Life can be pretty messy sometimes: plans fail, people leave, money diminishes, and taxes rise. There are plenty of reasons to be troubled these days but there are better reasons not to be! Life was about to get real messy for those disciples around that Jerusalem dinner table. At times like that, there are some basic instructions we need to fall back on so our hearts inside us won't be swallowed up by the mess around us.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Pondering the Principles:
Greek terms: Ταράσσω, tarassó: stirred up, agitated; Μονή, moné: lodging, dwelling-place, room, abode;
Publication referenced: Loving God, by Charles Colson; Whatif? By Shel Silverstein; Don't Worry Be Happy, by Bobby McFerrin;
Figures Referenced: A.W. Tozer; Henry Morris;
Cross References: Psalm 23:4; Matthew 7:13-14; John 5:4; John 12:24; John 12:27; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:28; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22; 1 Peter 1:13; Revelation 21:10-17
Topic: Upper Room Discourse
Keywords: trials, faith, troubles, tribulation, heaven
Before we begin, let's just pause and we'll pray together. Father, we thank you first of all that you care enough about us to reveal who you are to us, what you want to do for us. Lord, you never left us alone in this world. As Jesus said, you came to comfort us.
Lord, I pray that as we read this passage of scripture which is familiar to most everyone, everyone has probably come in contact with this passage. It's so familiar to us, therein lies its danger. I pray that its familiarity, Lord, would not lose the impact it's to have as we read it this morning. I pray we would fall upon fresh ears, fresh hearts, open to receive the truths, eager to see these truths at work in our lives because you are a living Christ, a living savior. It's in His name we pray, Amen.
The name of this message this morning is simple. It's "A Theology for Messy Lives". And if you're thinking, "Oh no, he's going to get down on slobs, slobby people, disorganized people," or if you're thinking, "Rats, I should have brought my teenage son for this service today. His closet looks like a war zone. That's probably what this message is about." None of the above are true.
Here's the deal. Life can be a mess and it can mess us up and it can challenge our theology. I really got the title from something I read in a book by Charles Colson called "Loving God", an excellent book. He writes, "Life is not a book. Life isn't logical or sensible or orderly. Life is a mess most of the time and theology must be lived in the midst of that mess."
I want to talk about that mess today, a little bit about the mess that we find ourselves in, in life, for the disciples in that upper room listening to Jesus that night that we're reading. Life was starting to become a mess to them. Understand that to them, they were so excited about this event in Jerusalem, Jesus coming up to Jerusalem, their hopes had risen. Now they had fallen.
When Jesus came up to Jerusalem and raised Lazarus from the dead, they were on an all-time high. And then a few days later when he rode that donkey into Jerusalem and the crowd was shouting in great acclamation, "Hosanna! Hosanna!" Their hopes shot to the very highest pinnacle. They thought this is it. He's going to establish the kingdom. We're going to get positions of authority in the kingdom.
But then their hopes fell when as he entered Jerusalem, he started talking death talk. He said, "Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone." He started talking about his own death, predicting his own death. Then they got to the Passover itself, the upper room. He started talking more about being betrayed by one of them and his soon impending death. And all of those thoughts are filling their minds. They're distracting these disciples. Life is a mess. Thoughts like what if Jesus does die? What if this is the end of all that we have come to know and believe these last three and half years? What if this is it?
If you're a parent, you recognize the name Shel Silverstein. He was a child's author, poet. He wrote a little work called "What If", about addressing children's fears, it goes like this. Last night while I lay thinking here, some what "ifs" crawled inside my ear and pranced and partied all night long and sang their same old "What If" song. What if they've closed the swimming pool? What if I'm dumb in school? What if I get beat up? What if there's poison in my cup? What if I start to cry? What if I just get sick and die? What if I flunk that test? What if green hair grows on my chest?
What if nobody likes me? What if a bolt of lightning strikes me? What if I don't grow taller? What if my head starts getting smaller? What if the fish won't bite? What if the wind tears up my kite? What if they start a war? What if my parents get divorced? What if the bus is late? What if my teeth don't grow in straight? What if I tear my pants? What if I never learn to dance? Everything seems well, and then the night time "What ifs" strike again.
I bet you've all had a case of "what ifs". What if I lose my job? What if I lose my home? What if I get sick? What if this economy gets worse? What if the gas prices go higher and I can't put gas in my Hummer? What a bummer.
We can't afford to make theology a mere discussion. You see, for people in a mess, for people in a crisis, for people suffering. Theology is much more than a sermon or a class or a chapter in a book or a discussion topic. It's a lifeline. We need the kind of truth that will haul us out of the mess and place us into the capable arms of a powerful and loving God. We need the kind of truth that when we feel like stopping gives us the courage to keep going and we have it.
Chapter 14, Verses 1-6, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am, there you may be also and where I go you know and the way you know." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
You might say this is Jesus' cure for heart trouble, "Let not your hearts be troubled." There are a few principles about this I want to talk about, a few principles about a messy life. Number one, messy lives should be controlled. Messy lives should be controlled. I want to explain that.
You'll notice something as the chapter begins, it's a commandment. It's in the imperative. Notice, "Let not your heart be troubled." In the original language, it's a present passive imperative or a commandment and here's the idea. The idea isn't, don't ever start worrying or don't ever start being troubled, the idea is that they should stop something already going on. I know you're already troubled. I know you know life is messy. Stop being troubled, get a grip. That's the idea. It's an imperative. It's a commandment. The Wuest Translation puts it this way and I think it's the best of all, "Let not your heart continue to be agitated."
Now, there's a word I want you to be aware of and I hope by now you'll recognize it. We've already covered it twice. It's the word "troubled" and it's the Greek word "teraso(ph)." I hope you recognize that because we've covered it twice so far in John.
Do you remember when Jesus was there at the Pool of Bethesda and there was that man lame from birth waiting for the moving of the water, the troubling of the water, the agitation of the water? The word is "teraso", it means to be stirred up or agitated. Do you also remember when Jesus said to his disciples a couple of chapters back? He said, "Now my soul is troubled." agitated, stirred up, teraso. Same word here, "Let not your heart be teraso." agitated, stirred up, troubled, that's a command. Now, follow me.
Since it's a command, trouble, worry, being overwhelmed, our response to the mess can be controlled. Here's the principle I never want you to forget it. Whenever God gives a command, he gives the built-in capability to keep the command. God would never give you a command you can't keep. He would never say for instance, "Jump over the moon." You can't do that.
If God ever gives a command, there's a built-in capability to follow through and do it. So if Jesus says, "Get a grip." it's because a grip can be gotten and the point is simple. As a Christian, you have the power to control your thought(ph) life, here described as your heart and not allow your mind and heart to become overwhelmed by the mess. There's a lot of scripture about that and here's just a few, a sampling.
Paul writes in II Corinthians 10, "Bring every thought into the captivity to the obedience of Christ." Here's another one, Romans 12, "Don't be conformed to this world but be transformed by the --" what? Renewing of your mind, another one, I Peter Chapter 1 Verse 13, "Gird up the loins of your mind." Have you ever read that and said, "What on earth does that mean? Gird up the loins of your mind." It's an old way of saying this. The new living translation renders it. Think clearly and exercise self-control.
See, Jesus knew what these guys were thinking. They were all confused and all bent out of shape and life was getting really messy for them, but he also knew that within a few hours when he would be arrested and then crucified, life was about to get a whole lot messier for them.
So what he's telling them is you don't have to let this ruin you guys. You don't have to become swallowed up by it and overwhelmed by it. Let not your heart be troubled.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, they report that the most commonly reported mental health issue in our country is anxiety. According to their stats, 13 million Americans spend the better part of their day feeling anxious, 13 million Americans. In other words, they're not managing the mess. The mess is managing them. "Let not your heart be troubled."
I think that Christians should be the most realistic people around. We're to be realists. We're not to be idealist. We're not to be pessimist, we're to be realist. Now, an idealist sees life in an ideal situation through rose-colored glasses. Everything is supposed to be perfect. They live in a make-believe world and they're very dangerous people by the way. Because when life doesn't go according to their plan, they quickly fold, they cave, they short circuit.
On the other extreme is the pessimist, always negative, always bad. The world is really, really, really bad and Satan's everywhere, behind that bush, behind this pulpit, under the piano. Bind it, bind him. Do everything. Everything's negative and bad.
Most people go into a donut shop and they see donuts. Pessimists go into a donut shop and see holes. You know the type. We're supposed to be realistic and realist looks at the world and says, "I get it. I get it. It's a fallen world. It's a sin-scarred world. This is a mess, but there's a God who has answers and resources. So I'm going to deal with the mess that way through that lens." And the realist will learn to move on from that.
I heard about a woman whose husband died and she called the newspaper to place an obituary. It was a very simple lady in a very simple town. The editor said, "What should I write?" And she said, "Just write these three words. Bernie is dead." The editor didn't know what to say. He said, "Well, ma'am for $25.00 you can write six words. You've only used half the allotment." She said, "Okay. Write, "Bernie is dead, Toyota for sale." It's pretty pragmatic, isn't it? I can't do anything about Bernie. He's dead. I can do something, however, about the Toyota that's left and that's for sale.
It might sound a little crude, but that woman is very realistic. Jesus is saying, "Look, I know you guys are already troubled. Stop that, get a grip, and move on." That's realistic. Though there are many reasons to be troubled in this world, there are many more reasons not to be. Let's consider those reasons. It brings us to the second principle. The first principle is messy lives should be controlled. The second one is that messy lives must have a cure. And here's what I love about Jesus. He doesn't just say, "Stop that." He tells us why. He gives us reasons for it.
You may remember back in the '80s that song by Bobby McFerrin that was very popular, "In every life there is some trouble. When you worry, you make it double. So, don't worry, be happy." It was such a catchy tune. We loved that. I loved the song, but it frustrated me because he never told why.
To somebody suffering, they just slap him on the back and go, "Don't worry, be happy." It doesn't really help the person. If however you give the person concrete reasons why not, then it makes sense. Here's a question I have for you. How does what you believe affect your life in the mess? Does your faith really matter? And you can always tell what a person's faith is whenever they're in a mess.
What they really believe comes to the surface when things are bad. When things are good, it's one thing. When things are bad, what they really believe is tested. A.W. Tozer said, "The difference between a great Christian life and any other kind lies in the quality of our spiritual concepts. What we think about God, what we believe about God." But what are we to think when we're in a mess? What are we to believe?
Well, first of all, we're to think about who we know and we're to think about where we'll go. Let's learn to frame the mess by those two concepts: who we know, where we'll go. Notice what Jesus says also in Verse 1, "Let not your heart be troubled," first reason, "You believe in God. Believe also in me." It would be better to state it this way, "You trust God, trust also in me."
Jesus knew these God-followers, these disciples of his were about to enter into the trial of their lives as they were to watch the one they loved, Christ himself be betrayed, be crucified and be put in the tomb.
And he says to them, "At such a time as this, think back to who you know. You believe God, you trust God. Trust also in me." Now think about it. These disciples had no reason not to trust Jesus. They have been with him for three and a half years. Who was it in Galilee when thousands of people needed food and there was no food? Who was is that multiplied the bread and the fish? It wasn't them, it was Jesus.
Who was it when the storm came up on the Sea of Galilee that calmed the sea and saved the day? It wasn't them, it was Jesus. Who was it, at a funeral, raised the dead guy Lazarus from the dead and brought hope to that family and that city? It was Jesus. They have seen him. They have been with him. You trust God, trust also in me. They have every reason to trust him.
But, at that point in that upper room, they didn't have the big picture. Think about that. You and I today have more reason to trust God, to trust Christ than those disciples had on the other side of the cross, in that upper room that night. Do you ever think about that? In that upper room that night, the disciples didn't understand that the crucifixion would mean salvation for people. We do. That night, the disciples didn't understand that the cross would be followed by a resurrection where Jesus would conquer death itself and offer that hope to millions of people afterwards. They didn't get that, we do.
So, here we are after the cross. We get the big picture. They didn't get the big picture. It's easy for us if we could step into that upper room and go, "John, Peter, you guys, get a grip. Don't let your hearts be troubled, man." But now, think about your life right now and whatever mess you find yourself in. You too don't have the big picture. He does, you don't.
So your natural instinct would be not to -- I say, "I know God. I know Christ. He's trustworthy. I know him. It's going to be okay." Our instinct is to be like the guy who was walking near the edge of the Grand Canyon a little too close and he fell off into that huge chasm. His body hit a bush hanging off the side, he grabbed it and he called out, "Is anybody up there? Is anybody up there?" A voice came out of heaven. It's a powerful, strong voice. "Yes. I'm here." "Could you save me?" "Yes. I can." "Well Lord, save me." "Do you believe?" said the voice. "Oh yes, Lord. I believe. I believe" "Do you have faith?" "I have great faith, strong faith."
And then the voice said, "Then just let go and it will be okay." And after one tense moment the man said, "Is there anybody else up there?"
There comes a point in our mess when we have to let go and really believe that Romans 8:28 thing that says we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are the called according to his purpose. Let go. Is there anybody else up there?
Trust is what stops tension. Faith is what stops fear. Worship is what abates worry. So, what's the cure? First of all, think about who you know. Do you believe God? Trust him. Trust Christ. Second thing, think of where you'll go, Verse 2, "In my Father's house --" interesting that he immediately segues them to thoughts of heaven, "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
Now the term "The Father's House," what is Jesus speaking about? Heaven, it's his metaphor for heaven. The bible speaks about heaven 532 times, but it speaks of it with different names. Heaven and sometimes it's called a country, a heavenly country, Hebrews 12 because of the vastness of it, sometimes it's referred to as "The City," also the book of Hebrews because of the innumerable amount of people that will be in it. Sometimes it's referred to as "A Kingdom" because God is the King reigning overall. Sometimes heaven is referred to as "Paradise" because of the indescribable beauty of it, and sometime it's called "The Place of Rest" because there we will end all of our toil, all of our tribulation, all of our temptation. But here, Jesus calls it "My Father's House."
According to Jesus, heaven is not imaginary. It's real, a real place. It's not a metaphor. "Father's House" is a metaphor for heaven, but heaven is a real place. It has locality. It has physicality. It has dimensionality. The bible speaks of it as such. But let's take Verse 2, if you don't mind, and let's just probe a little bit deeper into it. Let's unpack its truths, if you will.
Notice, first of all, that heaven will be a place of variety. In my Father's house, he says there are many mansions, many mansions. Now I have to tell you that the translation "mansions" is an unfortunate translation, because when we hear it in western ears and you think of a mansion, you think of like a cattle ranch and an imposing structure on that huge estate, a castle so to speak, this huge humungous square footage mansion. And songs have been written about mansions in heaven. I say it's an unfortunate translation because the word Greek "Mone" means an abiding place, a resting place, a stopping place, an abiding place.
Now, when the bible was translated from Greek into Latin, the Latin Vulgate, the word in Latin is "mansions". But that means in Latin, not mansion like we know it, it means a stopping place, a resting place, a room. And a better way to look at it is in my Father's house there are many rooms, there are many abiding places. You go, "That doesn't help me. I like the whole mansion thing better. Not a flat, not an apartment, I like the mansion."
But here's the point Jesus is making, put yourself in a Middle Eastern way of thinking. In those days, families would grow by adding rooms to their house. So when a child would get married and have kids, the mom and dad would simply add another and then another room. As the family grew, another room and another room.
So, the point Jesus is making is there's plenty of room for everybody. There are many rooms. There are many apartments.
Now I'm going to fast forward you for a moment, throw another thought in your mind. We know something that when we die and we go to heaven, eventually we're going to come back to a renewed earth called the "Millennial Kingdom" for a thousand years. After that, there's going to be a new heaven and a new earth and a capital city called the new -- what? Jerusalem, all brand new, and John writes about that in Revelation 21 and he says as he describes the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, "It was in the form of a cube."
Listen to this, this is wild. "For its length and its width and its height were 1,400 miles." He looks and sees this huge cube roughly the size of our moon coming out of heaven hovering toward the earth, 2,225,000 square miles, 15,000 times the size of the City of London. I say London because all eyes of the world have been focused on London this week. Fifteen thousand times bigger, a cube, multilevel, multi-storey, multidimensional.
One scientist who's a believer, Henry Morris, guessed 20 billion people could easily inhabit it, many more of course. But assuming that only 25% of that city would be used for dwelling places for people and the rest for whatever, streets, parks, public building etcetera, he calculates that each person could have a cubicle block with 75 acres on each phase to call their own.
I don't have time to delve into it, but it would seem that in your new resurrected body, you will be able to travel not just vertically, not just horizontally, but vertically as well in a multidimensional place and setting. It makes this fun to think about. In my Father's house are many rooms, many abiding places, places to hangout. So it's a place of variety.
Notice also in Verse 2, it's a place that is personalized. I go and prepare a place for you. Jesus was a carpenter while he was on earth. It seems he's a custom builder now. Imagine, with that place, he's been up there preparing it for 2,000 years. What must that place look like by now? It's like one little girl who looked up at the stars at night with her daddy and said, "Daddy, if heaven looks this good on the wrong side, how does it look on the right side?" A lot better. But let's not necessarily confine it to thinking that God's up in heaven arranging the furniture depending on your taste and putting up the pictures you like.
Think of it when Jesus said, "I'm going to prepare a place for you." What would he be doing in the next couple of days? Dying on a cross, that's how he would be preparing heaven for them. They couldn't get there otherwise. I'm going to go to the cross and the cross, my sacrifice, is the preparation to get you to heaven. He could be referring to that. Either way, the point is the same. If Jesus Christ can do what it takes to get you to heaven, don't you think he can help you in the mess now? That's the greater point. If Jesus can do what it takes to get you to heaven, he can take care of your life in the mess.
Think about who you know. Think about where you'll go. Something else about heaven also in Verse 2, it's a place of relationship. I do find it interesting that Jesus doesn't call it "Heaven" or "Paradise" here or "The Heavenly City" or "The Heavenly Country" or "The Place of Rest" or "The Kingdom". He calls it "My Father's House."
In other words, to Jesus, it's not just about location. It's about relation, a relationship. That's why heaven in the truest sense of the word is your home.
Like your home here on earth, what makes your home your home? It's not what you have there. It's who you have there. It's what makes it home, its relationships. And in heaven there'll be the father and they'll be your savior and there will be all those who have died before who trusted in Christ.
Paul said, "Jesus will bring with him all those who sleep in Jesus." What a great reunion. What a great relationship. Think about who you know. Think about where you'll go, verse three puts our focus on what's ahead when he says, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that were I am there you may be also." I could preach a whole message just on that verse.
This has been the blessed hope of the church ever since Jesus said it. Now, some people will die. That's how they'll get to heaven. Other people, the Lord will return before they die at the rapture of the church.
So whether it's by the valley of the shadow of death, or in a moment in a twinkling of an eye when you are taken up into his presence, you'll get there.
Now, let's turn to the last two verses and the final principle as we close. Here it is. Messy lives can be confused. Just think about the incredible truth that our Lord Jesus has shared with his disciples in that upper room. Just so some sublime, so profound, and he says to them, "Where I'm going, you know and the way you know." You know why I said that? Because he told them that we would be returning to his father, that we would be returning to glory. He made it very plain to them where he was going. They should have known it.
But there's an honest disciple named Thomas. I love this man. I love him because I believe of all of them he was the most honest, maybe ill-timed, but honest. Notice what he says. Thomas said, "Lord, we do not know where you're going and how can we know the way?" You got to love that because I think Jesus is saying and the disciples are probably nodding. "Where I'm going you know and the way you know." Thomas goes, "I don't know. I don't get it. This whole cryptic talk I don't get. Where are you going?"
Now, he told them where he was going. How can we know where you're going if we don't know where you're going? How can we know how to get there?
You see, when you're in a mess, you get pre-occupied with how you feel about the mess. It's all about your feeling and I don't understand and I am distracted. And so it's distracted thoughts that keep you off track. He told them plainly where he was going. Thomas still doesn't get it.
When you're in a mess, it's time to be honest and clarify what you believe. Do I really believe this stuff? Do I really believe God is good? Do I really believe in life after death? All of those questions are forged and clarified in times like this. Messy lives can be confused.
Now, I for one am so glad Thomas was in that room and interrupted because had he not, we wouldn't have this great answer that Jesus gives in verse six. Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me." Bam! How powerful is that? How potent and unmistakably clear is that? I am the way. I am the truth. I am the light.
I wonder how many people truly believe this. I wonder how many people who claim to follow Christ truly believe this. This sounds very narrow, very exclusive, very dogmatic. Notice Jesus doesn't say, "I am a way." He doesn't say, "I'll show you the way." He doesn't say, "I can teach you the path." He says, "I'm it. I am the road, the way. I am the truth. I am the life." Just so you don't misunderstand, again, the wuest(ph) translation from the Greek into English expanded puts it this way, "I alone in contra-distinction to all others and the road and the truth and the life." No one, no man, no woman, no child, no sincere person know, religious person know, well meaning person, no boy, no girl goes to the father except through Christ.
Well, that's your interpretation. I just read that. How else do you read it so you won't be misunderstanding it, listen to a couple of other things and see if it's right or not. Jesus, again, speaking on The Sermon on Mount, Mathew 7, "Enter in by the narrow gate for why does the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many go in there by. But narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life and few there be who find it."
You know who's there listening that day? Peter. You know who's in the upper room that night listening? Peter. And Peter would be confused as he saw Jesus die. He denied Jesus. But then Christ would be risen from the dead, it all would be lined up in his mind and Peter would say these words a few weeks later, Acts Chapter 4, "Nor is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Add those three verses up alone, there are many more, just add those up alone. It pretty much eliminates any other way to heaven, whether it's by works or by ceremony or by religion. That's so dogmatic. You're right. You're right. And I noticed that Jesus makes no apology for its dogmatism nor will I.
Something about the truth, have you noticed the truth by its very nature is dogmatic? I had a math teacher who was so dogmatic when I was a kid. She would always insist that two plus two always had to be 4, always. Why couldn't it be five and a half every now and then?
Well, if you want to get an F on the test, it could be. But she was so narrow-minded about the truth of math. I've also noticed my bank is dogmatic about such matters. The mortgagee company is very dogmatic about such matters. Truth is truth. Heaven is a real place. Heaven is a loving place. Heaven is a relational place, but heaven is an exclusive place.
Do you know the one who prepared it for his own? If you know him, if you know him and you know where you're going, then that helps you manage life in the mess. If you don't know him, if you refuse to know him, then I can only say it's going to get a lot messier for you.
Heavenly Father, you send Jesus so that would never have to happen. He did the heavy lifting for us. He went to the cross. He paid for sin. He took the punishment. He did the heavy lifting so that we could receive everlasting life.
Lord, I pray that if some are not secure in that that they would enter into life this morning. And I pray for my brothers and sisters who know you, who trust you, and who trust your promises and the promises of your son. And in thinking of who they know and where they'll go, who they presently have a relationship with and where eventually this road is going to take them. I pray that there eyes would be lifted from off of the mess on to the horizon of where the road leads. The road leads home at the end of this valley of the shadow of death is our Father's house.Help us Lord with these truths to not let the mess manage us, but to stop being troubled, stop being agitated, to gird up the loins of our mind, to think clearly with self-control by your grace in Jesus name. Amen.