This morning, many tout the name of Christ without admitting and freely confessing His power and authority. While they pay lip service to the person of Christ, their belief system and structure patently denies the power of God, sacrifice of Jesus Christ, etc. by removing the glory and power of it. They do this by stripping the glory of grace by leaving the decision and power in the hand of the sinner. Should any power for an "eternal decision" rest in the hand of any sinner, then the whole system of salvation would result in a 100% miserable failure. Yet, the fact that man has no power to affect this glorious salvation, there are certain aspects of it that touch us quite deeply and profoundly while we live here in this world. This "experiential religion" is an internal testimony to the rich grace and ultimate power of Almighty God.
Oftentimes, in my haste of reading and studying Scriptures, I miss – over and over – some principle or verse application with each and every pass through the lesson. Sometimes, the verses surrounding a verse are so rich that one verse in a passage seems more neglected than others. Our study verse is one such verse for me. Even though it is rich in thought, I generally went through this portion of John in one of two ways: 1. I was so taken with the thoughts in verse 3 (second coming of Christ), that I never made it to verse 4, or 2. I was in such a hurry to get to verse 6 with the wonderful truths there that I glossed over verse 4. To see the beauty of verse 4, let us briefly consider some of the background to this verse.
Chapter 13 ends with Christ's perfect prophesy of Peter's thrice denial of Him before the night was over. Such a proclamation by the Master would be enough to sorrow the boldest of hearts. However, Christ – in His deep compassion for us – follows up that foreboding prophecy with the immediate command to not be troubled in heart. Even though we have failures in life, just as the Saviour foretold for Peter in his life, He commands us not to wallow in the misery but rather look up and revive in spirit. How does one revive in spirit, especially in the face of being faced with one's own shortcomings? Christ lists 4 reasons not to be troubled in heart, and these 4 things do not change. Ever. Regardless of our sin-ridden lives, these 4 principles stand fast and sure forever.
The first principle is found in verse 1. Christ commands them to believe in Him just as they believe in God. The first and foremost reason to not be troubled is that Jesus is God and has all the power and authority of God. His life is not just some good moral lesson, but rather it is a rich and beautiful display of grace that culminates in the salvation of His people. However, Jesus being God is not the only unchanging reason to not be troubled. He declares that His Father's house has many mansions, and He Himself is going to prepare a place for us. So, there is an inheritance that is glorious, permanent, and eternal that is securely fixed and cemented in the work of Jesus Christ. The third unchanging reason to not be troubled is that He is coming again to receive us to Himself: we will be where He is!
These three unchanging facts should be enough for us to remember and realize that everything is going to be all right. No matter how wicked the world gets and no matter how wayward we get in thought or deed, these truths – glorious truths – will never be undone or shaken. Yet, Jesus Christ – the Son of God and finisher of the glorious work of salvation – gives one more reason not to be troubled. Just as the other three tenets are secure and sure for every child of grace, so is this one as well. Even though Thomas shows in the succeeding verse that he lacks the intellectual knowledge as to what Christ is talking about, that does not change the fact that Christ's words were true and Thomas (as well as every other heir of grace) knows what Christ here says we know.
The two things we know are 1. where He is going, and 2. the way He is going. Now this unqualified statement by the Lord seems somewhat bold (to the cursory examination) to declare that His family knows where He is going and the way He is going. Certainly some heirs of grace never know His name or have ever heard a glorious gospel message. Even moreso, they have no Bible to read these glorious statements. So, how can all of God's children have this rich principle apply to them without exception?
The answer is found in the subject of "experiential religion." What we mean by that statement is that Scripture teaches about the internal testimony of God's children. Paul referenced this testimony at the opening of Romans 9. His conscience bore witness to the same thing the Holy Ghost also testified, corroborated yet still by the truth of Christ. Friends, many today like to talk about their own "personal spirituality" that they believe supersedes organized religion and church worship. However, sound internal testimony never contradicts Scripture, and Paul's internal testimony (in his conscience) harmonized nicely with Scriptures as well as the leading and impression of the Holy Ghost. Gentiles in Romans 2:14-15 that had no gospel knowledge or knowledge of the law and the prophets were said to become a law unto themselves when they did the things contained in the law. How did they do that? Internal testimony in their conscience showed the difference between right and wrong, and accused or excused them accordingly.
Furthermore, Paul declares in rich detail in Romans 8:18-24 that the new creature in every born again child of God yearns and longs for heaven. Even though we have never seen it, our hearts, souls, etc. long for that place called heaven and home. Even if someone is unchurched but still born again of the Spirit, they long inside for home. Maybe without words to frame it or a name to call Him whom they have never seen but still they love (I Peter 1:8), they long for Him and the place where He dwells. This internal testimony and longing for home is precisely the point that Christ is making in our study verse.
Yet another reason to not be troubled is because something inside us tells us, "This world is not your home." Something reaches for a place beyond compare. As an interesting aside, while I was thinking about this concept recently, it occurred to me that this verse is a rich defense of the free grace of God by His sovereign and mighty hand. Should it be true that people could help others "get saved" to heaven and immortal glory, then it should equally stand to reason that those same "helpers" would be able to direct people to heaven. If a preacher could save someone's soul, then it stands to reason, logically, that that same man could say, "These are your directions to heaven when you die." Yet, no preacher (of any flavor) that I have ever heard of claimed such an impossible ability. No preachers sit in hospital rooms whispering to dying people, "When you die, hang a left at the second star in the sky."
However, the same One that has saved us has imprinted the knowledge of Him, where He has gone, and the way He has gone upon us and in us. He says we know where He is going (heaven), and we know the way (path or direction) He takes. Paul tells us in Hebrews 6:16-20 that this knowledge is our hope. It anchors our soul in heaven, and the forerunner is already gone before us. The path is well-trodden by His glorious and triumphant steps. No need to ask for directions to heaven, nor to ask where we are going. Our inner man bears the image of Christ (Colossians 1:27), and it knows where to go at the moment of death's release. The sweet path of Christ (the Way) will be richly illuminated as His voice (Life) speaks those sweet words (Truth) and ushers us into the heavenly portals.
Christ gives this as the fourth and profoundly intimate reason not to be troubled in heart while traversing this low ground of sin and sorrow. Yes, He is God. That never changes. Heaven is real, permanent, and prepared for us. That never changes. He is coming again to take us home with Him. That will not change. Yet, for our personal, intimate comfort here daily, we have knowledge (intimately) of a rich nature. Our souls have been stamped with the testimony that we are headed out of this world. Our spirit has been subjected in hope that we are going away. This longing and yearning is a daily proof that we are His, and such proof (especially when coupled with gospel knowledge for us who are so blessed to have it), should make us the most uplifted people in this world. Just as those other principles will never change, so also will the imprint of God's hand on our soul never change. What He has done will forever be upon us, and that longing of the creature will never cease. May we continue this day and for whatever days we have left uplifted and rejoicing. Yes, we will fail, deny Him, and let Him down, but nothing changes these glorious truths of who He is and what He has done.