Note: This weekly topic will be an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Last night we continued The Word Became Flesh, our trek through the Gospel of John, by looking at John 16:1-15. However, as is becoming common with me lately, we didn’t quite finish and only made it through the first seven verses. Thankfully, God plans lessons much better than I do, and we were able to wrap up last night’s study by contemplating a very important question.
In our passage, Jesus is continuing to address his disciples on the reality that he no longer will be with them in a physical sense, but is preparing to fulfill his earthly mission by going to the cross. With this jarring reality impending, he is preparing the disciples for what lies ahead so that they might remain strong in their faith. Much like a football team watching film of their next opponent, Jesus understands that when we are prepared for what is coming we are much better able to confront it successfully.
In the first four verses, we see Jesus encouraging the minds of the disciples. He gives them information about what is coming their way. He lets them know that they will lose social standing and likely their very lives because they follow him. How can one call such doom-and-gloom information ‘encouragement?’ By understanding Christ’s words that immediately follow – “But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” (John 16:4) Jesus wants his disciples to be prepared for the difficult road that they face in following him so that their minds will be strengthened and they will be ready to face what awaits. Persecution is promised, and it’s promised to us today just as surely as it was to them. Loss of social standing is a genuine risk if we’re faithfully living out the gospel message, as many of our friends won’t understand the choices that we make and the things that we value. We don’t largely face the threat of death for our faith in America, but many around the world do, from the Middle East to China to Darfur and beyond. It would be naïve, and probably downright arrogant, to assume that God will never demand the same sacrifice from us. Yet no matter what may come, we can stand firm in the faith, confident that the same God who told us to expect these things will sovereignly see his children through to the end.
In verses 5-7, Jesus begins to encourage the hearts of the disciples, whom we see by his comments in verses 6 and 7 were deeply saddened by the fact that Christ would be leaving them, at least in a physical sense. These eleven men were about to be separated from the one they had followed everywhere for three-and-a-half years, one who had become teacher, master, Lord, and friend. They were not only intellectually and spiritually invested in Jesus’ teachings, but emotionally invested in Jesus himself. This is where we closed, and it allowed us in God’s sovereign mercy to contemplate an important and powerful question – do I love Christ? Is my faith merely intellectual and casual, or have I invested every fiber of who I am into the eternal joy and hope that is Jesus Christ? Christ himself said that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God (Matthew 22:37) – not to know about him, not to admire him, but to love him. This investment of emotion is one that is often difficult for us to express – especially, I think, for guys. However, if our faith remains an intellectual exercise and lacks genuine love for Christ (and by implication, for one another), then we ultimately fail, and miss the truth. Consider yourself this week – do you love Christ? I pray God would give us the treasure of an ever deepening love.
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