Let’s imagine together for a moment a great, tall mountain. At the top of this mountain is a place called Heaven, where God resides. Every person is at the bottom of the mountain trying to climb their way to the top. We have developed many religions, and some say that no matter which path we take, we will arrive at the top with God. While we are trying to climb this mountain, we try to be good people. We try to do all the right things to avoid pitfalls and to ascend to Heaven. If we are good enough climbers, no matter which path we take, we will somehow make it. The problem is that none of us are good enough climbers. None of these human paths lead all the way up the mountain. Today, I want to share with you a story of God’s amazing grace; how when we could not traverse the mountain to His glory, He came down the mountain to bring us to Himself.
John 14:1-31 HCSB
“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.”
“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
“If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.
“I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.
“In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you. The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it You’re going to reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.
“I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit — the Father will send Him in My name — will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. You have heard Me tell you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Me. On the contrary, I am going away so that the world may know that I love the Father. Just as the Father commanded Me, so I do.
“Get up; let’s leave this place.”
A dwelling place
Before this text in the story, Jesus predicted His own death. He told His disciples that He would not be with them much longer. Peter in all of his enthusiasm, asked Jesus what He meant? He exclaimed that he would follow Jesus anywhere, even to death. Jesus looked at Peter and told him that he would deny Jesus three times.
It is within this context of Jesus revealing the future sin of Peter before His disciples, that He also exhorts them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
With this first line of our current text, we notice something very important about the person of Christ. He is in the business of revealing our sinfulness. Just as we discovered together previously, He is not currently in the business of revealing our sinfulness for the purpose of condemnation, but instead for the purpose of redemption, forgiveness and justification before God. After revealing Peter’s sinfulness, Jesus tells His disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. If Christ had to encourage the disciples to not let their heart be troubled, then their hearts must have been troubled.
God knows us intimately and cares for us. He cares about us enough to reveal our sinfulness to us, and He knows exactly where we fall short of His glory. Just as it was with the twelve disciples, when He speaks into our lives on this earth, there will be some sort of burden that comes along with God’s revelation. This means something very significant for the way we live as God’s people. First, if we listen to God’s Word being proclaimed and we are not convicted in this life, then we have not listened well. The same is true in our personal and family worship times as we engage the text of Scripture on our own. If God speaks and our hearts are not burdened to change, then we have not listened to the God of the universe. Second, if we always agree with what is being taught or what we read in the text of Scripture, then we are probably not growing in our relationship with God. We must remember that He is in the business of revealing our shortfalls so that we can actually grow into a greater maturity. It is a good, good thing when we are convicted, brothers and sisters. It means God is speaking and it means we can actually hear Him. Third, if we are adamant about keeping anything the way that it is, then we prove to not be open to the growth in maturity that God has for us on this earth. Thus, the genuine Christian life is not and cannot be a life of ecstasy, hedonism, or personal gain. We cannot live life based on our experiences and still claim to follow Christ without contradicting ourselves. It is a life of burden and personal sacrifice. While we are at work, Christ burdens us to honor Him more while we are on the job. At home, our hearts are burdened to honor Christ more when we are with our families and when we are by ourselves. At church, our hearts are burdened to honor Christ more as we think about an area of service and about presenting ourselves in worship. With our finances, our hearts are burdened to honor Christ more as we give. Christ exposes our sinfulness so that we can be better Christ followers on this earth. From my personal experience I can say that I am much more fulfilled living as a genuine Christian than I ever was when my main concern was making myself happy or holding on to my way of doing things. There is more satisfaction as Christ burdens our hearts toward change and as we pursue Him at every cost. There is more freedom when we find the courage to let ourselves go even though we are completely unsure what Christ will bring us into. The truth is, we cannot be sure what the future might look like even when we think we are in control or when we try to hold on to what we are familiar with. Just as He looked to His disciples in this time of uncertainty and when they were about to lose everything that was familiar to them and urged them not to let their hearts be troubled, He also tells us not to let our hearts be troubled.
After Christ exhorts His disciples, He begins to explain what He has for us. Christ did not just come to die for people and then call them to lifelong sacrifice. He already has a reward for those who live in Him and experience the burden-filled life that His people will experience on this earth.
Christ reveals that in the Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. Now, the Greek word μονα (v. 2) is used here and translated as “dwelling places.” There have been translations in the past that have translated the word as “mansions.” This difference exists because an earlier translation (KJV) translated from the Latin “mansiones” instead of from the original Greek. The word for dwelling places, here, is the same word that is used in verse 23, when Christ speaks of God actually making His dwelling place with us, which is going to have a very significant meaning when we get to verse 23. For now, we might suffice to say that God cares much less about giving us material rewards and cares much more about bringing us to dwell with Him!
Christ states, here, that He is going to prepare a dwelling place for us with the Father. If we want to imagine, again, our mountain from earlier with everyone working to try and achieve a place with God, then we might notice something. God has come down the mountain. He reveals our shortfalls to us and our hearts are burdened for Him. If we allow our hearts to be burdened, our focus is not on our path up the mountain, but instead on God who came down to us. Christ states, here, that He is preparing a place for us with God, and so our hearts do not need to be burdened. Ultimately, it is God who brings us to Himself and who has prepared a place for us. There is no way that we can climb this metaphorical mountain, so God has come down for us. It is true that He burdens us as He reveals our sin, but it is also true that He promises a dwelling place for us when we place our faith in Him. Let not our hearts be troubled!
Christ tells His disciples that if they know Him, they know the Father. They ask Jesus what path they should take and why He hasn’t revealed it. Their focus was on the path, and many times our focus is also on the path: on being at church, on making sure the church can financially sustain itself, on making sure people are doing what they should be doing in the manner we think they ought to be doing it, making sure we are doing the right things the right way. Jesus simply says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (v. 6). In fact, Jesus even states that the only way to the Father is through Him. If we have placed our faith in our own ability to climb the mountain and our own ability to make sure others are climbing the mountain rightly, we will not make it and we will cause others to miss Christ altogether. If, however, we have placed our faith in the person of Christ, He is preparing a place for us!
Jesus presents this dwelling place in contrast to the burden that is placed upon the believer in this world. Because of this, we can infer something about our future dwelling place. It will not be a place of burden. It will not be a place where God is revealing our sin, because sin will have been extinguished. It will be a place where we are made into Christ’s image and where we take great joy in our constant growth in the Lord! We do not know exactly what our future existence will be like, but we can say, according to this text, that it will be an existence without the burden that is described in Christ’s interaction with Peter.
A great work
The fact that Christ is preparing a place for us is significant, but Christ does not simply promise something for the future of those who serve Him now. He makes some great promises for us as we live lives of burden and sacrifice on this earth! Anyone who believes in Christ will do the works that He has done and will even do greater works than those. In fact, whatever we ask for in Christ’s name will be done so that the Father may be glorified through the Son (v. 12-14).
Christ did not say this flippantly or out of context, and so we should not look at it out of context. First, Christ says this in the context of burden. Those who are genuinely open to Christ’s conviction and leadership (those who carry the burden of Christ) are the ones who benefit from this promise. If we are not open to be burdened by the things that burden Christ, we may not benefit from this promise on this earth. Jesus clarifies this context in verses 15 and 16: “If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”
To take hold of this promise that we will do the same types of works that Christ did and even do greater works than that, we must allow ourselves to truly be burdened with the things that burden Christ and show our love to Him by obeying His commands.
Here, I want to point out a couple tendencies in our culture. Our vision is so small. We are burdened by the decisions made by political leadership. We are burdened because we want things to go our way. We are burdened because we worry what other people will think of us. We are burdened because other people seem to want something different than what we want. We are burdened because of all of the bad news that surrounds us. We are burdened because of money. These are not the things that primarily burdened Christ. The one thing that burdened Christ in this text was human sinfulness. Sinfulness causes separation from God. If our hearts are to be burdened with the things that burdened Christ, then it is to be burdened with human sinfulness; first within ourselves and then in others. If we had nothing to offer God and He made the sacrifice that He did for us, then we ought to make every sacrifice to see people that cannot offer us anything come to know Christ and be a part of our family. Our hearts are to be burdened so greatly that the only thing we can do is offer the healing that Christ provides to everyone without showing favoritism. If we are concerned primarily with anything else, then we have chosen not to live in love with Christ. The sad reality for most western Christians is that they have never actually shared the story of Christ with anyone. If we do not carry this burden, then we are like Peter who would deny Christ. Not sharing the story of Christ, then, is just as sinful as the act of vocally denying Christ. Not coincidently, placing conditions on whether or not we serve someone is just as sinful as denying Christ outright.
For those who are burdened with the things that burden Christ, though, Christ promises that we will perform the same types of works that He performed and even perform greater works than those! If our hearts are burdened as Christ’s heart is burdened, then everything that we do will be for His glory and not ours. Imagine how powerful Christ’s ministry through us would be in this world if we actually cared for the same things that Christ cares about. Would you imagine that there is actually something more important than tithing? If we are not burdened with God’s work of evangelism, then we set ourselves up to not receive God’s provision as a church for the proper ministry of the church. Here, I must add this note. Christ did not reveal how He would answer our requests and accomplish the things we ask for, but He does promise that He will do it for those who share His burdens and cares. If we share God’s burden for those who are dying in sin, then we will strive to take every opportunity to share the story of Christ with everyone.
There are two promises, then, for those who believe in Christ and are wide-open to receive the conviction and burden of Christ: 1) a place with God and 2) the opportunity to ask anything in Christ’s name and receive it. This is not all! There is yet another promise that Christ gives to those who believe in Him and share His burdens!
A dwelling Spirit
We might, here, remember verse 2. Christ is preparing a dwelling place for those who genuinely believe in Him. In verse 23, Jesus answers a question from one of His disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” The word for home in this verse is the same word that means dwelling place in verse 2. Christ is preparing a place for us with God. While we wait to be brought to that dwelling place, God actually makes His dwelling place with us! Jesus described a Helper known as the Spirit of truth, or the Holy Spirit. He actually comes to us and makes His dwelling place with us. Just as Jesus is God, so also the Holy Spirit is God. One essence (God) existing in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Not only do we receive a place with God forever, but we also receive the power of God now. Not only do we receive the power of God now, but a Helper and a Guide to carry us through while we live in this world.
These promises are worth more than money, more than earthly power, more than status, more than fame, more than an agreeable political environment, more than us getting our way, more than us agreeing with a teacher, indeed more than anything this world could possibly offer.
Though Peter would deny Christ, Christ states that He leaves with peace; not like the world, which is unforgiving, spiteful and only interested in self. He tells His disciples once more, “Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”
There was a great physician that founded a hospital in a city where every person was in need of healing. People came from everywhere to meet the physician and to be healed. People were being healed and becoming physicians so that they could also help others. After a few years, the physicians had accomplished so much and began celebrating all that had been done. They would give people tours of the hospital and talk about all that they had accomplished and how they had accomplished it. They stopped focussing on healing people so that they could celebrate what they had accomplished. As a result, people stopped going to the hospital because the hospital was no longer a place of healing for people who were not well enough to offer anything. The hospital did not suffer because people were no longer interested in being healed. It suffered because the physicians lost sight of their purpose.
Here, there is a very real call on our lives to actually genuinely live according to what we claim to believe. Without the lifestyle and without the conviction of Christ, we have not truly believed in Christ. So many today simply want what Christ has to offer without actually wanting Christ. We want the benefits without the burden. We want the celebration without the conviction. We want the rewards without the relationship. We convince ourselves that what we want is what Christ wants even though Christ calls us to deny ourselves and take on the things that burden Him (human sin and separation from God). So, I have to ask: Do we actually have faith in Christ or have we bought into some sort of therapeutic moralism (doing what we think is right to feel better about ourselves).
When we genuinely believe in Christ, there are great promises for us. My fear is that we do not experience these promises because we have not truly believed in Christ, only in our ability to look like a “Christian.” If you have not trusted Christ and desire to do so, Romans 10:9 states that if we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with our mouths that Christ is Lord, we will be saved. It is time for us to turn from ourselves and to the God of the universe. It is time for us to take hold of these great promises!