Posts

The Work of the Helper (John 16:4-14)

We can see that the comments of Jesus had made the disciples sad. He had revealed to them that he was going to leave them and that one of them would betray him. We are not surprised that those comments would upset them because they seemed to be an end to all of their hopes. Jesus then says a very surprising statement in verse 7: ‘Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away.’ How could that possibly be the case? Because when he went away, he would send the Holy Spirit to them.The name of the Holy SpiritOur translation uses the word ‘helper’, but the word has a range of meanings. It was used of an advocate in a courtroom, and it is used of Jesus in that way in I John 2:1. Other usages of the word were succourer and comforter. Jesus has already said that the Holy Spirit would be another helper, and the word translated ‘another’ means another of the same kind. So the Holy Spirit would be like Jesus, with the obvious difference that he would be invisible. Yet…

Disaster and Blessing (Amos 9)

Imagine if we were watching the news and listening to one story after another of terrible things that were happening to a country. Then suddenly, a totally different message was described that provided great encouragement for those watching. Then the newscaster said that the good report needed further study to see what actually was intended by it, but in the meantime he advised the viewers to take heart from what they had been told. In a sense, that illustration describes the ninth chapter of Amos. The first section continues the list of grim messages that the prophet had delivered, but then in verse 11 he describes a recovery. But is the description of the recovery all that it might seem?The fifth visionIn verse 1, Amos describes his fifth vision (the previous four have been described and explained in chapters 7 and 8). The Lord has already appeared in the third vision, holding a plumb line, a sign that he was going to knock down the religious buildings and the royal house.  He appea…

Propitiation (1 John 4:10)

It is possible to describe a person or an action from different perspectives. A man can be a husband, or a son, or a father, or a grandfather at the same time. A politician can be member of Parliament, or a member of the Cabinet, or a member of the Opposition. A battle can be voluntary, a victory, a means of freedom, an end of hope or a stalemate. If we don’t know those other details, then we will not really know what the words man, politician and battle signify. Moving to a far higher subject, what do we mean when we speak of the death of Christ. The phrase by itself tells that he died, but it does not tell us why he died. Did his death have a purpose or was it the end of his intentions?There are different pictures of the death of Jesus in the Bible. It is called a ransom, a reconciliation, a liberation, a victory. Each of the terms ask for clarification. Since they are part of the biblical description of the death of Jesus, we need to know their meanings in order to understand what …

Visions of Judgement (Amos 7 and 8)

Amos records five visions that the Lord gave to him about the situation in the northern kingdom. We will consider four of them in this sermon and then suggest some applications for ourselves from them. To begin with, we can ask what a vision was like. In Amos’ experience, they were like a moving picture of something that was not actually happening, but which could happen, as in the first vision of the locusts. The visions included imagery of events that were outside normal experience, like the large fire in the second vision. The visions could be small, like the basket of fruit in the fourth vision, but although it was small it pointed to something very big. In some visions, God could appear in human form, as in the third vision when he is seen holding a plumbline. So visions could be varied in their style, but they were accurate in content.Two visions and prayerThe first vision was that of a swarm of locusts that destroyed a harvest. God himself had formed the swarm and the devastati…

Coming to Know God (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

Sometimes, something happens that dominates the conversation. People everywhere are talking about it. Usually such topics involve decisions by the government, or a major event has happened, such as a visit by a well-known person. In the year AD 50, the hot topic in Greece was what had taken place in the city of Thessalonica after three strangers had arrived there with a message that caused so much consternation that a riot had taken place in the city. What made the incident so unusual was that effects continued in the city after the three strangers had been forced to leave (Acts 17:1-10). The three strangers were Paul, Silas and Timothy.A new group had appeared in the city that had responded positively to the message of the three strangers, and they had started to take the same message to other places in the country. Some people could say that the Thessalonians had taken the message to their city, and other people were wondering if the Thessalonians would come to them. Both would be a…

Hated by the World (John 15:18-16:4)

A Christian, we can say, is a person with three relationships. One is with Christ, another is with fellow believers and the third is with the world. They can happen simultaneously if believers are together when they face the world. Jesus is with them when they are together, and he is with each if they are by themselves and interacting with the world.In this passage, Jesus informs his disciples that the world will hate them and persecute them. This probably came as a shock to them because they had assumed that Jesus would rule the world in a political and a religious manner and they would have a role alongside him.Who does Jesus mean by the term ‘world’?In 16:2, Jesus mentions two features of the world. First, they are connected to the synagogue, and second, they are religious. So the world here are the religious Jews. This does not mean that where the term ‘world’ is used elsewhere, it means the same as here. But we can see that a similar response occurs elsewhere in that there is ost…