Sometimes life is like driving in a fog. In John 14:1-6, Jesus gives us very clear directions on how to step out with peace and hope… even in the fog.
Here are my sermon notes (which are expanded upon in the audio message):
In the spring of 2014, I drove my firstborn child up Lookout Mountain for a campus preview weekend at Covenant College… Lookout Mountain, which overlooks Chattanooga, is the site of a Civil War battle called, creatively, The Battle of Lookout Mountain. But as Brig. Gen. Montgomery Meigs, quartermaster general of the Union Army, observed the fog-shrouded action from Orchard Knob, he named it the “Battle Above the Clouds.” You see, Lookout Mountain is not only known for its civil war battle, or being the home to Covenant College, Rock City and Ruby Falls. It is legendary for its fog. And that weekend that I took Ann Ferris up the mountain… WOW! Not exaggerating, 5-10 yards of visibility! Had to drive slowly. Driving anxiety.
Life is like that, isn’t it? Like driving in a fog. We have a very limited view, which, like driving in dense fog, can create a tremendous amount of anxiety. Especially when we are waiting for the biopsy, waiting for the acceptance letter or wondering if marriage is somewhere out there in the fog. Or a job. How are the troubles of this life going to work out?
In John 14, Jesus provides us with a faith for the fog, which enables us to move forward through the fog with peace and hope. Even though we may not be able to see the next day, we can see the final day and know that Jesus is in control of this day.
This is what we see in John 14:1-6.
A thick fog was about to settle in over the disciples. Remember where we are in the life of Jesus. Jesus had said He was going away, that He would die, that one of the Twelve was a traitor, that Peter would disown Him three times, that Satan was at work against all of them, and that all the disciples would fall away. The cumulative weight of these revelations must have left them completely bewildered, discouraged and depressed.
I think most of us can relate to this.
And so Jesus offers us…
I. A Specific Challenge to Embrace (v. 1)
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
Jesus is not denying his deity here. In fact, later in this chapter, he will strongly affirm his deity, for in v. 9 he says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” And in v. 11, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”
The point is that Jesus knows that the tendency of the human heart in the face of fear and uncertainty – in the face of fog – is to lose hope. To despair. To turn inward.
And so Jesus is challenging us to turn, not inward, but UPWARD.
Psalm 121:1-2, “1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” In a low place, we are told to look up.
And notice that this is a command, not a suggestion. The Greek verb (do not let be troubled) is an imperative (grammar– the indicative mood is a statement, but an imperative is a command). Jesus gently, yet firmly calls them/us to activate their faith – “trust.” Faith is not passive, but active.
This may be the most challenging thing we can do. Because it takes conscious effort to face our fears, troubles, bring them into the light of God’s truth and then live in light of that truth – letting truth inform and control our emotions. Interestingly, Jesus assumes that we have some sense of control over what we trust and how our heart reacts.
Most of us have played tug-o-war… Most of us will play tug of war with our emotions right here – what we feel is true vs what is true.
Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
So, as application, I want to encourage you to embrace wholeheartedly three core doctrines:
- Embrace what is true about God’s sovereignty – Romans 8:28, “In all things, God works for the good…”
- What is true about God’s wisdom – Is. 55:9, the Lord’s ways are not our ways, they are higher than ours – he can see what we can’t
- What is true about our adoption
As we begin to play tug o war with our emotions and trust him in greater ways, there is…
II. A Specific Promise to Believe (vv. 2-3)
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms [not “mansions” – The Greek word for rooms, monai, was rendered by early church theologian Jerome in the Vulgate translation in 405 AD as Latin mansiones, which was translated in the KJV as “mansions.” An unfortunate trans., as it individualizes the image into mere personal blessing rather than filial togetherness.]. 2b If it were not so, would I have told you (plural) that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus sees the fog descending. But he sees beyond the fog. He wants us to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is going to be glorious.
Ps. 16, “In the presence of God is the fullness of joy.”
Rom. 8:18, “I consider our present sufferings not worthy to compare to the glory that will be revealed to us.”
We may not choose the path we’re on as we pass through the fog, or want to be on it. And like the disciples, we might be bewildered, discouraged and depressed… Have no idea why God is allowing events to unfold as they are. Can see no good, no purpose. May even go beyond depression to anger.
Jesus wants to head this off at the pass.
And he wants us to feel this – his concern for us, plan for us. They would NOT be abandoned, even though it would feel that way. Tomorrow is going to be nothing less than catastrophic for the apostles.
When the depression settles and anger grows, we need this promises. Need to anchor our hearts to it. There is a plan. A purpose.
Yet the process of trying to anchor our hearts will feel like wrestling – exhausting. And so we need community to help us wrestle.
- To believe when our faith is weak and we doubt the promises.
- To encourage us and hold us up when we are ready to give up.
- This is one reason why we have K-Groups!
And this is where a theology of eternal life, glory, joy, ultimate happiness is not merely a theoretical theological concept, but a powerful motivator for helping us to press on through the fog with faith in the promises of God.
And yet, as we press on, we need to be sure we are on the right path in the fog… So, Jesus makes it clear that there is…
III. A Specific Path to Follow (in order to reach that place of joy and reunion) (vv. 4-6)
4 “And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As early as 1100, it was said that “all roads lead to Rome.” Eventually, that phrase was applied to religion, “All religions lead to God/heaven.”
The saying assumes that it doesn’t matter which path you are on as long as you are sincere. The problem is that we can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.
Jesus does not say that he is a way or a truth, but THE way, truth, life… the terminology of exclusivity. He is saying, “All roads might lead to Rome, but not all religions lead to God.”
Now, I know that this is not a popular position to take in a relativistic, pluralistic context. And you may be deeply offended as a modern person. But recognize that the context into which Jesus spoke was exceptionally syncretistic and pluralistic, especially when it came to religion. The entire Roman world would have been offended, too.
After all, when Paul was preaching in Athens, he noted that the people worshiped many gods – dozens. In less than 100 years, the Pantheon would be built in Rome. Pan (all) theon (from theos = god).
So, think about what Jesus is saying. His exclusivity is not intolerance or arrogance. In the days before GPS, you might get lost and have to pull over and ask someone for directions. You wanted to know if they were a local. Didn’t want to get more lost! Jesus is like a GPS to heaven. He is telling it like it is, not how we want to hear it.
Jesus knows that our hearts will be deceived by a variety of paths to blessing and joy. He knows that it is possible to get more lost! It may be a religion, or money, or popularity — none of which deliver on their promises.
Jesus is making it clear that the only way to be reconciled to God, to experience heavenly glory is BY GRACE ALONE! “Not by what you can do for God, but what Jesus has done for you.”
When CS Lewis was a professor at Oxford University in England, he walked into a room of academics discussing what was unique, if anything, about Christianity among world religions. The consensus was that all religions were essentially the same and that all led to God in their own way. But CS Lewis knew better. So, he walked into the fray, and said simply, but matter of factly, “Oh, there is a big difference. It’s easy to distinguish what is unique. In one word: grace!”
Every other religion in the world is diametrically opposed to the way of Jesus. They say, “You do good —> you get a reward.” Deserve it. Earn it. But reward is NOT grace. It is the polar opposite of grace!
Christianity is ALL grace. Yes it is exclusive in its claims – only one path to heaven and it goes through the cross. Jesus’ doing and our receiving – faith.
- But it is not just other religions that are reward, rather than grace based, there are cults that impersonate Christianity. One of the tell-tale signs of a cult is that they talk about the Bible, but require some degree of human merit as a precondition for salvation.
- The result is that the adherents of cults and other religions, and corrupted forms of corrupted Christianity… they live in fear and with spiritual anxiety. “Have I done enough?”
- Yet you don’t have to be a cultist or a Muslim or Hindu to have that question pester your heart and mind. It is the question of every human who looks to himself for salvation – however we define salvation. But know this: it is not a question that is prompted by the Holy Spirit, but by the flesh and/or the enemy, to derail us from grace.
- Yes, in Christianity there are laws and demands. The difference is that Jesus fulfilled them for us, and extends to us HIS merits of obedience.
- This is why the gospel is not a reward; it is a gift.
Christianity is utterly and absolutely different from other religions and cults. Sets us free from fear and anxiety. In fact, it is kind of love and grace that empowers the kind of trust that Jesus challenged us to in v. 1 – a faith for the fog.
So, are you ready… to trust Jesus in the fog?
Are you ready to receive God’s promise of grace in Jesus? Fully forgiven. Perfectly accepted. Eternally loved.Where you can step out into the fog trusting in the presence and power of Jesus to be with you and for you?
This is what I want for us, and what I think Jesus wants for us. Not just to know about him, but to know and trust him. So, if you are ready to trust him like this now, they please join with me in prayer.