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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Believers, take heart because Jesus has overcome the world
Text:John 16:25-33 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 97:1,2,5

Psalm 32:1,2 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 42:1-3

Hymn 35

Hymn 38

Scripture reading: Romans 8:18-39

Text: John 16:25-33

* 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,

When you’re climbing a steep mountain, they say you should always have three points of contact between your body and the mountain.  That means you need to always have at least one hand holding on to something.  Now imagine you need to traverse a ledge to get to the next vertical climb.  The ledge is narrow and it’s slanted at an angle downward.  Below you is a whole lot of air -- the ledge is on a cliff.  If you fall, you die. You’ve got to get across this ledge to continue to the top.  But there’s no place to put your hands, there are no handholds for you while you go across this ledge.  I don’t know about you, but when I encounter a situation like that, I’m going to call it a day and start to head back down the mountain.  I’m clumsy to begin with and being afraid of heights doesn’t help.

But now let’s say you’re climbing with an experienced guide.  He’s gone on ahead of you and he’s above you in a safe spot.  He yells down to you, “Hey, you got this.  You can do it.  I did it and you can too.”  But he has more than words.  He secures a rope to some rock and he throws it down to you.  Now you’ve got something to hold on to while you move across the ledge and while you climb the next section.  Having that guide makes all the difference.  

Jesus is that guide for believers as they make their way up the mountain of life.  In our passage from John this morning, he’s revealed as the one who has overcome the world.  He did this to give us encouragement as we navigate this life and all its challenges.  He’s gone ahead of us and because he has overcome, so shall we.  If we go back to the mountain, because he’s made it to the top, so will we.  Let’s listen to God’s Word this morning and I’ve summarized the sermon with this theme:  Believers, take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.

We’ll consider:

  1. The tribulation we have in the world
  2. The peace we have in Jesus

We’re at the end of what’s been called the Farewell Discourse.  These are words Christ spoke to his disciples mostly in the Upper Room before going to the Garden of Gethsemane.  When he was speaking to them, he used what he calls “figures of speech.”  There was a lot that was obscure to the disciples because they weren’t yet able to understand.  But Jesus says in verse 25 that a shift is at hand.  Soon he’ll have been through his suffering and he’ll be exalted and then he’ll speak plainly to them.  Then they’ll be able to understand everything he reveals about the Father.

If you look at verse 26, it might raise a question for you.  Jesus says that after his exaltation, he will not ask the Father on their behalf.  The reason is that the Father loves them and they love Jesus and have believed in him.  Does this mean Jesus no longer intercedes for believers after the cross or something like that?  No, not at all.  What it means is they will no longer need Jesus to do the praying for them.  They’ll be able to approach God the Father directly in the name of Jesus.  It’s precisely through his intercession that they’ll be able to do that – notice that he says “in that day you will ask in my name.”  Today we can pray to the Father and because of Christ and our relationship with him, we can be confident that the Father hears us.  He loves us as his children and so we can go to him with all our burdens and the cares of life in this world.

Another question might pop up in the response of his disciples.  In verse 29, they think Jesus is now using plain speech and they think they’re really understanding.  From Jesus’ response in verse 31, we know they’re still quite in the dark.  But in verse 30, they say Jesus knows all things and he doesn’t need anyone to question him and that’s why they believe when he says he came from God.  What does it mean that he doesn’t need anyone to question him?  That’s referring to Christ knowing everything.  Even before someone asks a question, Christ knows what’s on the mind of that person.  He doesn’t need them to speak in order to discern what they’re thinking.  Jesus has shown that repeatedly.  For example, he knew what the Pharisees were thinking before they even spoke.  And for the disciples, this is proof he has come from God, and that he is God.  Only God knows all things, Jesus knows all things, therefore Jesus must be God. 

But Christ’s response to his disciples is incredulous.  When he asks, “Do you now believe?” in verse 31, we should take that as, “You really think you’re believing right now already? Get real.”  Then in verse 32 he tells them what is about to happen.  In just a short while, in an hour or two, he’ll be with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Judas will meet him, along with soldiers and priests and Pharisees.  And what happens to the disciples?  Matthew 26:56 tells us:  “Then all the disciples left him and fled.”  These men who claimed to believe in Jesus, who claimed to love him and follow him, they run away and he’s left completely alone. 

Then he adds that he wouldn’t be completely alone, because his Father would still be with him.  Certainly that was true in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But was it also true on the cross?  Didn’t Jesus cry out on the cross that he was forsaken or abandoned by God?  Was Jesus alone on the cross or wasn’t he?  There are two things to mention briefly about this.  First, there’s mystery at the cross.  Jesus is both God and man hanging there.  In his human nature he was suffering the hellish penalty we deserve for our sins.  Yet in his divine nature, he was still united to the Father and the Holy Spirit – the Son of God was still a person in the Trinity and it was impossible for him to stop being that.  How is it possible for all this to hold together and to be true?  I don’t know.  The Bible doesn’t explain it for us.  It’s a mystery and we just have to accept it.  The second thing to mention is that Jesus wasn’t alone on the cross.  God was present in his wrath.  He wasn’t there in favour and blessing, but he was there to punish our sins in the suffering and death of Jesus.  So there was a sense in which Jesus was never alone. 

In verse 33, Christ refers to the things he’s said to his disciples.  There he’s referring to everything from the last few chapters of John, the whole Farewell Discourse.  There’s a reason why he’s spoken these things – because in this world those who believe in him will have tribulation. 

There are those who teach that Christians should expect a life of prosperity, with possessions, health, relationships and everything.  As long as you have enough faith, you’ll be blessed, they say.  They say this is the gospel, this is what Jesus came to bring us.  This is what’s called the prosperity gospel and it’s found all over the world.  But it’s not the message of the Bible.  Jesus said it here, “In the world you will have tribulation…”  As Christians live in this world opposed to God, there are going to be tough times.

That message comes through elsewhere in the Bible too.  In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas told the disciples that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  Paul wrote in Second Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”  And in 1 Peter 5:10, we’re told that this life here involves suffering for a little while.  The Bible’s consistent message is that Christians shouldn’t expect a life of earthly prosperity or ease, but tribulation. 

When the Bible speaks about that, whether here in John or anywhere else, it’s referring to the opposition of the world.  The world hates Christ.  The world hates the gospel.  Because the world can’t get its hands on Jesus anymore, the world focusses its attention on his disciples.  We face tribulation because we’re associated with him.

It’s also important to note that the tribulation we have in the world is limited.  It’s limited in duration.  It’s only for a little while – relative to eternity, the suffering we experience in this world is just a blip.  In the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4, it’s a “light momentary affliction…preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”  Or in what we read from Romans 8:18, the sufferings we go through right now are nothing compared to “the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 

The tribulation we have in this world is also limited in its power.  The world can hurt our bodies.  The world could even kill us.  But the world can’t touch the life believers have in Jesus Christ.  There’s nothing the world can do to rob us of Jesus.  It’s important to keep these things in mind so when tribulation comes, we can keep it in the right perspective. 

During the Reformation, the church at Geneva sent out hundreds of missionaries to France.  By 1572, there were some 1200 Reformed churches in France with 1.8 million members.  The French Reformed believers became known as Huguenots and they were a force to be reckoned with.  But something happened in 1572.  It was the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.  At least 2000 Huguenots were killed in Paris, and probably 3-4000 more in other areas.  Before the massacre, the church in Rouen had 16,000 members.  It was a Reformed mega-church in its day.  After the massacre, they dropped to 3,000 members.  It wasn’t that so many people were killed – it was that they became afraid to be known as Reformed church members.  When it became clear a price was going to be paid for being known as a Reformed Christian, thousands of people turned their backs on the church.  And that was the beginning of the end for the Huguenots in France.  Persecution only intensified in the following years.

We don’t know what the future holds for us here.  We often just assume we’ll carry on as we’ve done.  But we should be thinking about the words of Jesus, “In the world you will have tribulation…”  We should prepare ourselves for it, mentally and spiritually.  The time may come when you’re faced to make hard choices when it comes to your faith.  Pray that when you have tribulation, you’ll keep the right perspective on it and remain steadfast in Christ. 

To help us do that, he gives us encouragement.  He ends his Farewell Discourse telling believers to “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Now you might be asking:  how can he say he has overcome the world when he hasn’t yet been crucified and risen from the dead?  He’s using an Old Testament way of speaking about a future event as if it’s already happened.  You often see that way of speaking in the Old Testament prophets.  It’s so vivid in the mind of the speaker it’s like it’s already taken place.  So when he says that he’s overcome the world, indeed, he’s speaking about having done so through the cross and through rising from the dead afterwards.  Through these things, he has gotten victory over the world, and also over sin, Satan, and death.

Jesus has conquered what threatened to destroy us.  Jesus has overcome what would otherwise keep us from a healthy relationship with God.  Through his cross and resurrection, Christ has become victorious over what would otherwise leave us troubled in this world and the next. 

That’s why he says that in him we have peace.  Because he has overcome the world, because he fought the battle, we have peace with God.  Because of Jesus and what he did for us, believers are now in a healthy and friendly relationship with God where we can flourish to his glory.  Because of Jesus and what he did for us, believers can now be at peace within themselves.  The reality is that we all sin every day.  Thinking about your sin, you could be weighed down with a load of guilt, shame, and despair.  But if you have Jesus, you can have peace in your soul.  When he overcame the world on the cross, he overcame your guilt and shame.  He’s got the victory over it.  To prove it, God raised him from the dead.  The empty tomb shows how God has accepted his overcoming the world for you.  You can have the confidence of knowing peace with God and also peace in your own heart.  So loved ones, let me encourage you again to keep looking to Jesus.  It’s been said that for every one look you take to yourself, you should take ten looks to Jesus.  Focus on him and in him you will have peace – he’s promised it to you here in John 16:33.

Elsewhere in Scripture we’re promised that we share in Christ’s victory over the world.  You can’t help but think of Romans 8 and its well-known words, “…in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  The one who loved us is Jesus.  Because he has overcome the world, we shall too.  He is interceding for us, so that nothing can separate us from his love.  Not tribulation, not distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword.  Nothing is going to stand in his way in our lives.  Because he has overcome, we will persevere through whatever tribulation the world may throw at us.  Those who believe in Jesus can have peace because they know that their victory is secured through Christ’s victory.      

Finally, we should note that just like the tribulation of this world is limited, so on the other side, the peace we have in Christ is unlimited.  It’s unlimited in its duration.  While we might not always feel this peace in our hearts in this life, he promises that, in the age to come, his peace will be with us forever and we’ll know it and enjoy it.  In Christ we have peace that’ll never end. 

His peace is also unlimited in its power.  After all, this peace has brought us reconciliation with the holy God.  God’s wrath against sin is infinite, but Christ’s peace which addresses it is also infinite.  Now think about the world.  The world’s hatred for Christ and for Christians is limited, but the peace Christ brings us by overcoming the world is infinite.  In every single way, we have a Saviour who brings us an infinite and abundant peace.  What an encouragement for those who believe in him!

Our Saviour has experienced the tribulation of the world first-hand.  If we compare it to climbing a mountain again, it’s not like he took a helicopter to the top to encourage you.  He’s climbed it himself and he knows the way is hard.  He said in Matthew 7:14 that “the way is hard that leads to life.”  But now he’s above us calling down, “Take heart, friend, I have done it.  I have overcome.  With me, you will overcome too.”  He gives us something and someone to help us – he gives us his Word and his Holy Spirit.  With the Bible and with the Holy Spirit, we have what we need to make our way to where our Saviour is.  And by his grace, everyone who believes in him will surely make it there.  AMEN. 


Our Lord Jesus,

Thank you for the encouragement you give us to through your Word.  As we face tribulation in this world, please help us to take heart.  Please help us with your Spirit to know and experience the peace that we have in you.  Whatever the world may throw at us, we pray that you will help us to overcome, just as you have.  We praise you Lord for what you did on the cross in our place.  Thank you for taking our sins upon yourself so we may have peace.  Thank you for your resurrection life and your victory over sin, death, Satan, and the world.  Lord, we believe in you and we pray for our faith in you to grow stronger each day.                                                  

* 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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