The Truth sets us free and produces peace, yet the hardest thing to communicate to humans is the understanding of our necessity for the cross. God provides the power for us to do all things through Christ; anything we do that does not draw others to know and glorify Christ is not a spiritual act.
How to Live with Joy in the "Little While"
The Spirit's Coming as the Son Heads Home: Where He is Going and Who He is Sending.
Brace Yourself Lambs: Final Words on Their Final Walk
Love: Our Sign and its Source
It's All About Abiding
Living Proof He is the King of Peace
The Lifeless Lunacy of Love Without Labor
The Holy Spirit is With Those Who Believe
The Greater Works of Those Who Believe
Take Heart: The Difference Between Jesus' Trouble and Ours
Well, hello, Watermark. We are in John 16. That is where we left off when we were making our way through that book. We're going to spend three weeks in John 16, and then we're going to do something different together at the end of this month. We are glad to dive in this morning. Let me tell you, when we stopped, I stopped right there in John 16:4.
I talked about the fact that chapter and verse breaks are not inspired by God. They were put in hundreds of years later so we might turn quickly to the scrolls at the right place together. This, if you're asking me, is an unfortunate place to break the chapters. I would have stopped it right there halfway through John 16:4.
What you need to know is Jesus, in this little section from John 14 all the way through the end of John 16, is in the middle of something called the Upper Room Discourse. Why is it called that? It's called that because this is where Jesus was giving his last bit of instruction to his men through whom he was going to continue to do the work he had been about doing. In verse 12 of chapter 14, he said, "…he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do…"
Amazing stuff, that Jesus, who would turn the world on its head, would say to these men, "If you think I've shook this place up, you just wait until you see what I'm going to do through you." It's still Christ doing it, but he's going to talk about the new body that is going to be the vessel through which the Spirit of God would bring about change.
What's interesting about Jesus here is this is his last shot with his men before he is gone. He doesn't lay down new info on them. He, in fact, not only repeats what he has already said, he repeats inside the Upper Room Discourse what he already said, because his men don't get it. It is a good place for us to have stopped, because now we need to jump back into John 16. You're going to hear some stuff you heard in John 14, but we need to hear it one more time with great clarity. I'm going to give you some major handles you can hold on to from this text, and I think you'll be encouraged. Let's read it together.
If I started right there in John 16:4, he basically says, "But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them…" That really closes up the previous section. "The world doesn't like me. It's not going to like you. The world has seen me be used powerfully in it. The world is going to see you be used powerfully in it. Brace yourselves, little lambs, it isn't going to be easy, but take heart, little lambs, because I am sovereign." Then, we really start a whole new section.
He says, "These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you." In other words, "I didn't need to tell you about how I was going to work in you because I was with you to encourage you continually, but now it's time for you to hear this." Let me read this to you. We'll come back, we'll look at it together, and I'll give you some major application points and principles of truth. Are you ready? Watch what it says. He says:
"But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you."
Let me tell you what just happened. You heard me go up here and go, "Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah, blah." About halfway through, you go, "This makes no sense." You checked out. You started thinking about lunch, went back to Scott's question about what football team you like or what you like about fall. You're now trying to tune back in. That's what just happened. You know how I know that? Because I studied it all week, and about the first 12 times I read it, that's what happened to me.
This is one of those sections when you read the Bible, you go, "Are you kidding me? This is why I don't read my Bible. What am I supposed to do with that? That doesn't make any sense to me. In fact, the only thing that makes sense to me is the very first thing he said, which contradicts what he already said when I was reading in John 13 and 14." Let me explain that to you.
One of the things I always love to do when I'm reading the Bible is, if I see issues there, if I see problems, I stop right there and go, "I have to solve this thing, because if God's Word is, in fact, brought forth from him, because he's perfect, it must be perfect." Which means it's not going to contradict itself. It's not going to be confusing. It also means it's profitable for teaching, just like he says it would be, so there's something there for me.
One of the things that happens right away in verse 5, is he says, "I told you I'm taking off, and none of you asked me where I'm going." Really? Jump back to John 13 with me. Watch this. John 13, verse 33: "Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.'" Now verses 34 and 35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples…"
He goes to take a breath, and Peter shoots his hand up. Guess what Peter says in verse 36? He goes, "Um. I have a question." "Lord, where are You going?" Now wait a minute. "I thought in John 16:5, when you just went, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,' the very first thing he said was, 'I told you I'm leaving, and none of you have asked me where I am going.' I was reading in John 13 just a few minutes ago, and the very first thing Peter did when he started this whole thing is he said, 'Hey. Where you are going?'" "Jesus answered, 'Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.'"
Now watch. It gets worse. Just so you know why Jesus said what he did in John 16:5, watch what Peter says in John 13:37-38. "Peter said to Him, 'Lord, why can I not follow You right now?""I want to go wherever you go." "I will lay down my life for You." Jesus goes, "Really? You're going to lay down your life for me, bro? How about this? Before the cock crows three times tonight, you're going to bail on me. You're not listening, Peter."
Then he basically says, "Peter, I'm praying for you that once you fall you'll be strengthened again by the Spirit which I'm going to send you which, if you'll just listen, I'll tell you about. But you can't have the Spirit I want to send you unless I go where I'm going. I'm not going to some place that's the greatest hiding spot in the history of the world. This is not like hide-and-seek, and you can't find me.
I am going to do what only I can do, because only I am the incarnate, visible image of the invisible God, who is holy and demands an infinite, eternal sacrifice which only an infinite, eternal perfect creature can provide, which is me. Because I love you, I'm going to provide for you what you can never do for yourself.
That's where I'm going. To a cross, Peter. I'm not going to a little restaurant. I'm not going to Tuscany in the spring, and you can't find a room there. I'm going to go, and I'm going to prepare a place for you to go with the Father where there are many rooms," and Jesus uses a metaphor. "It's going to be great." Thomas listens to this, and he goes (verse 5, John 14), "Lord, how do we know where you're going? We don't know the way to the place where all those rooms are."
I want to show you this because twice in John 13 and John 14, those guys go, "Where are you going?" Then, after he teaches for two chapters, he closes up his teaching by saying in John 16:5, "Hey, look. I'm going somewhere, and you don't even ask me where I'm going." I go, "Really? It looks like they did. Twice." Let me explain to you. Listen. Here we go. Watch. This whole thing is going to come together for you today, I pray, in a way that will be useful.
The church is made up of people with different gifts, and all I want to do is use the gift God has given me to rightly represent God's Word to you. I want you to hear God's Word. I don't want you to hear me. I want you, right now, to pray with me that I can explain what's going on in John 16:5 and explain the rest of the "blah, blah, blah" so it will be anything but blah to you. It will be transforming, a source for your good, God's glory, and salvation to others. Amen?
Father, would you help us? Would you let me be a vessel? Would you let me use your gifts you've given me to be steward of to open up this Scripture to your people, that they might go, "I see. It's brilliant. It makes sense. There is no contradiction and, man, is it relevant." Father, we know your Word is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training and righteousness.
I pray it would accomplish its purpose right now, that this room would become adequate, equipped for every good work, and that you would even use this time to draw some to you in your beauty, in your glory, in your love and provision, that we might have joy, that our King is praised. We want to lift him up as we break down his Word by the power of your Spirit. For your glory, I pray, amen.
All right. John 16:5. When the guys had already twice said, "Where are you going? Where are you going?" why did Jesus say, "How come nobody has asked me where I'm going?" Here is the deal. Do remember back in John 13 when Peter said, "Where are you going? I want to go exactly where you go"?
He said, "No, Peter. Listen. First of all, you missed my whole point. Secondly, you're going to bail on me tonight before the cock crows three times. Guys, I'm going to a place…" He tries to tell them. "…where I'm going to bring you back into relationship with the Father. Remember the Father is holy? Remember you can't walk into a holy God when you're a sinful creature?"
Let me say this to you. Our desire to know God is not only an impossible fantasy apart from the cross, it is suicidal. For me to want to run into God's presence when I'm a sinner… Not only could I not do it, even if I could, it would be suicidal. I'd be consumed in his holiness because God will have no fellowship with sin.
I don't know if you know me very well or not, but I'm not perfect by a long shot. There is no way I could be with the Father, who is good and perfect and true. "He is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, but by no means will be let the guilty go unpunished," because he can't deny who he is. He is loving, for sure, and gracious, but he is just.
If he's just at all, he has to judge the likes of me. But he loves me. He wants a relationship with me. So, what does he do? He goes someplace I can't go. I could offer up my life, and it wouldn't be enough. If I offered up my life, all I would be doing is paying the wages of my sin. I would be forever vanquished from him.
Again, death physically is just an illustration of what is true of us spiritually. If God is the way, if God is truth, if God is love, if God is life, and I separate from him… What do you get when you separate from life? You get death. Physically, we are dying. It's an illustration of the spiritual reality in which we live, but God doesn't want us to die.
He says, "Don't concern yourself with the physical body. The problem is your physical body is just an illustration of your spiritual state. I'm going to provide an opportunity for you to be reconciled with me. I'm going to go somewhere and do what you can't do. Me. Eternal Savior of the world [Jesus speaking] is going to go to the cross, and he who knew no sin is going to become sin on your behalf, so you might become the righteousness of God in me, if you'll just believe in me."
When Thomas said, "We don't know the way to this great place, how to get back to the Father and all his blessing and all the houses," Jesus said, "I am the way, Thomas. I am the truth. I am the life. You can't get to the Father except through me and where I'm going, which is to the cross. You need the cross."
What was going on here is Thomas, Peter, and the rest of the guys were focused on the immediate itinerary and not the ultimate incarnational purpose. That's what Jesus was saying. "Guys, you don't ask me why I'm going to the cross. You keep tuning that out, because it's too painful for you." Don't we always do that? Sometimes we just can't hear God, we can't hear revelation, because our circumstances are so overwhelming. These guys are completely overwhelmed.
A little bit later in this text, Jesus says, "I can't teach you anymore. I have many things to say to you, but I can't say it right now." I read that down in verse 12. Why is that? It's because they were overwhelmed. They were concerned for their own futures. They were concerned for the fact that they were going to lose their friend.
They had just heard there was a traitor in their midst. They were told all of them were going to abandon him. They had tuned out. Jesus says, "Guys, you need to know something." He's reviewing. He's getting ready to depart from them, and this is what he wants you to know at the end. Watch this. This is very important.
"I am going to go give my life. The Jews, the Romans, the world, are not going to take me. The Devil is not in control. I am. No one takes my life. I am going to go lay my life down. I am God. I am always in control. It's not going to look like it, but trust me. Where I'm going is to a cross. I've told you that, but you haven't listened.
I'm going to a cross, because the cross is the means through which you can be saved. Trust in me. Don't lose heart. Take heart. Have courage. I've told you these things so when they happen, you may have peace." Now watch what he says here. Let me walk you through a little bit of this, and I'll give you some big points.
He says, "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." You can't have the Helper, the Spirit of God, if you don't have a relationship with God. You can know about God. You can speculate about God. You can maybe talk to somebody else who knows God, but you can't have the Spirit, the intimate relationship with God, without a relationship.
Jesus is saying, "You can't have his Spirit if you don't know him. You can't know him because you're sinners. There is no way for you to be reconciled sinners to him unless there is an eternally perfect provision, because he's an eternally holy God. But I'm going to go to the cross. Then, I'm going to present myself to the Father as the sacrifice in the throne of heaven, the heavenly holy place.
It's going to be the perfect sacrifice, and so I'm going to be seated because there's no more need to do any work. It is finished. Because the debt of sin has been paid, death will lose its victory, death and sin will lose their sting. Then you can be brought back to God if you just come through me, because I'm the way. When you come back to God, then you'll have the Spirit, but I have to go do this for you to know God." Now watch. This is an amazing text in John 16:8-10.
He says, "And He…" The Holy Spirit, the Helper. "…when He…" The Holy Spirit, the Helper. "…when He comes, [He] will…" It's the Holy Spirit who will "…convict…" The word convict is the same word for expose. If you will, to overcome somebody with, to bring to, the light. It's like light comes into darkness, and darkness can't handle it. It's completely overcome. The Holy Spirit will overcome the world. Watch this. "…concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…"
What you need to understand is the way the Holy Spirit is going to do that is the same way God was revealing himself right then. What was the means through which the Holy Spirit brought about beauty in the beginning of creation? It wasn't just this mystical force that blew over the world. We know the Holy Spirit worked through the person of Christ. He created all things. "All thing were created by him and for him and through him," John 1 says. Colossians 1 says.
The Holy Spirit has been working in the gospels in the body of Christ. What he's saying is, "The Holy Spirit will come to…" Watch this. "…to you. Meaning the church, the apostles, those who believe in me. And he, in you, will continue to do what he has been doing in me." Watch this. John 14:12: "These works you have seen me do? Whoever believes in me, greater works than these will he do also. He's coming to you." What is the body through which the Holy Spirit will continue to glorify the Son as he reconciles people to the Father by his own grace? Answer: It's the church.
Sometimes you hear people pray this: "O Spirit of God, please fall on. O Spirit of God, would you testify to their hearts? O Spirit of God, would you move mightily in the land?" like there's some impersonal force God is going to send to your uncle in Cleveland or to your neighbor across the street. You need to know something. It's the Spirit who is going to convict them of sin and of righteousness and judgment, but the Spirit always works in a body to glorify the Son. That body he's working in today is the church. We have a responsibility.
Notice this, too. It says he will convict the world of sin. It doesn't say he will convict the world of sins. Biblically there is only one sin God is concerned about. There is a primary sin. It's the only sin fallen humanity has committed that concerns God. Every other of the sins we focus on, they are all secondary sins. I would even tell you what they really are is the judgment. Let me explain that.
Here was the original temptation: "Hey, Adam, Eve. Come here. Listen. You know, I know you've been hearing this stuff about God, his goodness, and the fact that you're in Paradise and all. That you guys can hang out and be naked and unashamed. That you can get along forever. You don't need love goggles. You guys just love because you live the way God wants you to.
He created you and put you in this awesome spot, but do you think he's really good? Do you think his word is really true? Do you think disobeying is that big a deal? You know, you don't need God. Why don't you just trust yourself? How about eating of that tree, and you can cut God out, because then you can know what good and evil is. You won't need him around."
The original lie, the original sin, was, "I don't need God. God is not, ultimately, where I can find goodness. I can choose goodness on my own. His word is not that true, and disobeying him is not that big a deal." How has that worked out for us? What happened is when we didn't believe God was good and that we needed him we, therefore, became individuals who said, "I think we'll decide what is good from now on."
The problem is even when I know what is good, I don't always choose good. I know it's not going to work out well for me relationally if I speak in this tone. I know it's not going to be good for my heart if I take in this material that's pornographic or if I hurt other people to elevate myself, but I sometimes can't stop doing that.
What God says is the only sin that really matters to him is when we leave him and say he's not God, when we elevate something else. Every other sin…immorality, greed, malice, anger, gossip…those aren't sins we will be judged for. Those are the judgment. When you live in a world defined by self-will, lust, avarice, greed, malice, and self-importance, it leads to war, divorce, and the whole creation falls with you. That's what happened.
What the world is going to see is when the church, redeemed of God, begins to live differently and doesn't live according to self-interest but lives as Christ did, when this attitude which is in Christ is also in us… We don't only look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others. We do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. We love as he loved. We give as he gave. We're generous. We're kind. We reconcile. We make peace. We acknowledge the sin of our ways.
The world is going to start to go, "You know what? I don't much like what you say, but I have to tell you, the way you live is better than the rest of us. We're not living like that. What's the source of you living like that? In fact, you're living rightly." Jesus says, "…concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father…" In other words, "They're not going to see me anymore. Now they're going to see you as you live in relationship with a God that my going to the cross is going to enable you to live in a relationship with. Therefore, you can be righteousness to the world."
When the world sees they're falling short of your holiness, love, kindness, selflessness, and generosity…when you run to the plague when everybody else runs away, when you live with hope when everybody else wilts, when you have courage when everyone else lives in fear…the world is going to go, "Your way is a better way. I don't know about your doctrine, but I do like your doing." You know what? All of us who are going our own way are following a lie, and so the father of lies is judged as untrustworthy.
What Jesus is saying in John 16:8, 9, and 10 is, "Hey, church, you are going to be my people. You're going to be as shining stars in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation," Philippians 2:15, and you have to, "…work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Philippians 2:12, so the world will see righteousness. They'll go, "You know what? I think I don't much like their God, but I sure like them. What's the source of them?" We say, "Their God." They'll start to go, "You know what? Their God is better than ours, the God of self, because it brings war and death."
The only sin God really is concerned about is the sin of disbelief. Everything else, every other group of sins, that's just the judgment. That's the world we're living in that is less than the world God intends. Let me teach you some things as we go through, and we'll jump back in a little bit later. Here are some basic truths I can pull right out of here that will make this little section of Scripture pop for you.
1 . Truth sets you free and produces peace. Truth believed sets you free and produces peace in your life, but watch this. When you focus on circumstance or when you just hear teaching and you don't really engage with it, what Jesus is saying to them right here in verse 6 is, "I've said these things to you, and sorrow has filled your heart."
In other words, "You're around me, you're listening, but you're not hearing me. Or though you're hearing my words, you're not listening. It's not moving to a place of understanding, and so you're not being set free. You still think I'm going someplace physically. No. I'm going to a cross. You can't handle the idea of a cross and it's too painful for you, but you need to know something. I am God. I'm in control.
I'm telling you there's no way for me to reconcile you to me unless I go to this cross. You need that truth. It is the source of your freedom, where you will come out of the bondage of sin and slavery to the ways of man and the spirit which now works in the sons of disobedience. You need me to go to this cross. You're not listening, and so you're not free. You certainly don't have peace, because you're freaking out that I'm going to the cross.
I'm going to the cross so I can bring you to the Father. When I go to the Father, I'll come back to show you my provision was enough. It defeated death. Then, when I go to be with the Father, I will intercede for you. I will send you my Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who will exalt me and bring people to the Father through you. These works I'm doing I'm going to continue to do through you. If you ask me, I will do it."
Church, you have to do it. You have to yield to the Spirit so you live a life that the world goes, "Our lives are not like their lives. They are holy. We are not. They live rightly. We don't. You know what? Their way is better." The deceiver and the liar and the ways of man are judged. Do you get that? Let me tell you a story.
This week I was with a group of guys who lead in California. I was talking to one guy. They're doing a lot of what we're doing here. You guys may or may not know at different times DISD has honored us as the volunteer organization of the year. Other groups around town, secular groups, have said, "Hey, we need more of this."
They got involved in the Los Angles school district. The dropout rate was well over 50 percent. There are a lot of at-risk kids, and so they, like we had, had gone into a school. They began to find the most at-risk kids. They started with six or seven, and it's grown since then. It's grown so much, that school has come back to them, in fact, and said, "Will you get other churches to do what you're doing?"
Right now, they've trained three other churches to join them inside this very dysfunctional school district, the largest independent unified school district in the country, that has tons of dropouts and at-risk kids. The church has showed up and is mentoring, tutoring, and loving these kids. He said recently the principal at that elementary school they first got involved in was speaking at a university. She was asked in this academic setting, "What is the most exciting thing you see happening in education?"
She said, "The most exciting thing happening in education? I'll tell you what it is." She goes, "You need to know something. I'm an atheist. I am not a Christian. I have nothing to do with anything people who call themselves that believe, but the most exciting thing that happened in education is the Christian church, because those people are loving folks who have no understanding of who their God is in a way that's bringing about change like nothing we have ever done has brought about change. The most exciting thing, as an atheistic principal, I can tell that's happening is the church in Los Angeles." How about that?
What they're starting to say is, "There's a better way. Our way is not as good as their way. Our way falls short." That's sin. "Their way is right. Our way is the spirit of the world, which is being judged as wrong. We need more people like that." That's exactly what Jesus said should happen in John 16:8, 9, and 10. It's what should happen in this city, when people say, "You know what? Dallas ought to be more broken-hearted if Watermark, if the church of Jesus Christ, stopped existing than you would be."
You can find someplace else to gather if this building, if this 501(c)3, went away, but if we stop working this way, discipling this way, being conformed into the image of Christ, being a vessel and a body through which his Spirit can be unleashed in this city, if that went away, this city ought to grieve. It's what happened in the first century when Caesars would go and say, "Who are these Christians? They're causing all kinds of conflicts."
The people who went and studied it said, "I'll tell you who they are. They're the ones who are caring for the sick. I'll tell you who they are. They're the ones who are not demanding resources from us but sharing resources with one another. I'll tell you what they are. They're the last people you ought to kill in Rome, because they are the best thing that's ever happened to Rome." That's exactly what Jesus said should happen. That's John 16:8, 9, and 10.
Stop sitting there praying for the Spirit of God to fall somewhere like it's going to happen in some mystical way. Let me show you how relevant this is. Jesus is saying, "You are the means through which my Spirit is going to do this thing. I will work in you. If you'll ask me, I will do it, but you need to abide with me. You try and do it apart from me, you have nothing.
By the way, if you try and figure this thing out, you won't figure it out. You'll freak out when I talk about a cross, because you can't get your arms around the circumstance. You want peace? Listen to me. I am truth. God needs an eternally perfect sacrifice. I told you I am God. I am going to be the sacrifice, because I love you. I know it overwhelms you. That's why you're upset. But my truth, dying for you, is it will set you free, and it's what will give you peace."
Here's the deal. If you don't have peace, it's because you're worried in your circumstance that God is not at work. You must be a student of the Word. This is Isaiah 26:3: "The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, because [his heart is set] in Thee." Jesus is saying to his disciples, "Listen to me. You guys are filled with sorrow because you're not listening to me. You ask me where I am going topographically. That's not what I'm talking about. It's not what I've been talking about. I'm going to a cross. You're overwhelmed with sorrow like that's because I'm losing. I'm not losing. I am winning. They're not taking. I am giving. Follow me."
It's why you read your Bible. It's why you read eschatology specifically, so you might know we win at the end. You should not fret. I mean, really, here's the bottom line. Jesus is saying in this whole thing, "Remember my words. Relentlessly pursue my way. Take heart. Take action. Fret not. Bear fruit. I'm coming for you. In this world, you will have trouble, but don't worry. I've overcome the world. When they take your heart and take your life, don't you worry. You worry about the one who cannot just destroy the body but can cast the soul into hell forever."
I said it first hour. It's worth repeating. Worry is thinking God is not going to get it right. That's why you worry. "Jesus, you can't go to a cross. That's just not right." Isn't there something in your life right now where you're worried because you think God has not got it right? "There's no way, God, that this can ever be good." He might say, "You know what? It's not good, but I am going to eventually accomplish good. You need to trust in me."
This world? Do you know why there is betrayal, cancer, death, sadness, adultery, lust, pornography, child abduction, and guys who mow through people at Venice Beach? Do you know why there's terrorism? Because of sin. You live in this world with hope. The world is going to look at you and go, "That's a better way to live. What's the source of your living with hope?"
We go, "Jesus. He told us this was going to happen. The reason this is all going on is because the world is going a different way from God. God told the world when it went a different way from him, it was going to be disastrous. It's been disastrous. Guess what? By his grace he has reconciled disasters like me to him. Now I'm not leaning according to my own understanding, but in all my ways I'm acknowledging him. He's making my paths straight, and he's redeeming my life. He can redeem yours through the same provision he redeemed mine. Come and know my Jesus."
That's what it is right there. When people go, "Aren't you stressed out that you might die? Aren't you stressed out that this might happen?" I go, "No. Jesus said that's going to happen. I understand why it's going to happen. It makes perfect sense to me." I'm going to do this quickly. We are not optimistic. We are realists. Optimists think it's always going to work out in the time we can see.
It's not always going to work out. You might die. You might die, but it's okay because he says, "I've even got death covered. Sing at the grave. All death is, is an eternally fixed beginning that those who have made a decision while they were alive about who I am will either come to live with me forever or be separated from me forever like they wanted to be when they lived."
There's this thing called the Stockdale Paradox. The Stockdale Paradox comes from James Stockdale, who was the highest ranking naval officer who was captured by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. He lived at the Hanoi Hilton. Hỏa Lò is what it was called. It means fiery furnace or, if you will, living hell. In the midst of that, Stockdale basically survived, as did a group of other men.
A guy named Jim Collins asked him, "What was the reason you survived?" Now listen to what he said. Stockdale said, "I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade." He said, "I was not somebody who had this fairy tale idea that this wasn't really hard. I just kept focusing on the end."
In fact, he was so subversive to the Vietnamese that they took him and several other men… One was Samuel Johnson, who was a congressman up here in one of the northern districts. Those seven guys were separated even from that pit of hell and put one mile away in solitary confinement for four years where they were in a three-foot by nine-foot cell with a light bulb over their heads, on every day. Every night they shackled their legs together with iron. They were tortured relentlessly.
Stockdale persevered and survived. Collins said, "Well, who didn't survive?" He said, "Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."
They kept thinking that in this world it was going to eventually go away. Stockdale said, "I didn't know what was going to happen in this world." In fact, what he said is every time someone came in, the very first thing they did with every new prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton, is they asked them, "What hymns do you remember, and what Scripture do you know?"
They talked in this system of communication through taps. They built a New Testament and they built a hymnal, so they could communicate to each other the truth and they could fix their hope on the end. In this world they may have trouble. They don't know if they're going to get out of here, but they're going to persevere. Even if their hearts die, they're going to make it.
He said the optimists who thought it was going to eventually get better by this Christmas or next year, or the cancer would go away or the beatings and the torture would stop… He goes, "They died." Now watch. Collins asked him, "Anything else?" He said, "This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
Jesus is saying, "I don't want you to be deluded. You have to understand this. This is a brutal reality. This is a world filled with sin. This is a world where there will be death and betrayal." Jesus is saying, "Just don't be a part of it now. That's not the way you live anymore because you've been reconciled to God. You're not going to live the way the world lives.
You're going to live according to my Spirit, which will dwell in those of you who are reconciled to the God who is good, whose Word is true. Now you're going to live in the blessing of fellowship with him as opposed to the judgment of sinful humanity, but don't be surprised that there are going to be some Fridays and Saturdays where it looks like I didn't have it figured out. Sunday is a-comin'."
Some of us will never see the Sunday in certain aspects of our lives, but Jesus has already said, "That's okay. I've overcome the world. I'm not promising you it's going to happen on your clock." Worry is what people do who think God didn't get it right. Depression and bitterness are thinking that God got it wrong.
You worry, "I don't know if God is going to do this right." You become bitter and depressed when something happened, and you go, "God got it wrong. There's no way he can redeem this." I'm going to tell you something. He can redeem it. Let me give you a second point very quickly. The second point is simply…
2 . The hardest thing to teach humans is the necessity of, and the need for, a cross. Jesus kept doing it. Multiple times before John 13, he told them about a cross. He told them in John 13. They didn't get it. John 14. They didn't get it. Back here in John 16. "I'm going to the cross. You guys still don't get it."
We absolutely need the cross. The cross is the means through which we can be saved. It is the only means by which we can be saved. Let me tell you something, church. You're not going to be saved because of anything you do. I love what Shane said to start our service: "I used to think, 'That's where the good people are. I want to be good enough long enough that I can be part of the good people.'"
This is not a room full of good people. This is a room full of sinners who by the grace of God our sin has been restrained to some level that we don't become sociopaths. Some of us came really close. A few of us have been incarcerated because of our sin, and we needed to be. God has brought us to our senses, brought us out, shown us that his way is better. We've reconciled to him. We've accepted the provision of the cross that we need.
Now look, the more you get toward sociopathological behavior, the more you realize you need something. The problem is some of you guys think you're going to elect God and choose to be good enough for God and that, therefore, God should take you. Can I just save you? You can't be good enough for perfection. You need a Savior.
He loves you in your sinfulness of believing at any moment you could do it without him. That is idolatry, when you think you don't need God for anything including your salvation. Until you cry out, "O Father, apart from the cross, I have nothing…" The hardest thing to teach humans is their need for a cross.
3 . Believing in the beauty of the cross is the key to understanding the beauty of everything. This is what Jesus is trying to tell them. "Listen, you guys. When you understand that even in the most awful thing you can imagine, me going to a cross, I'm at work. Once you understand that, nothing that hits you in the days ahead will be hard for you."
This story is about my friend Al Meredith. His daughter goes to Watermark. In the 90s, I was aware when Al was pastoring this church in Fort Worth and this madman came into his church on the night a bunch of kids were in there celebrating Meet at the Pole, about praying and asking for God to work in them and through them to reach their school…
Some guy jumps in, starts shooting randomly, and kills a bunch of kids in this church. Al Meredith was asked on national TV, "So where was your God, Al? Where was your God when this guy jumps into your church and starts shooting people?" You know what he did? He took this point, and he rammed it home.
He said, "Let me tell you something. I'll tell you where my God was. He was sovereignly enthroned in the heavens, seeking my best interests, just like he was when his Son was on the cross. I wouldn't have understood that, and I don't understand this. I know this: God used the greatest act of evil in the history of the world for my good, and I don't know how this is going to work out for good. It doesn't look good to me, but I know my God is good. That is enough."
Gang, let me tell you something. Until you know about the cross, you will not be able to make sense of anything. If you understand the cross, it makes all things beautiful, because you know God is at work. How about this? Here's a statement:
4 . Jesus violates the number-one leadership rule for all men. How about that? Everybody talks about Jesus being the greatest leader we could ever follow. Do you know this? Jesus violates the number-one leadership rule for all men. You will never be the leader you should be unless you purpose to benefit from his violation of the number-one leadership rule for all men. So, what are you asking yourself? "Uh… What's the number-one leadership rule for all men, Pastor?" At least I'm hoping that's what you'll ask yourself, otherwise you're bored to death right now.
Jim Collins, the same guy who wrote that Stockdale Principle, said this when he was studying Fortune 500 companies. He looked at why certain companies were enduring, and why they were great. Not for seasons, but enduringly great for well over a decade and generations. He said this to a group of pastors, the same thing.
Some of you guys have little flash-in-the-pan ministries, but do you know what will ultimately make your ministries successful? Do you know what the number-one leadership rule is you need to understand? It was simply this. He said, "Unless your church is able to prosper or be successful without you, your church will not be a success." Or your church cannot be great if it cannot be great without you.
There is a reason I let others teach here. There's a reason I didn't lead the pre-marriage ministry this weekend. There's a reason I'm not at re|engage. There's a reason I don't do re:generation on Monday nights. There's a reason I don't teach every Summit here. This church is great, not because of Todd Wagner. I want you to see me here taking notes sometimes. I want you to see me raising up other men. This church does not need Todd Wagner to be a great church.
I hope I use my gifts well. I hope I steward them well. I hope I serve you and help you with passion, vision, leadership, and teaching, but if I make this church about me, this will never be a great church. It'll be a flash-in-a-pan church. This church is a great church. Some of you guys are going, "Todd, frankly, these last four weeks were a lot better than these last 40 minutes." I'm okay with that.
What I want to say to you is Jesus violates that. Why? Because he says, "Look, guys. Apart from me you can do nothing. Not only that, even when I leave, I'm going to give you what you need when you're without me, which is my Spirit who empowers you, encourages you, and teaches you. This church is going to fail without me." Now why would that be true of Jesus and not me? Here's why: I'm finite. He's infinite. I'm temporal. He's eternal. I'm mono-present. He's omnipresent. Jesus can say this will be great because he's never going to go away.
What Collins observed is there was a guy who was the CEO of PanAm. He said, "I'm going to be such a great CEO that when I die, this company will go bankrupt." How many have flown PanAm lately? The guy fulfilled that. He was what was called a time teller not a clock builder. That's why at Watermark, we don't ever hire somebody on staff who is like a three-ring circus person. I say all the time, "We are not a three-ring circus, where we hire the most gifted performers for you to come and watch and go, 'You guys… Nobody can love folks like you.'"
We're a clown school. That's what we are. I teach people… We have guys on staff, and they can clown. What we're doing is inviting you into the circus, and we're going to teach you how to clown, find out what your gifts are. All clowns aren't the same. Some mime. Some juggle. Some do magic acts. Some just have a good time. We're going to find out what your gift is, and we're going to teach you to clown. We're here to equip. Everybody on our staff is one of two things. They are an equipper, or they administrate that which gets all the junk out of the way so you can use your gifts.
This church is great, not because of me but because of Jesus Christ, who is omnipresent, eternal, infinite, and available to you. His Spirit dwells in those who believe. Our job is to help you discover, develop, and deploy him in your life. Amen? All right. A couple more. Are you ready? This is all right here. I say that because Jesus says, "Hey, look. When I go, not only do you need me, you need my Spirit if I'm not there." How about this one?
5 . A society of sycophants leads to dystopia. Do you like that? Here's why I say that, because it makes you go, "What in the world does that even mean?" Sycophants comes from the root word which means to present a fig. A sycophant is somebody who is a flatter, a self-interested person who goes their own way.
It leads not to utopia, which comes from a sixteenth-century writing about an imaginary place. Topia, from topical. Like topography, like a place. Ou is the Latin word for well. Utopia is an imaginary well, a perfect place. A dystopia is a bad place, like dysfunction is bad functionality. A showy, self-flattering self-interested person always leads to a dystopia. Why is that a point right here? Here's why.
We should not be a utopia. This is not a perfect place. This world is not our home, but we ought to be an increasingly sanctified place where we're a shadow of the kingdom, which is not an imaginary utopia but is the kingdom of God, which is filled with peace, glory, goodness, love, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. What we ought to be is a community that shadows that coming kingdom in the way we love each other, and we're not a bunch of sycophants. We're not a bunch of showy self-flattering, self-interested people.
We are a bunch of selfless Christ-followers who will produce a community the world will look at and say, "You know what? If we governed ourselves the way you do, with leaders who weren't looking to just endure themselves for their own comfort and fame but were servant-leaders, if we reconciled through conflict, if we were generous and not looking to increase our own comfort and fame but we gave selflessly, if we were more like the church, it would be a better place."
The reason I put that here is what ought to happen like never before, as the family craters in our culture, is our families, our marriages…when we love as Christ loved, when we love our wives the way Christ loved the church, when we submit to a guy who is Christ-filled and allow him to lead as we complete him and join with him…the world is going to go, "You know what? Your families are intact. Your kids love you. There's harmony there. That's a better way. There's dystopia in our land, but there is a shadow of glory in yours." That's John 16:8, 9, and 10. Let me give you one more thing.
6 . He is the power; we are the how. We're the house. We're the body. Colossians 1:28 says, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." Now watch. This is verse 29. "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."
It is Jesus working in me and through me that creates the glory that makes the world go, "I'm not doing it the way you're doing it. Your way is right. The person who has told me how to live is under judgment. He is a liar. Who is your boss? Who is giving you wisdom?" We say, "It is our God."
We don't ever point to ourselves, just like Israel wasn't to point to themselves. They weren't to say, "We're brighter than you." Israel was supposed to say, "We've been given the oracles of God. We know the mind of God. He's given us the Word of God." That's exactly what it says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2. He has given us his Spirit.
Jesus says, "If you'll yield to it, if you'll be the house through which my Spirit lives, the world will be convicted of their sin. The world will see my righteousness in you. The world will judge the deceiver and liar who tells them they can find life apart from God, that his Word isn't true, and that disobeying me is not that big a deal. They'll see what a big deal it is, but you have to be my people. You have to quit being individuals who sit there and pray for the Spirit of God to fall, and you have to let the Spirit of God live in and through you."
You live rightly as you yield to his Spirit, as you preach the Word, and as you pray fervently and you sleep well, because it's not about you. It's about Christ. Everything you do is for the glory of Christ. When people ask you, "What is the source of your family? What is the source of your humility? What is the source of your generosity?" You say, "Let me tell you. It is Jesus who has saved me through his provision, shown me God's goodness and love. I've been reconciled to God, and so his Spirit dwells in me."
We're going to close with a song I want you to sit and listen to. The song talks about the God who is already here if you're a believer. Come. In other words, it's not about us needing more of the Spirit, if you know Jesus. It's about us letting the Spirit have more of us, so we can bear fruit as we depend on him and lean not on our own understanding.
We say, "The God who is here in those who believe, come and live in us. Live through us and accomplish your purposes." Just like the Spirit will exalt Christ when he lives in you. If you're filled with the Spirit, everything you do will exalt Christ. If something you're doing does not glorify Christ and exalt Christ, you can be sure you're not yielded to the Spirit. If everything you do doesn't make people go, "What's the source of your goodness, love, kindness, and faithfulness?" then you need to repent and let his Spirit live in and through you.
Father, would you come now and remind us of these things? We thank you for how incredibly relevant this book is, and how you tell us right here, right now, that we're not to be people who are optimistic. We're realists. We live in a fallen world, but we have been given, through your cross, the opportunity to be reconciled to you so that, in relationship with you, your Spirit can be our Spirit. We can yield to you and learn from you.
Lord God, we pray your Spirit would come and glorify Jesus in us. We thank you, if we know Christ, your Spirit is already here dwelling in those who believe, but we must yield to him for your glory, for our own good, joy, and satisfaction, and for the salvation of all who hear. In Christ's name I pray, amen.
John 16 is Jesus saying, "Guys, the vision of God in your midst, me, has to be the death of you. Will you come to me? You have to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. You have to let me come. When I go, I'm going to send my Spirit. Let me live in you and through you, and the world will see I am good, my Word is true, and that disobeying me has cost this world greatly. Be salt and light. Overcome the darkness with your light. Make the light something the darkness longs for. Make the salt something that makes them thirst for me."
Church, God is still at work in and through you, but he'll only work in and through you as you labor according to his power which mightily works in those who believe. If you're walking out of here today all fired up to go do it on your own, it's not going to happen. It happens through Jesus, our cornerstone, as we depend on him.
If you're here, and you don't know that kind, good, and loving provision of the cross, would you let us speak with you about how you can be reconciled to him? If you've been reconciled to him, would you lead and serve with me? Would you yield to him this week? May his death be life to you, and may his coming be your death.