Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
When we can't control our circumstances, we often feel helpless. The disciples felt that way when Jesus said He was going to the cross. How He encouraged them is how He'll encourage us.
It all has to do with finding out what's on the last page. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, we're moving now into John chapter 16 in your series from the Upper Room. Tell us where we're headed today. Well, Dave, once again, Jesus Christ is preparing the disciples for the future, and what He's telling them is that they are going to have great sorrow because, after all, He's going to go to the cross, but their sorrow will eventually be turned into joy. And we need to hear that message today. I've written a book entitled Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future.
It's based on the words of Jesus Christ to His disciples there in the Upper Room, preparing them for the difficulties that lay ahead. I think this book will be a great blessing. Now, this is the last week that we are making it available. You can go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And thanks in advance for helping us, because together we're making a difference. And now, once again, we turn to the words of our Lord and Savior. There is a story about a boy who is reading a novel in the living room. His mother said to him, Johnny, come to the dishes. But he said, no, Mom, I can't, because right now I am in chapter 5, and the hero is in trouble. It looks like the villain is going to win. So I have to see how the story turns out.
But as most mothers knew, she persisted. And then knowing that he had to go, he flipped to the last page of the book and read it. And as the boy went into the kitchen that day, he said, you know, the villain is doing fine in chapter 5. But is he ever in for a shock when he gets to the last page? When Jesus wanted to comfort His disciples when He was going away and they would no longer see Him, what He said to them in effect was, just read the last page. And if you read the last page, you will discover that it will turn out right.
It doesn't look like it now, but trust me, it will. The text is the 16th chapter of the Gospel of John, chapter 16. And Jesus, in context, liked to sometimes say things that made His disciples puzzled. Jesus would speak to them, He says, in parables, in sayings, so that they could ponder what He was saying, and that took a little bit of thinking. And so the disciples were discussing what He might mean. It says in chapter 16, verse 17 of John's Gospel, some of His disciples said to one another, what does He mean by saying, in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me, and because I'm going to the Father. They kept asking, what does He mean by a little while?
We don't understand what He's saying. Actually, from the standpoint of looking back now, we know exactly what Jesus was saying. The reason the disciples were finding it so difficult is because they did not have any categories in their mind for a Messiah who was actually going to die on a cross. They thought that Jesus would establish the kingdom, that He would overcome the Romans by brute force. That's what they expected the Messiah to do.
So all of this was very, very confusing to them. What Jesus meant, I think, was this. He was saying, in a little while you will no longer see me. And by that He meant that He was going to die. And then after a little while, they would see Him again, and their hearts would rejoice, and their joy no man would take from them. After the resurrection, they would see Him again, and their joy would be complete.
But it's in this context that Jesus makes a remarkable contrast between two different ways to view His death. And today, by the way, I speak to those who are sorrowful, even as Jesus did to His disciples. I want to speak to those of you who have sorrow because of the breakup of your family, maybe because of a death in the family. I speak to those of you who have sorrow because you have unfulfilled dreams that have come crashing down to the ground.
You have been bitterly disappointed because you meant so well, but it has all come down, and you don't know where to turn because of personal sorrow. But also, we are going to be encouraged today, and I promise through the words of Christ we will be, because of the sorrow that we might even have for our country. I'm sure that you feel as I do when you watch the news and when you see what is happening, we as a country and as Christians within this country are losing every single battle, it seems. The battle for truth, the battle for justice, the battle for righteousness, the battle for Christ seems to be lost in a welter of conflicting opinions religiously and morally as we become more and more a minority in this culture.
Well, I want to give us hope today because Jesus, if he were here, would give us hope. I believe that if Jesus were standing on this pulpit, he would both rebuke us, but he would also give us hope, and today we will see that hope as we look to the last page. But first of all, the contrast as to how his death would be viewed, and then the great reversal that Jesus talks about.
What is the contrast? First of all, and I'm picking it up now at verse 20, I tell you the truth. You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. First of all, notice the sorrow of the disciples.
It is short-lived, but it is bitter, bitter sorrow. You will be sorrowful. The disciples will be sorrowful because, as I mentioned, they do not understand that Jesus is going to die and that this was part of the plan.
They just don't get it. So they are sorrowful because to them Jesus was a friend. We sing, what a friend of sinners, and we noticed earlier in this upper room discourse that Jesus said to them, no longer do I call you servants because a servant doesn't know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends.
I've brought you into the inner circle. They served together. The disciples were there when Jesus performed that miracle and took five loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 people. They were there when Jesus came to them walking on the Sea of Galilee. They were with him when he was despised and rejected and when people tried to push him over the brow of a hill.
It is sometimes said that you may forget people whom you have laughed with, but you will not forget people with whom you have wept. These disciples' hearts were bonded to Jesus, and so they are going to weep and lament. It is because he was a friend to them, but also more than that, they believed that he was the Messiah. They put their trust in him. They thought that he was going to bring the deliverance that the prophets had promised. They did not understand this church age.
Remember the two of them walking on the way to Emmaus? So sad, it appeared as if they would never smile again, and Jesus walks along with them, and they do not know that it is Jesus, and he begins to talk with them and says, Why are you so sad? They said, We hoped that it would have been he who would have delivered Israel, but now we've been deeply disappointed because he's dead, and this is now the third day that these things have taken place. To them it was the tragic end of a very beautiful life, but it was over. May I suggest that the higher your hopes, and they had high hopes for Jesus, the deeper the pain of disappointment and discouragement, and they thought that they would cry forever. Disappointment, Jesus was gone. Well, let's look at how the world interpreted those three days when Jesus was away from them.
The world had joy. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. When Jesus was on the cross, the world said, Good riddance. The one who irritated us is gone. He's the one who exposed our sin and disrupted the very core of our lives, and he's no longer with us. Now we can feel comfortable in our continued, selfish, greedy ways.
He's gone. Yes, Jesus exposed their sin. In fact, if you read the 23rd chapter of Matthew, it is absolutely amazing the things that Jesus said. We have such a distorted view of him, thanks to our contemporary culture, where you have the meek and mild Jesus. Well, I'll tell you, read Matthew and you discover that he calls them whitewashed sepulchers. He speaks about how dirty they are inside, though they have cleaned the cup, and they appear to be good to men, but to God they are full of rot. No wonder they were glad to see him on the cross.
Parenthesis. Ever wondered why it is that Christianity is so despised today in our post Christian culture? Other religions aren't.
You can belong especially to any religion that you like, especially if it is an Eastern religion, and people are willing to absorb it. They're willing to live with the syncretism. They're willing to take those points of view and to accept all of them in some kind of a contradictory mishmash, and everybody is perfectly happy. But the minute you talk about Jesus being the only way, the minute you begin to talk about Jesus as painted in the New Testament, then that's a horse of a different wheelbase. Things begin to happen at that time. Why the difference?
Check it out. The other religions allow you to be very comfortable with your sin, very comfortable. Because the gods of the East are like books on a shelf.
You pick them up when you want to pick them up, and you use them the way you want to use them. They will never come to you. They will never invade your life and tell you that you need to get rid of the selfishness and the greed and the idolatry of your mind and heart. Those gods don't do that kind of thing. But the God of the Bible and the Christ who reveals him does.
Somebody said that today we have sheep for wool, cows for milk, and a God to come along and to affirm us in our every depraved craving, a God just for us. No wonder people feel so comfortable with alternate religions. And Jesus exposes us for who we are. So they despised him because he exposed their sin.
They despised him because he exposed their ignorance. Jesus loved to make a nuisance of himself. For example, he would ask questions like this, the baptism of John, tell me, was it from men or from heaven? And they didn't know how to answer. Because if they say it's from heaven, then Jesus would say, well, why didn't you believe him and repent? And if they say it's from men, then they feared the people because everybody believed John was a prophet. So the Bible says they didn't answer him. One day, Jesus said to them, you know, the Messiah, whose son is he? And they said, well, the son of David. He said, well, that's interesting. Why then in the Psalms did David called the Messiah Lord?
You see the connection? Jesus wanted them to admit that Messiah was God based on the Old Testament. And they resented it. And again, they would not answer.
They would not answer. And that bothered them. Now he was dead. There he was on the cross.
It was like having an aching tooth yanked from the jaw. And finally, you sense this great relief because he is finished. You know, it's interesting that in the book of Revelation, we have an interesting story of what could be called the devil's Christmas.
Did you know that the devil has his Christmas too? I'm just going to pick it up in chapter 11 very briefly where two witnesses, maybe a Moses and Elijah, are put to death. And it says in chapter 11 verse 7 of Revelation, now when they had finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss, that is when the two witnesses had, he will attack them and overpower them and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt.
That's an interesting expression by the way. Where also the Lord was crucified for three and a half days, men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts because these two prophets who had tormented those who lived upon the earth, they were now dead. Let's have a party. Interesting, three and a half days later, they arise from the dead also and 7,000 people die in an earthquake and everybody realizes, you know, we partied too soon. That's what the world discovered when Jesus died on the cross. We partied too soon because there he was and you have to put up with him again and again and again.
You can't keep him dead. Well, let's look at the contrast. The disciples sorrowful because they loved him, the world glad because they hated him. But then we have what I call the great reversal. You know, there are reversals in scripture. You remember how Jesus told that story about the rich man and Lazarus and the rich man, he had all of the things that one could have.
He was dressed in purple, he had fine food, he lived in a palace, the whole bit. And here's Lazarus this poor guy to be distinguished by the way from the other Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead and this poor man would come and he would eat with the dogs. And then in eternity, everything got reversed. The rich man was in torment in Hades and he cried up and said, send Lazarus that he may dip some water on my tongue. You remember because he was able to communicate with Abraham who was next door though there was a great gulf between the two.
Isn't that interesting? And Lazarus was there with Abraham in paradise, in bliss, the great reversal. And the people who think that they have done away with Jesus will discover that they have not done it because he will come back. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, you just can to do away with him.
Even when you think you have, there he is. But what about the disciples? Well, Jesus said their sorrow is going to be turned into joy.
We're back here in the 16th chapter of John where he gives this remarkable illustration in verse 21. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come. But when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
Let me give you a personal observed illustration of Christ's words in verse 21. When our daughter who is now 26 years old was born, my wife was actually in the same room pre-delivery with another woman, a young woman, bless her heart, from Appalachia. And this young woman didn't quite know what was going on. So she cried out continuously, kill me, kill me, somebody just take a hammer and kill me, kill me.
Oh, I thought, wow. So our daughter was born and I walked down the hall. She was born about one o'clock if I remember correctly. And I walked down the hall later that afternoon and I kept hearing this woman through the door, kill me, just kill me. But the next day we were able to meet with her and to rejoice that indeed a child had been born into the world and she was glad that no one had killed her.
Don't take people up on some of the things that they request that you do. Now I don't want you to miss Christ's point and this is what it is. Jesus is not just simply saying that joy is going to come after the sorrow.
What he's saying is that the very thing that caused the sorrow, namely the birth of this child, is the very thing that brings the joy. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. You know, I came from Canada.
I had a different accent here at the Moody Church and elsewhere. We always accept all people regardless of where they have come from, regardless of how they speak. We are all one in Jesus Christ. And of course, the point of the story is simply this, that after pain, there is rejoicing when a child is born. That was what Jesus Christ was getting at.
Well, this is the last week we are making available to you a book I've written entitled Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future. It's actually an exposition of the words of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room. He was on his way to the cross. They were filled with sorrow.
They were filled with doubt. They had all kinds of fears and he was trying to help them to be calm and to understand the bigger picture and how we need his words today. I believe that this book will be a great blessing. Here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com. We are making this resource available to anyone for a gift of any amount. Go to RTWOffer.com or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let me remind you again that this is the second to last day that we are making this book available. Ask for Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future, RTWOffer.com or 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Sometimes marriages have to weather some really tough storms. An anonymous husband has written asking for help.
Here's his story. Because of surgery, my wife has lost all interest in sexual intimacy, but my desires have not changed. I don't want to sin mentally, so what should I do? We love each other and divorce is out of the question. I'm heavily involved in Bible study and the church. Dr. Lutzer, what's your advice?
Well, my brother, a couple of comments. First of all, I'm sure that you've talked to your wife about this many times, but maybe you need to speak to her again, because biblically she does have an obligation to you. The Apostle Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians. So maybe even though at this point she has absolutely no interest, it is very important for you to discuss it, to talk about it, and maybe there is a way that the two of you can accommodate each other. Now having said that, I do need to emphasize that if you go through life from this point on without sexual intimacy, millions of people have had the same experience as you have. There are those who have never married, who have desired marriage.
There are those who because they are widows or widowers do not have the opportunity of any kind of sexual contact, and they survive. Now you say to yourself, well, you're struggling with lust in your mind. I can understand that. But at the same time, I've always taken the position that God gives us as many resources as we need to glorify Him in the midst of our situation. I'm glad to read that you are involved in church, you are involved in Bible study. Those are the kinds of directions and vocations and emphases that you need to continue to follow. But at the same time, give yourself, your marriage to God, and remember God is with you.
Others have persevered and been victorious in the same state where you find yourself and keep moving on. Don't let this become a stumbling block in your walk with God. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer, for your answer to his question. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Jesus knew His disciples would be tested in ways they couldn't imagine after He faced the cross and ascended to the Father. That's why He spent His final night with them explaining what would happen and what they were to do. Next time, we'll listen in as some fearful disciples gain understanding from their Master. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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