Good News for Troubled Hearts

John 14:25-27

I have a riddle for you today. Can you name what I am describing? It is something a widower longs for and needs as he tries to go on without their beloved spouse. It is something parents need as they strive to raise their children correctly in a dangerous world of temptations and distractions. It is something the employee longs for who is being harassed at work on a daily basis and awakens each workday with a sense of dread and foreboding. It’s something a teenager desperately needs who is struggling to fit in, make the grade in school, and feel good about herself. It’s something a small child needs as he watches mom and dad argue. It is something the world has never had since the fall of Adam and Eve and, it never will on its own as hard as it may try.

So what is it? If you guessed peace, you are right! We long for peace in our world as political parties and nations rage against one another. We pray for peace in the lives of our loved ones as they face hardships. I have friends who battle depression and anxiety, and I pray they would receive peace of mind.

We also desire peace in our own lives. Sometimes we get so troubled and worried inside – even fearful – in our fight to raise children, battle health issues, wrestle with financial issues, or struggle with relational issues. I just read an article saying Americans are among the most anxious people on earth. As one teenager put it in this article, “We’re the first-generation who cannot escape our problems at all. We’re like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are in the world today.”

More people yearn for one thing more than anything else: inner peace. Without it they have no lasting happiness or security. You have to agree with me, life has gotten more complicated, and we are all looking for peace within.

In today’s passage, Jesus is promising peace to His disciples in a not-so-peaceful situation, in a not-so-peaceful world that hates Him. The anxiety and stress hung thick in the air that evening in the Upper Room when Jesus announced He would be leaving them to be arrested and crucified on a cross. Little did they understand the cross was all part of God’s plan to save His sin-sick world.

As Jesus tells them He’s leaving them, He also tells them they can’t come along. Of course, this made them feel troubled and afraid. They were filled with anxiety and fear. They had to be thinking, Leaving us? No! We’ll be on our own, abandoned, and alone. What will we do without Jesus? Oh, no!

The disciples had been with Jesus for three years, and they had a special bond of friendship they did not want to end. So they responded with their questions. Peter and Thomas both asked, Where are you going? Philip said, Lord, show us the Father, and that will satisfy us. Judas (not Iscariot) asked, How will you reveal yourself to us and not to the world. These men were very afraid and anxious about the present and the future without Jesus.

Jesus responds to their troubled hearts and minds with words of assurance. You will see me again someday. I am going to prepare a place for you in my Father’s house. I will come back and take you to me that where I am, you may be also. Nothing will end their relationship.

He went on to promise, I am giving you another Helper to be with you forever – the Holy Spirit. I won’t leave you orphaned. I’m coming to you. Those who love me and keep my word, my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Finally, Jesus said these words that we read earlier:

I said these things to you while I’m still with you, but the helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.

The word Jesus uses here for the Holy Spirit is “Paraclete,” which has a wonderful cornucopia of meanings for us. It means advocate, helper, comforter, counselor. The Holy Spirit, Jesus says, will be with you like I have been with you to remind you of all I have said to you.

Who is He? He is God. He is Christ’s continuing presence with us, the Spirit of the living God. He is here to remind us of what Jesus said about the love of the Father for us. He directs us with His commandment to love one another as we have been loved. He is here to continually point you to the cross and the empty tomb. He reminds you that in Christ you have been died for, and you are a child of God forever. Nothing can separate you from His love. This Good News brings peace to the troubled soul.

Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, He is my peace given to you, my followers, as you live out your days in this broken world following and serving Me. The Holy Spirit = peace (Christ’s peace).

“Peace” was the usual Jewish greeting when friends met and parted, but Christ’s farewell words of peace were different from that which was current in the world. The peace the Spirit gives us is something deeper and more lasting. It is a peace which banishes anxiety and fear. It guards our hearts and our minds, according to the apostle Paul in the book of Philippians.

On this particular Sunday, we are celebrating a special day in the life of the Church called Pentecost. The book of Acts tells us the Lord’s promise was kept – the Holy Spirit has come. Those same disciples were in an Upper Room fifty days later in Jerusalem, waiting. Suddenly a great wind and tongues of fire hung over their heads, and they were empowered to preach the Gospel effectively in different languages. Peter gave a dynamite sermon, and three thousand people repented and received Christ that day.

The rest of the book of Acts describes the acts of the Holy Spirit in and through the disciples and those who came to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Imagine the scene later on Pentecost evening when things quieted in the Upper Room. Andrew says to Peter, It’s true. We’re not really alone, are we? Peter responds, You’re right, little brother. He came just as Jesus said. Three thousand people! No way we could have done that! It’s only by the Spirit’s power. I’m sure of it. Peace replaced anxiety in the Upper Room. Peace filled the deepest part of their beings as they looked ahead to the difficult assignment, which lay before them, given by Jesus to make disciples of all the nations. They knew they were not alone. The Holy Spirit gave them His peace.

The Spirit’s presence and help continues. Over the centuries and around the globe, He continues to awaken faith in Christ as the Gospel message of Jesus is communicated to people. He continues to guide and lead, comfort and help, empower followers of Christ as they live for Him as His witnesses in the world. We hear about conversions all the time. Lives are being changed through the Gospel.

Author Lee Strobel tells of his conversion story and the difference God made in his life:

“My daughter, Alison, was five years old when I became a follower of Jesus. All she had known in those five years was a dad who was profane and angry. I remember I came home one night and kicked a hole in the living room wall just out of anger with life. I’m ashamed to think of the times my little girl hid in her room to get away from me.

“Five months after I gave my life to Christ, my little girl went to my wife and said, ‘Mommy, I want God to do for me what he’s done for daddy.’ At age five! What’s she saying? She never studied the archaeological evidence regarding the truth of the Bible. All she knew was that her dad used to be hard to live with. But more and more, her dad is becoming this way, and if that is what God does to people, then sign her up! At age five she gave her life to Jesus.”

So what are we to do with this wonderful news of the Holy Spirit, our peace giver? Jesus tells us, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled, and don’t be afraid.” Trust in Him and in His presence. We’re really not alone or abandoned. That, my dear friends, is our peace.

When I was a little boy, my dad made a bedroom for me in the basement of our home so I could have my own space. It was very dark down there and a lot of noise came from our furnace. It was very spooky. I was afraid, so my dad came down to be with me. I could sleep peacefully knowing someone – my dad – was with me. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He makes Himself known to us as we believe in Jesus.

Our call today is to believe in Jesus, and the same Holy Spirit will be present to guide you and empower you for witnessing. He will keep you in God’s peace. Pray each day for Him to breathe His life into you, fill your sails with His power and love to keep you confidently going, and shape you to be like Jesus – full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, which Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit. Living in God’s Word, let Him speak words of life into your soul, bring to remembrance and enlighten you with His grace and love. Pray He will guide you, direct you, and speak to you. It is simply a matter of yielding to the Spirit, a willingness to obey what He tells you in the Word. Then you will realize, like so many have, you are not alone. He is with you, and you can experience Christ’s promised peace, which passes all understanding.

My wife Julie and I attended a funeral last month for a stillborn baby. As we sat in the sanctuary with family and friends, sorrow and grief was in the air. The baby’s parents gave the eulogy, and it was remarkable! Yes, they were sad, but they were also filled with strength and peace. Where did their peace come from? They told us it was the peace of knowing Christ. It was Gospel peace, the peace of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God to strengthen, reassure, and promise them, You are not alone. Your little one is in good hands, and so are you. I am with you.

May you have that kind of peace in your life. The Spirit is available. You simply need to ask Him in. It’s like the old gospel song,

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.”

May this be your prayer today.

This, my friend, is the way to find peace. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

I’ve Got a Whole New Outlook

Luke 24:44-53

The temple area in Jerusalem was abuzz. People were talking and asking questions about the disciples of Jesus. They were saying things like, Those guys are different now without their Master around. They don’t even seem like the same men from a few days ago when they came to the temple with Jesus.

As you read from the beginning of Luke chapter 24 all the way to the end, you can’t help but notice a change was happening in the disciples of Jesus. They moved from confusion, sorrow, and unbelief to great joy and faith. They were actually worshiping and praising God in the Jerusalem Temple! People had to have been scratching their heads and wondering, What in the world is going on with these guys? What’s come over them? After all, they had just gone through a horrific week watching the leader they trusted be crucified like a common criminal. Yet here they are praising God and being so joyful! What was behind those smiles, the praise, and the confidence that they exude?

I would like to invite you today to use your imagination with me a little bit. Let’s say there was a newspaper in that day called “The Jerusalem Post.” This paper heard of the odd, fascinating behavior of the disciples of the crucified Jesus, which had people talking. Sounding like a great human interest story, the editors of this good newspaper sent a reporter down to interview one of the disciples around the temple area.

The reporter stops James, the brother of John and asks him,

What gives here, James? Your leader, Jesus, has been crucified! Why aren’t you going back home to Galilee, back to your fishing business? Why stay in Jerusalem? And why are you acting so happy and worshiping in the temple every day among the same people who actually called for the blood of Jesus? Tell me, James; the public wants to know!

The reporter waits for James to respond. This is what I would imagine James would say:

Well, we’ve been given a whole new outlook from Jesus, Himself. You see, Jesus is alive! I know you think He is dead, but we have seen Him with our own eyes. We’ve even eaten with Him! He appeared to us more than once or twice.

So I’m here to tell you, Jesus was very dead, but He is now very much alive. We are praising God because He told us that anyone who trusts in Him will receive the gift of forgiveness and everlasting life.

Earlier on He said, “Because I live, you shall live also.” God confirmed this promise for us by raising Him from the dead. So as a follower of Jesus Christ, friend, I am heaven bound! Of course it makes me happy!

Besides that, the risen Jesus has explained everything to us now. He led us through an in-depth Bible study, which was a real mind opener and changed our perspective on all that happened. He said to us, “These are my words I spoke to you earlier that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened our minds to understand the whole of Scripture saying, “Thus it is written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day.” Jesus helped us to understand that all of what has happened is a part of God’s plan. Even the cross was no accident, and neither was the resurrection.

You see, “must” is the key word here, which Jesus used a lot. All that happened to Him must happen because it is part of God’s plan. Earlier on He told us three times, “I must go and suffer and die, and on the third day, rise.” He kept saying, I must do this and I must do that. We didn’t understand then what He was talking about, but now, now we know He was carrying out His heavenly Father’s plan.

He filled us in on how the whole Old Testament points to Him. He is the fulfillment of God’s promises for the world, His rescue plan. He took us back to Genesis where God told Abraham, “I will bless you and your descendants to be a blessing to all the families of this broken world.” Jesus said this promise has been fulfilled in Him. He led us through Isaiah chapter 53 with the suffering servant who dies for the sins of sinners. He fulfilled that too. He told us of how His resurrection fulfilled Psalm 16, which describes One who is not overcome by the power of death.

In fact, He actually took us all the way through the Old Testament where we find Him in every book. • In Genesis He is the seed that crushes the serpent’s head, the promised blessing to the families of the earth.
• In Exodus He is the Lamb who saves His people from destruction.
• In Leviticus He is the scapegoat that takes on the sins of the people.
• In Numbers He is the bronze serpent on the pole that heals the snake-bitten Hebrew people.
• In Deuteronomy He is the spokesman, the prophet raised by God to be listened to.
• In the Psalms He is the cornerstone.
• In Isaiah He is the suffering servant by whom His wounds we are healed.
• In Jeremiah He is the righteous branch that saves.
• In Joel He is the Savior.
• In Amos He is the bringer of abundance.
• In Jonah He is the grace of God for all the nations.
• In Micah He is the King born in Bethlehem.
• In Habbakuk He is God’s anointed One who brings salvation.
• In Malachi He is the Son of Righteousness who comes in victory.

I know I didn’t cover all the Old Testament references, friend, but they are all there in Scripture. Jesus told us it all points to Him. We didn’t know it before, but now we know that God is in control of this broken world of ours. He wants to restore it to Himself. History is “His story.” God has His plan, and we are on God’s team. This is another reason why we are praising instead of grieving. All is well.

Jesus also told us that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in Christ’s name to all the nations. Repentance and forgiveness is our Good News. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and rose from the grave so we might be forgiven. Everyone who turns from their old dead-end ways to Jesus will see forgiveness, a new start, and eternal life.

Now, get this – Jesus commissioned US – the eleven of us – to get that message out to everyone! He told us we are witnesses of these things. In other words, we are His chosen team! This was really good news to us because with this commissioning He seemed to be saying that He forgives us and we are still “in” with Jesus. We have messed up and let Him down before, but He still wants to use us as His witnesses in the world. All is forgiven, and we are on His team. This was such a relief to hear! It was an honor and a privilege. This is why we are praising God. It is why we are happy.

Along with the commission, Jesus also gave us a big promise. He promised a Helper from the Father. So we are to stay in Jerusalem until we had been clothed with power from on high. We don’t have to do this on our own, for power is coming to help us work for Jesus. This helper is the Holy Spirit who will convict and convince people to repent and receive Christ.

We are excited, of course. When He comes, we will turn this world upside down. We will really be fishers of people as He promised we would be when He first called us.

I am joyful because He blessed me. After the Bible study, He took us to a mountaintop outside of town, lifted His hands, and pronounced His blessing upon us, like a priest giving a benediction that God will bless us and keep us, make His face shine upon us and be gracious to us, and give us His peace. It was an empowering moment for me to receive that blessing from Jesus. We go on the mission He has given us with His blessing!

But then came the grand finale. You may find it hard to believe, but we saw something which brought us to our knees in worship. As Jesus was blessing us, He was suddenly carried up into heaven. He disappeared into a cloud!

The cloud has always been a symbol of God’s presence. In the Old Testament, God led His people in a cloud. And I saw a cloud on the mountaintop with Jesus early in His ministry; God spoke to us from it. God didn’t speak this time, but we figured that Jesus was just withdrawing Himself from us visibly so He could somehow still be with us anytime, anywhere till the end of the age. Although Jesus would no longer visit us visibly as after the resurrection, He would still be with us in a mysterious way. Wherever we are, He is available to be called upon as we serve Him.

This is what He promised us. I’ve learned that He keeps His word. I have no reason to doubt that He is with me. Maybe He was talking about the Spirit He is sending us; I don’t know. My little brain can only fathom so many things. But what I do know is this: Jesus is the Son of God. He keeps His word. You can trust Him, and He can do anything. His ascension showed us just how big He really is and how big this whole thing is! He is now the Lord of heaven and earth. He is in charge, and by His grace I’m His and He is mine forever. Someday He will reappear in power and glory and all things will be new under His reign.

This is why we are in the temple every day praising God. Jesus has given us a whole new outlook on the past, the present and now the future! And in case you’re wondering why we’re not out there doing our job yet, He told us to wait. Jesus is Lord! So when the boss speaks, we listen and obey.

Hey, now that you’ve heard all of this, why don’t you join us in worshiping Him? Trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord for forgiveness. You’ll be glad you did!

Thanks for sticking with me in this imagined interview with James. While the interview is imagined, the truths he gave the reporter were not. It’s a fact: JESUS IS ALIVE! He is risen! Jesus has conquered death.

Eric Reed tells a funny story about Easter, 2003. Following the service, a woman approached the pastor and asked, “So what happened with Jesus after the resurrection?”

“Well, He ascended into heaven, and He’s still alive,” the pastor said.

“I know He was resurrected, but He’s alive?” she said.

“Yeah! He’s alive!”

“Alive! Why didn’t you tell me?”

For the next two weeks, she telephoned everyone she knew and exclaimed, “Jesus is alive! Did you know He’s alive?”

Well, He is, and no moment of your life will be faced alone when you’re trusting in Christ Jesus.

Trusting in the risen Christ, you are heaven bound, just like James said. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He’s carried out God’s salvation plan from the very beginning. Everything points to Jesus.

Trusting in Him means eternal life, which begins here and now and goes all the way into eternity. Turning to Him in repentance and placing your trust in Him means a clean slate with God, the forgiveness of sins, a new start.

Jesus is Lord. He’s the beautiful Savior, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords that we sing about in our hymns. At His ascension, Jesus was installed in a position of absolute rule. In the Apostles’ Creed, we say He sits at the right hand of the Father. It’s a way of saying He’s in authority. All men and women in His creation live under His rule. His reign trumps all other thrones, principalities, and powers because Jesus is Lord of all. He is the beginning and the end. All authority is His, and He holds us in the palm of His hands. This is our joy and our confidence. We follow Him.

The world may look hopeless as you listen to the news, and it may feel like evil is winning over good, but dear friend, nothing could be further from the truth. In the end God wins. He’s in charge.

This is our Good News for today! Jesus is alive! The plan has been carried out. He is Lord. All is well. When the disciples had their minds opened to this great truth, they had a new outlook on life.

My hope is that today’s passage and message help give you a whole new outlook on life. Sorrow, fear, and discouragement do not have to be the final word in your life. Jesus is alive and present for you. He’s Lord – your Lord. He’s powerful and mighty, so trust the Good News. Turn to Him daily for strength, peace, and joy because He is there for you!

Did you notice what the disciples did in response to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension? They believed and worshiped Jesus. They bowed down, submitted to Him, worshiped Him as the Son of God. Worship in this case was a posture, not just a bunch of singing – which is fine, but they worshiped Him. They submitted their lives to Him.

So can you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you can believe in Him, bow before Him, and give Him the honor and praise He deserves. So can you enter a church and give God blessing and praise for all He has done on a Sunday morning or whatever day of the week you want.

They also obeyed Jesus’ command to stay in Jerusalem and wait for power from on high. So can you obey His commands to love God above all else and neighbor as self, to love one another as He has loved us. Because if you’re in Christ, Christ lives in you and you are powered by His Spirit.

The disciples said yes to the call, the commission, to bring the Good News of Jesus to all the nations, telling them what He’s done for us. So can you.

Friends, the goal for today was to give you a new outlook with this Good News. He is alive! Jesus is Lord! I appeal to you by the Spirit’s power to join James, the other disciples, and the millions of others since in trusting in Jesus Christ. Worship and obey Him, serve Him and live with a whole new victorious outlook on life. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer