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Census results

I usually start a sermon with a illustration that grabs the attention or a story. They say it helps keep people awake for the first 7 minutes, at least.
So it is with some fear I begin today by mentioning the latest census, which in someways was an annoying joke anyway.
Some boycotted the thing because of privacy concerns.
Know I know what some of you are thinking?
Some boycotted the thing because of privacy concerns.
After the roll out was botched where some people did it one day and others did it another, some people lost interest in it.
If Chris’ wants to grab my attention with the word ‘census’, he is sorely mistaken. But please stay with me.
When threats of penalties were issued and subsequently ignored by a lot of people, some more lost interest in it.
And when claims of hacking were made - well, it was a census that seemed doomed to be invalidated.
And then, well - the website they were using crashed. So our confidence in this census is at an all time low.
And yet - it isn’t. The census is still a big deal. The conversation over the results is certainly on. And a big part of that reason is - religion.
Before the census kicked off a big topic was the phrasing of the ‘same sex marriage question’ and the irrelevance of the Christian view of marriage.
And there was even a big push from some parties to tick the ‘non religion box’ which appears to have succeeded as the numbers for ‘non religion has jumped almost 8% from 2011-2016 which is about 1.8 million people in Australia.
With increasing levels of intolerance and somehow at the same time the need to accept and validate everyone else’s truth or religion, Christians are under pressure. We might be troubled in this age because we confess to knowing the one true God who has been revealed perfectly in his son Jesus Christ. To do so requires us to say that all the other gods are false. And with more and more people in Australia even arguing that there is no God at all, Christians might feel under the pump.
This morning God has a very clear message that speaks to the heart of this matter. It is found in , so please keep your Bibles open there because we are about to see how that there is only one true God, and He is found through His son Jesus Christ and this is a message that calms troubled hearts.

Context: Where are we in John?

Where are we in John? Well, Jesus has just performed one of his last great miracles in John with raising Lazarus from the grave which clicks into gear the countdown to his execution (). From here, Jesus enters Jerusalem and at what is famously referred to as the last supper, on the night before Jesus is to be killed, He tells his closest followers that he is to be betrayed, and lifted up on a cross to fulfil the OT prophecies that a servant would come to save God’s people. And this troubles them greatly. By this stage, Judas takes his leave to betray Jesus.
John 11:53 NIV
So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
So we come to this week where we consider what it is to be religious as Christians. What does that even mean? In this modern age it seems ridiculous that there could only be one true religion. You probably would of heard people say that there are many ways up the mountain. There are many different flavours of religion to pick from and so as long as you are generally a good person you will one day meet God in heaven. Right? Wrong. We as Christians argue from the Bible that there is only one way to be religious - there is only one way to get into heaven - and that is to follow Jesus.
So we find ourselves in the send half of John’s gospel as we get his account of Jesus’s death and resurrection and how this is meant to shape the community here. And before we get to chapter 14, we have to come to grips with how exciting and tense things are. By the time we get to chapter 14 the 12 disciples have already been reduced to 11. The last supper has been served and Judas has run off into the night to betray Jesus and round up the mob to arrest and eventually kill Jesus. In chapter 13 Jesus also reminds of the message we heard last week, that we are to love one another. It’s amazing in the lead up to being betrayed and beaten and killed, all of which should invoke some sort of anger and resentment in Jesus’ followers, Jesus reminds his followers to love one another and by this love people will know that you follow Jesus ().
John 13:35 NIV
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So we come to this week where we consider what it is to be religious as Christians. What does that even mean? In this modern age it seems ridiculous that there could only be one true religion. You probably would of heard people say that there are many ways up the mountain. There are many different flavours of religion to pick from and so as long as you are generally a good person you will one day meet God in heaven. Right? Wrong. We as Christians argue from the Bible that there is only one way to be religious - there is only one way to get into heaven - and that is to follow Jesus.

What Comforts Troubled Hearts

Where chapter 13 leaves us is with fear. The disciples have been reminded by Jesus that this Passover celebration, where the whole family gets together and remembers the great passover of , will be different. This time the lamb of God, Jesus is the one who will need to be killed and lifted up for the sins of the world. Peter, one of the closest disciples to Jesus has just been told that he will break under pressure. How could this all go so wrong? The disciples are fearful that Jesus, their king and leader is going away.
So he tells them in
John 14:1 NIV
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
He reminds them that He and the Father are one. We worship God the Father, the Son and the Spirit. One God, three persons. We don’t get to the work of the spirit today, but it’s there in the second half of this chapter.
But here Jesus begins by telling them not to be troubled on the basis of his relationship with God. But why should Jesus’ words calm troubled hearts?
John 14:2–3 NIV
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Jesus says: “You don’t know where my Father’s house is, otherwise known as heaven, but I’m going there and I’m going there to prepare a place for you so I can come back and bring you into heaven with me.” That is essentially what it says in verse 2.
But is it odd that he is going to ‘prepare a place for us’?
Is this like me rushing home to make the beds and cook dinner while Laura is out - I’ve got to prepare the place, the rooms for them to come home to? No - there is ample room in heaven for all of God’s people. So how is it that Jesus is meant to go and prepare a place for those who trust him?
It is Jesus’ going there that prepares the rooms for us. And the only way for Jesus to go from where he was with the disciples and to heaven was through a death on the cross and his resurrection. The one coming event that was troubling the disciples so much is the same event that was to bring them comfort.
So when Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for us the emphasis in this whole segment is on the ‘going’ not the ‘preparing’. A place was indeed prepared for us, but the only way for a place for us to be available in heaven is if we are somehow made suitable for heaven. And how are we made suitable? How is it that our sinful hearts are able to enter heaven?
It’s because our sinful hearts are washed clean by the death of Christ. We are made suitable to be with God when we accept the gift of Jesus. Put aside the pressure of society for a second and realise our true concern should be how we are going to pay for our rejection of God.
Brothers and sisters, the result of believing in God - the result of verse one’s ‘believe in me’ cry - is that we will be with Jesus in heaven when he calls us home on the last day. That’s the assurance of verse 3 - I will come back, says Jesus, and take you with me ‘so that’ where I am you will also be.
This should calm troubled hearts, but how? The disciples, and us have more questions.

The Way to the Father

Now the one disciple who often asks the question that we really want to ask is Thomas.
John 14:5 NIV
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Thomas says ‘Hold the phone Jesus, i’m not following. We don’t know where it is you are going - could you be clearer?’ This is after Jesus has told them that the place is the Father’s house and that they actually do know the way in verses 2-4. They haven’t grasped exactly what Jesus is saying here. Thomas’s main question is simply how do we get to this place. Show us the way.
And then, we get one of the most famous verses in the whole Bible.
John 14:6 NIV
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
How is it that we are to know the way to get to the Father’s house? How is it that we know how to get to heaven. It’s through Jesus. Jesus says that you can be certain of your relationship with God because I am He. The glory of God himself came and dwelt with humanity (). That glory is Jesus Christ.
He doesn’t blaze the trail or the way for us to follow. Jesus is in himself the way to God. God has revealed himself to us perfectly in Jesus (). The reason why Jesus is the only way to the Father is because he is the ultimate, the most perfect manifestation of God’s self expression on earth because He is himself fully God.
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Our troubled hearts have heard that we have this promise of life in the father’s house, in heaven, open for us and now we hear that the only way to this place is through the Son, who can speak with full authority from the Father because he shares the same fully divine nature.
The promise of heaven now has flesh and bones. But the minds of the disciples are inwardly combusting by this stage and they keep asking questions. And perhaps they are the same questions we are asking.
“Ok Jesus, we get that you can be with you in heaven and Jesus has a lot to do with that - but can you just show us the way?”
Picture the scene, Phillip and Thomas and the others are standing there with Jesus, face to face and they are hearing these things and they are scratching their heads.
“Jesus I know you told us not to be troubled, but I’m still not getting it. Show us the way! How do we get to be with the Father?”
Jesus says “I am the way the truth and the life.”
Disciples: Yep - but can you show us. Like on a map.
Jesus: It’s me. You’re looking at it.
Disciples: What?
The disciples have eyes just like our but they don’t seem to be seeing. They have brains, but they don’t seem to be functioning. So if the eyes are not working and the brain is imploding, what needs to kick in here.
It’s the heart. The clue for the passage is found right there in verse one.
Believe in me. Trust in me.
You trust in Jesus and you see with eyes of faith and you know with variety that Jesus is God himself. You know for certain that Jesus isn’t talking about blazing a trail or dropping breadcrumbs to heaven. He is the way itself.
He is the way because the only way we can get to the Father is if our sinful stained souls are washed by the blood of Jesus.
He is the truth as he is the actual manifestation of God himself. The glory of God shines perfectly through his son. All of his love, all of his knowledge, all of his power is found in Jesus. That is why he says if you have seen me you have seen the Father. He is the only one to speak with authority on how to get to the place in which God dwells because Jesus shares the same divine nature. He is fully God. If you know Jesus, you know the Father.
And He is the Life. For believing in him frees you from a life of worrying about how and where you will spend the afterlife and unties you with Jesus, so as Paul writes, we are untied not just in his death but also in his resurrection. You can know with certainty that you will have life eternal if you trust in Jesus because he has did not stay dead. Look at his works, Jesus tells us. And we look at his works and we see that his story doesn’t end in death, but he is risen.
How do we know the way to the Father? Because the way has a name - Jesus. He lived and breathed and died and rose again so we might not live in darkness but we might live in the light. The pressure, not of society, but of sin that hangs over our heads has been lifted off of us and placed on the cross. Trust in Jesus and your identity is in Him.
We have seen the glory of God because he came and dwelt with us in the flesh. So when the debate over religion reigns we know with certainty two things. We know where we are going and we know how to get there. And the reason why we know is because God himself came down to earth and showed us the way in Jesus Christ. Thomas and Phillip were starring Jesus in the eyes - actually seeing Jesus. And yet Jesus needs to respond to continual questions of confusion. Jesus says that anyone who has seen Jesus has also seen the Father so our question
We are not making this up, we point to the man Jesus, who lived and breathed on this earth as the most perfect form of God we have ever seen. And if you believe in him you have seen him too.
John’s gospel begins like this .
John 1:1 NIV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And then in verse 14 of that chapter it elaborates on what this Word is
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The true Word of God is one way John talks about Jesus. We refer to the Bible as the word of God to, but in a slightly different but similar way. God’s word is one way of saying it is the manner in which God reveals himself to us. Our God is a God who speaks. He spoke the world into existence and then continued to speak to his creation in a variety of ways over a period of time. He is a God who reveals himself to us and wants a relationship with us. So here it points to God’s revealing of himself to us, the ultimate form of his self-expression to us, is found in Jesus. We are about to kick of a series in the book of Hebrews in a fortnight time here at church and says this:
Hebrews 1:1–2 NIV
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
The reason why Jesus is the only way to the Father is because he is the ultimate, the most perfect manifestation of God’s self expression on earth because He is himself fully God.
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We have seen the glory of God because he came and dwelt with us in the flesh. And now, in chapter 14, God in the flesh, Jesus reminds us that because he is the pure Word of God, the pure expression of who God is, that if you know Jesus you know God himself, that he is the only way to heaven.
You need not look any where else. you don’t need to look at any other religion for your answers. For guidance. You don’t need Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Karl, Dr. Oz, you don’t need Mohammad, you don’t need to God to temple, you don’t need tarot cards, you don’t need wikipedia, you don’t need me - you need Jesus! He is the way and the truth.
And how do we know all this is true? How do we know that Jesus is the way? That our place is heaven is ready for us? That we are ready for heaven?
Our dwelling place in heaven is made ready by the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we know that in Jesus, there is not just real religion, there is real life. Jesus did not stay dead but as as the light of mankind, on the dawn of the third day rose from the grave. He is the resurrection and the life (). And he promises that those who trust in him will have the same fate. Even though our bodies may perish and we may die, our place in heaven is secure because we trust in Jesus and in Jesus is life.
And in Jesus is life. He is the light of mankind and in him is life. Jesus even responds to a woman in describing himself as the resurrection and the life. He is the one who although his did die, did not stay dead. He is actually recorded here in chapter 14 as saying these things on the day prior to his dead. Isn’t that both shocking and bold? A day prior to knowing he would die he claims that he is life itself. A day prior to life being drained from his body, he claims to have eternal life. How is such a claim validated apart from rising from the dead? He did indeed rise from the grave after three days. And he promises that those who trust in him will have the same fate. Even though our bodies may perish and we may die, our place in heaven is secure because we trust in Jesus and in Jesus is life.

Our Defence in Trouble

Jesus insists this is true in verse 7. He even seems a little sad that they, and perhaps we, are not getting the point. Phillip has seen Jesus. Why hasn’t he got it? Why can he not see that Jesus and the Father are one?
How could Jesus claim this verse?
Verse 11, I am in the Father and the Father is in me
Verse 12, look at my works
@ Home I tend to look at Laura and sway ‘trust me - it’ll be fine.’ Sometimes it isn’t. Painting the back play area. Look. Trust me.
Trust here is easy because the risk/ reward is easy. Messy kids and painted play area.
Trust in Jesus is_____ because the risk/ reward is eternal death and eternal life
So in this time of trial - with religion on the apparent decline, what is our response? Where do we go? What is our defence in this time of trouble.
Jesus ends this section by saying something peculiar in verse 12.
He promises that those who trust in Him will do even greater works than what he had been doing.
This is not just more works, as if the 2000 odd years after Jesus is counted as greater works of Jesus’s 33 odd years of life. Nor can it mean we will do more wondrous or spectacular works than Jesus - we cannot turn water into wine or raise the dead. The clue to figuring what these greater works are is found in the second half of verse 12. Look at again.
John 14:12 NIV
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
These things are true - ‘because Jesus is going to the Father’. What Jesus is indicating here is that at this point in the story, the works of turning water into wine and healing leapers and things like that are amazing, but an age is coming where there are greater things to come. They will be greater because to get to the Father, Jesus must go through the cross and resurrection. At this point of the narrative there was still something important to come.

The inadequacy of the religious festival is apparent in the necessity for Jesus to lay his life down.
It is the new life of the resurrection that brings forth a new age in history where death has been defeated by Jesus and the resurrection promise is made concrete. Before Jesus went to the cross, all we had were works and miracles that gave us glimpses into heaven. It gave us a passing view of the new creation found in Jesus.
As the world around him would celebrate an outdated festival that achieved little, those in charge betrayed the one who would secure salvation forever.
They didn’t realise what true religion was.
Are you wasting your time and your energy on an outdated religion.
Hebrews 10
Hebrews 10 NIV
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’ ” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
But now there is a greater clarity in knowing the way. There is a greater clarity in knowing the truth. There is a greater clarity in knowing life. All because everything Jesus said came true. He promised and told us that he had to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world and he did it. He told everyone that he was to rise to life again and he did it. And he told everyone that he needed to go to the Father, and he did it. He has done it.
We now live in an age where all the signs and wonders that Jesus performed now make sense. We see them for what they are. As sign posts pointing us to who Jesus really is. So what are these greater works we are to do? Point people to the clarity and reality of who Jesus is - the way, the truth and the life. Jesus has gone to be with the Father and has promised to return. The greater works for us to do is our defence and comfort in this time of trouble: we need to remind ourselves of the deep abiding comfort that is our place in heaven has been prepared by Jesus. So friends believe in Jesus and you have seen the Father.
And as others look, and they will look on, at our relationship with God, let us not clutter their view of Jesus with needless religiosity. Let’s get out of the way by sitting down with others who don’t know Jesus, let’s open the Bible and show them the God who is there. Ask your Bible study leader, a student minister, Tim or myself, for help and we can walk you through some helpful things to build your confidence in reading the Bible with your friends. The way to the Father is through the Son and the greater works he have us do is to point people towards Him.
Let’s pray.
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