Of Pup Tents and Palaces

Third in a series titled “Upper Room Discourses.”
Delivered September 1, 2002 by Dr. John Murray Smoot.

Sermon Text:
John 14:1-14

Where do you live? What I mean is, Where do you live? Well, let me ask you, Why do you live? There was a little conversation between Joe and Moe. Joe says, “What are you doing there?” He said, “Can’t you see I am digging in this ditch.” “Well, why are you digging in the ditch?” “So I can get my pay.” “Well why do you want to get your pay?” “Well, so I can eat, drink and be merry.” “Well why do you want to eat, drink and be merry?” “Well so that I can be strong and healthy.” “Well why do you want to be strong and healthy?” “So I can dig in this ditch.”

Let me tell you folks today that I have got it over every man Jack in this congregation and every sister Jill because of my name. I will tell you what I mean by that. The last Sunday that I was here, in the middle of the sermon I certainly got a bright idea. Do you know the only thing that I have to do all daylong is eat, drink and be Murray! How do you like that? Yeah. There’s a life to live dear friends and how we live and where we live and why we live is the whole big question. Now we just sang about Fairest Lord Jesus and he is that. and don’t you ever forget who Jesus really is. He is the world’s greatest scientist and the world’s greatest CEO, the world’s greatest professor and the world’s greatest lover. He is the most competent and most compassionate of all beings and he is interested in how you and I are living.

The 14th Chapter of John, which is before us today, will certainly demonstrate that. Because he says it is not a matter of lifestyle, because lifestyle can mean anything, but it is really a matter of the life of style, that is what he is interested, in a life of style. I have entitled my message, “Of Pup-tents and Palaces.” There is a little bit of difference between the two, but before we get to that I would remind you that whenever I have an opportunity these days, I will bringing to you messages from John, Chapter 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, which comprise what has generally been called the Upper Room Discourse, which I have renamed The Ante Chamber. An Ante Chamber is an important room, but it moves through a door into a much more important room. Everything up to this point, the 13th Chapter of John, not only all of the Tenahk or the Jewish writings, which we call the Old Testament, but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all the way up to the 13th Chapter are still in the old covenant and because of that, three interruptions in this marvelous statement by Jesus indicate how ignorant all of us are and how hopeless we are until the new covenant is in force. The new covenant will come in to force in the cross, in the tomb, in the resurrection and in the ascension, which we will group together Jesus’ death on the cross, his burial, his glorious resurrection, his ascension at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. We shall group those together as Jesus’ passion, but the new covenant doesn’t really get going until another “P”, until Pentecost. From passion to Pentecost, to the Advent of God’s blessed spirit and we will see in this passage before us of the activity of the spirit of God enabling and ennobling us to live high.

Now it had been my plan and purpose that I would preach from this 14th Chapter at least twice because there is so much in it, but it is not going to be that way and so the next time that I will be able to pick up this theme is not until November. So we are going to have to hit the high spots, but sister and brother are they high! They are marvelous and I can’t wait to get to it.

The English Standard Version which is a brand new version that the members of our Tuesday night Bible class graciously gave to me, I read the other day and was just amazed to realize that an entire chapter, the 14th Chapter of John which is before us now, is in red because this is red letter edition and there are only three tiny breaks in black and they are where three questions are raised by three of Jesus’ apostles in the Upper Room or in the Ante Room. I was almost going to call this Dumb and Dumber but I decided not, because really this seems like they are dumb questions that interrupt Jesus’ glorious message, but actually they set him off to tell us so many glorious and wonderful things. And, after all, you cannot ask a dumb question. The dumb thing is not to ask questions. So here now God’s word from John, Chapter 14. The first 14 verses only, though I am going to refer, Lord enabling to touch on a good deal of it.

“O teach me Lord that I may teach the precious things that you impart and wing my words that they may reach the hidden depth of many a heart.” Jesus is speaking.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my fathers house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when 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. And you know the way where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my father also. Henceforth, you know him and have seen him.”

Notice the transitional nature of all of this. Everything is moving along from the old in to the new.

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long and you have not known me Philip? He who has seen me has seen the father. How can you say show us the father? Do you not believe that I am in the father and the father in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own authority, but the father who dwells in me does the work. Believe me that I am in the father and the father in me, or else believe me for the sake of the work themselves. Truly, truly I said to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do and greater works than these will be due because I go to the father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the father may be glorified in the son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”

Three things come to my mind here that I have got to put together from this glorious passage. But I am going to go in reverse order. I am going to start with the third question, then the second question and then the first question. The first question, that is, that I am going to address, which is the 22nd verse of this Chapter. “Judas, not Iscariot said to him, Lord how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” And then Jesus proceeds to answer him by saying that this manifestation, this revealing is going to be by Gods spirit who will come on the day of Pentecost and baptize the entire body of believers into Jesus and in to the very body of Jesus, but the counselor, 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. Peace I leave with you.” And he gives this great legacy of peace. John did not know what Jesus was saying at the time, but he proves what Jesus said by writing his gospel after the fact. So we turn to John, Chapter 2, and if you have your Bibles open, which I hope you do, to the second Chapter of John, we discover what John has discovered. John, Chapter 2 and Verse 22. “When therefore Jesus was raised from the dead…” This is after the fact. “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered what he had said and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” That is a ministry of God’s blessed spirit today. To take the things that Jesus taught way back prior to the 13th Chapter of John and reveal them to us, so it makes sense. That’s part of his office work. That he brings to remembrance that which Jesus said, even as we will be bringing to remembrance the dying of Jesus, his passion, if you will, in Holy Communion or the celebration of the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist (which means the giving of thanks).

Now, one’s last words are usually the most important. One of Jim Rayburn’s favorite stories was about a garrulous widow who is being consoled by her friend since her husband has recently died. And the friend says to the widow, “And what were his last words?” And the reply was, “He didn’t have any, I was with him to the end.” There are all kinds of dumb things that we can do. That’s why I almost called this Dumb and Dumber. All kinds of dumb things, but we must reject the pattern of wrong doing. If we really want the revealing ministry of Gods spirit, we have got to turn away from all of our folly and all of our sin, all of our weaknesses and expect God to raise us up so that we begin to live on his high places. I have entitled this message, “Of Pup-tents and Palaces.” A little difference between the two. A pup-tent, maybe some of you will recall, is the name of two half shelters of canvas which the dough boys of WWI were issued and when they were out in the rain like today, they would take out of their duffel bag their half shelter and find a buddy and snap the two together which would create a pup-tent, which would keep two people out of the weather. I have been in a pup-tent. It ain’t no fun. But I have also been in palaces. A number of years ago (we are right now at Central Church in the throes and pressures and the hopes of finding an established pastor of this congregation) I had considered several other ministries and I had been preaching two Sundays in Winnipeg, Canada, as a candidate and I was now in the living room of a multimillionaire who ran that church. I have never been in a living room like that. It was wide open, but not quite as high as this sanctuary, but the living room was an atrium and there was a full grown tree going all the way up to heaven right in the middle of it. As I sat in that plush living room, I was asked by the multimillionaire, “Will you be our pastor? If you will the sky is the limit. Name your salary.” I assure you that is what scared me off. I am grateful I stayed here. God wants us not only to live in great palaces, some golden daybreak, but Jesus is addressing his friends here about living high, holy lives now. Not a lifestyle, but rather a life of style. You have only got one life to live. That’s all.

And lets really start to live and Jesus has made all of this possible by the revealing of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We turn to Verse 8, where we have the second question, (behold how fast we got to move through John). Philip said to him “Lord, show us the father and we shall be satisfied.” And Jesus proceeded to use that statement to talk about the indwelling spirit. That Gods Holy Spirit has come so that the indwelling which takes place between God the father and God the son, will be the indwelling that will take place between God the father and God the son and you and me. And in this passage he mentioned this incredible statement: He says in Verse 20, “In that day,” (See the whole thing is transition, we are moving from the Ante Room into the real room just awaiting), “In that day” that is after the passion, after Pentecost, “In that day you will know that I am in the father and you in me and I in you.” That is probably the most exciting verse that I know. It probably is the deepest possible statement in human language and yet it’s just in monosyllables. “In that day you will know that I am in the father and you in me and I in you.” This is done. It is a reality. By the indwelling ministry of Gods glorious spirit who not only reveals Gods will and word to us, but also causes us to be at home. All the way through this passage of many verses, there are 31 verses. 23 of those verses are all in red. They are all about the words of Jesus, and 23 times in the 14th Chapter of John, (listen to this) Jesus talks and uses the words “My father”. Oh, how he loved the father and oh how the father loved him. Oh how he looked forward to going home. Oh how I wanted to go home. He had ministered 33 years and nobody had the slightest idea what he was about. Peter, James, John, all the big boys, they didn’t savvy him at all. Possibly the only two people (some of you have heard me say this) probably only two people had the spiritual insight as to who Jesus really was and what he was up to. They were both women. One was the mother of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other was probably Mary of Bethany, who anointed him against his burial. And Jesus said, “I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to be with my dad. I want to be with my father.” And they don’t catch on to this at all. He is hurting, yearning and longing. He knows what he has got to go through before that’s true. But he says this Holy Spirit will enable you and ennoble you to enter in to a prayer life that you never knew before. What does he say here? He says in Verse 13, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it. That the father be glorified in the son.” We have cheapened prayer. Oh, how we have cheapened prayer as something that enables us to get something. He is not talking about that at all, about our getting something or how we get it. And a lot of people seem to think that you just got to. (Pardon me for saying this) but you just got to always finish a prayer with, “and this we pray in Jesus name”. However, no verse in the Bible ends in “this we pray in Jesus name”. To pray in Jesus name is to pray what he is concerned about and what is he concerned about? the glory of the father. That is what he cares about. And we are all the time saying, “Oh, I pray in Jesus name that I will get a good parking spot.” Oh, come on! Jesus says, there is a style of life where you put aside all of the wickedness and worriness and confusion of your life and enter into the fullness of life that I have come into.

And so that brings us to the third, which is the first question where Thomas says, “Lord, how can we know the way?” And Jesus replies as you all know, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. I am the means of Gods grace of bringing all people to myself.” But we must walk through that door. We must walk through that door. We have got to decide that we want to live the kind of life that Jesus lived. And we discover here of not only a revealing spirit, not only an indwelling spirit but a comforting spirit. Oh listen dear friends, (pardon this personal observation). But it’s raining outside now and I know where Dottie’s body is. It’s in a muddy old cold hole in a grave. That’s where her body is. But Jesus says here, “Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid. In my fathers house are many dwelling places. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you.” A place for you. “And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” What a comforting thought for me and for you to know that there is a place for us. There is a palace, but it’s going to be very much shaped like the palace in which you lived here. Oh yes. We seem to sort of think that when we die, that all of a sudden we are changed. When we go to heaven, we are the same people who are here on this earth before we went to heaven. And God expects us to be heavenly people here and now. Yes. Yes. He said if any person loves me, he would keep my word. My father will love him and we will come and make our home with him. We not only dwell in God, but God dwells in us and reshapes us and remolds us and makes us to walk in his high places. And if you haven’t come to Jesus and Jesus hasn’t come to you, let’s get that done and get that done now. Come on. He is ready. He is closer than your hands and feet, closer than your breath. Closer than the atmosphere that presses upon you and is within you. That’s how close God is and all he wants you to do is to trust him. And he will come and make his home in our bodies, our minds and our beings. For without him, there is no going and without him there is no knowing and without him there is no doing. Nothing doing without Jesus. This lovely Jesus about whom we just sang is the one who wants to come with his loveliness and power and majesty and holiness and goodness and cleverness and make our lives sing. That’s what he wants of each of us. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are Gods ways and our ways and his thoughts, then our thoughts, and in Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Let me bring this to a close by a reference, after you pass through the Ante Room into the reality of the new covenant. St. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 4. “So we do not lose heart. No, we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things which are seen are temporal, ephemeral, the things which are not seen, are eternal. They are sure. They are solid. “So we are always of good courage. We know that if the earthy tent we live in, if it is destroyed, we have a building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Yes. Here indeed we groan and long to put on our heavenly dwelling. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. We are of good courage and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” In 2nd Corinthians in the 5th Chapter, we read this. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a whole new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come.” This is not talking about heaven. Let’s talk about right here. Let’s talk about life of style. And Dallas Willard, who has often been quoted by me lately, leaves us these statements. “We are now in position to thrive on everything that life can throw at us.” We are now in position to thrive on everything that life can throw at us. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, wherefore my beloved brethren be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for as much as you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

“Heavenly father, thank you for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who makes him real to us and causes him to dwell within us and comforts our hearts by his royal presence. We would crown him indeed the Lord of our lives.”

Will you join with me in response to this message by singing from your innermost being, “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”