God Is with Us: The Holy Spirit
John 14: 15 – 31.
A couple of months ago, I drove home late at night from a long and tiring day at work. As I was driving home, I had a very interesting conversation with myself. I asked myself, “Why would anyone want to do what I do for a living?” I answered myself by saying, “I feel like God has called me to be a pastor, and there is nothing else I want to do.” Then I realized there is one thing I would like to do…I want to be on the TV show “MythBusters.” But until MythBusters calls, this is the only thing I want to do.
I first felt like God was calling me to ministry when I was a sophomore in college. I had worked as a camp counselor during the summer after my freshman year. I had not declared a major as a freshman. But, that first summer working with kids at camp started me thinking that God was calling me to ministry. So, I returned to college and immediately declared as a Religion major.
Soon after that, I took my first church job as a youth minister in a small church in Carroll County, Mississippi. I drove 82 miles (one-way) every Sunday and Wednesday. And, they paid me $100 per week.
I had a similar arrangement while I was going through seminary. I was the college minister at a church in Waco. My job was defined as “three quarter time”—or more than part time and less than full time. Every day, I went to class in the morning; worked in the church office in the afternoons; and stayed up late at night doing my studies for class.
As I reflect on my college and seminary education, I have two thoughts. First, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion / Bible; a Master’s Degree in Theology; and a Doctoral Degree in Preaching…I’m not qualified for anything other than being a pastor…so I truly need this to work out. Second, I used to tell my classmates that I had an advantage over them since I was working in churches while I was in school. I used to compare it to students who took biology and chemistry. They had biology class and biology lab, or chemistry class and chemistry lab. I had classes and lab in Bible, theology and ministry.
In many ways, I believe this is the best way to learn theology. We have sold ourselves short when it comes to theology. We have assigned theology to the “professional theologians” in colleges, universities and seminaries. But, theology is something for anyone who dares to “think about God” or “speak about God.” In fact, that is what the word theology means—thinking about God or speaking about God.
I believe that theology is a discipline for both the mind and the heart. If all a person does is read the Bible and study theological writings, they are missing something very important. They might learn a lot ABOUT God by committing their minds to theology. But, what about the heart? It is possible to know ABOUT God and never actually know God. Good theology develops when both our minds and our hearts are engaged with God. We need to study the Bible and theology with our minds…But we also need to experience God personally and intimately with our hearts.
That is why it is important for us to have a good understanding of the Holy Spirit. We can study what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit, and we can read books about the Holy Spirit. But, we will never understand the Holy Spirit until we experience him in our lives.
The Christian understanding of God is that God is One, and God is Trinity. In my opinion, describing the Trinity is one of the most difficult tasks of theology and preaching. We can use illustrations and analogies…But all of those illustrations and analogies will break down at some point and stop serving our purposes. The best way to describe the Trinity is to observe how the Trinity appears in Scripture.
We see the Trinity at work in the life of Jesus. We affirm that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ and the Son of God. The Greek word “Christ” means “the Anointed One.” Therefore, Jesus was and is anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was sent by his Father in Heaven and was anointed (or empowered) by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was at work in Jesus to inspire his preaching, to enable Jesus to heal the sick, and to raise Jesus from the dead.
One of the most obvious places where we encounter the Trinity in the life of Jesus was at Jesus’ baptism. At the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove. A voice from Heaven said, “This is my beloved Son. In him I am well pleased.” In that moment we witness the Trinity. The Father sent the Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.
We see the Spirit “come down” in the story of Jesus’ baptism. However, this is not when Jesus was first anointed by the Spirit. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit when he was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Spirit and was the Anointed Son of God from the very beginning of his life. Jesus knew that he was the Anointed Son of God and understood his own life as being under the control of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was led by the Spirit and was empowered by the Spirit.
Jesus is the first person who lived out an ongoing or permanent relationship with the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament there were kings, prophets and priests who were anointed by the Spirit. But this anointing in the Old Testament was a temporary anointing which was not available for all people. The Old Testament prophets spoke about a coming day when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh—Kings and subjects; clergy and laypeople; slaves and free; male and female.
Jesus taught his disciples about the Holy Spirit. One thing Jesus emphasized in his teachings about the Spirit is the fact that Jesus had to die and rise again before the Spirit could be poured out.
John 14: 15 – 31.
15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him,because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
"Come now; let us leave."
This Scripture falls in the context of Jesus’ last address to his disciples before he was arrested and crucified. Jesus spoke these words on Thursday before Good Friday and after he had shared the Last Supper with his disciples.
At the beginning of this farewell address, Jesus told his disciples that one of them would betray him, that Jesus would be crucified, and that all the disciples would abandon Jesus. Peter insisted that he would never abandon Jesus. Then, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows the next morning.
It is safe to say that Jesus’ words had shaken the disciples. Their world was about to change, and life would never be the same again. They had left their jobs and families to follow Jesus. This was not the end they were expecting. So Jesus promised that they would not be alone. Jesus would not leave them as orphans. They would receive the Holy Spirit to be with them after the crucifixion and Resurrection.
The Holy Spirit is an “Advocate.” (v. 16)
Jesus gave them words of encouragement. He encouraged them by promising them “another Counselor.” The words here are significant.
First, there are two Greek words that can be translated “another.” One word is the word “heteros,” which means “another of a different kind.” That is not the word we read in John 14. The word we read is the word “allon,” which means “another of the same kind.” More than likely, that is significant. It tells us that Jesus will ask the Father to send the disciples another Counselor who will be just like Jesus.
Second, the word translated “Counselor” in the New International Version is the word “parakletos.” This is a rare word in the New Testament. John is the only biblical author who uses this word. We can’t turn to the writings of Paul and see how Paul used this word to help us interpret it. But, it was not rare in the ancient world. In the ancient world, “parakletos” is a person who is “called alongside.” Sometimes it refers to a person who is called on to assist with work. Other times it refers to a person who is called on to assist in a courtroom, either as a character witness or as the defense attorney.
In verse 17, Jesus tells us this Counselor is the “Spirit of Truth.” In verse 26, Jesus connects the Counselor with the Holy Spirit. Notice that the Holy Spirit would be just like Jesus. The Spirit would continue to do for the disciples after the Resurrection the same things Jesus had done for them before the crucifixion.
The Holy Spirit is the Constant Presence of God. (v. 16)
Another important point Jesus makes in verse 16 is that the Holy Spirit will be with the disciples forever. Jesus is not promising a temporary anointing like we read about in the Old Testament. Jesus is promising a permanent anointing and a constant presence of God in their lives.
As long as Jesus lived on earth among the disciples, Jesus was limited by time and space. He could only be in one place at a time. Sometimes, the disciples would wake up in the mornings, and Jesus was not there with them. He was off somewhere by himself praying…spending time alone with God. This would not be the case when the Spirit comes. The Spirit would always be with them. They would always experience the presence of God in their lives in every place, at all times.
The Holy Spirit is Available to All Believers. (v. 17)
In verse 17, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all his disciples. Notice that there is no mention of the Holy Spirit as a sign of elite spirituality or that the Holy Spirit is only available to SOME Christians.
The New Testament never teaches a “second blessing” of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the New Testament teaches us that every person who confesses Jesus as Lord receives the Holy Spirit. Christian groups who emphasize a “second blessing” of the Holy Spirit associate the “second blessing” with speaking in tongues and other unusual manifestations.
If you go back and read the conversion stories in the Book of Acts, you will notice that some people began to speak in tongues when they received the Holy Spirit. But, not everyone spoke in tongues. Remarkably, in Acts 9, we read the story of Paul’s conversion. When Paul received the Holy Spirit, he began to speak about Jesus. But, it makes no mention of Paul’s speaking in tongues.
Perhaps speaking in tongues is not the best way to judge whether or not someone has received the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 – 14 that not everyone will speak in tongues. In Galatians 5: 22 – 23, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit produces fruit (or a harvest) in us. The Harvest of the Spirit includes Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.
In short, the Holy Spirit is given to every person who confesses Jesus as Lord. Then, the Holy Spirit begins to shape our lives and produce fruit (or harvest) in us. The result is that we begin to look more and more like Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit in us, we can live like Jesus lived, love like Jesus loved, and obey like Jesus obeyed.
The Holy Spirit is a Teacher. (v. 26)
The Holy Spirit is more than just the presence of God in our lives. The Spirit is also our teacher.
Notice in verse 26 what and how the Holy Spirit teaches us. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things by reminding us of what Jesus has said. This is significant in a couple of ways.
First, we ought to take seriously the inspiration of the Scripture. The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Literally the word “inspired” means “to breathe in.” If the Holy Spirit has breathed the words of Scripture, then Scripture is the Word of God. God has spoken to us in Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is using Scripture to teach us all things.
Second, we ought to take seriously Jesus’ words that the Holy Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has already said. In other words, the Holy Spirit is not saying anything new. God’s Word is closed. Through the Holy Spirit, we might find new insights and new understandings of what the Bible says. However, God is not adding new books and new words to the Bible. Always be wary of a “new word.”
The Holy Spirit Gives Testimony (Witness). (vv. 30 - 31)
Jesus closed this section with two statements that seem to be contradictory. Jesus said he would not speak with his disciples much longer. Then, Jesus said the world must know who Jesus is in relation to the Father in Heaven. How will the world know who Jesus is if Jesus does not continue to speak?
This is our job as Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit and an assignment. We are to tell all nations who Jesus is. We are to make disciples all over the world. Jesus gave us the assignment, and Jesus gave us the power we need to fulfill this assignment.
No one demonstrates this power better than Peter. Before Jesus died on the cross, Peter ran away and denied knowing who Jesus is. After Peter received the Holy Spirit, Peter preached the Gospel with Power and unashamed of his relationship with Jesus. Peter could not do that on his own strength. Peter was anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
One way we can say this is to say that God uses weak people. God takes a weak person like Peter (or you and me). Then, God transforms that weak person into a person who is unashamed of the Gospel. This is the Holy Spirit in us.
The Holy Spirit is not something to be afraid of. In fact, the Holy Spirit is not a thing at all. The Holy Spirit is a Person…The personal presence of God in your life.
If you have professed Jesus as Lord, then the Holy Spirit is at work in your life right now. The Spirit is not given for your personal glory. No. The Spirit is given to do two things in your life. First, to shape you and strengthen you to obey God. Second, to empower you to tell others about Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is not given only to certain, super Christians. The Spirit is given to everyone who believes.
The Holy Spirit is not given in degrees…that one person has more Spirit than another. No. We should never ask how much Spirit you have in your life. Instead, we should ask how much of your life does the Spirit have!
God is present. He has promised to always be present. Will you be open to receive and experience the Holy Spirit? Will you allow the Spirit to lead you to a life of total dependence on God…to shape you and produce fruit in your life…to empower you to be a bold witness?