As we try to wrap our minds around the growing turmoil in our world, it's tempting to think we're the first generation to face such chaos. But as King Solomon said long ago, there's nothing new under the sun.
So then, how do we remain calm when our world is falling apart? Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his teaching series called Flying Closer to the Flame. The answer, Chuck says, is found in the third person of the Trinity.
He titled this next message in the series, The Main Agenda of God's Spirit, Transformation. Have you ever put yourself in the place of the original disciples of Christ? You know, if we're not careful, I fear that most of us would think of them as sort of pious-looking monks, much like the statues that now grace the great cathedrals and churches around the world.
Whether it is St. Peter or St. John or St. Matthew or St. Thomas, most of these images in our minds are images of rather holy and unmoving, that is unmovable, venerated saints of God. When I was a little boy during the Second World War, my father worked seven days a week. We didn't have a car when Sunday rolled around. And so we chose a church just down the end of the street where we lived. And it happened to have been St. Andrew's Methodist Church in East Houston. And I remember as a lad standing in front of a marble statue of what represented St. Andrew. And I used to stare at that statue and study the lines in that face.
And I remember thinking, how could anybody that sacred be that sad? Or could he have ever been real? In fact, I didn't know until I was almost grown that St. Andrew represented one of the original disciples. Now, with all due respect for these fine men of God, those mental pictures we have of them are a far cry from who they were originally. In fact, I am now convinced that if it had not been for the intimate spirit of God, they would have left no impact whatsoever on this earth. They would have passed into oblivion as the many multitudes whose names we will never know passed into oblivion from the first century. These were mere men who ate that last meal with Jesus, even though they had spent three and a half years in the finest of training from the best of all teachers, Jesus himself.
I don't say that as a put-down. On the contrary, I am trying to build, and I think you will see from the scriptures in our study today, I'm trying to build a case for accuracy and the biblical portraits that are painted for us regarding the original apostles before the work of the Holy Spirit within them as he transformed them. The original apostles were really not that impressive. Just as we are not, apart from the work of the Spirit of God.
Now let me show you why I say that. Open your New Testaments to John chapter 14. And when you do, you know you have arrived at the Last Supper scene. In fact, it begins in John 13 and it goes through John 16. So we are right in the heart of the Last Supper, or what is commonly called the upper room discourse. Jesus has been reclining with his men at the table. Judas has been dismissed into the night to carry out his awful deed.
And while he is meeting with the Pharisees and scribes and making their plans for that mob arrest in the garden, Jesus is alone in this second story room with his eleven faithful. And he is on the verge of unveiling to them the details of life as it will be lived following his departure. And they are not ready for that. Now we are familiar with what Jesus endured, but most are not familiar with the true emotional feelings of these eleven men who are about to face the most awful hours of their lives.
As all of their dreams are shattered, and all of their hopes are dashed, and they run for their lives. In fact, one of the gospel writers states, they all forsook him and fled. In fact, not only did one betray him, the spokesman of the group denied even knowing him.
To give you an idea of what they were like. Now, who were these men when he says in verse 36 of chapter 13, Simon Peter says to him, Lord, where are you going? Jesus answered, where I go, you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow later.
Now, remember, we've had centuries to think through that in the history of the church. Peter is hearing it for the first time and he's confused. And he says, Lord, why can I not follow you right now? I will lay down my life for you. And we applaud Peter for that statement of loyalty. He meant that.
He really believed that. How many people would you say that to? I will follow you wherever you go. I'll lay down my life for you.
This is a trusted friend. Jesus puts it in perspective when he asks you, will you lay down your life for me? The cock shall not crow until you've denied me three times. Must have pained Peter. Who were these men? Well, Robert Coleman in his fine little work, the Master Plan of Evangelism, does a pretty good job with a pen portrait of these disciples. What is more revealing about these men is that at first they do not impress us as being key men. None of them occupied prominent places in the synagogue, nor did any of them belong to the Levitical priesthood. For the most part, they were common, laboring men, probably having no professional training beyond the rudiments of knowledge necessary for their vocation. Perhaps a few of them came from families of some considerable means, such as the sons of Zebedee, but none of them could have been considered wealthy. They had no academic degrees in the arts and philosophies of their day. Like their master, their formal education likely consisted only of the synagogue schools. Most of them were raised in the poor section of the country around Galilee. Apparently the only one of the twelve who came from the more refined region of Judea was Judas Iscariot. By any standard of sophisticated culture, writes Coleman, by any standard of sophisticated culture then and now, they would surely be considered as a rather ragged aggregation of souls.
One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were impulsive, temperamental, easily offended, and had all the prejudices of their environment. In short, these men selected by the Lord to be his assistants represented an average cross-section of the lot of society in their day, not the kind of group one would expect to win the world for Christ. Now you might say, that's a pretty raw statement regarding the apostles.
I'm not sure I agree with that. Well, let me help you see how they felt, and maybe that will help you know what kind of men they were. Remember now, they've been traveling three and a half years. They've been hearing him teach, watching him heal. They've been witnessing miracle after miracle. They've slept with him, touched him, eaten with him. They know him better than anybody on earth knows him. That is, they know Jesus. But when it came to the final deadline, these are only hours. This moment is only hours before he is nailed to a cross.
By the next morning, he will be on a cross. You will see that they really were not strong within. In fact, look at the first verse of chapter 14. If you want to make a list of how they felt, write down the word troubled. Let not your heart be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me. If he had not seen that they were troubled, he would not have mentioned it. They were troubled, anxious men. They were uneasy. The more they were listening to him at this last meal, the more they realized he meant what he said. He had told them about it earlier, but now the bills are coming due. Now they know it's for real and they're troubled.
Second, they're confused. Look at verse 5. Thomas said to him, Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way? We love verse 6. I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father but through me. But we don't think about verse 5. Verse 6 is an answer to verse 5. Thomas says, Lord, I'm at a loss to figure this out. I'm confused. Look at 16 verses 16 and 17.
Talk about confusion. Jesus is saying to his men, same discourse, 16 and 16, a little while and you will no longer behold me. And again, a little while and you will see me. Now you and I know that he's talking about first his death and then he's talking about his resurrection. A little while, I'll be gone. I'll be in a grave.
In a little while, I'll be back from the dead. You'll see me. But look at the disciples, verse 17. They're confused. Some of his disciples said to one another, what is this thing he's telling us? A little while and you will not behold me. And again, a little while and you will see me. And because I go to the Father, what's this all about?
How does this all fit together? They're not only troubled, they're confused. Verse 18 of chapter 14, they feel abandoned.
That's a third word to write down. They're abandoned. And so he says to them in verse 18, I will not leave you as orphans.
I will come to you. Isn't that a descriptive way to put it? You may be an orphan. You may know what it feels like to not have father or mother. And you may still remember those early, early years of your life when along came this couple that said, as they looked into your little cherub-like face and said, we want you and you felt for the first time owned or loved and you felt you belong. Well, these men feel the opposite. They feel like they have given themselves, thrown themselves in with him, and now he's leaving them. And he says to them, I'm not going to leave you orphaned, though they feel that right now. Furthermore, they're fearful. Verse 27, peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
They're afraid. What are we going to do when he isn't here? What's the morning going to be like when we wake up and he's not around? How will we go on when he is not the one who can do these miracles? What will be our MO when he's out of sight and we're left all to ourselves?
They're fearful. Look at 18 of John. The upper room discourse is over. The great prayer of our Lord has been uttered to the Father, and now the moment of truth comes.
It's a terrible scene. When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the ravine of the Kedron where there was a garden into which he himself entered and his disciples. Now Judas, who was betraying him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with his disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came with lanterns and torches and weapons. It is a chaotic scene.
It is a very frightening moment. And Jesus walks up to these who are coming after him. He says, whom do you seek? And they answered, Jesus the Nazarene. And he said to them, I am he. Judas, who was betraying him, was standing with him. And he said to them, I am he.
They drew back and fell to the ground. Again, he asked him, whom do you seek? They said, Jesus the Nazarene. And Jesus, I told you that I am he, if therefore you seek me, let these go their way. Let these 11 friends of mine be on their way.
You don't want them, you want me. That the word might be fulfilled, of which he spoke, of those whom thou hast given me, I lost not one. Simon Peter, therefore, look at this, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear.
The slave's name was Malachi. This is an interesting little moment, isn't it? Can't you just see Peter charge around here?
Who is it? And so he comes down on his soldier. And what you don't know is that the Roman helmet was shaped so that the ears were not that protected. He was trying to split his skull in two. And he comes down, it comes off the helmet and just takes off that ear.
It's off. And Jesus said to Peter, look at verse 11. I love this. Put the sword in the sheath. Come on, Peter.
The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it? What I want to point out is that these men were very human. Peter is the one who said, I will die for you. I'll lay down my life for you.
1337. And he proves it right here. Why, you go after a Roman soldier, you're history. But Peter doesn't care. And in a very human moment of defense of his Lord, he cuts off that ear of that slave, of that soldier.
Very human response. Look at verse 17. This is the same one now who just said, I'll die for you and has pulled the sword and cut off the ear of the soldier.
Now look at him. Verse 16. Peter was standing at the door outside. The other disciple who was known to the high priest went out and spoke to the doorkeeper and brought in Peter. And the slave girl who kept the door said to Peter, you are not also one of this man's disciples, are you? And he said, me?
Not me. Verse 25. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, you are not also one of his disciples, are you? He denied it and said, I am not.
One of the slaves of the high priest being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off. What goes around comes around, huh? Said, did I not see you in the garden with him? Didn't you cut off Bubba's ear? I remember seeing you out there. You had that sword. Aren't you the one that had that sword out there last night?
You look awful familiar. Peter denied it again. Vassalating, shifting, very weak, very human. Chapter 20, verse 19.
We're still building a case on how these men really were. I want you to get it very clear so you can appreciate the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 19, chapter 20.
Okay, get it now. This is after the crucifixion. This is after the resurrection. They are scared because they are convinced that the officials will say one of the disciples stole his body.
In fact, that's the word that was traveling around. And so they get alone in a room and they lock the door so nobody can find them. This is a scene that's seldom mentioned because we don't like to think of these disciples in such an intimidated moment. But they were.
2019. When therefore it was evening on that day, that is the day of resurrection, first day of the week, the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Remember, intimidated. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, Peace be with you. He passes through the locked door. His whole molecular structure of his body is changed. He is in a glorified state, having been raised from the dead. No longer is he limited by space or matter.
He is able to move quickly from one place to another without friction, without limitations. But he meets with men who are intimidated as well as unsure. Verse 24. Thomas, one of the twelve called the twin, was not with them when Jesus came and the other disciples were saying to him, We've seen the Lord.
And he said, Unless I shall see in his hands the imprint of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. What kind of men were they? They were intimidated. They were unsure.
They were lacking in understanding. One more, if you will. Acts one, verse four through verse six. Time has passed. It is time for him to ascend to the Father.
In the last few minutes, he spends with his close friends, these very human individuals, gathering them together. Acts one, four. He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised, which he said, You have heard from me.
Meaning what? The coming of the Holy Spirit. You wait. You wait in the city of Jerusalem. God's going to keep his word.
John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. So when they had come together, they were asking him, saying, Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom of Israel? They still can't get it straight. They lack understanding. Now, I don't say these things to be unfair or to be needlessly critical. I say them so that you can get an accurate picture in your mind, and I say them because those same characteristics are ours. How many people listening right now to my voice are troubled, are confused, are feeling abandoned, fearful, very human, vacillating between loyalty and lying, between devotion and denial?
How many of us feel intimidated, unsure, lacking in understanding? These are all characteristics of human nature. And all of this, don't forget, was a part of their experience before the Spirit of God visited them and changed their lives. Now, when he came, he brought a dynamic that transformed him. Verse 8, he told them it is not for them to know the times or the epochs which the Father has fixed by his authority. Verse 7, but you shall receive power.
There's that word we've looked at earlier, dunamis, d-u-n-a-m-i-s, dynamic. You will receive a transforming dynamic when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses. One of my friends in the years past prayed on one occasion and made a statement in his prayer that I will never forget. He said, Lord, help me never to forget what it was like outside of Christ. I think that's a very insightful prayer. I believe the disciples must have thought after the fact, Lord, help us to never forget what we were like before you transformed us, because they were changed.
Chucks-Wendall is just getting started in this message. He's talking about the main agenda of God's Spirit. And the main agenda, of course, is transformation. At Insight for Living, we make it our mission to walk alongside you in your transformational process.
Make no mistake, the Spirit of God is the one who transforms us. But we take great delight in equipping you with resources that will guide you. For instance, every message in this study of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by online study notes. We call this free resource Searching the Scriptures. It's an interactive document that allows you to keep personal notes online.
Or you can print out the PDF so you can keep a permanent record of your progress. All the details are at insideworld.org slash studies. In addition to the study notes, Chuck has written a book about the third person of the Trinity. It's called Embraced by the Spirit.
Let's face it, most of us are intrigued by the Holy Spirit, but we might hold back because we're afraid of getting this relationship wrong or being misunderstood by family and friends. Well, in his book, Chuck steps away from the theological battle in order to help us enjoy the one that God sent as our companion. To purchase a copy, call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Or visit us online at insight.org slash store and look for the book entitled Embraced by the Spirit. Well, this daily program relies on the generosity of supportive friends like you. So thanks so much for doing your part in helping others engage with the Bible, just as you did the very first time you heard Insight for Living. To give a donation with one of our friendly ministry reps on the phone, call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. And for online giving, you can simply go to insight.org. Take it from Chuck Swindoll. There's nothing quite like the beauty of the great frontier. Wide open skies, pristine glaciers with various shades of blue and turquoise, mingled within them towering pine trees and all manner of wildlife. I'll tell you, Alaska is truly a masterpiece of God's creation. I've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things. But honestly, nothing compares to the beauty in Alaska. Thank you.
God is awesome. Come with us on the Insight for Living Ministries cruise to Alaska, July 1st through July 8th, 2023. When I'm in Alaska, I feel like I'm in an amazing painting created by God. Let yourself get lost in the majestic beauty. Spend quality time with those you love. Allow God to refresh your soul as you reflect on his word and his goodness in your life. To learn more, go to insight.org slash events or call this number 1-888-447-0444.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his study called Flying Closer to the Flame, tomorrow on Insight for Living. Copyright © 2017 Mooji Media Ltd. All Rights Reserved. No part of this recording may be reproduced
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