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Promises


May 7, 2023 |Promises|John 14:1-14

JD Cutler



Jesus makes a simple yet profound statement on one occasion to his disciples that we need to hear often in our lives.


"Let not your hearts be troubled"


Notice he does not say, ‘trouble not your hearts’, as though we ever choose to trouble our hearts, but ‘let not your hearts be troubled.’ We will inevitably face difficulties, scary situations, uncertain events, all possessing the potential to trouble our hearts, Jesus encourages us to not let these things trouble us.


Troubled- literally to agitate something like water (think your washing machine)

Hearts- the center and seat of spiritual life, the central or innermost part of something,

of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions


These words from Jesus to his disciples are recorded for us in John 14.

John 14:1-6 (ESV) 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.


What prompted this statement, what had the disciples allowed to throw their hearts into turmoil?


They are in the upper room with Jesus, in this intense moment of intimacy and instruction and Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him, one of his closest disciples, who had traveled with him for at least over a year, if not closer to three, one of them whose feet he had just washed, one of them who had been welcomed to the table of the Lord, would betray him. Then, even more painfully, he says, that very soon there is a time coming that the disciples will not be able to follow him, for where he is going, they cannot come. Then after they all pledge their undying loyalty, he tells them that Peter, their spokesman, and one of those closest to Jesus, will deny him, or literally, reject him, three times before the rooster crows that very next morning. He says that they would all fall away.


Suddenly their hearts are in turmoil.

One of them will betray Jesus, he is leaving them, and they will all fall away.


Maybe you can relate? You are going along in life and then all of a sudden everything you thought you knew is turned upside down.

A medical diagnosis, a tragedy, abandonment by a loved one, a death, and your world seems to be spinning out of control, at the very center of who you are there is no stillness, no peace, just unbridled turmoil.


What is Jesus' remedy for his disciples in this moment?


Belief.

This is not a wishful belief that everything is going to be fine, or a willing blindness to the troubles of life, or a stoic acceptance of whatever comes because there is no meaning to life, these are worldly mechanisms for dealing with turmoil, no, Jesus commands not just any belief, but belief in God.

Believe in God; believe also in me.

Jesus reminds them that there is someone above all turmoil, all confusion, all seeming hopelessness.


(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) A. W. Pink elaborates that God “is possessed of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. He knows what is best for [you], and He makes all things work together for [your] good. He is on the Throne, ruling amid the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand.”


Jesus seemingly says, you believe in God, believe in me also.

You do not have to be troubled, you can believe in me as you believe in God.


Why is this important?

Because Jesus is about to make some big promises to encourage their hearts and they need to know that they can trust the one who is promising. I mean, a promise is only as strong as the promiser, right?


So after Jesus tells them they can believe in him, he shares three promises to encourage his troubled disciples, three promises that can still encourage his followers today when our hearts are troubled.


This morning I want to share three promises that encourage a follower of Christ in difficult times that we find in John 14 made by Jesus. In addition we will see that each promise has a premise attached to it. A basis for the promise.


this is important if we are going to understand the promises in scripture that apply to us. a promise to the nation of Israel, a promise to a specific prophet, or king, or individual- a promise does not apply to us if the premise is not fulfilled


Three promises, three premises, the first is…


PROMISE #1- YOU HAVE A FUTURE HOPE.

PROMISE- I WILL COME AGAIN TO TAKE YOU TO MYSELF

PREMISE- YOU KNOW ME


Let’s pick up in verse 2 of John 14.

2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”


Jesus reminds them that he is going to prepare a place for them, and if he is going to prepare it for them, they can count that he will come again to get them so they can be with him again.

We know with the benefit of the full revelation of God in scriptures that he is talking about heaven.


Here he describes it as his Father’s house with many rooms. The picture is of a middle eastern lodging where as the family grew rooms would be built onto it to accommodate the expanding family. Jesus says I am going to my Father to prepare a place for you. The immediate reference seems to be in the way of the Jewish custom, where an engaged man, during the year of betrothment, would go to his Father’s house and build a place for him and his bride to reside, so that when the time of marriage came, he would come get her and take her to the place that had been prepared for her specifically.

In the same way, Jesus says he is going away to prepare a place and he will return to gather his bride to himself so that she may be with him forever. And they need not worry, because there will be room for everyone who is coming. There are many rooms in my Father’s house.


Elsewhere heaven is described differently- Just a brief walk through the references to heaven in scripture we find it described…

as the barnhouse of God where God’s people will be gathered to himself when men are separated, like wheat is gathered into barns

as the kingdom of Christ and God, unshakeable,

as a heavenly city within a heavenly country that has been prepared for God’s people.

as the final and full sabbath rest for God’s people.

as paradise where the tree of life is

As reclining at a table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As eternal life.

As the place where we are clothed in our heavenly bodies.

As the place where we will be with Christ forever

As the new heaven and the new earth.

As being the throne room of God

As the gathering place of an uncountable multitude made from every nation, all tribes and peoples, and languages

As the location of the new jerusalem where there is not temple because the temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb

As a city that needs no sun or moon because it is lit by the glory of God and the Lamb

As the place that the river of life runs from the throne of God and the Lamb through the city bringing life and healing

As the place where every tear will be wiped away, a place untouched by death, mourning, crying, or pain


All of them individually and taken corporately serve as a promise to God’s people that there is a future hope. Amen?


Here is no real rest, but there will be full and final rest there.

Here is no real stability here, but there it will be unshakeable.

Here is no relief here from death, there it will be conquered.

Here our bodies break down and fail, there we will be robed with perfect and eternal bodies.

Here we only see in part, there we will behold the glory of God and Christ.

Here we are divided by race, nationality, language, there we will be united in our worship of the Lamb.


In a very real way, heaven is THE answer to every difficulty that troubles our hearts on Earth.

In a very real way, heaven is THE answer to every difficulty that troubles our hearts on Earth.

Let’s return back to our promise at hand. The disciples are distressed that Christ is leaving them and they cannot follow him, the promise of heaven is the promise that they will be with him there permanently. They have a future hope and so can you.

Jesus says that they know the way, to which Thomas responds.


5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”


Even with everything scripture says about heaven, we have more questions than answers, don’t we? Like Thomas, we can rightly say, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Let’s look at Jesus’ response.


6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.


Here is the premise that goes with the promise of a future hope.


They know the way because they know Jesus. He is the way.

Do you see how this works? There is no future hope apart from knowing Christ. If you know him, then you have a future hope, if you do not, you do not possess this future hope.


There is only one way and it is knowing Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.

And that one promise is enough, isn’t it?

It is enough to face difficulties, it is enough to face trials, it is enough to quiet even the most turbulent heart, but Jesus doesn’t stop there.


For the one who believes, the one who possesses a future hope, the question is what do we do until then? Right? What should the disciples do until he returns? This question is answered in Jesus’ next promise.


PROMISE #2- YOU HAVE A CURRENT MISSION

PROMISE- HE WILL DO GREATER WORKS THAN THESE

PREMISE- I AM GOING TO THE FATHER


Let’s pick up in John 14:12.

John 14:12 (ESV) 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.


This promise is both pretty straightforward and mind-blowing at the same time.

Whoever believes in me will do greater works than the ones that I do!


This seems incredulous, and taken at face value, unless Jesus was the one saying it, we could be forgiven for easily thinking it was merely hyperbole. I mean Jesus fed five thousand people, healed the blind and lame, and brought people back to life, not to mention exercised control over the elements, commanding them like one does an obedient subordinate.

But Jesus did say it, so what do we do with it?


First, we have to ask what works is he referring to?

Jesus definitely used this language to refer to his miraculous works.

John 5:36 (ESV) 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

John 10:25-26 (ESV) 5 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.


For this reason, some people hold to the view that Jesus had this in mind when he said these words, but there are a number of challenges in interpreting it this way.

The first is that while there are certainly miracles recorded in the book of acts performed by the apostles, it would be hard to say that they were greater than the works Christ did.

Two, why are miracles not normative today? Some will say it is because this promise was to the apostles alone. Besides the fact that we have already mentioned them not performing greater miracles, this falls short of the promise Jesus made when he said ‘whoever believes in me’ will do greater works than these.


This brings us to the question and answer to the second question in understanding what Jesus says, who is this promise for? The answer, whoever believes.


A much more probable answer to the question, what works he is referring to is that he is referring to the work of the gospel.

If this is what Jesus is talking about, then before the book of Acts really gets started, we see the fulfillment of it.

In Jesus' time on earth he gathered thousands of people around him, but when it came time to ascend, that number was closer to five hundred, and on Pentecost, when the church gathered, there were 120.

On Pentecost, through the empowered preaching of the apostles, 3,000 people converted.

But more than numerically, Jesus’ ministry was confined to a relatively small geographical area. After Pentecost the gospel quickly spread all the way to Rome.

If we understand it this way, then Jesus is referring to ‘spiritual works, primarily the work of regeneration that takes place when the gospel is proclaimed through the power of God’s holy Spirit.’ Reformed expository commentary. Moreover, this promise is for all Christians, or whoever believes in Christ.


How can this be? What possible premise would make this promise applicable to every Christian, to whoever believes?

Jesus says, because I am going to the Father.


John Calvin explains it this way: “The reason why the disciples will do greater things than Christ is that when He has entered into possession of His kingdom, He will demonstrate His power more fully from heaven.”

“The reason why the disciples will do greater things than Christ is that when He has entered into possession of His kingdom, He will demonstrate His power more fully from heaven.” -John Calvin

As believers, awaiting the glory of heaven, we have been given the mission to take up the ministry of the gospel that Jesus began, carrying it as far as he would have us to until he returns or takes us home with confident assurance, not that we do so in our own power, but in the name and power of the risen, glorified, exalted Lord.

Furthermore, we can be assured that not only is this his will for each of us, but that we will ultimately see success from it because he promised that through his church he would accomplish greater things than he did during his time on Earth.

Is there anyway that we will see or know the full results of the way God used us in this life on this side of heaven? Of course not, but what we can do is trust that he who promised is faithful and powerful and willing to work in and through us as he promised.


For the one who believes, the one who possesses a future hope, the question of what we do while we wait is that we are to be about our current mission, which leads us to another question for these disciples, as well as us.

Practically, how will we carry out the mission while we wait for your return? This question is answered in Jesus’ next promise.


PROMISE #3- YOU HAVE A PERSONAL CONNECTION

PROMISE- IF YOU ASK ANYTHING I WILL DO IT

PREMISE- IN MY NAME


Let’s pick up in verse 13.

John 14:13-14 (ESV) 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus was leaving his disciples, going to a place they could not follow. He promised them that he would return for them after he left to prepare a place for them, he promised them that they would do greater works than he had done in the advancement of the gospel and kingdom that he had secured through his death, and now he promises them that although he will not be physically present with them, they have a personal connection to their Father in heaven in him.


(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) A. W. Pink writes, “True, He would be in Heaven, and they on earth, but prayer could remove all sense of distance, prayer could bring them into His very presence at any time,” and prayer was thus essential to the “greater works” of which Jesus spoke in John 14:12.


This promise is staggering, whatever you ask, this I will do it, if you ask me anything, I will do it.

Is Jesus promising that he will answer anything we ask for? Is this an invitation to bring extravagant requests before the king to have them answered immediately and without reserve?


Some people take it to mean that, like some heavenly blank check where we can fill in the amount and expect it to be honored.

God promised that if I pray for the perfect spouse I will get him/her. God promised that if I pray for material success, he will grant it. God promised that if I pray for the larger house, the better paying job, the college admission, the game winning play, complete healing, infinite church growth, the blessing of a child.


What do we say then to the infertile couple who desperately pray for a child? What do we say to the man who works honestly and vigorously but is repeatedly passed over for the promotion? What do we say to the man or woman who has prayed constantly and no medical miracle has happened? What do we say to the woman or man who desperately wants to be a godly husband or wife and yet year after year of fervent prayer, they remain unwed?


It has been rightly stated that prayer does not mean that we get everything we ask for exactly as we ask for it, and for that we should be thankful.


Sometimes our prayers are foolish, rash, or unthought out prayers and it is God’s wisdom, grace, and mercy that we do not get those prayers answered. Sometimes our prayers are focused primarily on the physical and we know that God’s priorities are spiritual and he puts our spiritual well being ahead of our material well-being. Sometimes the timing of our request is off and the lord waits to grant what we have requested. These are all good explanations for our prayers going unanswered, but that is not what Jesus says here, is it?

His emphasis is not on unanswered prayers or the very good reasons they remain unanswered, he emphasizes that he will give whatever we ask of him in prayer.


If you are paying attention to the text, maybe you say, Pastor you missed a part, it says, if you ask in my name. And you would be right. The premise is built into the promise.

Whatever you ask in my name. If you ask anything in my name.


In this case the promise is easy to understand, it is the premise that we have to dig into. What does it mean to ask Jesus something in his name?

For some believers, it means simply adding in Jesus' name at the end of their petitions. This is of course a good practice to do, if it weren’t for Jesus and his atoning work, his intercessory work, we would have no basis for approaching God in prayer at all. We can only draw near in prayer because of the mediation of Christ, so it is always good to remind ourselves of how we are able to approach God at all. But is that what it means here to ask in my name?


R. A. Torrey shares a story that perfectly illustrates how many of us fall short in truly praying in Jesus' name.

He tells of receiving a note at a conference from a man who was embittered by God’s failure to answer his prayers. The note read: “I have been a member of the Presbyterian Church for thirty years, and have tried to be a consistent one all the time. I have been superintendent of the Sunday school for twenty-five years, and an elder in the church for twenty years; and yet God does not answer my prayer and I cannot understand it.”

Torrey read the note from the pulpit and stated that an explanation was simple:

This man thinks that because he has been a consistent church member for thirty years, a faithful Sunday school superintendent for twenty-five years, and an elder in the church for twenty years, that God is under obligation to answer his prayer. He is really praying in his own name, and God will not hear our prayers when we approach Him in that way. We must, if we would have God answer our prayers, give up any thought that we have claims upon God. There is not one of us who deserves anything from God. If we got what we deserved, every one of us would spend eternity in hell. But Jesus Christ has great claims on God, and we should go to God in our prayers not on the ground of any goodness in ourselves, but on the ground of Jesus Christ’s claims.


As one commentator put it, praying in the name of Jesus,(REC) “means that prayer is to be in accordance with all that that name stands for. It is prayer proceeding from faith in Christ, prayer that gives expression to oneness with Christ, prayer that seeks to glorify Christ.”


This means we should never expect selfish, worldly, foolish, self-glorifying, or sinful prayers to be fulfilled by our Lord because those things do not align with his character and nature.

Jesus is giving his followers permission to ask anything of God that is consistent with who Christ is.

I read the simplest and clearest definition of praying in Jesus’ name that I have ever heard this week. Praying in the name of Jesus is ‘praying in a way that Jesus would pray for us’.

That changes things doesn’t it?


The question is then how can we know how Jesus would pray for us?


We read the scriptures that he gave us.

We find in it the things we are called to be and to do and we pray for those things in his name, confident that he will not only hear us, but he will answer in his way and his timing because he has promised to do so.

We pray for the fruit of the spirit to be manifested more and more in our lives.

We pray for the power to withstand temptation.

We pray for opportunities to share the gospel of the lost and dying world.

We pray for laborers to join the harvest.

We pray for the advancement of the gospel and the church.

We pray with singular focus across a wide range of circumstances. that the Father may be glorified in the Son

This is what Jesus says of why he made the promise in the first place, so that God may be glorified in the Son.


Transition: For the one who believes, the one who possesses a future hope, the question of what we do while we wait is that we are to be about our current mission, which we will be able to do only as well as we are connected to Christ in prayer, praying in accord with who he is and what he desires. Then in light of this promise, we will see the kingdom of God advance in the lives of men and women until Jesus returns for his bride.


Conclusion:

Let not your heart be troubled.

Why? Because for those who believe in Jesus, you have promised to you a future hope, he will return for those that are his. Because for those who believe in Jesus, you have a current mission before you, to carry on the work of Christ where you are. Because for those who believe in jesus, you have a personal connection to your savior where he promises to answer your prayers that are in accord with who he is and who he desires you to be.


No situation can negate these promises, no hardships, no trials or tribulations.

Neither will they ever cease to be true, time cannot dull their beauty for the believer. They are as true today as when you first believed.

No previous condition can exclude you from them, for when you believe you become a whoever that believing these promises are true for you.

This does not mean you will not face situations that throw your heart into turmoil, it means that when that happens, and it will happen, you don’t have to stay there. You have a loving savior to turn to that will gently remind you of his loving promises to all those that believe.





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