Foundation Service 1999

Jesmond Parish Church was set up to be

a church in memory of the late Rev Richard Clayton ... in which evangelical truth shall be declared,

and which would

form a central point for the maintenance and promulgation of sound scriptural and Evangelical truth in a large and populous town.

Praise God for the vision, courage, commitment and sacrificial giving of those Christians in the last century who founded this church. It is good to remind ourselves of our Founders once a year, at least. They stood for biblical and evangelical truth. And it is that truth you have in the Thirty-nine Articles - the foundation documents of the Church of England - some of which I read earlier. These Articles were attempts to preserve gospel truth - the truth of the bible and the teaching of the apostles - against errors that were current at the time of the Reformation. So this morning I want us to focus on a gospel truth from one of those Articles that many, even within the Church, seem to be rejecting these days. I refer to the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. There is a drift today into multi-faithism. And it ends up as a denial of Christ as Lord. It is so serious. And it so subtle. It comes across as good race relations while being nothing of the kind. Many of the people most concerned to preach and teach the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ and who are against multi-faithism are non-white and non-European. There are non-Europeans, who work so faithfully to publicise the plight of Christians around the world who are persecuted by those of other religions. And there are many in the Afro-Caribbean churches, and the Chinese churches, who find it self evident that when the bible says (referring to Jesus) in Acts 4.12:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved,

it means just what it says. As this is such an important subject, I have written about it in the Coloured Supplement in the January edition of the Newsletter. I have suggested that in this year running up to the millennium - Jesus' millennium (never forget) - we should adopt Acts 4.12 for a church motto. That verse, of course, is cited in Article XVIII of the Thirty-nine Articles. And it is on this that I want to focus. Let me read that Article - in the original version. It is entitled Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ and it says:

They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, that every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

That is "evangelical truth". This morning I want to be simple. I want us to look at John 14 verses 1-14 as we focus on this subject. And my headings are, first, [JESUS CHRIST] THE ONLY HOPE; secondly, THE ONLY WAY; thirdly; THE GREATEST POWER. The context for this famous chapter 14 of John's gospel is talk of death, and Jesus' death. And in that context Jesus says those words in John 14 verse 1:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me.

Jesus is offering a unique remedy for a far from unique illness. In fact it is a universal and common illness. It is spiritual heart disease. It is quite amazing: but when you talk to people you find, after you probe, that somewhere or by some connection almost everyone has a major problem in their lives. It may be illness - physical or mental; it may be that they are worried about their children or their job or their marriage or their money or their future. This is true for even the best of Christians - their hearts are, or can be, troubled. So what is the remedy? Jesus says it is to have faith in God and also in him - verse 1:

Trust in God ; trust also in me.

But why? Why is that a remedy? The answer is found in the following verses. Let me explain. First, JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY HOPE He is the only sure hope in the face of death. And people are afraid of death. It was Rousseau who said, "he who pretends to face death without fear is a liar." But there is no hope from non-Christian philosophies. Bertrand Russell, one of the most famous philosophers of the 20th century confessed: "there is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within." Other religions talk about the future after death but without real assurance. Jesus, however, is confident. He offers real hope. He says:

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. {3} And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Jesus taught that he is the Resurrection and the life. That is why you can trust him. And here he tells you that he has gone on (through his own death) to prepare a place for you (if you trust him). So when eventually you cross over that threshold that death forces on you (or you cross if Christ first returns) it's not going to be like the student travel of my generation. Before cheap air flights and the globalization of travel and foreign holidays, you would arrive off a train or after hitch-hiking across Europe in some foreign city, knowing no-one and understanding very little. And you had nowhere to sleep for the night - there weren't the Youth Hostels as there are today. But Jesus virtually says: "Rest assured; heaven is not going to be like that." He says he has gone on ahead to prepare a place for you. And he gives you this amazing promise for that journey you will have to make one day, whether at your death or at his second coming:

I will come back [he says, verse 3] and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

He is going to be your escort on that journey. As Psalm 23 says:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Then Jesus says heaven is like home. It is "my Father's house" Home is the place where you are (or should be) loved for your own sake, and not for your gifts or achievements. Jesus says, you are in a strange land now. One day you will be back "home". And there are "many" rooms there. There is room for all believers and of all sorts. So if your faith is weak, you don't need to fear. Only unrepenting and defiant unbelievers will be shut out. And most important of all, heaven is where Christ is. Look at that last part of verse 3:

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

This gives you essential teaching both on the final state for the Christian after the general resurrection, and also on the intermediate state immediately after death but before that general resurrection. Paul makes this clear in his letters. Of the intermediate state he said:

I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Phil 1.23).

It is being "with Christ". And he said this of the final ultimate state in 1 Thess.4.17:

we will be with the Lord forever.

You will never this side of heaven know all the details of heaven. But on the authority of Jesus and Jesus alone, you know that it is your Father's "home" and so your home. It is prepared. It has many rooms. Christ will escort you as you go there. And he will be there at the destination. Jesus alone can give you this future hope and no other philosophy or no other religion. Secondly, JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY Look at verse 6:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Perhaps there is someone here this morning who asks: "But why should I accept Jesus' as true and the only way?" That is a good question. But the answer is in this verse. Jesus is claiming that he is the only way to heaven and acceptance with God because he is the only one who really knows and can really show you the truth about God; and then he is the only one who can give you new life because he is "the life". Why is this? Look at what Jesus says in verse 7:

If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.

Look at verse 9:

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Look at verse 10:

I am in the Father and the Father is in me,

and verse 10 again:

The Father, living in me, is doing his work.

I can't understand all that. It is a great mystery. It is described in the words of the creeds as the Father is God, and the Son is God, and yet two distinct persons - one but distinct - as is the Holy Spirit also one but distinct. But at least it means that Jesus is God incarnate - God come in human form. That is why he is the way, the truth and the life. Nor is that unconvincing when you think of the record of his life and work. Jesus says here, in verse 11:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

You cannot ignore those miracles and you certainly cannot ignore the greatest miracle of them all - Christ's resurrection. It was M. Lepeaux who tried to found a religion that would improve on Christianity. When this failed he talked to his wise friend Talleyrand who replied:

There is one plan you might at least try. Why not be crucified and then rise again the third day.

That is the difference between Christ and the founders of other religions - the Christian faith is based on the person of one who died and rose again. Mohammed did not do that. Buddha did not do that. That is why Christ is the only way. He is the divine Son, who died as a sacrifice for sin and rose again. No other religion and no other philosophy deals with that fundamental problem of sin - the human rejection of God - as Jesus dealt with it. That is why he died as he did. Jesus gave his own life as a sacrifice for sin, bearing our guilt in our place. That too is a mystery. But his Resurrection not only proved that the grave could not hold him. It proved that Calvary, for all its horror, was so right. Who needs to admit that this morning? Who needs to trust in Christ as the only way to God; as the one who alone teaches the truth about God, man, sin and forgiveness; and as the one who alone can give new life by his Holy Spirit? Finally, THE GREATEST POWER. Look now at verses 12-14:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. {13} And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. {14} You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Remember, Jesus is wanting to encourage his disciples who have troubled hearts. He encourages them with the hope of heaven and eternity. He encourages them by telling them that he is the way, the truth and the life. He now encourages them with two promises. The first is about what his followers will be able to do. He promises that they will "do even greater things than these" - the "works" Jesus has been doing. So what greater works can his followers perform? Some over enthusiastic people have said this means greater miracles. But that is unlikely as even the Apostles didn't work miracles like Jesus' miracles. None of them walked on water. No! Earlier in John 5 verse 20 Jesus has already talked about "greater things". There they are things greater than the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. And Jesus tells us in John 5 verses 21-24 that giving eternal life, both now and for all eternity, is a greater work. So these greater works are more conversions. Jesus is promising that his disciples will enable people to receive eternal life across the world. Dr Plummer, former Master of University College, Durham, put it like this:

Christ's work was confined to Palestine and had but small success; the Apostles went everywhere, and converted thousands.

And since the great Evangelical revivals of the 18th and 19th century and the modern missionary movements, Jesus has been proved so true. Christianity has become a world-wide religion and the only world-wide religion. But this promise wasn't exhausted in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is still for us. So 1999 needs to see us involved in believing but dynamic, confident, and unashamed evangelism. You say, "how can you do that?" The answer is in the second promise of Jesus in verses 13-14:

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. {14} You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Why do so many Christians have spiritual heart trouble? Why do they make heavy weather of the Christian life and life in general? Why is evangelism so weak? One factor probably is that they do not pray. Or when they pray, they pray selfishly and not "in Christ's name" - in terms of his character, and so in terms of his agenda. Christ has now physically gone away and sent us his Holy Spirit to encourage us and help us. Christ is now in heaven, himself praying for us. Hebrews 7.25 says:

Therefore he [Jesus Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

You may be weak in your faith. You may be conscious of failure. But remember Christ is helping you now by praying for you, now, at this very time. And he gives you his Holy Spirit - as you will discover if you read on in John 14. So why not pray as Jesus encourages you to do? Put the Day of Prayer in your diary now. Come to the next central prayer meeting. And pray regularly on your own. I must conclude. Jesus says:

Trust in God, trust also in me.

He also says:

I will do whatever you ask in my name.

But you will not really trust in him or pray "in his name" if you do not believe that he is the only way and the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him. That is the challenge of Article XVIII and these verses from John's Gospel.

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