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Expo Preaching
Life in Jesus Name
Jesus warns that the world will hate us. So how will we resond. Will we seek to overcome their hate by trying to fit in, or will we seek to maintain God's standards in the face of such opposition?

As you read through the first few verses of our passage today you may have wondered whether Jesus had overstated the problem. Sure Christians in the first century faced fairly strong persecution but it doesn’t feel like people around us hate us today, does it? I mean I get on well with my neighbours even though they know I’m an Anglican minister. Most people are generally tolerant of other people’s religious beliefs. We certainly don’t expect to be the target of any physical persecution these days, nor do we expect to be hated for our belief in Jesus.

Yet if you read your newspapers or listen to the media it’s not hard to notice the criticisms that arise over the behaviour of Christian leaders in recent times, rightly so, but are then extrapolated to all Christian ministers as though their Christian faith makes them suspect. That’s then led to objections to such things as tax exemption for churches and Christian institutions, provision of CRE lessons, provision of chaplains in schools, etc. This opposition increases as soon as someone suggests that God’s moral standards should be applied to some area of public life.

Now we need to understand that when John uses this term “The world” it’s shorthand for all those forces that are opposed to God. We’ll see that fleshed out a bit by Jesus in a moment. And the idea of hate has a similar origin: that is, it’s the response of someone who is opposed to Jesus or opposed to God. So this hatred may not even be a conscious or active thing. It may just be a basic attitude of opposition to the idea of a spiritual being who intervenes in the world - and who has standards of morals or ethics that he expects us to observe.

So let me suggest that Jesus’ statement that the world will hate us is as true today as it was in his day even if the outworking of that hatred is different. Why? Because we follow Jesus, and the world takes basically the same attitude to Jesus today as it did back then.

But back to the passage: Jesus’ life is now coming to its climax in his death and resurrection. The Kingdom of God is about to be born. That means that there can be no more sitting on the fence. As Jesus said “From now on, you’re either with me or you’re against me.” (cf. Mt 12:30) From now on there will only be two types of people in the world: those who love Jesus, and those who hate him. It sounds simplistic doesn’t it, but in the end that’s what it boils down to. And those two groups of people will be at enmity with each other. He says: “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world -- therefore the world hates you.”

The picture he’s using is of us being brought together, in the midst of a world that’s opposed to God, to form a new world, of those who are his followers. But he doesn’t physically remove us from that world. Rather we’re called to live within it, to be salt and light, a purifying and enlightening influence on it.

But because we live in a world that’s opposed to us, just as it’s opposed to Jesus, it may not be easy. In the context of first century Judaism, the opposition they’re going to face will be opposition from the Jews who saw them as undermining their Jewish faith, of denying the one true God through their claim that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. Then later it’ll be from the Romans and Greeks who are offended by a belief in a God who has died and risen again and whose worship precludes the worship of any other god. But, he says, that’s no more than I’ve experienced. You can’t expect them to understand you or accept you any more than they’ve understood and accepted me. If you take my name you’ll be treated the same way I was. And why? Because they don’t know the one who sent me.

There’s such an irony there isn’t there? The Jews thought they knew God. They thought they were doing the right thing, defending the honour of the only true God. But they didn’t know God at all. Why? Because they’d rejected his only Son. Remember what Jesus said to Philip back in Jn 14:9: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” If they’d known Jesus, they would have known the one who sent him.

So Jesus says there are two types of people in the world. Those who know and love Jesus Christ as Lord, and those who are opposed to him, and therefore to his followers. Well, that was clearly true in the first century, but what about now? How does that dichotomy manifest itself in our situation? Where do we see Christians at odds with the world?

I think one of the most obvious places we see this is in  what used to be called the new fundamentalism but has now morphed into Cancel Culture. This perhaps more than anything else is the place where Christians will find themselves opposed by those of the world. It’s the idea that we must be tolerant of all beliefs. Never mind if that means intolerance to those whose beliefs don’t allow them to accept some sorts of behaviour. We’ll just call them out and publicly shame them. So when we suggest that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that no-one comes to the Father except through him people will accuse us of being offensive, intolerant, of being judgemental.  The world doesn’t want to be told that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

Nor does it want to be subject to the moral standards that God wants for his world. It wants everyone to be able to decide on their own moral standards. In 16:2 Jesus says: “an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” Now I’m not sure that people today will try to kill you nor think of their opposition as worship of God, but I am sure they think they’re doing a service to society, when they push tolerance at all costs.

There’s nothing malicious about this you see. People who push for tolerance in all things think they’re doing it for the good of others. But even so, even if their motives are good, they’re actually doing it from the basis of ignorance of the Father and of Jesus. (v3)

It’s also true, as Jesus points out in 15:22-24, that there are many who even when they see the works that Jesus has done, refuse to believe in him. The evidence may be there but the cost of submitting to Jesus appears to be too great.

So how are we going to stand against the sort of opposition that the world will offer and how are we to convince them that Jesus is worth following? This was obviously in the minds of the disciples. Remember they were feeling like Jesus’ going would leave them abandoned, like orphans, without anyone to support or defend them. So, again, Jesus seeks to reassure them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. 

He says: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.” The solution to our dilemma is twofold. You see, the picture is in fact bigger than we first thought. There aren’t just 2 types of people involved. There’s actually a third party who has a significant effect on the other two. The Spirit of Truth is sent to speak to those who are opposed to Jesus. We’ll see more of how he does that in a moment. But first notice that we’re called to testify on Jesus’ behalf. Well, in the first instance it’s the disciples who are to testify of what they’ve seen and heard. Back in 14:26 they’re told that the Spirit will remind them of all that Jesus has said to them. Here in 16:13-15 they’re told that the Spirit will guide them into all truth; that he’ll reveal what’s yet to come; and that he’ll make known to them what Jesus wants them to know. And the Spirit is given to us as well to remind us of what we’ve learnt of Jesus. To bring back to us the things we’ve read in God’s word. To give us words to speak, so we can be witnesses to Jesus Christ, witnesses of the gospel.

So we have a part to play, but in a sense it’s a secondary part. Or at least it’s a role that we play as a partner with the Holy Spirit. Jesus goes on in vs5-11 to speak about the way the Holy Spirit helps us when we face opposition from the world. In fact, he says, it’s far better for us that Jesus has left, than if he’d stayed. Far more will be achieved by the presence of the Holy Spirit with the disciples, than ever would have been if Jesus had remained with them. When Jesus was with them, their number maybe reached a couple of hundred disciples at its peak, and even then, most gave up after a while, leaving a mere handful of followers. But think about what happened with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. 3,000 were converted the first time the gospel was preached, and then we’re told the Lord added to their number daily, those who were being saved. A few days later there were 5,000. So what made such a difference?

Well, Jesus says: “If I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” This word Advocate, or Counsellor as you’ll find it in some translations, is the word that was used for someone who was called in to assist you, particularly in a legal proceeding. So he might be a witness in your defence, or he might be your lawyer, your legal advisor.

So when Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit in this context as being the Advocate, that’s the idea he has in mind. The Spirit acts as defence counsel on our behalf. And what does he do?

He says: “He will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” That is, he’ll act like a defence counsel, cross-examining the witness to show up the error of their testimony. And how will he do it?

He’ll prove them wrong about sin, first of all, because they don’t believe in Jesus. You see, there’s a new focus for the definition of sin here. Sin is no longer centred in the transgression of God’s law. Nor can sin be used as a mere snicker word. No, sin, now, is centred in the rejection of Jesus as Lord. In the end it’s the failure to believe in Jesus that defines sin, that leads to judgement. That’s why it’s so important for us to be proclaiming Jesus as Lord when we preach the gospel, because being a Christian is about a relationship, not a particular type of behaviour.

Secondly, he’ll prove them wrong about righteousness, because Jesus is going to the Father and they will see him no longer. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, his exaltation to the right hand of the Father, not only vindicates his righteousness, but in fact it guarantees the triumph of goodness in the world. I think lots of people ask whether it’s possible to find lasting goodness in this fallen world. When everywhere we look we see good things spoilt and polluted, where we can spend years talking about violence against women and it just keeps happening, when report after report on aged care give the same suggestions and nothing changes, when scientists warn us of the impending doom being brought about by climate change and we keep giving excuses, it’s easy to wonder whether that doom is the inevitable end for everything.

But no, in Jesus we discover a lifestyle, an obedience to God, that lasts. And he rises from the dead as the first fruits of those who love God. What’s more, Jesus shows them to be wrong about the means to righteousness. The only way we’ll achieve righteousness before God is through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Only through faith in his righteousness will we be made righteous.

Thirdly, he’ll prove them wrong about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. If they think that the idea of judgement is old hat; if they think God isn’t going to judge, they’ve got it wrong. In Jesus’ death, Satan has been overthrown. Satan has done his worst and Jesus has triumphed. You see, Satan thought that he had Jesus where he wanted him. If Jesus was willing to take on himself the judgement of the world, then so be it. Let Jesus die. But Jesus didn’t stay dead, did he? He came back to life, and in so doing he defeated death. He removed for all time the fear of condemnation and in so doing, he took away Satan’s power. In rising to new life, he showed that God was right, that Jesus was the righteous Son of God and that Satan had it wrong. So Jesus’ death and resurrection is like an acted out judgement on Satan. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension is the sign that the Kingdom is here. The time has come to decide one way or the other which side you’re on. The work of the Spirit is to inject that imperative for decision making into our consciousness.

So yes, we will find ourselves at odds with the world, faced with opposition as Christians, witnessing to a hostile audience. But when that happens we’re not on our own. We can take great heart from the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is there with us, convicting people of their sin, showing them the way to righteousness before God and warning them of the judgement to come.

I don’t know about you, but I find that a great encouragement when I’m talking to people about Jesus.

It’s also a great encouragement when I come each week to prepare my sermon, to know that it’s the Holy Spirit who works through my words to convict people of the truth of the gospel. It’s the Holy Spirit who will move in people’s hearts to accept the word of God, to change their lives, to accept the need to decide for Jesus. My words on their own aren’t going to convince people of anything. But as I testify about Jesus, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father joins with me in testifying of Jesus convincing them of the truth of my testimony.

Let’s pray that that would be true for each one of us as we proclaim the risen Lord to those around us.

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