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We have learned by experience that there is no more effective way to release God’s power into a situation than by proclaiming His Word in faith. In fact, I’ve told people many times, but I’ve never tired of saying it... I doubt whether either Ruth or I would be alive here today if we had not learned to use this weapon of proclamation. We have both passed through, at different times, a period of severe sickness, as a matter of fact, I contracted something, or something was fastened on me which is normally fatal. But here I am today and, thanks to the doctors, and to God, and to the power of Scripture, I am alive and well and serving the Lord.
So this morning we’re going to proclaim a passage from Isaiah 55:10–11, which are very appropriate to this particular series that we’ll be dealing with.
“For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may be a seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Now the title of this first message is “Founded on the Rock.” That’s what we’re going to be dealing with to start with. The Bible is a model of good teaching and it follows various principles of teaching. One in particular is that you start from the known to lead people on to the unknown. You never start with the unknown, you start with what is known and you proceed from there to the unknown. One of the ways that the Bible does this is to take very simple, familiar, everyday experiences and activities and to give them a spiritual application. There are various examples. The Bible speaks about a farmer sowing his seed, about a fisherman catching fish in a drag net; it speaks about a soldier putting on his armor. And then in a completely different kind of context it speaks about a bride preparing herself for her wedding. Those are just a few examples of this principle.
But the particular familiar activity that I want to focus on is that of constructing a building. And I think this picture of the Christian life is used at least as many times as any other picture in the Bible.
So we’re going to turn, first of all, to the epistle of Jude, verse 20 and 21, which is a word of exhortation to us as believers.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.”
So there the Scripture says we must build ourselves up in our most holy faith. That’s one of the ways in which this metaphor of building applies. We are responsible to build ourselves up.
And then in Ephesians 2:21–22 it speaks about a holy temple in the Lord:
“...in whom you also are being built together for a habitation [or a dwelling place] of God in the Spirit.”
So that speaks about the collective Christian community that we are to be built together in the Holy Spirit as a place for God to dwell in.
And then in 1 Peter 2:4–5, speaking about Jesus as a living stone, Peter says this:
“Coming to him [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen by God and precious, you also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.”
So there we are compared, each one of us, to living stones which are being built together into a holy temple which the Lord is going to occupy.
And then one final example from Acts 20, the farewell of Paul to the Ephesian elders whom he loved with a special love because it was in Ephesus that his ministry had had perhaps the greatest impact of any place. And in this speech in Acts 20 he’s taking farewell and he’s telling them they’ll never see him again in this life. It was a very moving situation for all of them. This is really the final thing that he wanted to leave with them in verse 32 of Acts 20.
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
So there Paul says the main means that builds us up is the word of God’s grace, the Bible. And he says it is able to build us up and to give us an inheritance among all those who are set apart for Jesus Christ by faith in Him.
Now, I am not a builder but I know one thing. In any permanent building, whether it’s built of brick or stone or concrete or even timber, the vital area is the foundation. And the Bible deals specifically with this and here is an issue of great importance for every one of us. It’s having the right foundation because the foundation sets limits to the building that can be built above it, both in size and in weight. The foundation sets the limits. This is true in the Christian life. You cannot build more successful Christian life than your foundation will permit. This is the vital issue, what is your foundation? Have you laid the right foundation?
Now, there is only one foundation that is adequate and sufficient, and it’s all sufficient, and it is a person. The person is Jesus Christ. Paul, writing to the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 3, uses two metaphors. He used the agricultural metaphor but then he goes on to the building metaphor. He says in verse 9:
“For we are God’s fellow workers... [we’re working together with God.]... you are God’s field... [that’s the agricultural metaphor.]... and you are God’s building [that’s the construction metaphor. Then he goes on with the building metaphor:]. According to the grace of God which was given to me as a wise master builder... [And in Greek that word is architect.]... I have laid the foundation and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”
So, Paul says there’s only one foundation for the Christian life and that is Jesus Himself. And anything that is not built on that foundation will not stand the test of time and of trial. So it’s very important for every one of us to assess what our life is built on. Are we truly built on the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we have a personal relationship and a personal knowledge of Jesus that makes us able to relate personally to Him?
The question of laying this foundation in Jesus is extremely important. And so I want to take some time to deal with the issue of how we can have this foundation; that is, the foundation of Jesus in our lives. I would invite each one of you to examine your own life, your spiritual condition and your spiritual experience and to check as to whether you are really right in your relationship with the foundation.
I want to turn to Matthew 16 for some basic teaching. In verses 13 and following Jesus is talking to His disciples and it says:
“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’”
Then He makes it very personal.
“But He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ [the Messiah] the Son of the living God.’”
That was a crucial moment in the life of Peter and in the whole history of Christianity.
“‘You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus responded, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’”
So Jesus uses this encounter with Peter to establish the way in which we can lay a foundation in Jesus Christ Himself.
First of all, I need to comment on some of the words that are used. In verse 18 Jesus says, “You are Peter,” and the Greek is petros, “and on this rock,” the Greek is petra, “I will build my church.” It has often been suggested that Peter is the foundation of the church. I’d have to say if it were so it would be a very wobbly building because a little later Jesus rebukes him and says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Later still, he denied the Lord three times. And even after the resurrection Paul had to rebuke him for compromising with the truth of the gospel for fear of his fellow Jews. So, I’m just grateful that the church is not built on Peter, nor am I.
What actually emerges from this passage, which is very clear in the Greek testament which is the original version that we have, “You are Peter [petros] and on this rock [petra] I will build my church.” Now, Petros in Greek means a stone or at the most a boulder, nothing bigger than that. Normally it would be the kind of stone that people would take up to stone someone with. On the other hand, petra means a jagged rock that extends from the bedrock. It’s often used of a cliff or something on that scale. But the important thing to remember is it is part of the bedrock. What is the bedrock? It’s just what Peter had been going through, the recognition of Jesus for who He is, revealed only by the Holy Spirit. No one can know Jesus, who He really is, unless God the Father by the Holy Spirit reveals Him to you.
And so this is the petra, it’s the bedrock on which our Christian faith must be based. It’s a personal encounter and a personal revelation of Jesus not as the carpenter’s son, not as a historical figure but as the eternal, uncreated Son of God. That’s where we have to come if we are going to build on that rock. The experience through which Peter passed must be parallel in our experience.
I’ve told people many times, you can join a church, you can go through a religious ceremony, you can say a prayer and not be changed. But if you really encounter Jesus you will be changed. No one encounters Jesus and remains the same. So, each of us needs to ask, “Have I ever had this life changing personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ?”
I would like to suggest to you four successive phases through which Peter passed in this encounter. First of all, confrontation. Jesus and Peter met face to face. There was no mediator, no priest, no one in between them. It was a direct, personal confrontation of Jesus. And that’s what we have to come to. Jesus said in another place, “I am the door. By me if any man enters in, he will be saved.” There’s only one way into the kingdom of God, that is through the door. The door is not a church, it’s not a doctrine, it’s Jesus. “I am the door.”
Secondly, the confrontation was followed by revelation, a revelation granted by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Flesh and blood has not shown you this.” You cannot arrive at it by your natural senses, there has to be a revelation. Again, this is essential. No one can know Jesus as He truly is in His eternal Sonship of God without a personal revelation. You can study theology, you can go to a Bible college, you can even become a minister. But, without this personal revelation of Jesus you cannot know Him. This revelation comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.
Let me ask you, don’t respond, but have you had that personal encounter with Jesus? I have. More than 50 years ago in the middle of the night in an Army barrack room in World War II, I encountered Jesus. I didn’t have any doctrinal knowledge, I didn’t have any evangelical language, I couldn’t say I was saved or born again, I learned all that later. But I want to tell you, I was changed—radically and permanently changed. I wasn’t made perfect. In fact, let me confess to you I’m still not perfect, but I was changed, for the better.
Then there has to be an acknowledgment of what the Holy Spirit shows us. We have to say, “Yes, I believe. I receive.” We have to make some kind of response. It’s not automatic, it requires something happening in us.
And fourthly, there has to be a public confession of our faith in Jesus. That’s what Jesus brought Peter to, “You are the Christ, the Messiah.” He made it public. People speak about secret believers and I acknowledge there are secret believers, especially in countries where to acknowledge yourself as a believer would be to be put to death. But I don’t think anybody can permanently remain a secret believer.
Let me read to you what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32–33.
“Therefore, whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
So Jesus in His characteristic way doesn’t leave you three choices, only two. You either confess or you deny. And if you fail to confess in an appropriate situation, you are in effect denying. So, each one of us at some point has to come to the place where we openly acknowledge our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a critical moment for many.
I discovered in the army after I had become a believer that the best thing to do was to let everybody know the first moment you met them where you stand. Then you never have to go back and say, “Well, I didn’t really tell you at the first, but...” So, I did something which is not a religious act but every night in the barrack room, wherever I was, I would kneel down at my bed and pray. That just told them that’s the kind of person you’re dealing with. It was much easier. I saw other Christians who waffled and didn’t come right out with saying what they believed and it was much harder for them to go back afterwards and make the right confession. So, I want to recommend that to you. You don’t have to stand on the street corner and preach, you don’t have to be a preacher. You can be a housewife, you can be a student. But wherever you are, let people know you believe in Jesus, He’s the Son of God.
So let me just recapitulate those four successive phases of this encounter which is so basic because this is how we lay the foundation of Jesus in our lives personally.
First of all, there was a confrontation.
Second, there was a revelation granted by God the Father through the Holy Spirit.
Third, Peter responded with an acknowledgment.
And fourth, he made a public confession.
Now you might ask, and people could ask, “Is such a revelation possible today?” Is it possible for people like you and me to know Jesus just as really and just as personally as Peter did and as the other disciples did? We need to see two important things. First of all, Jesus was not revealed to Peter as the son of the carpenter. He’d known Him that way for quite a while. He was revealed to him as the eternal Son of God. The Scripture says in Hebrews 13:8:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
There has been no change in Him, there never will be. So, it’s not a question of language or culture or clothing, but it’s a question of the eternal person of Jesus. That’s what Peter encountered maybe for the first time in his life. He really had a revelation who Jesus is.
Secondly, the revelation was granted through the Holy Spirit. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit the eternal Spirit, the timeless Spirit. Time, fashion, history, customs, language they don’t change the Holy Spirit.
So for those two reasons it is equally possible for you and me to have this direct, personal revelation of Jesus, just as possible as it was for Peter. First of all, because it’s the eternal Son of God who is revealed. And secondly, because it’s the eternal Spirit who reveals Him.
Now we come to the next important practical issue, if you have laid the foundation, how do you proceed to build on it? You remember that the metaphors we used at the beginning all spoke about building. So here’s the next vitally important and practical issue: how do you build on the foundation? I want to go to a parable of Jesus that He spoke at the end of Matthew 7, a well known parable about the wise man and the foolish man, each of whom built a house but they built it different ways. Beginning in Matthew 7:24:
“Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock [the bedrock, petra]. And the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house and it did not fall, for it was founded on the bedrock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house and it fell, and great was its fall.”
First of all, it’s important to see that each house was subjected to the same test. There was no house that was free from being tested. The same storm that hit one house hit the other. And let me tell you the Christian life is not a storm-free life. You will go through storms. God has never guaranteed that you won’t. In fact, Paul and Barnabas said to an early church, “We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” If you’re on a road that has no tribulation, it’s questionable whether it leads to the kingdom of God because that’s what Paul said, “we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” It’s not in the scope of this talk to explain why we go through tribulation but believe me, God has a purpose in it. If you’re going through it now, don’t give up, God will bring you through and you’ll find at the end that He’s dealt with you and taught you things you couldn’t learn any other way.
Do you know how I know that? From personal experience. I very seldom preach theories.
So, how does the wise man build? Very simply, two ways. By hearing and doing the words of Jesus, the words of the Bible. How can you build on that foundation? Just the same way. Hearing what the Bible says and doing it. Don’t be just a hearer only because the Bible has no promises for them, but a hearer and a doer. It’s practical. It’s applying the teaching of the Bible and the teaching of Jesus in your own life. And you will find as you go on in this that God will continually open up to you new areas in which you need to apply the truth.
I want to tell you I’ve been a Christian for more than fifty years but God is continually showing me new ways in which to apply His word. New areas of my life in which I need to apply it. My building isn’t complete, it’s being built. But I thank God it’s passed through a number of storms successfully.
Now there’s one other parable of Jesus in Luke 6 which is very similar but there’s an important addition. I’m going to turn to Luke 6 for a moment, verses 46 through 49. Again, it’s Jesus who is speaking. And He says,
“But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”
That’s an important question. It is futile to call Jesus Lord if you don’t obey Him because the very title “Lord” means someone who is to be obeyed. Jesus says beware of just having a vocal confession which doesn’t affect the way you live.
Then He goes on with this parable:
“Whoever comes to me and hears my sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like. He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” [the bedrock, the petra]. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built his house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Now there’s one important detail added in Luke which is not in Matthew. I wonder how many of you noticed it. It says the man who wanted to reach the bedrock had to dig deep. He had to get a lot of things out of the way before he could build on the bedrock. And that is true with many of us, maybe not with all of us, but most of us who’ve grown up in a nominal Christian culture, there’s a lot of things we have to get out of the way before we reach the bedrock. Others, too, who have grown up in a completely non-Christian culture will have to eliminate things, too, but they’ll be different.
And I want to suggest to you five things that we need to dig out of the way. The first is traditions. Now, not all traditions are bad, some traditions are good. We don’t want to throw out all the traditions but Jesus said to the people of his day, “By your traditions you have made the Word of God of no effect.” You’re believing traditions and acting on them which are not in line with the Scripture. And I have to say, according to my observation, Jesus would say exactly the same thing to the same Jewish people today. “By your traditions you have made the Word of God of no effect.” But let’s not just look at the Jews because it’s true of many others of Christian backgrounds—we’ve inherited traditions, ways of acting, things we do, words we speak, which are not necessarily in line with Scripture. So we have to be very careful to check.
I think I’ll refrain from making any specific suggestions but there are many I could make.
Then the second thing we need to eliminate is prejudices. There’s no one here who hasn’t had some prejudices at one time. You may have got rid of them, I don’t know. But there are all sorts of prejudices. There are racial prejudices. Unfortunately, the world is full today of racial prejudices. We know in countries like South Africa, for instance, where there’s been a wonderful change, let me add, where racial prejudices eliminated certain people from being part of the church. A terrible thought! But that’s not the only area where there’s racial prejudice. The United States of America has been full of racial prejudice and in many places still is today.
I’m from a British background. Let me say, the British people have their prejudices, too. I grew up with many of them. I’ve had to dig deep to get rid of them. My own family background is from India. All my forbears served with British forces in India. I remember as a boy of about twelve saying innocently at a lunch, “I don’t see why you couldn’t invite an Indian to lunch.” The reaction was one of horror in my family. I thought what is the reason for this? Well, later on I realized this is a prejudice. Believe me, I’m looking at a lot of different people from different racial backgrounds, but very few of you are free from all racial prejudice.
Then there’s denominational prejudice. Most of us react in a somewhat negative way to certain denominations. My first wife, who is with the Lord, was Danish. She grew up in the Danish Lutheran Church and then she did something that was terrible in their eyes, she was baptized as a believer, which they call in Danish ginderker (phonetic), a second time baptizer. In her case, because she was a teacher in the Danish state school system, actually went before the Parliament as to whether she could remain a teacher. And I’d have to say my wife continued in a running war with the Lutheran Church really to the end of her days. I don’t justify that, I think it was a weakness in her.
But, I’ve learned myself when I hear about people belonging to a certain denomination, I develop an attitude against them without ever meeting them. I think, “Well, they’re going to be like that and this is where they’re wrong,” and so on. Experience has taught me, if possible, never judge a person till you’ve met them. I’ve met people from the wrong denominational background who are some of the most right people I’ve known. And, some who were from the right background who were wrong. So please, don’t give way to denominational prejudice.
And then there’s social prejudice. Again, I’m an example of somebody brought up in social prejudice. I wasn’t even aware that I had prejudice but I was educated in Britain at Eton and then at Cambridge University. I just didn’t know how the rest of the world lived. Then I got plunged into the British Army and I was together with all sorts of people I never had been together with. I began to realize how limited my knowledge of my own British people was. I thank God for that experience, five and a half years in the British Army, but it cleansed me of a lot of social prejudices. Having been from a family of officers, I was used to being on that level, and when I was not on that level I learned something. When you see people from the same level, they look one way. But when you see them from underneath, they look different. I’ve always tried to say ever since, “God, how do I look to the people who may see me from underneath?”
So, there’s various kinds of prejudice. There’s personal prejudice. Some people don’t like people with a loud voice. Some people don’t like people with red hair. There’s all sorts of silly, personal prejudices most of us have. I have a prejudice against people who munch apples. I really fight it but it’s still there in the background because I just don’t like that noise.
Going beyond that, there’s preconceptions, people who’ve got a completely false view of who Jesus is. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, turning up at the Christmas party, that’s not the real Jesus. He was a very different kind of person, very shocking, very prone to eliminate our prejudices and our preconceptions.
There are many other ways we can have preconceptions. Preconceptions of what it’s like to be a Christian. Growing up, as I did in the background I’ve related, I thought to myself, “Well, if I were to become a Christian it would mean misery for the rest of my life.” Like Pat Boone I thought, “Heaven isn’t worth seventy years of misery on earth,” so I completely eliminated the possibility of being a Christian — until I met Jesus.
Then there’s something else that’s very, very dangerous, and that is unbelief. Sometimes when I’m going to teach I’ll begin by getting all the people, together with myself, to renounce unbelief. Because many of us are still beset by unbelief in various areas. Our minds are not really open to faith.
And lastly, and I think the most important, is rebellion. You might say, “Well, Brother Prince, I’m not a rebel.” Oh, yes you are! And if you haven’t discovered it, you’ll go on being one. You see, I don’t want to go into the theology of this, but every descendant of Adam is born with a rebel inside. We have to identify that rebel and deal with it. God has only got one remedy for the rebel, do you know what that is? Execution, that’s right. He doesn’t send him to church, He doesn’t teach him the Golden Rule, He doesn’t have him memorizing Scripture. He puts him to death. But the mercy of God is the execution took place nearly 2,000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross. Our old man was crucified with Him. We have to come to the place where we identify that rebel inside us and we willingly submit to execution.
Now I come to the Bible because this is as important as anything else in the Christian life. What is your attitude to the Bible? Is your attitude the same as that of Jesus? I just want to take one passage of John’s gospel, chapter 10, verse 35. I’m not going into the context because it would take quite a while to do so. Jesus said:
“If he [that’s God] called them gods to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.”
That’s a very significant verse because in it Jesus uses the two main titles for the Bible. The “Word of God” and “the scripture.” When it calls the Bible the Word of God it means that it proceeded from God, it didn’t proceed from man. It may have come through human channels but it’s a word that comes from God.
The phrase “the scripture” is a limiting phrase. It means that which has been set down in writing. God has said many things which are not set down in writing. But by divine overruling the Bible contains those things which God said which He saw needed to be set down in writing. That is the scripture. That means that which is written.
And concerning that, Jesus made one, simple, sweeping statement. “The scripture cannot be broken.” You can argue as much as you like about the inspiration of the Bible or the authority of the Bible, but Jesus has said it all. It cannot be broken. It is absolutely authoritative. It will be totally fulfilled. Everything in it will be exactly worked out. You can take your stand against it, you can deny it but you cannot break it. In fact, if you deny it, ultimately it will break you. The scripture cannot be broken.
I think I’d like to ask all of you to say that together with me once. “The scripture cannot be broken.”
Now turn and look to somebody next to you and say it to that person, looking them right in the eyes. “The scripture cannot be broken.”
All right, now that’s something settled. You see, there’s a thing called the higher criticism which subjects the scriptures to all sorts of ridiculous fantasies and ends up by making it really a totally ineffective book. If there’s one thing that the devil wants to do in your life and mine, it is to undermine our faith in the authority and accuracy of the Bible. But if we are like Jesus we simply say the scripture cannot be broken. Did you hear me Satan? The scripture cannot be broken. All right.
Now the next thing I want to say that is not only is the Bible the Word of God but Jesus Himself is the Word of God. This comes out in John’s gospel in two places, in John 1:1, a familiar verse:
In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.
That refers to Jesus. He was the Word, He is the Word.
And in John 1:14 it says:
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So when Jesus was born, the season that we commemorate at Christmas, though that was not actually the season, the Word became flesh. But He was always the Word. Eternally He was the Word with God.
And when He comes back, do you know how He’s coming back? Do you know what His name will be? Let me tell you, Revelation chapter 19. This is really remarkable in the sense that when He first came He was the Word, when He comes back He will be the Word. This is a picture of Jesus coming out of heaven in glory to establish His kingdom on earth. Revelation 19:11, 12 and 13:
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns [diadems, royal crowns]. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood and His name is called The Word of God.”
So He always was the Word, still is the Word and will be the Word.
And that brings out something very important. There is total agreement between Jesus and the Bible. Your attitude toward one is the attitude toward the other. You cannot believe in Jesus and disbelieve the Bible. Did you absorb that fact? Jesus is the Word of God. He’s the Word made flesh. The Bible is the Word in scripture, writing. Your attitude toward the one must be the same as your attitude toward the other. There is total agreement between the two.
And now as I draw near the end I want to take five vital facts about the Word of God, and your relationship to it, which are contained in John’s gospel, chapter 14. Just three verses. Jesus is, in a sense, taking farewell of His disciples, He’s warning them that He’s about to leave and they’ll be left on their own for a while. It’s a very traumatic time for the disciples, they’re overwhelmed with this revelation. But in the middle of it Jesus gives a marvelous revelation of what the Bible should mean to us as believers. He says in John 14:19:
“A little while longer and the world will see me no more. But you will see me. Because I live you will live also.”
So Jesus made a distinction there between the world — that’s those who do not acknowledge Jesus — and His own disciples. He said the world will not see me but the disciples will see me.
And then Judas, not Iscariot but the other Judas, asked Him a very relevant question in verse 22:
“Judas said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?’”
He said that because Jesus said the world will not see me but you will see me. His question was how will you manifest yourself to us and not to the world? Now, the answer that Jesus gave is just full of important truth. Verse 23:
“Jesus answered and said to him [verse 23], ‘If anyone loves me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”
I want to bring out five vitally important facts in the answer of Jesus. First of all, Jesus said He would reveal Himself to His disciples, not to the world. What’s the distinguishing mark between the disciples and the world? The answer is keeping the Word of God. True disciples keep the Word of Jesus. And they’re not marked out by denominational labels, they’re marked out by the way they relate to the Word. That’s what makes you, or otherwise prevents you from being, a true disciple. It’s your relationship to the Word of God. Keeping God’s Word distinguishes disciples from the world.
And in this congregation here this morning every one of us is in one or other of those two categories. If we’re disciples we keep the Word of God. If we don’t keep the Word we belong to the world — to the world that is not under the Lordship of Jesus.
And then the second truth is Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, He will keep my Word.” So, keeping God’s Word is the supreme test of the disciple’s love for God. Love is the motivation for obedience. It’s very important to understand that as believers we are not motivated by fear, we’re motivated by love. In a certain sense, the Law used the motivation of fear. If you do this you’ll be punished. But that doesn’t work. I’ve helped to bring up a large number of children. Some of you wouldn’t believe how many and I won’t go into that. I discovered while they’re under your control as a parent you can use fear but once they leave you, if they’ve been motivated by fear they’ll change. The only motivation that will keep them loyal and faithful is love. God and Jesus were wise enough not to build on fear but to build on love. So, keeping God’s Word is the supreme test of the disciple’s love for God. “If any man loves me He will keep my Word.” Love is the motivation for obedience.
And then He says, “If anyone loves me he will keep my Word, and my Father will love him...” that’s another wonderful fact. Keeping God’s Word is what causes God the Father to love us with a special love. Now, God loved the whole world in a certain way, but God has a very different degree and kind of love for true disciples of Jesus, for those who keep His Word.
And then we had the question that Judas asked, “How will you manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” And Jesus’ answer was, “If anybody loves me he will keep my Word.” So how does Christ manifest Himself to us? Through the Word. It’s through the keeping of the Word that we get to know Jesus better. We can have maybe some wonderful, spiritual experience, we can be caught up to the third heaven or whatever it may be. But that doesn’t happen to most people and it isn’t the basic way by which God reveals Himself and Jesus reveals Himself. It is through keeping the Word of God.
And then finally, and this is an amazing statement: “If anyone loves me, my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” There are only a very few places in the Bible where the plural pronoun is used about God but this is one of them. Jesus says We, my Father and I will come to him and make our abode with him. That’s a breathtaking statement, an amazing revelation that God the Father and God the Son want to come and make their dwelling with us. They want to make us their personal abode. But how does it come about? Through the Word. If we are not lovers of the Word, if we’re not obedient to the Word, God will not make His dwelling place with us.
And so, let me say this as I close this morning, and it’s a very solemn thought. You don’t love God more than you love His Word. So if you want to know how much you really love God, how much place God has in your life, you can find out. It’s not something you need to speculate about. You just ask yourself, “How much do I love the Bible, how much place does the Bible has in my life?” Because that’s as much as I love God and that’s as much place as I give to God in my life.
Let me just summarize those five statements about the Bible because they’re crucial. See, so many Christians are in a kind of twilight zone, they don’t really know what is light and what is darkness. They wish and they hope, but they’re not really sure. The reason is they haven’t given the Word of God its rightful place in their lives. Let me make these five statements and then close.
First of all, keeping God’s Word distinguishes true disciples from the world.
Second, keeping God’s Word is the supreme test of the disciple’s love for God. Love is our motivation for obedience, not fear.
Third, keeping God’s Word is the supreme cause of God’s love for the disciple. God loves disciples in a special way. He loves the whole world, but He has a special love for disciple. But, those whom He loves as disciples are those who keep God’s Word. If you want to be specially dear to God then you have to keep His Word.
Fourth, through God’s Word, kept and obeyed, Christ manifests Himself to us. The question was, “How will you manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus said, “If you love me you’ll keep my Word. That’s how I’ll manifest myself.”
And, finally, through God’s Word the Father and the Son will come together to indwell us. Isn’t that an amazing thought? It just takes my breath away. God the Father and God the Son want to make their dwelling with us, but they’ll only do it as we keep God’s Word.
Let me close by praying for all of us.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word, the Word of God, the Bible. This sure, authoritative, infallible Word which is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. I want to pray, Lord, for everybody gathered here and for everybody who ultimately is confronted by this message in any way, that you will cause us to be lovers of your Word. That you by your grace enable us to give your Word, the Bible, its rightful place in our lives that we may be truly disciples of the Lord Jesus. In His name I pray, amen.