Flashback Episode — Letting the Spirit Teach: John 16:5-15


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As we continue moving through Jesus’ last big opportunity to share with the disciples on the night of His arrest, we come to Jesus teaching us what the role of the Holy Spirit is, what we can expect the Holy Spirit to do, and why it is better that that Jesus should return to heaven. However, I wonder if much of what Jesus was telling His disciples went over their heads. Either that, or I wonder if they understood a little, but not enough of the details to fully understand the events of that weekend.

Let’s read what Jesus shared with the disciples in this part of His message. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 5, Jesus continues by saying:

Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Your hearts are filled with sadness because I have told you these things. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment. He will prove to them that sin is not believing in me. 10 He will prove to them that being right with God comes from my going to the Father and not being seen anymore. 11 And the Helper will prove to them that judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged.

Let’s pause briefly here because Jesus has just shared a number of big things. First off, we can understand that the disciples are sad because Jesus is leaving, but Jesus counters their sadness by telling them that if He doesn’t leave, the Helper, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit, will not come.

On the surface this doesn’t make sense, unless we believe that God isn’t going to be redundant. However, when reading this passage, I believe the reason for Jesus telling us that the Helper would not come unless He leaves is tucked within the role of the Holy Spirit that Jesus then shares.

Jesus describes three roles the Holy Spirit has in addition to being called our Helper. The first is that the Holy Spirit will prove to the people of this world that sin is not believing in Jesus, the second is that being right with God comes from Jesus’ return to Heaven and not being seen any more, and the third is that judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged.

These are three huge theological concepts and it would take too much time to fully unpack each of them. However, let’s briefly look at each.

The first huge concept is that sin is not believing in Jesus. As we read this just now, I could not escape the idea that the sin being described here is the unpardonable sin. Not that this sin isn’t reversible, but that every other sin gets erased if at the time of our last breath, we believe in Jesus. While Jesus says that those who speak out against Him will be forgiven, while those who speak against the Holy Spirit are not, I wonder if that verse connects with this verse to define what sin is truly unpardonable.

At the moment we die, the only thing that matters is our belief in Jesus, and this one decision determines our fate in the judgment. This is an idea I just had. It’s worth studying further, but I thought I’d share it with you as I had it.

The second huge concept is that being right with God comes from Jesus returning to the Father. While this is a huge theological concept, the simplest way for me to understand this personally is that when Jesus came, He came as a representative for God. Jesus was Heaven’s Ambassador to earth. Jesus came to show us God’s love.

Following His death and resurrection, Jesus’ return to Heaven marks a shift in His role. While before this Jesus was representing Heaven, now that He has returned to Heaven, He is representing us. Before Jesus was an Ambassador; now He is an Advocate. If you are worried about God’s judgment, trust that Jesus is in Heaven right now defending you with His sacrifice. When we have placed our faith, hope, belief, and trust in Jesus, His sacrifice erases our sinful past, and Jesus becomes our defense attorney. Jesus standing before the accuser defending us is an amazing, powerful, and profound concept that the Holy Spirit wants us to remember.

The third huge concept is that “judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged”. This verse is translated in an interesting way. Other translations describe a future judgment that is solidified at the moment the ruler of this world was judged. When the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, Jesus describes the event in past tense, which means that when Jesus died, Satan was judged guilty. When the curtain in the temple was torn in two, which we will read about later this year, Jesus tells us Satan is judged as guilty.

The big truth for us to remember living today is that judgment happened against Satan, and He is guilty. God is preparing to return and to carry out this judgment. This means that we have a choice to side with Satan, who has already been judged as guilty, or side with Jesus, who became victorious through His death on the cross. Jesus’ victory was sealed with the resurrection.

All three of these huge theological concepts focus on Jesus, what He has done, and what He is currently doing for each of us.

Jesus continues in verse 12 by saying:

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. 13 But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words, but he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. 14 The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me, because he will take what I have to say and tell it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take what I have to say and tell it to you.

When the Holy Spirit came, Jesus promised that He would teach Jesus’ followers the truth about Jesus and about the world. These followers were transformed when the Holy Spirit came into their lives. We would not be believers today if it were not for their life-transformation.

But it would be a mistake to think that the same offer Jesus gave His early followers is reserved only for them. The same offer of the Holy Spirit is available for us today. If we are serious about growing towards God, then we should let the Holy Spirit teach us the truth about Jesus. This truth will match what the Bible teaches, this truth will transform our lives, and this truth will lead us into eternity!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first in your life and ask Him to send His Holy Spirit into your life to teach you the truth about Jesus. Let God show you through His Word who Jesus is and why this historical figure who lived 2000 years ago is worth paying attention to today!

In order to learn this and grow, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. Personal prayer and study is the way to grow a personal relationship with God, and the Holy Spirit is more than willing to lead you to the truth about Jesus when you take steps towards God with a desire to learn His truth. Pastors, authors, speakers, and even podcasters can give you ideas to think about, but never let anyone get between you and Jesus.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 30: In this passage, Jesus tells the disciples several roles of the Holy Spirit and what they could expect from His coming. Learn what the Holy Spirit came to accomplish, and what He is willing to accomplish in our lives when we let Him in!

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The Invitation: Matthew 11:20-30

Focus Passage: Matthew 11:20-30 (NIrV)

20 Jesus began to speak against the towns where he had done most of his miracles. The people there had not turned away from their sins. So he said, 21 “How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida! Suppose the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon. They would have turned away from their sins long ago. They would have put on clothes for mourning. They would have sat down in ashes. 22 But I tell you this. On judgment day it will be easier for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And what about you, Capernaum? Will you be lifted to the heavens? No! You will go down to the place of the dead. Suppose the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom. It would still be here today. 24 But I tell you this. On judgment day it will be easier for Sodom than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father. You are Lord of heaven and earth. You have hidden these things from wise and educated people. But you have shown them to little children. 26 Yes, Father. This is what you wanted to do.

27 “My Father has given all things to me. The Father is the only one who knows the Son. And the only ones who know the Father are the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to make him known.

28 “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. 30 Serving me is easy, and my load is light.”

Read Matthew 11:20-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

If you ever wondered if Jesus was interested in drawing people to Himself, or if the crowds that came were simply first century fans of a celebrity who could work miracles, Matthew’s gospel shares an invitation Jesus shared that has cut through time in its lovingness and simplicity.

Matthew tells us that following one of Jesus’ prayers, He says, “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light.” (v. 28-30)

Jesus begins by inviting those in the crowd who feel tired and who feel like they are carrying heavy loads. While Jesus is sharing to a first century crowd, I imagine that description could even work in the 21st century as well. There are plenty of people, myself included, who feel worn out and tired. To those of us who feel this way, Jesus’ simple message is “I will give you rest.” (v. 28b)

After giving the description of who in the crowd He is talking to, Jesus continues the invitation by offering the chance to be His servant and to learn from Him. While serving Jesus is not always popular, it is the best way to learn from Him and test His way of life. Many people write off following Jesus’ example because it does not appear to be logical, or because some aspect of it doesn’t make sense. These people stop before actually starting and never take the opportunity to test Jesus’ words for themselves. Jesus wants to teach us, and we often learn best through experience.

Jesus then shares what He is like. Verse 29 contains His words “I am gentle and free of pride.” Jesus is not in the Messiah business to get a lot of followers or to prove something to someone. Instead, Jesus is humbly offering an invitation to whoever is not satisfied with the life they currently have. Jesus offers something that no other way of life can offer: With Jesus, “You will find rest for your souls.” (v. 29b)

Serving Jesus is easy, and the load He gives is light when compared to our other options. Every other system of faith or way of life focuses on what we can do, have done, or are capable of doing in the future. With Jesus, the focus is not on our ability or actions, but on His ability and His actions. Jesus didn’t place the focus onto Himself to show how worthy He was to be a Messiah. Instead, Jesus offered to take the consequences of those He loves onto Himself, and to give these people the freedom and opportunity of a new life with a restored relationship with God.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Spiritual Signs and Spiritual Truth: Matthew 16:1-12


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Continuing our journey through Matthew’s gospel brings us to a challenge Jesus receives from a group of Pharisees and Sadducees, and also to a challenge Jesus gives His disciples that they initially misunderstand. Let’s read what Matthew tells us and discover what we can learn from our passage for this episode.

Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will read from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus, wanting to trick him. So they asked him to show them a miracle from God.

Jesus answered, “At sunset you say we will have good weather, because the sky is red. And in the morning you say that it will be a rainy day, because the sky is dark and red. You see these signs in the sky and know what they mean. In the same way, you see the things that I am doing now, but you don’t know their meaning. Evil and sinful people ask for a miracle as a sign, but they will not be given any sign, except the sign of Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto an interesting counter challenge Jesus gives to these religious leaders. First, these leaders come to Jesus asking Him to show them a sign, specifically a miracle from God. On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a trick or a trap. However, the trap comes in a spiritual form because if Jesus would have performed a miracle for them, it would have taken the focus off of God and placed it upon Himself – which is something Jesus didn’t do. Similar to what Jesus was tempted to do in the wilderness after His baptism, this challenge was to use His divine ability for His own benefit.

Instead of falling to this temptation, Jesus challenges these religious leaders by telling them that there were already signs present that they should open their eyes to. Similar to how the weather gives its own predictions that they had learned to pay attention to, Jesus gave signs throughout His entire ministry that were clearly visible to all who were paying attention.

Jesus challenges the leaders by saying that evil people ask for signs. In my mind, this is because those who demand signs are simply discounting or out-rightly ignoring the signs that are already being given.

Continuing in verse 5, Matthew tells us that:

Jesus’ followers went across the lake, but they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to them, “Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

His followers discussed the meaning of this, saying, “He said this because we forgot to bring bread.”

Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Your faith is small. Do you still not understand? Remember the five loaves of bread that fed the five thousand? And remember that you filled many baskets with the leftovers? 10 Or the seven loaves of bread that fed the four thousand and the many baskets you filled then also? 11 I was not talking to you about bread. Why don’t you understand that? I am telling you to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” 12 Then the followers understood that Jesus was not telling them to beware of the yeast used in bread but to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

In this trip across the lake, I wonder if Jesus intentionally spoke in a way that caused a misunderstanding. Not much time had passed between the miracles of feeding the two large crowds, and I wonder if some of the disciples had bread on their minds as they were crossing the lake.

While Jesus regularly spoke spiritual truths using literal examples, the disciples seem to always focus on the literal concept before understanding the spiritual truth. In the case of this event, yeast is physically used in bread, so Jesus must be talking about bread, even though the phrase doesn’t really make sense that the disciples should be concerned about bread from the Pharisees and Sadducees.

With this misunderstanding, Jesus actually has the opportunity to emphasize two different truths. The truth Jesus wanted the disciples to understand they eventually figured out, and that truth is found in verse 12, where Matthew tells us: “Then the followers understood that Jesus was not telling them to beware of the yeast used in bread but to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

However, the bonus truth that Jesus could reemphasize because of this misunderstanding is a truth about trust in God. When hearing the conversation turn to not having any bread, Jesus steps in and questions why they even went there. After being present for two extraordinary miracles involving food multiplying in incredible ways, the last thing the disciples should be concerned about is a lack of bread. Using the same ratios as Jesus’ earlier miracles, a crumb in the corner of the boat could have been enough to feed Jesus and all twelve of His disciples till they were full.

With this misunderstanding, Jesus emphasizes the truth that God is more than willing to supply us with what we need, and He is very aware of what we need. Jesus also wants us to be aware of the dangers of placing our trust in the teachings of men. This is because the teaching of men, and you could say of women, changes over time with tradition. However, the spiritual truth God wants to teach us never changes. The big truths and themes of the Bible are just as true as they were when they were written as they are today, regardless of how culture, technology, or humanity has changed.

In our lives, we should ask God to help open our eyes to His truth, to His signs, and to His moving in the world today. Instead of being skeptical of something new, we should bring what we discover to God and let Him help us determine if it is worthy of our time, our energy, or our efforts. God wants the best for us, and when we live for Him, He will guide us along the path He has called us to walk!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally seek God first in your life and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him. Choose to trust that God will supply all your needs and ask Him to help you walk the path He created you to walk, and for help opening your eyes to see what He wants you to see and focus on.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each day. Through a strong prayer and study life, you will grow a solid foundation and relationship with God that will withstand the storms Satan wants to throw your way.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or let Satan trick you out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 29: When the religious leaders come to Jesus with a trap, discover how Jesus counter-challenges them before warning His disciples about being deceived by their teachings.

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Responding to His Love: John 21:15-25

Focus Passage: John 21:15-25 (NIV)

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Read John 21:15-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In probably one of the most redemptive and life-altering conversations following the crucifixion, Jesus invites Peter to follow again. After the three times Peter denied being associated with Jesus, chances are that he believed Jesus to have given up on him. Following the crucifixion, Jesus finds Peter back fishing, along with a number of other disciples.

Jesus meets them on the shore and they share breakfast together. It is after their breakfast that Jesus addresses Peter – which is a conversation that Peter was likely dreading. John tells us that Jesus asks Peter the same question three times, but while the translation into English makes these questions identical, there is an interesting wordplay involved in the Greek.

The first two times Jesus asks Peter the question, Jesus uses the Greek word “agapao” to describe the idea of love. This angle of love the Amplified Bible translation describes as “with total commitment and devotion”. The agapao love is a selfless and committed love towards another. In each case, Peter responds using a different word for love: “phileo”. The Amplified Bible translation describes this love as “with a deep, personal affection, as for a close friend”. The phileo love is more like a very close friend love.

I believe these first two questions are important because in them, Jesus pushes Peter to move past where he had been and into a deeper understanding of God.

The third time Jesus asks the question, Jesus echoes Peter’s word for love by asking if Peter “phileo”-loved Him. I’m not sure if this shift breaks Peter’s heart, or if it instead links to another interesting dynamic that happens in this brief conversation.

After Peter’s response to each question, Jesus makes an interesting statement that is unique to each question. After the first question and response, Jesus tells Peter to “Feed my lambs.” (v. 15)

I read this challenge as Jesus telling Peter to help the young, growing Christians – whether these young Christians are children, or whether they are older in age but newer to the faith. Perhaps, Jesus used the word “agapao” to describe that this is the type of love that one would need when helping this group of Christians.

After the second question and response, Jesus tells Peter to “Take care of my sheep.” (v. 16)

In this response, I see Jesus challenging Peter to help those who are hurting, aging, or otherwise needing some form of help. Some other translations describe this idea as “Shepherd my sheep”. Again, I wonder if Jesus used the word “agapao” to describe the type of love one would/should have when shepherding others.

After the third question and response, Jesus begins by telling Peter to “Feed my sheep.” (v. 17)

This third response Jesus gives echoes the first response, but I see it challenging Peter to help otherwise mature Christians grow. Like the other two statements, I wonder if Jesus chose the different Greek word for love (“phileo”) because this type of love would work best for this group of Christians.

Jesus then cryptically describes how Peter will end his life. From how the author places the side-note in the text, it is possible that he wrote it after Peter had died. Jesus then re-invites Peter to follow Him.

In these three challenges, I see challenges for each of us as followers of Jesus. We are to help the young members of our faith grow in their relationship with God/Jesus; we are to help those among us who are hurting and in need of strength and encouragement; and we are to challenge the mature members of our faith to deepen their relationship with God, Jesus, and each other. Each task requires a certain type of love, and in this conversation with Peter, Jesus helps us by describing the type of followers He wants us to be.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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