The Holy Spirit

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I want you to imagine a family living in Gateshead 74 years ago. It's 1939. The father gets home after a long shift in the dockyards. All day there's been talk of war and invasions. And now the dad gathers his family and they sit around the radio set. And as expected they hear that war has been declared. A year later the children come home, passing recruitment posters, only to find out when they get home that dad has signed up – he's going to war. They worry. What will happen to dad? Where will he go? What will come of them? Who will look after them? And so on the eve of their Dad leaving to go to war they gather as a family. He listens to their worries and assures them. But I will write to you. I will, God willing, return to you. I love you.

 And if you can imagine the feeling of the children is similar to how the disciples feel at this point in John's Gospel. Jesus has told them his is leaving. They can't come with him. It is his mission alone. They feel confused. They feel alone. How can they go on without Jesus? Without him, surely it's all over? And likewise we too can feel the same. Sometimes circumstances arise where we think, 'How can I keep going as a Christian?

Sometimes we feel alone as Christians in the workplace, in the family and we wonder, 'How can I keep going?' Well, Jesus told the disciples not to be troubled. He tells them not to be afraid.  And Jesus says the same to us tonight. Do not be afraid. Do not be troubled. Why? We are not to be afraid because, if we trust in Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit. We are not to be afraid because we have the Holy Spirit. And I want to pick out three reasons the Spirit gives us not to fear.

Firstly, the Holy Spirit strengthens us to keep going. Secondly, the Holy Spirit unites us with the Son and the Father. And thirdly, the Holy Spirit moves us to loving obedience.

So firstly, the Holy Spirit strengthens us to keep going. What does that mean?! Look with me at verses 15-16: "If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth.

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "another counsellor." And it's worth us dwelling on those two words. The Spirit is a "counsellor" Now on a basic level only a person can be a counsellor. And Jesus calls the Spirit "he." So the Spirit is not a power or something like the force from Star Wars that we tune into. No! The Spirit is a person. And because he's a person we get all of him. We can't only get part of him. It's impossible! Now "counsellor" means here someone called alongside to help, aid and strengthen. So the Spirit strengthens Jesus' disciples. Now let's take the word 'another'. 'Another' suggests there is more than one counsellor. There is someone who strengthened the disciples previously. And that is Jesus.  So the Spirit is a kind of replacement for Jesus. Someone who will come alongside to strengthen the disciples. Someone of the same kind. Someone who will continue Jesus' work on earth.

Think of it a bit like this. When I was at school I used to have a part time job in a café. My work was to make teas and coffees for the customers. Now, when I went to university I left but my brother took my old job at the café. If you haven't met Jack – we look pretty similar and sounds pretty similar too! The old ladies who came to café used to mix us up because we were so similar and did the same work. We were if you like of the same kind. One Popplewell had left, but they had gained another Popplewell!  And here we see Jesus announcing his departure, but announcing the arrival of the Spirit to replace him.

Now the Spirit is an independent person within the Trinity, but he has the same agenda as Jesus. He is the Spirit of Jesus. And so Jesus does not leave his disciples alone to fend for themselves.  Look with me at verse 18: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." Jesus does not leave us alone.  We don't have a lesser helper. No. We have one of the same kind. Jesus has sent us the Spirit to take his place.

This truth must calm our fears and worries. Imagine a child at school who is really stuck with their piece of work. They can't do it by themselves. They're close to giving up. The tears are beginning to well up. He puts his hand in a plea for help. Suddenly the teacher comes alongside, calms the child down, talks them through the work and strengthens them.

When we feel alone as Christians. Close to giving up. We must remember we have the Holy Spirit – another strengthener is with us. If Jesus has given us another strengthener then we must ask for his strength.  We've got to put our hands up like the child and ask for help. And prayer is the ultimate sign to show our need for help. Maybe we need to get out of bed that bit earlier, or turn the radio off on our commute, or whatever it is to pray.

But let's ask God to strengthen us by the Spirit to glorify him as we head out to work, take the kids to school or in the difficult situation God has placed us in. We're not to be afraid because we have the Holy Spirit. Let's not fear. Instead let the Holy Spirit strengthen you to keep going.

Now the second reason that should calm our fears is this: The Holy Spirit unites us with the Son and the Father. Earlier in the chapter Philip asks to be shown the Father, he desperately wants to see God. And I wonder sometimes we have the same desire. Even at Christianity Explored this week we were pondering in our discussion what it would have been like to have seen Jesus. To have seen him teach. To have seen the colour of his eyes. To hear the sound of his accent. To be so intimate. Wouldn't it be amazing?

But Jesus here teaches us that the disciples will receive a privilege even greater than seeing God. They will be united by the Spirit to the Son and The Father.

Look with me at verses 18-20. Jesus says: "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.  So Jesus promises to come to the disciples by the Holy Spirit. On that day, the day of Pentecost, the disciples will realise in a new way that Jesus is in the Father. But not only that, they are in Jesus and Jesus is in them. The Spirit unites believers to the son and the father.

But Jesus uses a picture to really impress on his disciples what will happen. Look with me at verse 23. It says: 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." Jesus says he and the Father will make their home in the believers. The Son and the Father will make their home in us! And this promise is for anyone who loves Jesus – for all believers at all times. It's for us! God dwells in us by his Spirit. This, rightly understood, is even better than being part of the crowds that saw Jesus. Better than seeing God, is God living in us!

But how is it that God can live in us? I'm sure that if  we were told the Queen was coming to visit us tomorrow we'd be thrown into a panic thinking I need to vacuum, wash the dishes that are on the kitchen side, clean the loo… We might feel that our small and lowly houses weren't good enough for her. So how much more incredible that God lives in us. And we often feel a lack of assurance of God's presence at times. We give into a sin we've been struggling with. We get into an argument. We lose our patience. And suddenly we feel that God can't live in us - surely we're too sinful, too full of rebellion?

How can we be assured that God does live in us by his Spirit? Look back at John 13. Jesus is washing the disciples feet, an act of humble service. Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. And Jesus responds by saying in verse 8, "unless I wash you, you have no part with me.'

Jesus' ultimate act of service, his death on the cross, is pictured here by the washing of Peter's feet. Only his death on the cross makes us clean. And makes us acceptable dwelling place for the Spirit. And it's also how Jesus can say in verse 27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." Our peace with God is established on the basis that Jesus' death on the cross has cleansed us of our sin. A peace that guarantees God's Spirit is with us forever – on the good days and the bad. Whether we feel it or not. Do not be afraid because we have the Holy Spirit. Be assured that he unites you with the Son and the Father.

The third reason Jesus gives us not to fear is the Holy Spirit moves us to loving obedience. Let's look again at verse 20-21. Jesus says: "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." Now we might read that and think, "Hang on a second, God only loves me if I obey him." But we know that can't be right from the context. Remember only Jesus' death cleanses us from sin. In fact, in verse 19b Jesus says to the disciples, "Because I live, you will also live." Jesus says he will rise from the dead, they too will have eternal life. It is he alone who cleanses us of sin and gives eternal life. It is he gives us his Spirit. Jesus loves us first. And it's that love that changes us. The Spirit changes our hearts. He causes us to love Jesus. And so Jesus tells the disciples that those who love him obey him.  So obedience is the mark of someone who loves Jesus, not a condition for belonging to him. This is not salvation by works. Those who belong to him love him, and therefore obey him.

It is this that fulfils the promise in Ezekiel 36.26. Here God says "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

When we believe in Jesus we are given the Spirit. And when the Spirit moves in, our hearts change too. Only the Spirit brings that radical change of heart towards obeying Jesus. You see our desires drive our behaviour. And it's only when the Spirit changes our desires do we start to obey. It is the Spirit who moves us to love the Jesus, and to obey Jesus.

The puritan, John Owen, wrote this: "If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?" It's a response to God's great love that should move us to obey him. And if you are low on motivation to obey Jesus. You feel cold towards Jesus. Maybe you are stuck in ingrained habit of sin. And it's been like that for a long time. Maybe there are habits that you've tolerated for a long time with little desire to change. Then can I challenge you to think upon the Father's love. His giving of his son to die on a cross to make you clean. His gift of eternal life. His gift of his Spirit who dwells in you. All undeserved, but freely given to you. And let your heart be moved to obedience.

When the Spirit works in our hearts we want to please God, and also not sadden him. We have a new sensitivity. Like a child who wants to please his dad, and not grieve him.

R.A. Torrey, a Victorian minister, put it like this to his congregation: Often a boy or girl might be about to follow through on a sinful desire when they think what if my parents found out – they'd be so upset and grieved? And therefore they don't follow through with that desire. But there is one closer and even more intimate than a parent. There is one even more sensitive to our sin than a parent. And that's the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. Who sees all that we do. Who sees all our thoughts. And if there is anything sinful in it, he is grieved. He is saddened.

And we will sadden the Spirit at times. We will imperfectly obey Jesus this side of heaven. But the Spirit is in us, to strengthen us and to help us obey. But only grasping God's deep love for you will move you to true obedience. So think on the father's love for you. And let the Spirit move your heart to obey Jesus.

Time is short, but I'd like us to reflect on this as we close. Jesus says that his words are his father's. And the Holy Spirit will remind the apostles of Jesus' words to them. Look with me at verse 24b-26: "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 Counsellor, 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."

We see the trinity working in unity to give us the Bible. Jesus' words are the father's. The Spirit will teach and remind the apostle's of Jesus' words. And we have those words here in our Bibles today! These words of encouragement Jesus gave his disciples before he left weren't just for those in the upper room, they are for all believers, for all time! They are for us today too! So let's hear afresh Jesus' words. We are not to be afraid for we have the Holy Spirit. So let the Holy Spirit strengthen you to keep going. Be assured the Holy unites you with the Son and the Father. Let the Holy Spirit move you to loving obedience. So let's not be troubled. Let's not be afraid.

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