Standing Firm with the Holy Spirit — John 15:18-16:15

// March 7th, 2018 // Sermons

[Begin with video clip]

Here’s the question I have after watching that clip: What would you do? This guy was invited to speak on a college campus and talk about Christian principles of marriage. This is what happened. What if it was you? What if you were the one with fifty or sixty people screaming at you, calling you names? What if you were the one who needed to have a security detail and an evacuation plan because people were so angry with what you had to say? What would you do? What would you say? How would you react?

Let’s look at our passage: John 15:18-16:15.

Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18, ESV). Now, the beginning of the sentence is written in a particular way so that it actually says, “Since the world hates you…” It’s not a question about whether the world will hate you. They will hate you. Look at how those college students responded to a lecture. They did not simply protest. They HATED the one speaking about Christian principles. Jesus knows this is what is going to happen. He knows that the world will hate those who follow Him. He knows this because they HATED him.

Why did the world hate Jesus? He says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin…If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.” (John 15:22, 24, ESV). Because Jesus took on flesh and lived in the world, the world hates him. The world hates him because of the things he said and the things he did. Because Jesus entered into the world, revealing himself powerfully through his words and actions, the world no longer has an excuse. Therefore they hate him for removing that excuse–for opening their eyes to reality of their rebellion.

I think it’s important to clarify that Jesus is NOT saying the world was innocent of their sin prior to his coming. Actually, in many ways he is saying the opposite. He’s agreeing with what Paul says in Romans 1: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19–20, ESV). The reality is that the world is without excuse. Every time they walk out their front door, God is speaking to them through His creation. Shoot, every time they take a breath–every time their body is functioning properly–God is speaking to them through His creation. They have no excuse for rejecting God and living in sin. However, they come up with a bunch of excuses. They cover their eyes to God’s glory and yell at Him because they can’t see Him. However, when Jesus came into the world His glory shone so bright that they could no longer “cover their eyes.” His glory shone through his words and his actions. Yet, when they saw Him, they HATED him. When they saw Him, they loved the darkness more than the light. When they saw him, all of their excuses were removed, and the reality of their rebellion against God became very clear. It became obvious that they hated Jesus and they hated the Father: “Whoever hates me hates my Father also.” (John 15:23, ESV).

Yet, the reality of the situation is: “But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:25, ESV). They had no real reason to hate Jesus. They hated him without cause. They looked at Jesus, saw the image of God, and hated it. That’s the epitome of foolishness: to hate the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, to hate the one who pours out blessing on the world, to hate the one who guides us in paths of righteousness. Yet, that’s why the world Hated Jesus.

It’s also why the world will hate us. Jesus says, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19, ESV). This is one of the most convicting verses in all of scripture. Jesus says that the world hates us because He chose us out of the world–He chose us to be set apart, to be holy (to tie this back to Winter Retreat). That’s why the world hates us. They look at our words and our actions and it reminds them of the Father and the Son, it points them to the light, and they hate it. Jesus says that if we were just like the rest of the world, if were were “one of them,” then they would love us. Yet, we are not “one of them,” so the world hates us.

Now, here’s why this verse gets pretty convicting. Every time I read this verse, I find myself asking, “Does the world love me or hate me?” and “What does that have to say about my life?” I want you to ask yourself the same question. Does the world love you or hate you? What does that have to say about your life? Convicting isn’t it? It’s convicting because too many of us–especially Christians in the United States–work very hard to be liked by the rest of the world. We work very hard to “fit in” with the rest of the world. We work hard at being “relevant” or culturally acceptable. We don’t want the world to hate us. We think we need the world to love us in order to “win the world for Christ.” Isn’t that true? Can’t you feel that deep inside you?

I remember when I was a teenager. I was not very diligent in my faith. I was pretty apathetic. I also had friends who hated the Christian faith. I remember thinking, “I’m going to win them to Christ by showing them how cool Christians can be. We’re not a bunch of judgemental, condescending people. We’re pretty cool and fun.” That thinking worked itself out in me never addressing sin in people’s lives and sinning myself. I would do things that I knew I shouldn’t do because I wanted them to see how “cool” a Christian could be. It was STUPID! I’m going to be extremely blunt. That was STUPID! Guess how many of those people I “won” to Christ? Zero. Why? Because they didn’t see Christ in me. They didn’t see anything different in me. All they saw was another teenager who was doing the same things as everyone else in the high school. I was loved by the world because I had become one of them. If I would have lived out my calling from God, and lived a holy life, the world would have hated me, but they would have seen Jesus. That’s much better. It’s also MUCH harder.

That’s why Jesus continues, saying, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:1–4, ESV). He said that the reason he is saying all of these things is to keep them from falling away. He knows that it’s going to get hard for his disciples. They are going to be kicked out of places they once were welcomed. They will be killed by people who once were friends. In the midst of this difficulty, Jesus does not want them to fall away. He wants them to stand strong. He wants them to stand on a firm foundation. He wants to prepare them for battle.

The question is: How are we prepared for battle? Or, to tie it back to the beginning of the sermon: How can we stand firm in the midst of attack? How did that pastor stand firm in that situation? Jesus says that we are prepared for battle by the Holy Spirit. He says, “Nevertheless, 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.” (John 16:7, ESV). So, it’s to the advantage of the believer for Jesus to ascend into heaven and be seated at the right hand of the Father, because from that position He sends the Holy Spirit–the Helper–who equips us for battle, who helps us stand firm in the midst of attack. Jesus says, “But when the Helper comes…he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26–27, ESV). So, the Spirit is going to continue to bear witness–to point people to Jesus. But Jesus also says that his disciples will bear witness–through the work of the Spirit. They will also be pointing people to Jesus in the midst of these attacks, not in their own strength, not in their own ability, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. If you had to rely on your own strength in the midst of these attacks, you would certainly fail. However, as someone who has been given the Spirit, you do not have to rely on your own strength because you have been given the Spirit who will bear witness to the world through you.

What’s the Spirit’s witness–our witness–going to be? “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8–11, ESV). All of this is pointing to the continuation of Jesus’ work. The Holy Spirit–through believers–will continue to convict the world of it’s blatant rebellion against its creator. The Holy Spirit–through believers–will convict the world of its FAKE righteousness, a righteousness that is no better than dirty rags. The Holy Spirit–through believers–will convict the world of the ridiculousness of following Satan and allowing Him to rule.

The Holy Spirit also works directly in our lives. Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13–14, ESV). The Spirit of truth will guide you in all truth. He will guide you through all of the lies of the world. He will open your eyes to see them as foolish and to see the truth of God’s Word. He will continue to speak to you the words of Jesus–God’s Word. He will declare them to you–preach them to you–and seal them on your heart. Finally, he will glorify Jesus–and he will do that through you.

Can you see how this empowers/equips us for battle? How can you walk into a situation where the majority of the people will hate you? How can you speak up to a group of people who hate you? You rely on the Holy Spirit. He WILL speak through you. He will give you the words to speak in that moment. He will help you see through the lies of the world. He will guide you into all truth. He will seal God’s Word upon your heart. He will open your mouth to bear witness to Jesus. He will hold you firm to the end. He will use you to convict the world of their foolishness and rebellion, call them to repentance, and put their faith in Christ. Finally, the one who chose you out of the world, will also carry you till the end. He will do all of this in you. Trust Him in this and step out in faith and boldness.

I want to end with a couple quotes by John Calvin. First, he says, “True, the world will rage against you; some will mock, and others will curse your doctrine; but none of their attacks will be so violent as to shake the firmness of your faith, when the Holy Spirit shall have been given to you to establish you by his testimony” (130).

One last point from Calvin: “And yet we ought not to wait till the struggle be actually commenced, but ought rather to endeavor to become well acquainted with these discourses of Christ, and to render them familiar to our minds, so that we may march into the field of battle, as soon as it is necessary; for we must not doubt that the victory is in our hands, so long as those admonitions of Christ shall be deeply imprinted on our minds” (133). Calvin reminds us that we must spend time meditating on these truths–these realities. We must imprint them upon our minds BEFORE we find ourselves in the midst of a fierce battle. We have no idea when the fierce fighting will begin, but we must be prepared for it. So, spend this next week meditating on these truths of the Spirit and His work in you life. Grab hold of these promises with both hands, don’t let them go until they bless you. Then, move forward into the world in the boldness of the Spirit, trusting that He will hold you firm till the end.

One Response to “Standing Firm with the Holy Spirit — John 15:18-16:15”

  1. Bonnie Olson says:

    Good message, Jason. Praying for you and the group God has you working with. Happy Belated Birthday as well!

Leave a Reply