The Holy Spirit In The Church

Introduction On one occasion I was trying to see how far the car could go on one tank, and I ran out of petrol. On another I was stuck on a lake waiting for a wind to come to get a dinghy moving. On a third, I had food ready to put in the oven, but it had one of those fiddly timers and I couldn't get it to work. A car with no petrol. A dinghy with no wind. An oven with no fuel. These things need the other part. They cannot function without them. The Church cannot function without the Holy Spirit. It might still be there in name. It might be Anglican, Methodist, Baptist or Pentecostal for instance, but if the Holy Spirit is not at work changing and teaching, it is a church in name not in fact. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Sardis:

To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3.1-3)

Only the Holy Spirit can strengthen what remains and is about to die. Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to obey and repent. As we look at John chapter 16 we're going to see how the work of the Holy Spirit in the church was absolutely necessary to the disciples then, and to us today. First, HIS PRESENCE CHANGES THE CHURCH (vv 5-11) Do you remember those experiments back at school to do with catalysts? Catalysts are substances that effect a change in something without themselves being affected. Remember how white liquids turned yellow, how smells happened, and test tubes became hot. The coming of the Holy Spirit did not change the Holy Spirit, but it did change the church. His presence could not help changing the church. In doing those experiments at school there was someone in charge, someone who decided to add the catalyst. The presence of the Holy Spirit was not an accident. It was planned by Jesus. "Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." It was necessary for Jesus to change the church by sending the Holy Spirit for the following reasons: (1) Because of who the disciples were, and the situation that was to come. The disciples had many advantages, from being with Jesus for so long. They had seen so many miracles. They had received hours of private teaching, just for themselves. Humanly you would think they would be very secure believers. But despite all these advantages they were no different from you or me. The disciples could never have lasted in the troubles ahead without the Holy Spirit. They would need something supernatural if they were going to keep going as believers. Things were not going to be easy for them. They had just been warned of some of the things that would happen. John 16 verses 1 and 2:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.

It seemed to the disciples that they were going to go through this suffering without Jesus. He was going away and they were full of grief. They recognised their inadequacy without Jesus. Look at what is said again in verse 1:

Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.

Tonight we have sung of the victory of the resurrection, but they did not yet experience that. They knew they were soon to be separated. They felt the pain of coming separation, perhaps also the fear of death. How could they stand up to the people who were soon to put Jesus to death? The Roman authorities and the Jewish priests were well able to find and try them. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for the church to be wiped out, if the Holy Spirit had not been sent to them. The authorities in the former Soviet Union and in China thought they could extinguish all unofficial Christianity, but it flourished underground. The difference was the Holy Spirit's presence. Once the Holy Spirit had come on the disciples they were different people. They were prepared to die for Jesus. We could wish that the disciples did not have to go through this sorrowful time, that things were always peaceful and happy for them. But there was a purpose to their sorrow. We ought to learn the value of stressful situations, because it is there that we put our faith to the test. We can think we are brave until we have something to be brave about. We can think we are mature Christians until we have something that needs faith to keep going. Sometimes stressful events are things that show us that our faith is not strong. Exams coming, a relative dying, our parents divorcing, strong feelings to do things we know are wrong. Such things can make us feel grief or lose our assurance. The disciples were not superhuman. They too felt similar emotions. What they needed and what we need is God the Holy Spirit being present in us. Just like the disciples, if we are going to keep going as believers we need supernatural help, we need God the Holy Spirit. Not just once but every day and in fullness. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "go on being filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5.18). (2) It was absolutely necessary for the disciples to be changed by the Holy Spirit, because Jesus wanted them to have the best. Look again at what Jesus said in verse 7:

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

It was for their good that he went away, because the Holy Spirit would be better even than Jesus himself. Jesus said that he would send the Counsellor to them to be with them. The word 'counsellor' is difficult to translate. It is nothing to do with the elected local government representative, the councillor (with an 'i'). Sometimes the word appears directly in English as the strange form 'Paraclete'. You may know some of the other words that are used to translate it: Advocate, Comforter, Encourager, Consoler. The Holy Spirit is the person who Jesus sends alongside us. He is to be with us. Intimacy with Jesus through the Holy Spirit was essential to their perseverance as Christians. Perhaps you have been in a party climbing a mountain and everyone seems far ahead. Every step has to be thought about, meanwhile will those ahead never stop? How different when there is someone walking with you at your pace. The Holy Spirit is the one whom God sends alongside his disciples. When the Holy Spirit came it was no longer the disciples happening to be present, or not, with Jesus, but Jesus being present with them. Where-ever they were he would be with them. It is not just possible, but necessary, for them and for us to be, intimate with Jesus in this way. When we don't know him with us we go off the rails. We don't pray. We don't praise spontaneously. Jesus wants us to have a different quality of life. He said to the disciples 'it is for your good that I go away.' It is for our good because the Holy Spirit being with us is even better than being with Jesus in those days. Then he was limited by his and their humanity. He could only be in one place, and at one time. In the Holy Spirit Jesus is with his people wherever they are and whenever they live. (3) It was absolutely necessary for the disciples to be changed by the Holy Spirit, so that they could do their job. We are given a hint of the work the disciples are to do through the Holy Spirit's presence in the words from verses 8 to 11:

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Although this is about the Holy Spirit's ministry to the world it is spoken to the disciples. The Holy Spirit when he comes is going to have a particular effect. The things that he will magnify are the sense of sin, righteousness and judgement. All of these are related to Jesus. The sin that really matters will be the failure to believe in Jesus. The righteousness that convicts will be his righteousness. The judgment will convict because his enemy is condemned. If the Holy Spirit will have this effect on the out-sider, he has it all the more on the church. He exalts Christ and he convicts the sinner. So the Holy Spirit will make the church holier by making it aware of sin. He will make the church more convinced of the righteousness of Christ. He will make the church more certain of the judgment and the certain defeat of the devil. Thus he will energise the church for sharing the message, and unite it in a common purpose. A boy was asked if he ever went to church: "I don't know what abomination I belong to. My mother is Church of England, but I don't like going because the man gets up in a big box, and tries to make you feel guilty." Perhaps denominations are abominations, but it is not up to the person in the black box to whip up feelings of guilt. God the Holy Spirit sometimes convicts, sometimes assures, sometimes builds up and sometimes tears down. The Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary for anyone to be saved. If you are here and not saved tonight, you can do as little to save yourself as a corpse to raise itself. Not only are we subject to sin, it is the reason that we stand condemned. No one can become a Christian of their own accord. The Holy Spirit has to be at work in each, changing them to see their sin, their lack of righteousness, their certain judgment. How does this relate to us? As we have already noticed our situation may be one of persecution, such as for Christians in China, or it may be less pronounced ridicule at school, or in your office or hall. But just as the Holy Spirit was essential for quelling the disciples' fears and sorrow, so is he essential in these days. Just as Jesus wanted the best for his disciples then, so his presence by the Holy Spirit is the best for us today. Just as the Holy Spirit was necessary for the disciples to do their job then, so he is necessary for us today. These verses show us that we cannot do without the Holy Spirit. It is absolutely necessary for us to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Secondly, HIS PRESENCE TEACHES THE CHURCH (vv 12-15) If the Holy Spirit was necessary to change the disciples and make them ready for the work of witness, the change was not to be once and for all, but ongoing. He doesn't just convert believers, he disciples them. The Holy Spirit has an ongoing task of teaching the church. It was absolutely necessary for the Holy Spirit to teach the disciples for the following reasons: (1) Because they need to be guided into the truth. For a while after the resurrection Jesus would be with the church, commissioning them and bringing to mind all that he had already taught them. But when he was gone they would need an authoritative record, and many situations would arise when they would not know what Jesus would have said. To meet this need a particular task of the Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles in the writing of the New Testament. Look at what it says in verse 12 and the first part of verse 13:

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

According to 2 Timothy 3.16, the Bible is God-breathed. The Spirit of God breathed it out through the minds of men, to be our God-given guide to truth. The Spirit teaches the church through the Spirit's book, the Bible. New situations arise, but new truth shines out from the Bible. We know that, even in our own experience: passages of the Bible grow in their relevance and what they say to us. Yet the Bible itself, though it is the Spirit's book, needs the Spirit's work to be brought alive. There are plenty of people, and surely like me, you have done it, who have read the Bible with no understanding. All that we read in it is of no use, unless the Spirit moves us. We can read that the Father has elected a people since before the foundation of the world. But how would I know whether God has chosen me, unless the Spirit tells me. The work that Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross is like a tree laden up high with marvellous fruit, but unless the Spirit shakes the tree for me, I can only imagine and never experience it. It was absolutely necessary for the disciples to be taught by the Spirit, and absolutely necessary for us to be taught by the Spirit. (2) It was absolutely necessary for the Holy Spirit to teach the disciples so that they would know the future. Look at what it says in the next part of verse 13:

He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

The Holy Spirit is not a different source of authority and influence from Jesus: he directly reports what is from Jesus. Of course for the disciples at that time, 'what was yet to come' was the cross and resurrection, and certainly the Spirit continually tells of those things, but I think something more is intended. We know in the early church that one of the gifts that was most prized was the gift of prophecy. Another of the gifts that was practised was the gift of tongues with interpretation, where messages were brought from God. Another was a gift of discernment to know between different spirits. The Holy Spirit was in charge giving them what they needed to know. Occasionally we know, for instance that he warned them of a famine to come, other times perhaps it was just to reassure them that they were safe. One of the great prophecies of what is to come has been recorded in the last book of the Bible. That and other parts of the Bible can be brought to us in preaching, bringing the knowledge of what is yet to come through that gift. In any congregation we have to trust that God has provided all the gifts that it needs at that time. Our task, as we saw last week, is to order our life together, so that we are hearing the Holy Spirit and doing what he wants. (3) It was absolutely necessary for the Holy Spirit to teach the disciples because that is the way for glory to go to Jesus. Look again at verses 14 and 15:

He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

We think we bring glory to Jesus when we do things we think are good. If we give a large cheque to charity or to church so that others know about it, the glory does not go to Jesus. Or we are in the music group and we sing loudly and beautifully, or play faultlessly, or if we are on the staff and preach a good sermon, such things may be helpful, but go nowhere. The way for glory to go to Jesus, is when a connection is made between Jesus and us. The way for glory to go to Jesus, is when we are hearing what the Holy Spirit is making known to us. The Holy Spirit takes the things of the Lord Jesus (his words, his character, his saving work) and reveals them ever more fully to his disciples. Glory goes to Jesus for instance, when the Spirit makes clear to us what Jesus wants, and empowers us to make the necessary changes. To be a believer, is to learn to glorify Jesus by forging as much as we can of the revealed truth about Jesus into our lives, until it transforms us, and our outlook. Because we need to be guided into the truth, because we need to know the future, and because we need to glorify Jesus, it is absolutely necessary for us to be taught by the Holy Spirit. Conclusion This evening we have looked at just some of what the Bible says is the work of the Holy Spirit in the church. We find that none of the things that we ought to do can be done without the Spirit. And everything that we try to do without the Spirit of God, is not acceptable. We have seen that his presence changes the church and that his presence teaches the church. Let us pray that God will graciously fill us with his Spirit.

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