EN ES

Sermon: John 15:18-27: Not of This World

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 69:1-13

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” (Psalm 69:1–13, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 15:18-27

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:18–27, ESV)

Introduction

Expectations are a very powerful thing, aren’t they? And we all have them. We may not even realize that we have expectations, but we certainly do. We expect that life in general, and certain aspects of life in particular, will go a certain way. It’s not that expectations are bad in and of themselves, but I think you would agree that they can have a devastating effect upon us if they are false.

I enjoy very much taking couples through pre-marital counseling. We talk about a diversity of things. But one of the issues I am sure to touch upon is expectations. “What do you expect marriage to be like?”, or “what do you expect from your future spouse?”, is the question. If the answer sounds like it is based off a scene from a Disney film rather than the scriptures, I know that some serious conversations are needed. False expectations concerning marriage inevitably lead to disappointment. I am here thinking of those instances where expectations are too high, but I suppose it is also possible for expectations to be too low. A bride or groom might assume that marriage will be so difficult that they in fact set themselves up for failure. Either way, the point it that expectations are powerful. When they fail to square with the reality of things, they lead to disappointment and failure.

As I think back upon the last few Christmases in the Anady household, I notice a pattern. There is usually one present that our kids expect to receive. It’s the one that they have made it clear that they want. And what do Lindsay and I do with those presents? It’s cruel, I know, but we love to hide those presents and bring them out only after all of the other gifts have been opened. And to do it right you have pause for little while – you have to play it off as if that’s it – no more presents. Now mind you, I usually have smirk on my face and a tone to my voice which keeps their hope alive just enough so as not to crush them on Christmas morning. But what is it that kids have? They have expectations. They assume that things will go a certain way.

Unmet expectations lead to disappointment, and if the matter is a serious one (think marriage, or something like that, and not Christmas gifts) the disappointment can lead to despair. For this reason it is important for us to help foster realistic exceptions – expectations that square with reality – in the people that we have influence over.

This is exactly what Jesus was doing with his disciples in the hours leading up to his betrayal and eventual crucifixion. He was preparing them for his departure.

He encouraged their hearts with the word that he was leaving them for a good reason: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1–3, ESV)

He comforted them with the promise that he would not leave them alone and helpless: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16–18, ESV)

And he also instructed them concerning the way to an abundant and fruitful life in this age between his first and second comings: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, ESV)

So you see, Jesus is preparing his disciples to live in this world until he returns. And of course he was not only preparing the 11 disciples who remained, but all of the faithful, including you and me. These are words of preparation. And here he prepares us by addressing our expectations.

How will it go for us in this world as we live under the New Covenant, in this age between Christ’s first and second comings? What exactly should we we expect? To expect the wrong things will inevitably lead to disappointment and despair, and so Christ equips us with proper expectations.

Q1: How will it go, then, for the followers of Christ as we live in this world awaiting the Lord’s return?

A: The simple answer is this: As it was for Jesus, so will it be for us. 

And how was it for Jesus in this world? Though some believed in him, the vast majority rejected him. To use the language of Isaiah 53, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV)

Look at verse 18 and see how Jesus prepared his disciples (the 11 who remained, and you and I through their word): “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  Verse 20: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18, 20, ESV)

Two things are to be noticed concerning the way that the world responded to Jesus Christ.

First of all, the world hated our Lord.  The crucifixion was the ultimate expression of this hatred, but it was not the only expression of it. The whole of Jesus’ life and ministry were marked by conflict with the world. He was despised and rejected from beginning to end by the world – that is, by those not given to him by the Father. Jesus emphasized this with his disciples in order to prepare them for life in this world. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you”, he said. Expect it. Do not let the persecution take you by surprise.

But notice, secondly, that there were some who did receive Jesus’ word. They were few in number. They were the ones given to Jesus by the Father. When they heard Jesus’ word, they received it. And there is a promise here in this passage that the same thing will continue after Jesus’ departure. Verse 20 begins by warning, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” But it ends with this encouragement: “If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

I take all of this to mean that the same pattern will continue after Christ’s ascension to the Father. Christ was hated by the world while on earth – his followers will be hated by the world too. But some did believe in Christ while he was on earth – and there will also be some (the elect) who will believe upon the word of Christ spoken by his people after his ascension to the right hand of the Father.

And so we are to be optimistically pessimistic concerning the world. On the one hand, we should expect to experience (to one degree or another) resistance, hostility, persecution, and hatred. But on the other hand, we ought to expect victory. The gospel will go forth. The kingdom of God will advance. The word of Christ willnot return …empty, but it shall… succeed in the thing for which [he] sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV)

I’m sure there are some who are thinking, I don’t know if I like all of this negative talk concerning the hostility of the world towards Christians. Perhaps you’re thinking, I have dear friends who are non-Christians. They do not hate me, nor are they hostile towards me. In fact they are really very nice people!

Let me say a two things concerning this.

First of all, I think there is again some confusion over the word world. If we demand that “world” mean every individual person on the planet without exception then we have Jesus saying that every individual person on the planet hated him and will hate you if you are a Christian. It is far better to recognize that the word “world” is consistently used (78 times) in John to refer to this place in which we live in a more general way. It refers to all of the peoples of this earth, Jew and gentile alike. It also carries with it moral implications – this world is in darkness, and is in rebellion against God, and the things of God. So it is true, the world – the way of the world – is hostile to God and the things of God. And Christians, as long as they live in this place, should expect to face a degree of hostility and hatred. But that is different from saying that every non-Christian hates and is hostile toward every Christians. Brothers and sisters, I’m glad that you have non-Christian friends. Jesus was, in a way, and to a certain degree, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, was he not?

With that said, we should also recognize that there are different levels of hatred, and different manifestation of it. Here I am pointing to the reality that, in a sense, everyone not in Christ – everyone in whom the Spirit of God has not worked – all unregenerate peoples – do, in fact, to one degree or another, hate Christ and his gospel. It may be that their revulsion to the gospel of Christ manifest itself in relatively mild way. But if the Spirit of God is not calling the sinner to repentance, there will be some degree of hatred toward the the word of Christ. In other words, not all who are of the world respond to the gospel, and to the Christians who preach it, by screaming, “crucify him!” But if the Spirit be not active in regenerating the heart, the gospel will in some way be pushed to the side. To say it yet another way, I would bet that if you were to speak to your good friend who is not in Christ – not about the thing that happens to bind you together as friends – be it work, politics, a hobby, or some other thing – but about the gospel of Jesus Christ, there would be some level of hated or destain for that message – that is, unless the Spirit of God is at work in the heart.

And so when you hear Jesus warn that the world will hate his disciples, do not take this to mean that every individual who is not in Christ will respond with all out hatred and hostility – that is not the point. The point, rather, is that when we ask the question, how will it go, for the followers of Christ as we live in this world awaiting the Lord’s return? the answer is,  as it was for Jesus, so will it be for us.

Persecution should not take us by surprise. Hatred and opposition should not catch us off guard. Though the gospel will advance, and though the kingdom of God will grow, the age between Christ’s first and second comings will be generally marked by a degree of trial and tribulation for the people of God. “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted [Jesus], they will also persecute [his followers also].” (John 15:20, ESV)

Q2: The second question, then, is why does the world hate Christ and those who belong to him?

A: The answer: The world hates Christ and those who belong to him because they are not of this world. 

Look with me at verse 19 where Jesus says to his followers, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19, ESV)

First, it is important to remember that Christ is not of this world. This has already be said in John’s gospel. Jesus spoke to the non-believing Jews who opposed him saying, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, ESV) Jesus’ origins were heavenly. He came to us from the Father. He belonged, then, to a different order of things. He did not belong to this world, nor to the systems, or way, of this world.

Second, it is important to remember that you, if you are in Christ, are not of this world. You’ve been born from above. This too has been established in John’s gospel. Those who believe in Christ believe in him because they have been born of God (John 1:12-13). In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, NET) And throughout John we encounter this truth, that Jesus has chosen some out of this world to belong to him. That theme is here in John 15. See verse 16 where Jesus speaks to his disciples saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:16, ESV) And notice again verse 19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19, ESV)

The meaning is this: Those who believe upon Christ believe upon him because Christ has graciously chosen them and called them. But notice that they have been chosen out of the world. Two things are implied here. One, when we hear that those who belong to Christ were chosen and called out of the world it reminds us that we were no different from the world before Christ graciously intervened. In other words, Christians are not Christians because they were the cream of the crop. No, all were of the world and Christ graciously chose us out of the world. Two, when we hear that those who belong to Christ were chosen and called out of the world, does it not remind us that Christians no longer belong to this world – to it’s systems and ways. We, like Christ, belong to another order of things. We have been chosen out of the world and belong to it no longer. To use Paul’s language, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:12–13, ESV)

This is why the world hates Christ and those who belong to him.

The world loves it’s own people. The world has great fondness for those who think and live as they do. Peter comments on this phenomenon, saying, “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.” (1 Peter 4:4, ESV)

The world, which lives in darkness, is irritated by the light.  Jesus spoke to this issue when he said to his non-believing brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7, ESV) When Christ or his followers confront the world concerning their sin – either through words or by refusing to “join them in the same flood of debauchery” – the world bristles at it, to one degree or another.

Consider also that the gospel which brings life to those who believe is also a word of condemnation to those who reject it. That, I think, is what verse 21-25 are getting at. Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:22–25, ESV)

This passage is not saying that if Christ had not come then world would have stood totally guiltless in every way before him. No, that thought is absurd and contrary with the rest of the scriptures. What is meant here is that when Jesus came, and as he presented himself to the world, the works that he preformed and the words that he spoke force people to a decision concerning him as the Christ. That is the sin that is in view here – the most serious of sins – the rejection of Jesus as the Christ. In other words, when Christ came he spoke the final world concerning God’s love for the world and the way of salvation; and when this final word was spoken it also prompted men and women to give their final response – yes or no – concerning him as the Christ, the long awaited Messiah, the Savior.

You see, the same thing happens today. When the gospel is proclaimed to a person for the fist time, it does not turn them from being innocent to guilty – for we are indeed born in sin and guilt. But it does bring the individual to a crossroads of sorts (pun intended). Having been exposed to the good news they must then respond in one way or another. They have heard God’s final world through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are indeed prompted to respond. If they reject Christ, they have committed the most grievous of sins.

Remember that the good news which brings life to those who believe is also a word of condemnation to those who reject it. This has already been said in John’s Gospel: “Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18, ESV)

Listen to how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 2:15. To Christians he writes, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Brothers and sisters, it is no wonder that the world hates Christ and those who belong to him. We are not of this world. We do not belong to it – the kingdom of heaven is our true to home; we have been raised with Christ and are seated with him in the heavenly places; we are sojourners and pilgrims on this earth, having been born from above – and as a result we do not live according to customs of this world. We do not walk in the same way. We think, and speak, and live in a way that is different from the world – or at least we should. The world loves it own. If we were of the world, the world would love us. But because we are not of the world, the world to one degree or another, is trouble by us.

Q3: The third question that comes to mind is if this is all true, how then can a Christian possibly stand in this world in the face of such hostility?

A: The answer: The Christian will stand with the help of the Spirit, with an ever increasing love for the Father, and the Christ whom he sent. 

Look with me at verse 26 where Jesus says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26–27, ESV)

I wish that I had time to say more about these two verses, but notice this – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all mentioned. I think this is very significant. It is a reminder that we are united to, and in the service of, the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He, in all his power and glory, stands with those who are his as we live in this world, though we be not of it.

The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He is sent by Son, proceeding from the Father, in order to bear witness concerning Jesus the Christ.

The point is this: we are not alone. Christ did not leave us as orphans – helpless and vulnerable. No, though it is true that we live in a hostile environment, we serve the Lord of lords, and King of kings, who has richly supplied us with all that we need, and supports us in every way, so that his purposes might prevail.

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, what do you expect as you walk with Christ in this world? It is not right to expect hostility from every person on the planet who is not a Christian. We should not withdraw out of the world. But we should not be surprised when the world is hostile towards us. We are to be in the world, but not of it.

Are you willing to suffer scorn as a follower of Christ? I find that many Christians are tempted to go the way of the world – to think, and talk, and walk in the way of the world – in order to earn the love and respect of the world. This is not the way of Christ nor his people. We need not be unnecessarily freakish – we need not provoke the world to anger in an unnecessary way. But we ought to come to terms with this reality – to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully, and to live according to it, will, with out a doubt, to one degree or another, be met with hatred as we live in this place awaiting the Lord’s return.

May we walk worthy, trusting in Triune God to keep us to the end.

Comments are closed.


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

© 2011-2022 Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church