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Peace in Pressure – 11/5/23

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Peace in Pressure – 11/5/23


Peter Hubbard


November 5, 2023


John, John 16:33


Today we’re going to be in John 16, just for a few minutes before we have baptism. John 16. Now, this is the very end of one of the most famous sermons ever preached. John 14 through John 16 is known as the Upper Room Discourse. Jesus is preparing his followers for his departure via death, burial, resurrection, ascension. He begins his sermon by focusing on our hearts — specifically troubled hearts — and he ends in a very similar way. And everything in between is this feast of promises. But look at the very beginning, John 14:1.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

And then look at the very end. John 16:33.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

You could summarize this this way. An untroubled heart is possible in the middle of a very troubled world when that heart is abiding in the Savior who has come into the world and has overcome it.

Jesus is promising a specific kind of peace, a shalom in the midst of intense pressure. Let’s unpack that last verse. At the very end of Jesus’ sermon, verse 33. Here’s his summary.

“I have said these things to you.”

What things? The things that he just said in chapters 14 through 16, where he explained things like, I am leaving to prepare a place for you. I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me. I will return so that you will be with me. For now, abide in me. The world hates you just like it hated me. But it’s actually to your advantage. It’s good that I leave. That’s one of the mind-blowing statements of Jesus. It’s actually good for me to leave because I’m going to send a helper, the Holy Spirit. My Father is with me. Jesus is saying, I’ve said these things — all these and more. Why? That in me you may have peace. In me you have peace with God. In me you have peace in the midst of a pressure-filled world.

Notice the location of peace. It’s different than any of us would naturally think. Generally we think we’re going to find peace if we look within ourselves and find the answers we’re looking for. We’re going to find peace if we can convince others to think well of us. If we’re well thought of, that gives us peace, or there is an absence of external conflict, or my kids are flourishing; therefore, I’m at peace. When they’re not flourishing, I can’t have peace. When there’s money in the bank saved up, I have peace. When there’s not money, I don’t. When I accomplish my goals, I’m at peace. And Jesus is saying, you’re never going to find peace in any of those things. It will always come and go, and it will never be enough. In me you may have peace. In me. Earlier in the sermon, Jesus said, verse 27 of chapter 14,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

In me you may have peace.

In the first service, a couple got baptized. Never been in church. Just started reading their Bibles, started visiting North Hills, and they talked about how they had looked everywhere for peace. Never found it until they came to know Jesus. That’s what Jesus is saying. In me, you may have peace.

But he doesn’t stop there. And this is the part sometimes we forget. In the world you will have tribulation. Jesus is promising this. In the world you will have tribulation. What’s the world? The world is the system in any age that tries to define good and evil — just like the temptation of Adam and Eve way at the beginning — tries to define good and evil in and of themselves apart from God. And so therefore, they generally end up making bad look good, sin look normal. That’s the world. And as we saw in 1 John, that manifests itself or is driven by “desires of the flesh, desire of the mind, pride of life.” Jesus is saying, in this world system you will have tribulation. And that word “tribulation” is the general word for pressure. It’s when one thing presses against something else. It could come in the form of anxiety or distress or difficulty, relational conflict, injustice, oppression, or persecution. Jesus, like a good doctor right before the procedure, says “You’re going to feel some pressure.”

“But [verse 33] take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Take heart. Be courageous. Don’t lose heart or give up. Why? Because I have overcome. I’ve conquered, I’ve prevailed. I am victorious. Jesus spoke these words before he died, before he was buried, before he rose and ascended. The victory was sure. And it’s even, well, can you get more sure now? We saw this word “overcome” six times in our study of 1 John that we just finished last week. And the point is well summarized by D.A. Carson.

“Jesus’ point is that by his death, he has made the world’s opposition pointless and beggarly. The decisive battle has been waged and won. The world continues its wretched attacks, but those who are in Christ share the victory he has won. They cannot be harmed by the world’s evil, and they know who triumphs in the end. From this they take heart and begin to share his peace.”

In me, peace. In the world, pressure. Tyler Staton explains that tension this way.

“The story of the world puts every one of us in a troubling predicament. We are forced to live out our days wedged between [another word for the pressure] the beauty and goodness of unfathomable potential [that’s who God has made us in Christ and all that he has for us — that beauty, that goodness potential] and the stark, looming reality of recurring darkness.”

In me, peace. In the world, pressure.

So how do we navigate this? A couple of options. One is you can try to navigate the tension just like the world does. The world doesn’t experience the tension the same way Christians do, but they can feel something’s wrong. No question. Richard Neuhaus summarizes the way we in the world, apart from Christ, try to make a way forward, try to make sense out of senselessness. Here are some suggestions the world tries to use.

“Make it up as you go along;”

A very pragmatic approach. Some people just land on your feet no matter what. Here’s another one.

“Take ironic delight in the truth that there is no truth;”

So I’m absolutely confident in the truth that there is no truth. So I’m embracing the meaninglessness, trying to make meaning. Here’s another one.

“There is no home that answers to our homelessness;”

So we all have this sense we’re not there yet. But apart from Christ, there is no “there,” and so you’re having to embrace this “there-lessness” and try to make sense of that. Here’s another one.

“Definitely (but lightheartedly!) throw the final vocabulary that is your life in the face of nothingness.”

I’m not totally sure what Newhaus meant by that, but what I’m thinking he means by that is when you reject the idea of a metanarrative — What’s a metanarrative? A large story — above all our little stories, you reject the big story. That means essentially nothing means anything ultimately. And we’re not going anywhere. There’s no big arch, there’s no big story. So then you have to, in a sense, throw the final vocabulary. You’re trying to speak about something, a story that doesn’t exist in the face of nothingness. You’re throwing, you’re telling a story in a black hole of nothingness. And the only way you can do that is to turn the music up and to keep moving so you don’t have time to think about how utterly hopeless it is.

“And if your neighbor or some inner curiosity persists in asking about the meaning of it all, simply change the subject.”

So these are a few of the ways the world walks through the tension. But changing the subject can only work for so long. You can’t keep scrolling forever. You can’t keep trying to eat and drink your way to happiness. She will disappoint you. He will disappoint you. The highs will get lower and the lows will become unbearable. The questions keep coming. There has to be a better way.

Lebanese Christian thinker Charles Malik asks us,

“Are you perplexed? Do you ‘feel’ the crisis [that is the tension]? Do you ‘feel’ something profoundly wrong, both in your life and in the affairs of the world? Do you as it were ‘hold your heart in your hand’ fearing that at almost the next moment something terrible is going to break out — both in you and the world? Have you reached the state where you simply do not quite trust the processes of the world (including nature, science, economics, politics, and even the best goodwill) suspecting that there is in them a flaw somewhere, a false note, an imminent principle of darkness, destruction, and death.”

In other words, do you live with a strong sense that someone is up to something no good? Some of you are looking at me like, does anyone not live with that sense? At this point, Malik catches us off guard and he says,

“At its deepest levels, the crisis is caused by Christ.”

What is he talking about? He’s talking about, as Mark Sayers says,

“Our cultural crisis shows us the consequences of what happens when we try to take over the controls of the world.”

And Jesus is inviting us in the midst of all the chaos and crisis.

“In me, you may have peace.”

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. [I’m guaranteeing you] In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This isn’t just an empty, quiet-ism, like you just bury your head in the sand. You’re following — your life is embedded in — the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the political leader of all political leaders who is a Savior, who is calling out to you right now.

“In me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart.”

So in Jesus, we can be honest about our questions, our sin, and our sorrow. When we look to him and trust him, we are united with his death, burial, and resurrection. And therefore we are liberated from the world’s system of death and despair.

And today we have the joy of cheering on, throughout all day, 26 of our brothers and sisters who are being baptized. What is baptism? Baptism is an outer display of the realities Jesus is describing that my life is no longer identified by this world of chaos, sin, defiance to God, and utter hopelessness, that I have put my faith in Jesus. You’re about to hear some stories of those who have turned from darkness to light, like Sejun, who have said my life is not defined by my own performance or even by the now, but in Jesus.

As we’ve talked about before, there are three big realities pictured when someone is baptized. Reality number one is we are no longer guilty. You’ve been washed. The water does not wash away sin. It is the sacrifice of Jesus. Each person being baptized has testified that their faith is no longer in themselves or anyone else but Jesus. And he took our sin on him on the cross so that our sin can be washed away. So the water is picturing the washing away that Jesus has provided.

Reality number two, you’re no longer dead in your sin. You’ve been made alive in Christ. It’s one of the reasons we love to baptize by immersion. Because when somebody goes down under the water, there’s a picture of death, burial, resurrection. You’re proclaiming through water what Jesus has done. Our life by faith is united with his death, burial, resurrection.

And then reality number three, you’re no longer identified with the world. You’ve been given a new identity in Christ. We still live in a neighborhood. We still face temptation and daily battles. But ultimately our identity. Is not merely a Greenvillian, an American or any other worldly identity. We are in Christ. That’s who we are.

“I have said these things to you,” Jesus said, “so that in me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”