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Changes

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Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ

Sunday, May 13, 2018
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter

“Changes”
John 14:16-21; 25-27

The only thing we can count on in this life is that everything…changes.  Whether we’re talking about the seasons of our lives, the style of clothes we wear, or the color of our hair…assuming we have hair to color!  Someone once said, “Change is the only constant.”  It’s also true that ‘What goes around comes around.’ For example, a newborn baby must wear diapers.  Then time changes.  But eventually as we get older; how shall I put this?  I guess it all…depends! 

As we tread this life, it all boils down to our willingness to navigate through uncharted waters.  Not only will it determine our destiny; it will gauge how well we fared along the way.  The song “Changes,sung by Roger Whittaker, put it this way: “If you can’t keep the pace up, they’ll leave you behind on the way.” 

Change is inevitable.  Just as the song says, “There’s something new every day.”  But, my friends, change need not be threatening.  Change can bring positive results.  Especially, if change is in accordance with God’s will.  As we become adept at following the will of God, things will go well with us.

Such was the case when Jesus and His disciples were gathered in the Upper Room for ‘The Last Supper’.  On this occasion Jesus made this startling announcement.  Although His words should not have come as a surprise.  On previous occasions Jesus told them what must take place.  His ‘death defying act’ would happen during the Jewish Passover when the Paschal Lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the nation of Israel. 

But His death was not just for their sake.  Jesus died so that all mankind might live; both Jew and Gentile.  Jesus’ death was not untimely!  It was foretold in the days of old.  The seventh century prophet Isaiah spoke of this historic event: Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried… He was pierced through for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” [Isaiah 53:4, 5].

The Lord began by saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.”  In the Greek the word ‘another’ means “of the same kind.”  Jesus was speaking of another divine Being.  He explained to them that His going away was for their benefit, because the Spirit of the living God “would be with them …forever.” 

When Christ took on our humanity, He placed Himself in a kind of ‘time capsule.’  But, at a specified time and place, He was predestined to return from whence He came.  For although Christ had created the world, He was not in the world which is to say, the world of the familiar.     

In his book, From Glory to Golgotha, Donald MacLeod explains that from Christ’s perspective, this tiny speck in the universe, called Earth, appeared to Him as the ‘Far country.  Throughout eternity Christ dwelled in His heavenly realm.  Outside of space and time as we know it.  For the pre-incarnate Christ, it was entering a foreign and hostile environment.  One which could neither confine, nor constrain Him.

On this intimate occasion, Jesus drew their attention away from Him so that might come to understand the distinct advantages of being empowered by another divine entity.  One whom He called the ‘Helper’.  For that is what the Spirit is! 

The Lord spoke of this Helper as the ‘Spirit of Truth’.  The purveyor of Truth.  The Spirit of the living God also serves as our ‘Paraclete’ meaning ‘Counselor’ or ‘Comforter’

Just as this world was foreign to Christ; conversely, this fallen world can neither know, nor understand, the spirit world.  The world of the unseen.  In this fallen world, the Holy Spirit is a foreign entity.  It can neither detect, nor observe His workings.  And yet, they are real!   

But, the believer is enabled to catch a glimpse of the unseen.  The Spirit bears witness to both the Work and Person of Christ Jesus.  He intercedes for those whom has chosen.  His groanings, His prayerful utterances, are incomprehensible to the human ear.  Nevertheless, they are heard!    

J. I. Packer affectionately called the Holy Spirit ‘the Shy One of the Trinity’ because He never draws attention to Himself.  Instead, He points the way to the things Christ has done, is doing, and shall do in the lives of those whom He loves.  In His dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus spoke of the Spirit this way: The wind blows where it wishes…you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” [John 3:8].

The song “Changes” goes on to say, “Changes, what’s the world going through?  With so much around us, it’s hard to decide what to do.  So, you listen to words that are spoken but you can’t tell the truth from the lies; so be careful with changes, for it changes the rest of your life.”  

Offering words of comfort, Jesus assured them [that]: “I will not leave you as orphans.”  When you hear the word ‘orphan’ you picture in your mind that of a helpless, hapless child who must learn to fend for himself just to survive.  But such is not the case for those who follow the footsteps of our Lord.  Jesus assures them: “I will come to you… you will see Me.” 

What He meant by this is that death is not an end.  It is only the beginning.  A ‘stepping stone’ to a whole new vista of an otherwise unseen world!  Scripture reminds us that death cannot, and will not, separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:38].  Death is simply a passageway.  Just as one door closes; another is opened to usher us in. 

Yes, changes will inevitably come our way.  The lyrist tells us: “For the line in the Bible that you walk in can sometimes it cuts like a knife; so be careful with changes, for it changes the rest of your life.”  These words are applicable to both the believer and the unbeliever.  To the unbeliever, death is the final outcome; one which never ends.  The unbeliever cannot turn back the hands of time.  There is no reprieve; for there is no remorse.  The unsaved soul is left to wallow in a cesspool of sin throughout eternity!

But, for the believer, the veil has at last been lifted!  Our eyes are opened wide.  Our hands outstretched with alms and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us.  And because Christ lives, we who believe shall also live [Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 3:1-4].

The Lord closes with these words: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, but not as the world gives.  Therefore, let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”

Change comes unexpectedly; at times when we least expect it.  But the kind of peace Jesus offers goes beyond the veneer, or the exterior of our lives.  For just as it says, “His peace, abides with us still.”  His peace affords us an ‘inward’ composure while in the amidst of life’s stormy seas.

“But moving on, even for positive reasons, can be scary,” says Arthur Friedmann.  “But, if you conquer your fears, the rewards can be great.  Too many people stay stuck in a rut, in an otherwise unrewarding place.”

“Changes, they can touch everyone.  If you don’t follow suit, then you’d better be ready to run!”  Next week on Pentecost Sunday, we’ll catch a glimpse of how Jesus’ disciples handled themselves.  No longer did they run and hide.  Once they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, their faith became resolute.  No longer intimidated by mortal man.  Instead, they struck fear in the hearts of those who opposed them!

When Peter, and the other apostles, were brought before the Jewish council, the learned teacher Gamaliel cautioned his peers saying: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do with these men…in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their plan or action is of human origin, it will surely fail.  But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them; you might well find yourselves contending against God” [excerpts from Acts 5:35-39].

Yes, the lives of the newly anointed apostles changed dramatically.  When they sat down to write about the life and ministry of their Lord Christ, the Holy Spirit inspired and enlightened them to recall all that was to be recorded for posterity sake.  This, too, was promised by their Lord: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  Thus, we are assured that the Gospel accounts are trustworthy and reliable in all matters of faith and practice.

Ah, but you say, “What does this have to do with me?”  The short answer is: “Everything!”  A wise sage once wrote: “When I was young and impetuous, I wanted to change the world.  Today, I am much wiser.  I started to change the world by changing myself.”  Yes, change can be a good thing!  Especially, when change begins within me!   

Let us pray…