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That We Might Not Stumble

December 10th, 2015

These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

John 16:1

The intent of Christ in His teachings in John 15 was that we might not stumble in our hearts toward Him, that we might not become ensnared in temptations and in our lusts or pride, that we might not be caught unaware of the spiritual dangers that are around us.

The word translated “stumble” is skandalizo, from which we get our English word “scandal.” It means to put a stumbling block in someone’s way, to corrupt someone’s loyalty to God, to plant distrust and doubt. It could also mean to be offended, to see in another something negative and, in our relationship with God, it would mean to find something that would hinder our obedience, that would discourage us and influence us not to obey His authority.

The Primacy of Life in Christ: Christ’s teachings are fundamentally positive and the primary message is life in Him. Christ’s words about not stumbling related to the statements about persecution He had just uttered, because the following verses pick up the same theme. But, yet, He used them also to remind us of the strength of the presence of the Spirit. He said: “These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:4). While He was with the disciples in the flesh, there was no reason to talk about the hard days to come. His main purpose was not to prepare His disciples for persecution but to introduce them to true life.

He was with the disciples for three years and the focus of His time with them was righteousness and the kingdom of God. Yet He did not avoid the subject of persecution either. He knew that in times of persecution - no matter how fleeting they may be, especially in light of eternity - they can be very intense and cause a believer to feel completely abandoned by God. And we often will “feel” abandoned, and question where God is and what has He left us all alone, even when we deal with minor frustrations. The psalmists were quick to complain when they felt that God was no longer with them,

Psalm 28:1: To You I will cry, O LORD my Rock: do not be silent to me lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.

But the focus of Christ’s teaching here and throughout His ministry is positive in nature. He assures us that the blessings of faith and obedience to Him far outweigh the difficulties of persecution. So He spoke these principles of spiritual life - He is the Vine and we are the branches - so that we might know that our strength is not in our circumstances but in the spiritual life of the Spirit of God.

The Fellowship of the Spirit: Christ also did not teach them about persecution from the very beginning because when He was with them the persecution fell mainly on Him. “Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter” was the thinking of the opposition to Christ (Matt. 26:31). But He left them after the resurrection and ascended on high, and the Spirit of Christ came to indwell the church and to empower us. So His teaching of life also prepared the disciples and us to realize that the Spirit of God will be with us in all of our challenges.

Christ said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Our pattern of life is the same as that of Christ during His life. The Spirit of God has now come into the world and just as Christ lived by the strength of the Spirit, now we His followers also live in the same way.

Hebrews 12:3-4: Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

The Spirit guide us into all truth and applies in our lives the spiritual riches of Christ (John 16:13).

We have an enemy. The word in John 16:1 above, “be made to stumble,” is in the passive and this fact points out that there is some one in this world who seeks to cause us to stumble and fall away. Christ did not belabor this point in these verses, rather He only mentioned this reality - “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

There are two extremes we must avoid - denying the existence of Satan and attributing to him too much power. Both of these perspectives are lies. Satan does exist and we do battle with him. He is a force to be reckoned with, one that we should respect in terms of his power. Jude 9 points out that even Michael the archangel was careful in dealing with Satan and “dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” All our power against Satan and his kingdom comes from God.

But neither should we give him more power and more attention than he deserves. Christ mentioned the evil one in His prayer, but His prayer was not directed against the devil so much as it was directed to the Father. And this is the secret of life and of victory - praying to God, trusting in God, drawing near to God, and resisting or rejecting the devil. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:7-8).

Therefore: We are confident in Christ and in the presence of His life and His Spirit within us. We have a divine Source of life in our souls and we will always be with Him and He will be with us. Nothing can separate us from Him. We also have an enemy who will try to cause us to stumble, but we need not fear. Trust and receive God’s life, and do not worry about the devil. The Lord will strengthen us.

John 14-17, John 15 , , , ,

Final Thoughts

January 21st, 2014

Let not your hearts be troubled…

John 14:1

For several weeks now we have examined chapters 14-17 of John, and this passage remains one of the most meaningful to our hearts. In these words spoken by Christ the night of His betrayal and arrest, the evening before His crucifixion, we see a profound description of what He has come to do and how His followers will live. In the first verse above, encouraging us to not be troubled in our thoughts or our feelings, but to rather trust Him in all things, even the great and weighty things of life, until the last in which He spoke of our future glory together with Him in heaven, where we will see and experience His glory expressed in love, He has taken us on a journey, from our earthly experience of trouble, sorrow, difficulty, doubts, fears, and persecutions, until our heavenly experience is unveiled, one of peace, joy, glory, wisdom, unity, and love.

These words have great meaning for us not only because they assure us where we will rest for eternity, but they also tell us how we may live with this hope in our hearts today. We may abide in Him, and be comforted by His Spirit’s presence, and we find the Spirit at work in our lives unveiling and revealing to our hearts the “things of Christ” - those spiritual realities that belong to Him and that become the inheritance and partial experience of those who have trusted in Him.

These words are the opposite trip from the first chapter of John, for there we have the wonderful revelation of the eternal Word becoming flesh, but now we have the promise of the flesh of humanity in Him becoming united in glory and filled with His love. We now live from the future position, and our lives are sealed and secure in Him, and we can rest in Him now.

Yesterday morning I drove back from Switzerland to our home in Stuttgart, and the scenery is beautiful, but you cannot be impressed with the narrow roads and how easily it would be to be killed in an automobile accident. This is a parable of life - fun and enjoyment on one side and danger and death on the other. In the midst of these we can focus on one or the other - on the positive or the negative. The only answer some have for the challenges of life is that we should always try to remain positive, but yet the negative is still there - and ignoring it will not make it go away.

The Christian alternative, however, is to find enjoyment and peace and real life in Christ. He is with us even when things are tough, and difficult. His peace, His presence, and His joy are real things in our life, that come through His Spirit. Therefore, we do not fear, nor do we let our hearts be troubled. God is greater than any problem we ever face. Let your heart find its life and its peace in Christ. Trust in Him, meditate on Him, talk with Him, abide in Him and He will reveal His peace and joy to you.


John 14-17 , ,