Therefore, he had to return to the Father. If he’d remained behind, he would have been able to accomplish much less, than he did by returning.
Jesus also knew that by returning to the Father, he and the Father would send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in people’s hearts, convicts them of sin, shows them salvation through Jesus Christ, and convinces them that faith in Jesus is reasonable, and true.
The simple reality of the situation is that not everyone receives the Holy Spirit, not everyone sees Jesus.
Have you ever gone on a hike and seen something incredibly cool, pointed it out to the person next to you only to have them completely unable to see what you’ve seen? Perhaps you’ve been that unseeing person. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
But that’s how it is with faith. People want to see Jesus with their eyes, and so they miss seeing him with their heart.
Here’s another analogy. Did you know that when you look at the stars, you ‘d see them most clearly if you don’t look at them directly. You’ll see more stars if you look with your peripheral vision. The reason for this is, your retina, the back of the eyeball that the lens focuses on, the retina is made up of rods and cones. There are about 120 million rods in your retina. There are about 6 million cones. The rods work well in dark situations, they do not transmit information about colour, only the cones do. Most of your daytime vision is done by your cones. But at night, your rods start taking over. Now, the receptors that are used most often in conditions of good light, the cones, are located in the centre of the retina. But the rods are located more to the outside of the retina. So, your peripheral vision is made up of rods, which are best at low light applications, hence when stargazing, you’ll want to use your peripheral vision.
Now, spiritually speaking, those who want to see Jesus but can’t are like people who are looking at a dim star with their cones and not their rods. They’re trying to look directly at Jesus, but can’t see him. They need to look beside Jesus in order to see him more clearly.
Now, of course there will be problems with this analogy, but you get the drift. The world does not accept the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, because the world does not see him.
This is so true.
I’ve mentioned before that on certain news websites, I’m rather partial to the National Post website, people can leave comments. I love reading the comments on the religious articles.
It is amazing how blind people really are. And they will take every opportunity to prove how good their sight is, and how blind and delusional Christians are. They claim that they can see reality, but they are totally blind to it.
But we are not blind. The fact that we’re here this evening shows that we’ve seen the Spirit of Truth. The spirit lives in us and is in us.
Let us not kid ourselves. We’re not here because we’re more pious or perfect or loyal than those who are not here. We happen to have listened to the Holy Spirit’s call and have obeyed the Holy Spirit’s prompting to get us here. There’s nothing special about us. It is the Spirit who is at work.
That is not to say that those who are not here are purposely denying the Spirit, that they’re blind, that they’re unspiritual. It is remotely possible that the Spirit is leading them to not be here. We cannot judge other people’s motivations. But we can call them on their attendance. For it does make sense that the Spirit would lead people to be where God’s people are at, for a time of corporate worship, and to hear God’s word preached.
But we’re hesitant to call people on this.
We’re hesitant to call people on sin.
We’re hesitant to call people to a high standard. We’re worried we’ll push them away.
But Jesus is in heaven. He has all the power and authority. He has it all! He together with the Father sends the Holy Spirit, to bring people to faith!
If that is the case, then why don’t we tell people the truth? Why don’t we work in tandem with the Holy Spirit? Why do we lack the courage to tell things the way they are?
There are some reasons. Fear is a big one. We’re afraid of what people will think. We’re worried that what we say will drive people away. We do need to be aware of how we say things and what we say, to avoid being rude and offensive. But Jesus calls us to speak the truth in love. So somehow, we have to get over our fears, over ourselves and tell people to obey Jesus’ commandments.
The truth is clear, you cannot claim to love God and simultaneously ignore Christ’s commandments.
We all struggle with sin, and therefore, we all need a lot of encouragement. But encouragement also comes in the calls to obedient living. We do have to watch how we live. We have to be obedient to the commands of Christ.
Nor should we be surprised by the sinlessness of our society. While it does seem shocking that so many people are becoming more and more depraved in their actions all it really indicates is that the general society has formally rejected the morals that were once common.
It is not as though all those who once acted morally true were truly Christian, it is just simply that the society adhered to a morality that was generally in keeping with the Christian faith.
And society has rejected that form of morality in favour of a different, or if you will, a completely frameless sense of morality.
And we have to be cognisant of that in the church. We can justify all kinds of things and even claim that they are from the Spirit, but if they contradict God’s word, then they are not of the Spirit. We’re commanded to test the spirits. If it is of God, then it will confess Jesus as Christ in the flesh.
Do we do that? Is that the criteria we use? Don’t we instead look at results? Don’t we base blessings on quantifiable facts? They’re blessed by God because they are growing! What if they’re going away from God’s truth and they happen to be attracting others who are also drifting away from God’s truth? Therefore, we can’t simply say that growth is necessarily an indication that God is blessing a particular worship service. Nor can we say that because we’re not growing that God must be blessing us!
No, we have to test the spirits. Do they harmonise with the Gospel that Jesus Christ came in the flesh? Some of the fastest growing churches do not preach that plain and simple truth. And therefore, by definition they are not really churches.
I must confess that I had high hopes for this service. I really hoped more and more people would start attending. Maybe it will happen yet. But maybe I am judging my effectiveness based on attendance. It’s a pride issue for me.
But what is most important is growth, not numerical, but spiritual growth. God is faithful. He will grow us spiritually, through these evening services! We will keep having them. We ought to encourage more people to attend. That means I need to encourage people to come when I visit with them. You need to encourage others when you visit them, even your family members.
This is worthwhile, isn’t it? We are doing more than just singing, praying and listening to me. We’re worshipping God, we’re spending time with God, we’re being God’s church, Christ’s body. We’re faithfully following the Holy Spirit. We’re being caught up, as it were, into heaven, into the presence of Christ. And we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.
Yes, those things sometimes happen outside the church, but they always happen here. For finally, isn’t the answer to the question, “Where’s Jesus?” also right here? We’re the body of Christ not when we’re apart, doing our own things for the Lord, we’re the body of Christ when we’re together, doing things together.
So come on, let’s encourage Christ’s body to get ourselves together! Amen.