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By definition, privilege is possessing what many others do not. Or, having things that are not our right to have, but are our blessings all the same.
As citizens of the United States, we live in a land of privilege. When we’re thirsty we can just turn on the tap and pour a cool glass of water. We don’t have to wonder if the water will make us sick. We don’t have to walk miles to get it.
If we find ourselves in need of medical care, there is usually a technologically advanced emergency room nearby. And if we call 911, they’ll even come and pick us up.
Because privileges like these are so commonplace in America, we take them for granted. But every once in a while we get a glimpse of the less fortunate on the news, and that helps us remember how privileged we really are.
Maybe you saw the story too. This week a small group of Iranian citizens made a fan video where they sang the song “Happy” and danced around. Within six hours of posting that video the group had been detained by the local authorities.
You see, Iran is a Muslim state, and some of women in the video were not covering their heads with the required “hijab.” They were also dancing with men, which is forbidden. The result was arrest.
How easy it is to forget that the rest of the world is not so privileged as we are.
As followers of Christ, we Christians are even more privileged. We have fellowship with the triune God. And while the blessings of being an American citizen could vanish at any moment, the blessings of faith are not so easily taken away.
In our Scripture reading for today, Jesus describes some of the privileges that come to those connected to the true God. He reminds us that through faith in him we have become “Children of Divine Privilege.”
On the night before he was crucified, Jesus addressed his chosen apostles. He told them…
John 14:15-21 (NASB)
15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
20 “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Jesus did not speak these words to the crowds that trailed after him. He spoke these words to his chosen apostles. The twelve he had selected to proclaim his message of grace and forgiveness to the world. He spoke these words to those who trusted that he was their heaven-sent Savior and King.
The first divine privilege Jesus bestows on the apostles here is the gift of fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Jesus would ask the Father in heaven, and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to be a powerful Helper to the apostles.
They would need this Helper. Just a few verses later Jesus says…
“…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 have said to you” (John 14:26 ESV).
The Holy Spirit would enable the apostles to speak Christ’s message with accuracy. Neither adding to his message, nor taking away from it. It was this special gift of the Holy Spirit that would enable men like Matthew and John to write down their accounts of Jesus’ life and work with no mistakes.
It was this special gift of the Holy Spirit that would embolden the sometimes frightful and skittish apostles to proclaim God’s message of sin and forgiveness to the world.
Jesus did not just give his apostles the truth, he also secured for them the Spirit of truth. A Tutor above all tutors, who would guide their lives and ministries for the glory of God, and the saving of many, many sinners.
Jesus taught them to appreciate the gift of the Spirit when he told them that the world cannot receive the Spirit, or know him. But the apostles would have him at their side, and in their hearts.
It is one thing to say the Holy Spirit is present everywhere. It is another thing altogether to say he dwells with you and in you. Not all can say this.
Dear Christians, you and I have been given the Holy Spirit as well. Not in the same way that the apostles received him. We do not write under the inspiration of God. We are not all sent to travel the world, preaching the Gospel. We do not miraculously speak in languages we have not studied like the Pentecost apostles. But we have been given the same Spirit. He is the one who enables us to believe we really have been forgiven through the cross of Christ. He is the one who continually speaks the truth to us through his Holy Word.
Let this truth sink in. The same Holy Spirit who Jesus gave to the apostles, the same Holy Spirit who brooded over the waters in the beginning—lives in you today, dear Christians.
The second divine privilege that Jesus bestows on the apostles here is the gift of fellowship with Himself. Jesus says,
“ 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
20 “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20 NASB).
Here Jesus speaks of his crucifixion and resurrection. He would indeed be leaving them soon. He would be arrested, condemned, crucified, and laid dead in a tomb. But that would not be the last the apostles would see of Jesus. His story would not end on a cold slab of limestone in a borrowed tomb. He would rise again on the third day, as was foretold. And by his resurrection, he would proclaim to the world that the sacrifice for our sins has been made. And the gift of forgiveness and eternal life is there for all to receive, through faith in him.
The apostles would certainly feel like orphans in the coming days. They would feel abandoned. But Jesus would appear to them again. They would see him with their own eyes, and touch those wounds that meant so much. And Jesus promises them, “because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19 NASB).
These are the blessings of fellowship with the Son of God: never would they be abandoned, theirs would be an eternally living Savior. A guardian who would never stop watching over their souls. And because he would live, they would live.
Dear Christians, Scripture tells us that this same Jesus is guarding over our souls as well. When Jesus ascended back into heaven, he told his followers,
“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NKJV).
The apostles John told his fellow Christians…
“…My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2 ESV).
And just two verse after our sermon text, Jesus himself says…
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23 ESV).
Do you love Jesus? Me too. He lives in us by faith. We are his home.
This is so different than the manmade religions of the world. Manmade religions often advise people to earn their way to God. Other times they tell people that God accepts everyone just the way they are, regardless of what we do. God’s okay with whatever you’re okay with.
But the message of Jesus is much different than this. Jesus says, “Your sins are going to land you in hell. But I have come to be your Savior. You don’t earn your way to God, God comes to you. I have come to save you.”
Dear Christians, Jesus will return visibly to us also. Not in a locked room in Jerusalem. But in glory on the Last Day. He will come with rank upon rank of heaven’s angels. He will come in glory stepping down through the sky. And he will draw us to himself. We shall meet him in the air. This is the promise of God’s Word. We shall have eternal fellowship with the Son of God, who gave himself to redeem our souls.
Let this truth sink in. You will meet this same Jesus, the one raised to life on the first Easter Sunday. You will meet him in person on the Last Day. But even today, now, by faith he lives within you.
The third divine privilege that Jesus bestows on the apostles here is the gift of fellowship with God the Father. Jesus says,
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:20-21 NASB).
Jesus tells his apostles that they who love Him, are love by His Father. God the Father. No longer would their sin separate them from God. By Christ’s cross the sins of the apostles would be removed. And the full light of the Father’s love would be focused on them.
And we are promised this same blessing through faith in Christ.
Do you love Jesus? Me too. And we are assured by Jesus that all who love him, are loved by the Father. Our sins were paid for on that cross too. Not just the sins of the apostles. The Father who promised Adam and Eve that a Savior would come has provided that Savior, and opened the door to knowing the living God through the cross of Christ.
In John 17, it says…
“…this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV).
This is the privilege that we have as followers of Christ. Knowing God, and getting to know him better. This is what this day of worship is for! And this privilege comes from the Father. In Colossians 1, it says,
“the Father … has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14 ESV).
These privileges are available to everyone, but they are obtained only through faith in Christ. Only the Christ follower has the Holy Spirit as his tutor. Only the Christ follower has Jesus as his eternal guardian. Only the Christ follower feels the love of the Father that will extend into eternity.
And Jesus gives us a description of the Christ follower in verse 15. Jesus says,
“If you love Me [that is, if you are a Christian], you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15 NASB).
This is what Christians do. We keep Christ’s commandments. Of course, we don’t keep them perfectly. We’re sinners. And we will remain sinful until the final resurrection when God takes our sinful nature out of us, and purifies us for an eternity of living with him.
But, as followers of Christ, we try to live our lives like he directs us to. We honor God by the things we say. We respect our parents. We care for our neighbors. We love our families. We love our enemies. We speak the truth instead of lies. We put others needs before our own. We serve one another joyfully.
And when we fail. When we stumble in sin, we don’t continue in sin. We turn away from it, and seek God’s forgiveness. We return to the Gospel of Christ’s cross, and remember that He paid our debt completely. We return to that empty tomb, and remember that his sacrifice was accepted. We find peace, knowing that in Christ we stand forgiven forever. And we dedicate ourselves to avoiding sin in the future.
To love Christ is not merely to accept his commands about proper living. To love Christ is also to hold tightly to his promise of forgiveness. Loving Christ means living a life of repentance. A life of renouncing our sins and coming to him for cleansing.
This is what it means to be a Christian. And what an amazing privilege it is. Much greater than the privilege of being an American citizen.
Like I said earlier, our privileges as American citizens could be taken away at any moment. Our country can, and will change. New legislation will be written. New laws will be passed. And in the blink of an eye, the privileges we have in America may vanish.
But the privileges of being a Child of God through faith in Christ, those privileges cannot be taken from us by the powers-that-be. Just ask the countless Christians down through the ages who lost their lives because of their faith in Christ. Just ask the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned for his faith in Christ. Ask John, who was exiled to a small island for his faith in Christ. Ask them. Ask them,
“How has your imprisonment, exile, or death changed your relationship to God?”
They’d laugh if you could asked them this question. Change my relationship to God? Haven’t you read…
“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV).
Dear Christians, ours is a divine connection. Unbreakable so long as we do not throw it away through impenitence and unbelief. In Christ we have been made God’s children. Children of Divine Privilege. It has been granted. But do not take it for granted. Cherish this connection. Use it. Live in it. There is no more precious or powerful advantage in this world—or the next.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus.