No Longer Afraid

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

What are you afraid of? Are you agoraphobic and fearful of being somewhere with no support and away from home – homesickness on steroids? Are you aerophobic or aviophobic and afraid of flying in an airplane? You can’t stand when that plane engine takes off. That’s my favourite part!

FullSizeRender.jpgDo you have arachnophobia and are afraid of spiders as they crawl up the walls? There is also dentophobia (being afraid of dentists), chiroptophobia (fear of bats), cynophobia (fear of dogs), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), ornithophibia (fear of birds probably from watching that 1960s Alfred Hitchcock horror movie The Birds) or some have ranidaphobia (fear of frogs). Are you afraid of the dark? Are you claustrophobic and afraid of being in constricted and confined in small tight spaces? The good thing with all of these phobias is that we can often avoid the sources of these fears. I’m afraid of heights and you would never catch me on the top of the CN Tower with my daughter like one of our elders did this past week. I’m particularly afraid of roller coasters, which should be easy to avoid until your children can’t go on without an adult. So here is a picture of me showing my bravery on a roller coaster for the sake of my son. Notice how spiritual I am crying out to God in prayer!

On a more serious note, it is the fears that we carry around us all the time which are more debilitating. Are you afraid of failing? Maybe you are perfectionistic and failing is the worst thing imaginable? Or maybe your fear of failure is not so much about your performance, work or art, but your fear of failing your family, your church or God Himself? I have good news for you today, you don’t have to live in that fear of failure anymore and the anxiety that accompanies it. Jesus has paid the price for all your failures. But maybe you have a different fear and you are afraid of being exposed. If people knew what was really going on in your life, you think they would brush you off like yesterday’s dandruff. By the way, we here at Temple want you to know whatever you have done, God can forgive you and we will love you through the brokenness. You might ask, what if I am struggling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion? We here are not homophobic, but theophobic as my father says. We don’t fear man, but God. You can tell us your story and we will listen and come alongside you to care for you. We believe Christ enters into our darkness and into the storms of life and brings us safely through.

But what if the storms of life are caused by others? You were just trying to follow Jesus and now you find yourself in the storm of your life. Let’s read about such a predicament that Jesus’ disciples found themselves in John 6:16-21. Read John 6:16-21!

What happened that the disciples would find themselves in this predicament? It all began as they went on what we might call vacation. John 6:1 says, “Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.” It was time for Him to go to the other side of the lake. Then a large crowd of 5000 men and their families followed Him. Jesus, instead of sequestering Himself, taught the people until it was suppertime. The problem was that there was no fast food restaurants or any restaurants of any kind to feed the people. In fact, there was no food except what a young boy brought in his lunch – 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. And then the first miracle occurred as my dad pointed out to me last week after I preached on this story, that the young boy gave up his lunch to Jesus. Not too many young boys give up their food easily. I know I wouldn’t have, but this boy did. And then Jesus took the boy’s small offering and multiplied it so that everybody ate to their hearts content and there were 12 full baskets leftover. It was amazing, except that the people’s hearts weren’t content. They wanted more. Verse 15 tells us their true hearts, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king.” The people knew Jesus could be the ultimate breadwinner and they wanted Him to be their king … king of their stomachs. The people had been programed by Rome that bread and entertainment would pacify them. As Warren Wiersbe says, “Bread and the circuses were Rome’s formula for keeping people happy.”[1] Things haven’t really changed. No, we don’t have the Roman circus where animals and gladiators killed captives anymore, but we certainly like to watch fights still today like in action flicks. We put in the calendar the latest release of our favourite superhero’s movie. We think peace comes from a nice dinner and a movie. But it doesn’t fix everything in a marriage nor in our lives. Jesus refuses to be a king to just give us our daily bread. Recall the prayer He taught us to pray! “Your kingdom come” needs to be prayed before “Give us this day our daily bread.” Until we recognize this, Jesus needs to make us hungrier for His total reign in our lives. This is why He, “withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” And where did the disciples go? Verse 16 records the answer, “Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea.”

So let me summarize, Jesus’ disciples went with Jesus for some R & R and then they become waiters and busboys for 5000 men and their families. They pick up the leftovers and then the crowd starts to press in on Jesus trying to make Him their king. All of a sudden, the pursuit of rest became a political firestorm and Jesus escapes – alone. If you were the disciples, what would you do? You do what you always did – you would go back to the lake. Most Canadians understand the lake is what we retreat to! The disciples went to the lake, not only to escape the crowd, but the lake was what they know best. Many of the disciples were fisherman and practically lived on this lake. But let’s remember that the disciples are on the lake because they sought rest with Jesus, then they ministered to people and because the crowd wanted more from Jesus than He was willing to settle for, Jesus leaves His disciples and goes off by Himself. The disciples are alone and I’m sure tired. It’s dark! They wanted to go home. That is what we find at the end of verse 17, “they started to cross the sea to Capernaum.” Can anybody relate? Have you ever gone away for some much needed rest and then found yourself serving others? It maybe became a crazy vacation. Work and ministry actually increased rather than decreased. And you find yourself in a controversy and in the middle of a political firestorm maybe at work, school or church. And all you were doing was trying to follow Jesus and serve the people. You just wanted some time with Jesus. But then Jesus seems to have abandoned you. So you try to go home. I can relate to the disciples. Can you?

In the case of the disciples, it was already dark. Verse 17 goes on to report, “It had already become dark and Jesus had not yet come to them.” The Gospel writer John, the same John in the boat that night, gives some hope – Jesus would come, but not yet. In fact, we learn from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14, verse 22 that after feeding the 5000, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.” So the disciples were actually being sent by Jesus to escape the political firestorm; only to be cast into another storm that threatened their lives. And Jesus was gone! Do you feel the tension? D.A. Carson writes, “The darkness of night and the absence of Jesus are powerfully linked.”[2] Recall that Jesus was called the Light of the World. John starts off his Gospel in John 1:4-5, “In Him was life and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” But where was Jesus? The light was gone. It was dark! Matthew 14:23 tells us where Jesus was, “After Jesus had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray, and He was there alone.” My friends, you may feel abandoned by Jesus, even sent into the storm, but Jesus is drawing close to His Father and interceding for you. You don’t just see it yet. The Light of Jesus is coming!

Here is what I want to you believe today: Jesus may have sent you into the storm, but He will come and calm your fears to reveal Himself in new ways – receive Him today! I’ll say that again, Jesus may have sent you into the storm, but He will come and calm your fears – receive Him today! You no longer need to be afraid – Jesus is coming! The sea may be stirred up and the winds blowing as we read in verse 18. Our lives can mimic the weather we have recently experienced – storms coming up out of nowhere. It may be a stormy time Temple, but Jesus is coming!

Jesus says 7 words (4 words in the original) that change everything, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Don’t confuse this with another story when Jesus is asleep and wakes up to calm the storm. No, this time, He just mentions His name and says don’t be afraid and the storm flees. That is the power that Jesus has. Those three words in English, “It is I!” are often so calming and chase our fears away. Recall when you were little and were scared at night and one of your parents would come into the dark and say, “I’m here; don’t be afraid!” The presence of somebody more powerful, especially the presence of one you trust, calmed your fears. That was what the disciples must have felt. But Jesus is actually revealing more – His name! And His name is power! His name causes the storms to flee!

Now you might be wondering why I said that Jesus revealed or mentions His name. It seems He just uses personal pronouns “It is I!” There is more! I believe when Jesus uses the word “I am” (ego eimi), He is revealing that He is the great I AM! And that harkens back to when He revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 2:14 and Moses asked what he should tell the Israelites was God’s name, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God’s name is I AM! Think about that! He is I AM! The name is in the present tense. He is always present! But there is more and this particularly relates to the Gospel of John. John highlights that Jesus is the I AM! We are just about to enter a series of declarations by Jesus as to who He is. He says, “I am the Bread of Life” in John 6:35, 48 & 51. He says, “I am the Light of the world” in John 8:12. Jesus then says in John 10:9, “I am the door” or the entryway for salvation. Then in John 10:11 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus also says my favourite I am, “I am the resurrection and the life” in John 11:25. And you probably can quote the caucophony of “I am’s” in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And then Jesus says, “I am the vine” in John 15:5. This storm kicks off a new understanding of Jesus. That is often how Jesus still uses storms in our lives. He wants to reveal something new about Himself to us – provision, guidance, protection, salvation, and growth. I don’t know what storm you are in and I don’t know what new characteristic or aspect that God wants to show you about Himself, but I do know that He may put you in a storm, even make you feel like you are abandoned, but He will come to your rescue. All the while Jesus is praying for you.

You see, the disciples needed to know something very important that was going to happen the next day when the crowds come back after Jesus. Jesus in John 6:32 says to the crowd when they wanted to know how to get more of the bread Jesus gave them the night before, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives the true bread out of heaven.” The disciples would have already had a clue from the night before that Jesus was greater than Moses. Moses could only hold out a staff and let the Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry land. Jesus could just show up, and the storm ceases and they are automatically on the other side. Moses could only pray for God to send forth manna and there would be none left over than the daily need. Jesus could give thanks, break bread and multiply it so that there were plenty of leftovers. Jesus is not only greater than Moses; Jesus is the great I AM!

And as the great I AM, Jesus will often interrupt your rest, maybe allow you to go through some intense ministry and send you into a storm in order to reveal Himself in new ways. Jesus may send you into the storm, but He will come and calm your fears to reveal Himself in new ways – receive Him today! You see on the other side of the storm, Jesus can take you places fast. What you need to do is receive Him! Verse 21 reveals the application, “They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” When you receive Jesus, He can take you places fast. Now some of you Bible scholars know that there was this little interlude in this story of Peter walking on water to Jesus according to Matthew’s account. However, that is not John’s focus. He wants us to emphasize that Jesus is the great I AM and that we must simply receive Him.

What does receiving Jesus look like? First, you must receive Him into your life for the first time surrendering your life to Christ. This will be a daily surrender. For others of you listening today, maybe who have been hanging around with Jesus for sometime, seeing Him do miracles, serving with Him and for Him, but you are in the storm and Jesus seems far off. You need to trade the fear of the present storm and welcome Jesus into the boat of your life once again. So second, you must receive Him as the great I AM. We need to be reminded that He is the I AM – always present! He is always in control and as the Good Shepherd, “not only makes us to lie down in green pastures (John 6:10), but also leads us to still waters. (Psalm 23:2)”[3] Jesus sends us into the storm so we can know Him better. Is He cruel to do so? Well, how many of you have taken your families camping? It is purposely putting yourself in a situation with less luxuries and amenities. And when the storms came during your camping trip as they always do, did it not reveal more about those who went with you? Did you learn about how you can work together and overcome the stress of a storm? Were you cruel to go together on a camping trip despite knowing that you most likely would encounter a storm? No! Like, Jesus, you were not cruel to go into a place where storms come. Jesus sends us into the storm so we can know who He is and receive Him. This is the only way to overcome your fears. You and I have lesser fears and phobias. Remember all those fears I mentioned at the beginning. You no longer need to be afraid of those lesser fears, but only need to fear the Lord!

[1] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 310.

[2] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 274.

[3] Wiersbe, 310.

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