Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our Advantage

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; … John 16:7  NKJV
How do you define the word “advantage”?  When I think of it, what comes to my mind is anything that will help me be successful in what I am trying to accomplish.  I think at some point in time, just about everyone has found themselves in a situation where they considered how they might gain an advantage, be it in sports or some other competition against an opponent or even in the workplace because of a desire for advancement.  In whatever situation we find ourselves, it’s a natural desire to want an advantage that will help us succeed.
With that in mind, I like how Jesus chose to use this word in His explanation for leaving the disciples at His ascension.  It seems perfectly understandable that the disciples would be taken by surprise to find that after witnessing the resurrection, and spending the last forty days with Jesus, that He was going to leave them.  I believe, too, that they had come to depend on His presence with them for their strength, confidence, and the teaching He provided.  It was with this in mind that Jesus uses the word advantage to explain to the disciples, and to us as well, the benefits available to us because He ascended to Heaven.

We received the Holy Spirit. 
"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. 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 depart, I will send Him to you. John 16:7  NKJV

Have you ever asked someone for help?  Why?  Have you noticed that two is better than one?  At some point in time we have all needed help for something, and I’m sure at the time we were all grateful for that help.  We discover along with the disciples at Pentecost that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit in this passage, yet I like the fact that rather than telling us “who” He was sending, He chose to use the term “Helper as a way to alleviate the disciples concern about being left alone.  In the Greek, the word is “parakletos” which can be translated helper, comforter, advocate, defender, and intercessor among others.  In other words, it’s much more of an advantage than most of us probably realize.  Not only do we receive the living presence of God in our lives, Jesus is performing other duties for us as well.

 Accessibility to the Throne

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all [points] tempted as [we are, yet] without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16  NKJV
Ever watch a movie where a subject is taken before the throne of the King or ruler of a particular realm?  Notice the fear and trembling as they realize the King has the power and right to administer any punishment he may desire?  I often think that would certainly be my reaction if I were to be summoned to appear in front of God’s throne, yet look closely at what this passage says.  First of all we need not be summoned; rather we can go before Him at any time when we need help.  In fact, because Jesus was tempted as we were, and is acting on our behalf as our High Priest, we can go boldly to His presence and there find grace and mercy from someone who can sympathize with what we are going through.

Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? [It is] God who justifies.  Who [is] he who condemns? [It is] Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Romans 8:33-34  NKJV

Although I may not have understood it at the time, I certainly remember the first instance of intervention on behalf of another.  Like many, conflicts arise at an early age most often on the playground at school.  I recall vividly one of the first because it involved family and not friends.  At recess one day I saw a notorious bully picking on my older brother and pushing him around.  Understanding my physical limitations in relation to someone older and bigger than myself, I picked up an equalizer, (a baseball bat) and ran to help my brother.  I can still remember the look in the eyes of the boy picking on my brother when he saw me coming!  Needless to say I “interceded” on behalf of my brother.
Can you imagine what goes through the mind of Satan as he approaches the throne to accuse us and Jesus slowly stands up and gets between Satan and the throne?  How frustrating it must be to try and accuse us for whatever sin we may have committed, however we may have stumbled, and to have Jesus tell Satan that it doesn’t matter because He has already paid the price by His death and we are covered by His blood?  Every single time, whenever we try and fail, we can find strength in the knowledge that it is Jesus who justifies us, and because of that fact there is no condemnation for sin.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:4-7  NKJV

The greatest benefit of all, of course, is that Jesus by His death and resurrection has made it possible for us to spend eternity in Heaven with God the Father.  Notice in this passage the phrase “in the ages to come”.  I don’t think we can ever wrap our minds around the concept of eternity, or come to an appreciation of just how long that is.  Yet I think here we are told that we will never go a day in Heaven without understanding and being reminded that it is by His grace and kindness that we are even there at all.  It is God’s love towards us that provided the means necessary for us to spend eternity with Him.  If only we are willing to ask.
If you have never made the decision to accept the sacrifice Jesus has made for you I encourage you to do it right now.  Simply pray this simple prayer or put it in your own words, but do it now and begin to enjoy the benefits of being a child of God and having the advantage of Jesus standing with you.

Jesus I know I am a sinner and have broken your commandments and sinned against you. I believe you died and rose again for me as a sacrifice for my sins. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart so that I can begin to live for you. Amen.

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