“God With Us!”
June 29, 2008
God is present in our world and in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
I. The Presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-7)
II. The Saving Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11)
III. Life with the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15)
What do you need when life is difficult, when sickness or stress, worry or temptation threaten? Or death? Or grieving. Maybe you need a comforter, someone to come alongside and give encouragement and reassurance, to give hope and peace. Maybe you need a counselor, someone to point the right direction, to help you make decisions, to provide clarity out of confusion and understanding out of despair. Maybe you need a helper, someone to come along and shoulder the load, do some of the heavy lifting, to quietly strengthen and enable you to get things done. Or maybe you need a challenger, someone to get just a little bit in your face, to point out where you’ve gone wrong and get you back on the right track.
Well, I’ve got good news this morning; if you believe in Jesus you have someone who does those things and more. His Greek name is Paraclete, which has been translated Comforter, Counselor, and Helper, and could easily be translated challenger. We know him better as the Holy Spirit, and he is our subject this morning.
We’re studying the Evangelical Free Church’s new statement of faith. At the National Conference this past week we approved it. Article six says: We believe the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
We studied the Trinity the first week of this series. We believe in one God eternally existing in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In that study we looked briefly at the personhood and divinity of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps my favorite verse on the divinity of the Spirit is Acts 5:3-4, where Peter confronts the fraudulent Ananias: “Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." Lying to the Holy Spirit is the same thing as lying to God; he is God.
We see the personhood of the Holy Spirit in the things he does: he gives, grieves, creates, speaks, fills, descends, teaches, comforts, directs, rejoices; he loves. He behaves just like a person. One of the great truths of ancient philosophy is the duck axiom:‘if it walks like a duck and looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.’ The Holy Spirit does what only people do: Therefore he is a person, the third person of the Trinity in fellowship with the Father and the Son.
I. The Presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-7)
John’s gospel gives us insight into the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Our text is John16:5-15. First, Jesus reassures the disciples that the Holy Spirit will be with them. John 16:5 "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 6Because I have said these things, sorrow has filled your heart. 7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
The Holy Spirit was much on Jesus’ mind on the last night of his earthly ministry. In these chapters he promises the presence of the Holy Spirit at least four times. He starts in 14:16 “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. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Jesus makes such a wonderful promise: even after I go, God will provide for you, God will be present with you: another Counselor, comforter, helper - the paraclete in Greek, will be with you. The most significant fact about the Holy Spirit, a fact that can change your life, is that he is God with us. He is the presence of God for those on this side of the cross, given to be with us forever; not only with us but in us. And through the Holy Spirit Jesus is with us always: He says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” How will he do that? Through the Holy Spirit.
That’s the promise of today’s text: “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” It’s not that the Holy Spirit could not be there before, it’s that God had promised to give believers the Holy Spirit as part of the new covenant, put in place by Jesus’ death, resurrection and exaltation. His crucifixion paid the price of our sin so we could be cleansed, made new and become fit places for the Spirit to dwell. Once Jesus completed this work, the Spirit was pleased to come and dwell in the redeemed.
There is a second sense in which Jesus’ departure was good. It was a wonderful thing for Jesus, God incarnate, to walk on the earth, to heal, minister and teach. But as fully human Christ’s presence with his disciples was limited to a human kind of presence; so that not everyone could be in that presence. But the Holy Spirit comes as spirit to indwell all of us and each of us. All believers equally receive his presence.
One of the clearest pictures of this is in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel where 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. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” This is what Jesus promised: not only would the Spirit be God with us, but God in us. How does it make you feel that the God of the universe now rides in your frail flesh. That the God of the universe has not left you an orphan, but has come to you?
One of his specific ministries is to help us recognize that we are God’s beloved children. Romans 8:14 Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.” This is God with us, our comfort and peace.
II. The Saving Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11)
But before we receive these benefits, we must become believers, and that also is a work of God the Holy Spirit. In John 16:8-11 Jesus says When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
The word ‘convict’ here doesn’t communicate a legal picture, of a judge or a jury passing sentence. Rather this is a personal ministry, as the Holy Spirit comes alongside to convince sinners of their sin and of their need for a Savior. In many ways this is the greatest of the Holy Spirit’s ministries: he convinces men and women that they are guilty before God, separated from God, and desperately in need of His rescue.
Verses 9 to 11 explain the ways he does this. Verse 9: “in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.” If they did believe, it would mean they’d seen their guilt and turned to Jesus in faith. As it is, unbelief brings not only condemnation but willful ignorance. People will not and do not perceive that they walk in death. So the Holy Spirit presses home the world’s sin. His convicting work is gracious, designed to help men and women see their need and turn to Jesus from this sin and disbelief.
He also convicts the world “in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer”. He convicts people of their need for righteousness, the inadequacy of the righteousness they have. The hymn-writer Augustus Toplady understood this: “Not the labors of my hands Can fulfil Thy Law's demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.” and “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die!”
This is the understanding of our righteousness the Spirit gives, because Jesus is going to the Father. In essence Jesus had this ministry while he was in the world: his frequent sharp encounters with those who thought they were righteous are evidence of that role. But now that he is going to the Father, it is the Spirit who will challenge people’s presumption of righteousness.
Finally, the Spirit convicts the world in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. If Satan, who is the leader of the rebellion is judged and condemned, can the judgment of those who willfully follow him be far behind?
The Spirit is at work to convince people they are in peril. Their life choice is not between a good future with Jesus and a good future without him, or even no future without him. It is between an infinitely good future with him or an infinitely bad future under his condemnation, under judgment, in hell.
The Holy Spirit has used this truth many times over the centuries to bring people to the point of repentance. Jonathan Edward, the great American Puritan is known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It doesn’t have as much fire and brimstone as you would think, but it does emphasize the truth that without God everyone is under judgment. As Jonathan Edwards read that sermon at his church in Northhampton Massachusetts, in his usual head-down monotone voice, the Holy Spirit brought great conviction on his listeners. This is his ministry.
Next, the doctrinal statement says, he regenerates sinners. He starts by convincing us of sin and our need for a savior. Then he give new birth. When Nicodemus the Pharisee sought him out Jesus said “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." 4"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" 5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” No one can be saved, born again, without the Holy Spirit’s work; he removes the heart of stone and gives us a new heart and new life.
Paul says: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Jesus redeemed us, paying the price of our sin, but it is the Holy Spirit who applies salvation to our hearts.
Therefore, by the way, if you are saved you have the Holy Spirit living within you. As a church we graciously but firmly reject any teaching that says the Holy Spirit comes on believers later, in act two of salvation, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Salvation and the Spirit are given to us together.
So we’ve seen that the Holy Spirit is God with us; that he is intimately at work in salvation; convicting us of sin, creating in us a longing for righteousness, warning us of judgment. He is the one who renews and cleanses our hearts as we believe, and who thus gives us new birth into God’s family. Praise God the Holy Spirit.
III. Life with the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15)
And he is constantly at work in those who believe, in many varied ways. Jesus touches on these works in John 16:12-15 12"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All 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.
As Jesus prepared to walk through his suffering, crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension, he comforted himself and his disciples with the truth that his passion was not the end of the story. Jesus had already told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would help them remember what he had already taught them, John 14:26. But here he takes it further and promises new revelation, at least new in the sense of words Jesus had not yet spoken, not new in terms of having a new source.
The reason the Spirit is going to have to complete the revelation is that the disciples, in the short time remaining, in their troubled state of mind, could not handle what Jesus still had to say. If you think of all that was written later – the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, the book of Revelation – you realize that Jesus could not have completed the teaching in the time the Father gave him. So there had to be another source, and that source was the Holy Spirit. He guided the apostles into all this truth.
But in all this the Spirit did not, does not, act on his own. Just as the Son only does what he sees the Father doing, so the Spirit only says what the Son is saying: “He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears.” In doing so he will bring glory to Jesus “by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” In the Godhead, the Father initiates all that will happen, the Son carries it out, and the Spirit communicates it.
In fact, the Holy Spirit is the most self effacing person of the Trinity, constantly taking our attention off ourselves and off him, and placing it on Jesus and the Father. In a sense all true worship is a gift of the Holy Spirit because he is the one who focuses our hearts on the truths of Scripture, on the Father and especially on the Son.
Even though we are not Scripture writers, he continues to guide us into all truth. To the praise of his glory, it is the Holy Spirit at work when you open your Bible in the morning and some verse jumps out and kisses you on the nose. It is the Holy Spirit at work when some passage or some preacher leads you to conviction of sin. It is the Holy Spirit at work when you grieve and the Scriptures are your comfort. It is the Holy Spirit when you question and the Scriptures provide reassurance and faith. It is the Holy Spirit when you are confused and the Scriptures provide guidance.
But of course his ministry doesn’t end there. The Statement of Faith says “He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.” We don’t have time to explore every work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We’ll just touch on a few.
One of his most precious ministries is the ministry of intercession. Put simply, he helps us with our prayers. Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” In the hard moments of life, when we don’t know what to think or say, the Spirit helps.
Another wonderful ministry of the Spirit within us is to strengthen us against sin. Galatians 5:16 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Romans 8:5-6 “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Great promise.
The Spirit is in fact the one who works in us to become like Jesus; he brings forth the fruit of Christlikeness. Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
And finally, it is the Spirit who empowers us to serve others. In 1st Corinthians and other places Paul describes the gifts of the Spirit, given to edify the body: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” The Spirit is the one who ministers in the Body of Christ by means of the gifts that he gives.
It is also the Spirit who empowers us for witness. Jesus promised “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The work of the kingdom,in our homes, churches, communities, or around the world in Africa, the Czech Republic or Slovakia, is impossible without the Holy Spirit who is God with us.
So do you need a comforter? You have one, the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Do you need a counselor and guide? You have one, the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Do you need help and strength? You have it, through the Holy Spirit who empowers. Do you need life peace, joy and assurance? They are yours because God the Holy Spirit is with you. God is present in our world and in our lives through the Holy Spirit.