If you would, please turn with me in your Bibles to John 15:18-16:33. John records Jesus saying:
“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.
26 “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
16 “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. 2 They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or Me.4 But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you may remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.
5 “But now I am going away to Him who sent Me, and not one of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. 8 When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.
16 “A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.”
17 Therefore some of His disciples said to one another, “What is this He tells us: ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What is this He is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what He’s talking about!”
19 Jesus knew they wanted to question Him, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’?
20 “I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy. 23 In that day you will not ask Me anything.
“I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name. I am not telling you that I will make requests to the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
29 “Ah!” His disciples said. “Now You’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. 30 Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.”
31 Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe? 32 Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
This is the word of the Lord. Let’s pray.
Father we thank you that even as we are temporarily forced to change some of what we do because of COVID-19, you are greater than COVID-19. Not one of us wouldn’t rather be inside that building, sitting in the pews, catching up with the folks who usually sit next us face-to-face instead of simply over the phone. And yet, You are greater than our inconvenience. We thank you for the way that you are with us even in the midst of our social distancing, that you are near us even in the midst of our isolation, and that even as we try to serve our neighbors by distancing ourselves to try and mitigate the spread of the virus, you have given us the profound blessing of being able to look closely at your word together, to learn from it, to be changed by it, and be edified through it.
We pray these things in Jesus’s name, Amen.
Jesus opens our passage this morning by saying, “The world gonna hate you.” He closes it by saying, “But take comfort. I have conquered the world!”
I find that strangely comforting. But that doesn’t make the first part any less disturbing.
Listen to what Jesus says, beginning in verse 18. He says: “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you.” Skipping a little bit ahead, he says, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” He says, “They will ban you from the synagogues, and a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
If I were trying to talk you out of following Jesus, I doubt I could pick a better couple verse than these.
Imagine that I stopped you on the street and said, “Did you know that if you follow Jesus Christ everyone will hate you and maybe try to kill you?”
You gonna follow that up with, “Alright, sign me up for that”?
But that’s exactly what Jesus says.
Throughout the gospels it almost seems like seems like Jesus spends more time talking people out of following him than talking people into following him. Right? You might remember Luke chapter 9, which says:
“As they were traveling on the road someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go!”
58 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”
60 But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”
61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The point is fairly clear: If you want to follow Jesus, prepare to suffer.
If you wanna follow Jesus, prepare to be rejected by the world.
If you wanna follow Jesus, prepare to lose your comfort, and your privilege, and your insider-status with the world.
Jesus says, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, so the world hates you.”
Like I said, maybe now you’re quietly shifting your car into reverse so that you can pull out of the church parking lot and never come back, or something like that. But that’s a common thread that runs throughout the scriptures: If we follow Jesus, we can expect the world to hate us.
We see that in passages like James 4:4. James says that “Friendship with the world is hostility towards God. Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God,” and John says, in 1 John 2:16, that “The world with its lusts is passing away.”
That’s the world we live in.
We live in a Fallen world that is passing away.
We live in a world that is radically counter to the good design that God created us for./
And because this world is radically counter to the good design that God created us for, it revolts against the one who created it.
I’m gonna say that again: Because this world is radically counter to the good design that God created us for, this world revolts against the one who created it. This world revolts against Jesus.
And you know that, because that used to be you.
Paul says, in Titus 3:3, that “once you were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing your days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
That was you. You were part of the broken and dysfunctional world that we built together, and all of the darkness that came with it.
But then, Jesus reached down and gathered you into his hands. Jesus plucked you from the darkness of the world and made you into his family. His people. His friends. He has redeemed you through his blood on the cross, to forgive you fully, freely, and forever, and he has welcomed you into his family.
And that means that Christ has called you out of the world’s darkness and into his marvelous light, to join him in his kingdom. To rest alongside him in his family. To follow after him in his ministry. That is Christ’s calling on you.
We see that in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He says, in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
You were part of the world that revolts against Jesus, but now you stand side-by-side with him.
This is an incredibly stupid analogy, but bear with me:
It’s kind of like a game of dodgeball, but there’s only one person with their back against the wall. And you were one of the gym class kids chucking dodgeballs at the face of Jesus – I told you it was a stupid analogy – until one day, he pointed to you, and said “Follow me.” And for whatever reason, you dropped your dodgeball, crossed over the line in the middle of the gym, and stood next to Jesus with your back against the wall.
When you take your place next to Jesus, the world will revolt against you. Your conservative friends will call you a dumb hippie. Your liberal friends will call you an outdated bigot. It might create strife in your family. Donald Trump might tweet angry about you. The list goes on. When you take your place next to Jesus, the world will revolt against you, because the world is in rebellion against God’s good design for the universe, the world is in rebellion against the way of Jesus, but you are called to follow him. You are called to imitate Jesus.
We see that in 1 John 2:6, which says, “Whoever says he abides in Jesus ought to walk in the same way in which Jesus walked.” And 1 Peter 2:21 says, “To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am an imitator of Christ.”
You’ve probably heard that popular catchphrase that goes, “Jesus died for you, now live for him.” And that’s good. That’s exactly right. But we wanna be even more specific than that: Because the reality is that Jesus died for you, and now he calls you to live like him.
I’m gonna say that again: Jesus died for you, and now he calls you to live like him./
And if we do that, the world will reject us. The world will reject us because it rejected Jesus first./
That’s John’s first point. The world will hate us, because it hated Jesus first.
But John digs the knife in even worse just a few paragraphs later. He says, in verse 32, “Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone.” And a few verses back, in verse 20, he says “You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice.”
He’s saying, “Tonight I will be taken from you.” “A little while, and you will no longer see me.”
That’s shocking. Even more shocking than “The world will hate you just like it hated me.” /
I don’t know about you, but if I were sitting at the table with Jesus that evening, I would’ve felt sick to my stomach.
But then he shifts gears, in verse 16, and says, “Again a little while and you will see Me.”/
He’s saying, “I’m gonna be taken from you, but I’m not gonna stay taken from you.”
A little while, and we will see Jesus.
That’s John’s second point. Jesus is coming back. And sooner than we think.
He says, verse 20, “You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” First, our sorrow was turned into joy when the Lord rose from the grave on the third day. You know the lyrics to the song, “Death could not hold him, the grave could not keep him.” But even more than that: Our sorrow will turn to joy when Jesus returns to finish what he started.
So he uses a metaphor: “When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy.”
We will see Jesus again.
Not just in heaven. But here. On earth. When he returns.
It’ll be like Hebrews 9:28, which says, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
And 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God . . . and we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Now, don’t get caught up in endless speculation about when and how the return of Jesus will occur, just take comfort in the knowledge that a little while, and we will see Jesus again.
Take comfort in the last line of our passage this morning, where Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
That is John’s second point and it’s a much needed relief. Because it means that even after everything Jesus has told us about the hatred of the world, still we can take a deep comfort in the knowledge that Christ will come again. We can take comfort in the fact that a little while, and we will see Jesus.
Amidst all of your grief and suffering and fear and anxiety and tiredness, you have a comfort deeper than your wounds, because Christ is coming back for you. You can endure through the black eyes and bruises that the world deals you because in just a little while, you will see Jesus, and he will nurse your wounds.
Like the Good Samaritan, he will put you on the back of his donkey, take you to the inn, and pay to have every last wound you’ve been dealt bandaged up and healed. Take comfort in that. Take comfort in the fact that again a little while and you will see Jesus.
But that brings us to John’s third point, and it might be his most important point. Because taken together, these two points create a pretty pressing question: What do we do between the first coming of Jesus and the second?
We’ve crossed over the line on the dodgeball court and put our backs against the wall next to Jesus, and the result is that the world will reject us exactly like it rejected him. But besides dodging oncoming dodgeballs from now until the day the Lord returns, what are we supposed to do?
Surely that’s not it. Right? Surely God’s plan in all of this was not for us to get saved, then sequester ourselves away inside our churches waiting for the day the Lord returns, and then die. Right?
Because if that’s the case, why are we still here?
Why doesn’t God just beam us up Captain Kirk style the moment we repent and believe the gospel?
Now that we’re saved, why are we still here?
The answer is gonna sound kind of paradoxical.
Because Jesus just told us that “The world will hate us just like it hated him.” I’ve been harping on it for 20 minutes now. But he also tells us something that sounds almost exactly the opposite of that. If you’ve read through the gospel of Matthew recently, you might remember what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 5. He gets up on a mount and tells his followers:
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
You hear that?
Yes, the world will hate you just like it hated Jesus. When you decide to follow Jesus, you are volunteering to be “The Punching Bag Of The World” in very much the same way that Jesus did.
But you are not just the Punching Bag Of The World. You are also the light of the world. You are also a city on a hill. And so Christ calls you to “let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
To be clear: Those are the same people that Jesus just told us we can expect to hate and reject us. That means that Jesus says, “If you follow me, the world will reject you” and “People will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Both of those statements are true.
We see both of those things in 1 Peter 2:12. Peter says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” If you follow Jesus faithfully, the world will reject you and People will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
And again, in Philippians 2:15, Paul says, “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” If you follow Jesus faithfully, the world will reject you and People will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Because you are the light of the world, and if you let your light shine before others, your light will draw your friends, your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, and sometimes even your enemies out of the darkness and into the Lord’s marvelous light.
And – I’m gonna beat you over the head with this till you’re absolutely sick of hearing it – that’s the reason you’re still here: Christ has kept you here on earth so that people will see your good works, and even as most of the world rejects you, a select few will recognize the work of God in you and it’ll click. In that moment, the Holy Spirit will grip their hearts, create a saving faith in them, and call them out from the darkness of the world in exactly the same way he called you./
This is our third point: Between the first coming and the second coming, we are called to be the light of the world. We are called to be a city on a hill.
But we need to be even more specific than that. Because John’s point is not simply that we are called to be the light of the world, John’s point is also that we are empowered to be the light of the world.
John says that we are empowered to be a city on a hill.
And as we look through the last few verses of our passage, what we learn is that Christ has sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do everything that Christ has called us to do. /
I’m gonna say that again: Christ has sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do everything that Christ has called us to do.
Take a look at what Jesus says, beginning in verse 26. He says, “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
And again, beginning in verse 13. He says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.
Every time you read the scriptures, you are reading the testimony of the Holy Spirit about Jesus Christ. The Spirit guides us into all truth. The Holy Spirit has empowered us by inspiring the Bible, and through the Bible the Spirit guides us into all truth. The Holy Spirit empowers us together to do everything that Christ has called us to do.
But there’s more.
Take a look, beginning in chapter 16, verse 8. He says, “When [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
That sounds really complex and spiritual, but it’s actually painfully simple: If you’ve ever stopped doing something because you realized it was wrong, that’s the Holy Spirit convicting you about sin.
Like I said, painfully simple.
If you’ve ever started doing something you didn’t used to do because you realized it was a good thing to do, that’s the Holy Spirit convicting you about righteousness.
So, case-in-point: The Spirit convicted you that you needed to stop yelling at your wife. And then the Spirit convicted you that you needed to start activelydoing things that make her feel safe and valued – whether that’s buying her flowers, or taking her to the gun range, or surprising her by setting up a candlelit dinner in your living room once a month to keep the romance alive, whatever that looks like in your own marriage. I don’t know your business. The Holy Spirit empowers us by convicting us of our sin and point us towards righteousness.
And yet there is one more thing that we learn about the Spirit from our passage today, and it’s easily the most important. Take a look at what Jesus says in chapter 16, beginning in verse 23. He says, “I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.” He goes on, in verse 24, “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” He says, “I am not telling you that I will make requests to the Father on your behalf,” instead he says, “the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.”
I know that, once again, that sounds really complex and spiritual, but take a step back and look at what Jesus is telling us, here.
Passages like this are why some folks have spent the last 20 years trying to speak a Rolex into existence.
They think Jesus is telling us that the Lord is essentially like an invisible Santa Claus figure in the sky – or a sugar daddy – who’ll shower us with gifts and money and so on and so forth if we can just figure out the password, if we can crack the code, that if we figure out how to “ask for things in the name of Jesus,” that then God would have to give us whatever we asked for.
But I think it’s the opposite. Maybe you’ve heard that famous quote from John Perkins that says, “Prayer is not about changing God’s mind, it’s about aligning ourselves with God’s will.”
I think that same principle applies here.
When Jesus says “Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you,” he’s not talking about a Rolex. When Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete,” he’s not talking about a new Rolls-Royce in your driveway.
He’s saying that one day, we can ask anything in the Father’s name and be confident that we’ll receive it because the Holy Spirit will align our wills with God’s will. We’re not changing God’s mind, God is changing our minds.
Specifically in the context of this passage, the Holy Spirit changes what we want. He’ll make you stop wanting the joy-killing things you currently want and make you start wanting the joy-inducing things God wants you to want.
That’s what the Holy Spirit does. More than anything, the Holy Spirit changes what we want, and we see that in the fact that he changes what we ask for.
Over time, the Holy Spirit changes our spirits.
He causes us to stop wanting the Fallen, worldly, broken things we were born and raised wanting, and loving, and grasping for, and he causes us to start wanting what Jesus wants. That’s what Paul says in Galatians 5. “The works of the flesh are obvious,” but “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
The Holy Spirit will grow those fruits in you. And that will make us a city on a hill. A light to the world.
Do you know what happens when the world looks on and sees a church that is filled with people who are loving, and peaceful, and patient, and kind, and good, and faithful, and gentle, and self-controlled?
What happens is that not even their hatred can overcome the draw that the Lord places on their hearts through us.
A church empowered by the Spirit of God will eventually overcome even the hatred of the world because it is a light to the world. It is a city on a hill.
So, Mount Zion. Do you want revival? Do you want to see Louisburg, Gold Sands, Centerville won over for Christ? Then pray for the fruits of the Spirit.
Do you want to see North Carolina won over for Christ? Pray for the fruits of the Spirit.
Do you want to see America won over for Christ? Pray for the fruits of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will grow those fruits in you, and he will empower you to do everything Christ has called you to.
This is the point in the service where, typically, I would give something that we refer to as an “altar call,” but that’s not quite possible this morning, for obvious reasons. What we’re doing instead, is that as we respond to the Lord through song, we invite you to text or email me with your prayer requests, or decisions, or burdens, and we can set a time to sit down over the phone sometime the week and talk or pray through whatever is on your heart.