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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Let your hearts be encouraged with Jesus' last will and testament
Text:John 14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2023
Added:2023-12-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 75

Psalm 19:4 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 108:1,2

Hymn 50

Psalm 149:1,2

Scripture reading: Hebrews 9:11-28

Text: John 14

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

It’s wise to have a will.  Especially as you’re getting older and death draws closer, you want to think about your estate.  You want to make sure that what you leave behind ends up where you want it to end up. 

In John 14, our Lord Jesus knows he is about to die.  Within hours he will be on the cross.  And so, as his death is drawing near, he delivers what could be called his last will and testament.  Hebrews 9 speaks in this way.  The author of Hebrews says that a will takes effect only at death.  When Christ died, his will took effect.  What he had promised to leave behind for his loved ones, they received.  Hebrews speaks of this will as the new covenant.  Christ’s death starts a new administration of the covenant of grace.  Within this new covenant administration there are rich promises. 

Some of those promises are found in John 14.  This morning I want to focus with you on three of them.  These three promises are part of Jesus’ last will and testament.  As we look at them more closely, we’ll find much encouragement.  So the theme of the sermon is:  Let your hearts be encouraged with Jesus’ last will and testament

We’ll see how he has bequeathed us:

  1. A place with him (v.3)
  2. Confidence for our prayers (vv.13-14)
  3. Another Helper (v.26)

Twice in this chapter Jesus tells his disciples not to be troubled.  He says this because he is going away and that truth could unsettle or upset them.  Rather than having them upset, our Lord Jesus wants to encourage them – and he wants to encourage us here today too. 

He said he was going away.  He was going to the Father, back to where he came from before the incarnation.  That was going to happen at his death first, and then later more permanently with his ascension into heaven.  Jesus would no longer be physically with them on earth.  He’s no longer physically with us here on earth. 

But he was going away for a purpose.  He loves his disciples and he was going to prepare a place for them.  This would be a permanent place in the blessed presence of the Father.  It would be a good place.  In fact, it would be the best place imaginable. 

We have to think of the place Christ is speaking about in two different ways.  In theology we talk about the intermediate state and the final state of believers.  When we die, our souls and bodies are separated.  Our souls go to be with God in heaven.  That’s called the intermediate state – it’s the in-between state.  When Christ returns, our souls and bodies are reunited and then we live in the new creation with God.  That’s called the final state.  So when Jesus is speaking about preparing a place, that place is first the intermediate state in heaven, and then second, later on, it’s also the final state in the new creation.  Both involve a place in the blessed presence of God – the most intimate communion human beings can have with their Creator.  Loved ones, that’s what Jesus promises believers.  That’s what we have to look forward to.

During his time of separation, Jesus is working to make a place ready for all those who are his.  He makes a place ready for them by dying for them and rising again.  He makes a place ready for them by ascending into heaven and pouring out his Spirit upon them.  The place is prepared as Christ journeys to the cross and its shame and it’s prepared as Christ is glorified and exalted after his resurrection.  All of Christ’s redemptive work prepares the place in the Father’s house for his disciples. 

And as surely as Christ prepares a place, so surely will he return to take his disciples to be with him.   That’s referring to Christ’s second coming.  Jesus ascended into heaven and someday will come back to judge the living and the dead.  When he does, all the dead will rise and their bodies will be reunited with their souls.  We will, as Paul says, meet the Lord in the air and we will be with him forever.  We’ll then be partakers of his glory.  We’ll be glorified together with him and we’ll reign with him.

How do we get there?  That’s what Thomas asked in verse 5.  In response, Jesus said his famous words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The only way to get to the place Jesus has prepared is through Jesus.  We’re all called to throw ourselves on him.  If we want to get to a room in the Father’s house, we have to stop looking at ourselves in pride.  Instead, we have to humbly look upon Jesus and place all our trust and hope in him.  To be a Christian means to rest and trust in Christ alone as the way to the Father.  To be a Christian means to believe that Jesus has lived a perfect life in your place.  To be a Christian means to believe with all your heart that Jesus took the hell you deserve on the cross, so that your sins are forgiven.  Do you believe like that?  If you do, you can be confident Christ has prepared a place for you in the Father’s house. 

If you do, you can also have confidence when you pray.  Here we’re focussing our attention on verses 13 and 14.  Christ said in verse 12 that believing in him, the disciples will do his works and even greater.  The works referred to here have to do with Jesus’ ministry.  When he walked on the earth, Jesus didn’t travel much beyond Judea.  Yes, he went to Egypt with his parents when he was a baby.  He didn’t stay there long.  In his three years of ministry, the furthest he travelled was to Tyre and Sidon.  But his disciples would take the gospel far and wide – that’s what makes their works greater than the works of Christ.  In the book of Acts, the gospel starts going to the ends of the earth. 

That’s the background to the words Jesus speaks in verse 13:  “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  Asking in Jesus’ name means asking with an appeal to his intercession.  Jesus says that when we do that, it will be done.  Let’s be clear.  Jesus wasn’t saying that you can pray for anything you want, and as long as you pray it in Jesus’ name, you’ll automatically get it.  This isn’t like a blank cheque for prayer.  Jesus isn’t the lottery ticket that always wins.  You can’t think, “Oh, I want a Landcruiser, so I’ll pray for it in Jesus’ name and then God will give it to me.”  That isn’t what Jesus is saying. 

What he is saying is that when you pray for something where the Father will be glorified through the Son, it will be done.  How does you getting a Landcruiser glorify the Father through the Son?  Again we have to remember the context here.  It involves the works of the Son, the gospel ministry he did and that his disciples would do.  If the disciples were to pray along these lines, “Let us do greater works than Jesus did, let us spread the gospel further than he did during his ministry” – God will do it.  He did do it.  This glorified the Father through the Son.

So also today we can have confidence when we pray about gospel ministry in this world.  If we pray and ask God to help Christians to keep doing greater works than Jesus did, spreading the gospel further and further, to more and more people, God will do it.  Because through that, the Father is glorified in the Son.  As people believe in Jesus Christ, they give glory to the Father who sent him in his great love.   

And then notice the slight change in the wording in verse 14.  Christ says, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  Some say Christians can only pray to the first person of the Trinity.  We’re only allowed to pray to God the Father.  They reach that conclusion because of how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.  Well, if that’s what Christ meant in the Lord’s Prayer, then he contradicts himself here in verse 14.  Because here he explicitly says we may pray to him.  But no, our Lord Jesus didn’t contradict himself.  When he tells us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,” he wasn’t telling us to pray to the first person of the Trinity to the exclusion of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Rather, he was teaching us to pray to God, the Triune God, as our Father.  God taken together as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is sometimes referred to in the Old Testament as Father.  In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus was simply taking over that Old Testament language.  He wasn’t saying anything about the Trinity.  So there’s no contradiction between the Lord’s Prayer and verse 14 of John 14.  Jesus says here that we may pray to him and ask him to do greater works of gospel ministry through us, spreading the gospel further, and he will do it.  We can be confident of that.

We can also be confident that Christ has not left us alone.  He has given us another Helper.  Here we’re looking especially at verse 26.  The Holy Spirit is mentioned there as the “Helper.” 

The first time we hear him described like that is back in verse 16.  Christ said he would ask the Father and he would give another Helper to be with the disciples forever.  First, we need to look at that word “Helper” and what it involves.  The original Greek word is Parakletos and I only mention that because we used to have a hymn in our Book of Praise that used the word Paraclete.  It was Hymn 38 (which is now Hymn 49).  Some of you may remember that the old Hymn 38 had a verse which said, “The Spirit knowing all our needs, perfects our prayers and intercedes, as Paraclete before God’s throne, our cause he makes his very own.”  The word Paraclete does exist in English, but it’s hardly used, so our newer Hymn 49 has done away with it.  But that’s the word used for the Holy Spirit here in John 14.  He is the Paraclete. 

That word can be translated as Helper, but it also means “Encourager, Advocate, Counsellor, Intercessor.”  It’s a rich word that can’t really be adequately translated into English with just one term.  The Holy Spirit has a multi-dimensional ministry that serves for the benefit and blessing of believers.  He helps us, he encourages us, he advocates for us, he gives us wisdom, and more.  We’re so blessed to have him present in our lives. 

Back in verse 16, I want you to notice that Christ says the Holy Spirit is another Helper.  Jesus is the first and the original Paraclete.  He helped, encouraged, and counselled his disciples while he walked on this earth.  But now that he’s gone, he’s sent his Holy Spirit to be another Helper, another Paraclete.  And he will be with believers forever, according to verse 16.  Through his Holy Spirit, we now experience the love and care of our Lord Jesus.

In verse 26, the Holy Spirit is said to perform an important role after Jesus’ departure.  After he ascends into heaven, the Holy Spirit will be sent by the Father.  That’s referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  He will teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance everything Jesus said to them.  Let’s unpack that. 

“All things” and “all that I have said to you” run parallel to each other here.  They mean the same thing.  So when Christ says the Holy Spirit will teach his disciples “all things,” he doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is going to teach them about quantum physics or how the circulatory system works.  No, the Holy Spirit will teach them all the things that Jesus said when he was with them.  He will reinforce it all and bring it back to remembrance.

In his commentary on John, the Reformer John Calvin noted that the Holy Spirit “will not be a builder of new revelations.”  Instead, the work of the Holy Spirit in verse 26 is connected to the revelation that Christ has already given.  It’s all about “all that I have said to you.”  There’s nothing that goes beyond that.  And the Holy Spirit will take that and ensure it gets written down in Scripture.  Everything we need to know from Jesus has been put down in the Bible by the Holy Spirit.  He made sure the apostles remembered exactly what Jesus said and he made sure that they wrote it down accurately.  Everything Christians need to know has been put into the Bible.  We don’t need anything else and we shouldn’t seek after anything else.    

In his commentary, John Calvin refers to different groups in his day which saw things differently.  Most of these are still around, over 450 years later.  Calvin mentioned the Muslims.  Islam teaches that the Bible has been corrupted and only the Qur’an is a perfectly preserved revelation from God.  Calvin mentioned Roman Catholicism.  Rome teaches that the Bible is not a sufficient revelation from God.  Further revelation comes through tradition and through the teaching office of the Church.  Calvin referred to the Anabaptists.  There were Anabaptist groups in the 1500s who were much like the Pentecostals of today.  They believed God spoke to them directly and gave them further revelation beyond the Bible.  Calvin said all these groups believe “that something loftier has been revealed by the Spirit.”  But, he went on to say, “…the spirit that introduces any doctrine or invention apart from the Gospel is a deceiving spirit, and not the Spirit of Christ.”  That’s exactly right. 

Loved ones, because of who Christ is, and because of who the Holy Spirit is, we can depend on what has been delivered to us in the Bible.  Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God.  They will always speak the truth.  In fact, earlier in verse 16, the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth.”  And in verse 6, Jesus says he is the truth.  He embodies truth in his person and so does the Holy Spirit.  Everything they say is 100% trustworthy.  So when the Holy Spirit brought everything Jesus said to remembrance, we’ve got two things going on.  First, whatever Jesus taught and revealed originally was true.  Second, the Holy Spirit would have brought the truth Jesus spoke to a completely accurate recall later.  Then he would ensure that it was recorded in the Bible in a completely precise and accurate way.  Therefore, because of what Jesus says here in verse 26, we can be sure we have a perfect Bible.  It has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and is therefore infallible and inerrant.  Scripture is infallible – that means it cannot possibly be wrong.  Scripture is inerrant – that means that it definitely is not wrong on anything.  Taken together, the Bible is totally trustworthy. 

Sadly, there are people who claim to be Christians who deny this.  In 2018, a Baptist pastor named Oliver Thomas wrote an article for a big American newspaper, USA Today.  The headline read, “American churches must reject literalism and admit we got it wrong on gay people.”  He wrote, “Being a faithful Christian does not mean accepting everything the Bible teaches.”  And he specifically refers to what the Bible says about sexuality.  He wrote, “…the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures did not float down from heaven perfect and without error.  They were written by men, and those men made mistakes.”  Oliver Thomas directly contradicts Jesus here.  He contradicts other Scripture passages which speak about God’s Word being completely trustworthy and reliable.  Can Oliver Thomas be 100% sure that the sexual revolution has gotten everything right and the Bible has gotten sexual ethics wrong?  Who told him that?  And for us, are we going to just take his word for it, especially when it’s obvious he has his own personal agenda?  Loved ones, it’s better for us to listen to our Lord Jesus and trust his Word. 

In our passage from John 14, Jesus promises that the Spirit of truth has brought us the truth.  Not just on some things, but on “all things.”  Everything in the Bible has come to us through the Holy Spirit, not from men who made mistakes.  He worked through men, but he worked in such a way that the book we have in our hands is a perfect revelation from God.  You can and you should trust what it says about sexuality, about salvation and about everything concerning which it speaks.  When you take the Bible seriously, the Holy Spirit will continue to teach you.  He will continue to lead you in the Lord’s ways, for his glory.

Brothers and sisters, if we’re Christians, we’re the heirs of the covenant of grace fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  If we’re followers of Jesus, we’re the beneficiaries of his last will and testament.  He died, and so what he promised has been delivered to all believers, to all his heirs.  Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we have that place waiting for us with the Father, we have confidence when we pray concerning the cause of the gospel, and we have the precious presence of his Holy Spirit.  This will has made us rich.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Our Lord Jesus Christ,

We thank you for the promises you made in John 14.  Thank you for how you have promised us a place in the Father’s house.  We give thanks for the promise that our prayers in your name for the cause of the gospel will be heard.  We’re grateful for that other Helper, the Holy Spirit.  Thank you for his work in bringing all your teaching to remembrance.  Thank you for his work in inspiring and preserving the Holy Scriptures.  Lord, we’re grateful that you are the way, the truth, and the life.  We believe you are the only way to the Father.  Please help us all to hold on to that conviction firmly.  If there’s anyone here this morning who doesn’t yet believe that, we pray that you would work faith in their hearts with your Holy Spirit.  Lord, please help us all to rest and trust in you alone as our only Saviour.  Lead us all to trust in your Word alone as a perfect and complete revelation.                                          




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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