What practical difference does Jesus sending the Holy Spirit make to you day by day? How would you answer that question?
Without the Holy Spirit we wouldn’t be saved. We wouldn’t know who Jesus was. Wouldn’t have a Bible or be able to understand it or enjoy any relationship with God. We wouldn’t be able to grow in holiness, or pray, or experience unity in our church family, or be able to serve one another with the gifts he gives, or have any confidence in sharing the good news of Jesus with those who don’t yet follow him. And our future would be uncertain not full of hope and joyful expectation.
Disciples rely on the Holy Spirit to make our relationship with Jesus a possibility and a reality. And so we need to understand his role and how we cooperate with him if we want to know joy and grow as we follow Jesus.
God is a Tri-unity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons, all equally divine, utterly united in love and purpose. All 3 working together in perfect harmony in every aspect of their cosmic scale plan of salvation.
As followers of Jesus the Holy Spirit and his work is vital in our trusting, knowing, growing, loving and enjoying Jesus. This morning we’re going to look at a few ways the Holy Spirit is vital for our following Jesus, but really we’re just skimming stones across the surface of a deep lake, there’s so much more to explore and in so much more depth.
Turn to John 16. Where we see:
The Holy Spirit delights in bringing people to love, follow, worship, and obey Jesus
As Jesus teaches his disciples – with his arrest, trial and death imminent – he warns them that they’ll face opposition. And then he says something mind-blowing that sucked all hope from them. He tells them(4-6) that he’s going away, but (7)“very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away…” How can it be for their good? How can it be better for them that Jesus goes away when they’re about to face opposition, isolation and even death?
Listen to what he says next; “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go away, I will send him to you.”
Can you imagine the disciples shock; how is this better? Don’t we sometimes echo that thought ourselves? That following Jesus would be easier if he was here, if he was bodily with us, if I could just see him, ask him, talk to him, listen to him, learn from him. But, Jesus says, it’s better for the 12, and therefore for us, that he ascends into heaven and sends the Holy Spirit. Let’s explore how and why as Jesus teaches.
Firstly the Spirit’s coming is for their good because the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus(15v26-7). Jesus promises his disciples a helper, a truth teller, who will testify about Jesus as he gives them the task of testifying about him. The Spirit testifies that from eternity past this has been the Triune God’s plan, Father. And from womb to tomb to throne the Spirit has been Jesus’ constant companion. And as the disciples testify about Jesus the Spirit will testify with them and through them. The Holy Spirit is like a floodlight lighting up Jesus, witnessing to him, shining a light on him and empowering them to do the same.
Secondly it’s for their good because the Holy Spirit convicts and converts(8-11). The Spirit will prove the world wrong in it’s thinking about sin, righteousness and judgement. Sin as we saw with the children is living life saying Shove off God, I’m in charge, not you! And that means we reject Jesus(9) God’s answer to our sin. The Holy Spirit will convict people of their rebellion in rejecting Jesus as he opens their eyes to who Jesus is and the sheer depth of their sin. And that human righteousness falls far short of God’s demands (10)and of the truth that Jesus will return to judge and they have sided against him and with Satan who stands condemned(11).
We see the Holy Spirit do exactly that in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost. The risen and ascended Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit on his people who testify that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Messiah.” How do the people react? They’re convicted, “cut to the heart”, that they rejected Jesus, failed to be righteous and stand opposed to God and face judgement and eternal separation from God. They cry out “What shall we do?” That’s a supernatural miraculous act of the Spirit. He convicts and converts as 3,000 repent and trust Jesus for salvation, become disciples and join the church.
The Spirit convicts and converts, he brings new life, as Jesus tells Nicodemus “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born by water and the Spirit.” The Spirit has been doing that work ever since Pentecost, every believer you read of in Acts is born again by the Spirit, convicted of their sin and rejection of Jesus and converted as they repent and turn to follow him. You and I, if we’re followers of Jesus, have experienced that work of the Spirit in our lives. We’ve been convicted and converted. We ought to praise God for the work of the Spirit in our lives. Without him we’d be lost and unable to be saved. Do you see why it’s good that Jesus goes and sends the Spirit?
And practically that means we must pray for the Spirit to be at work in the lives of those around us who don’t know Jesus yet. We ought to be praying that God by his Spirit would be convicting them of their failed righteousness, danger of judgement and need of Jesus. We can and must work hard to live and speak the gospel – and the Spirit testifies as we testify – but salvation is a miraculous work of God by the Spirit showing people their sin and Jesus as Saviour, and so we must pray.
Thirdly the Spirit inspires and illuminates scripture(12-13). Jesus knows that the disciples are reeling from everything he’s telling them. From the recasting of the Passover meal as being about his death, to Judas leaving, to this bombshell that he’s going away and they face persecution. They stand on the threshold of the darkest night as Jesus is arrested, tried and tomorrow will be condemned and crucified. Jesus is leaving and there’s still so much they don’t understand(12).
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Don’t you love Jesus compassion, his tender care, his knowledge of and respect for their limits. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” Back in ch14v26 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” He repeats that here.
Context matters here. Jesus is speaking specifically to the twelve. The Holy Spirit will help them remember everything Jesus has said to them. He’ll guide them into all truth. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to write down what they saw, heard and witnessed. So that every Christian that followed them could see, hear and know Jesus just as the disciples had. All the bible is God breathed, it is God’s word through the Holy Spirit, God speaking to us.
As we read it we see Jesus. Think of the Bible like a stained glass window showing us Jesus. The Holy Spirit inspired and spoke through the Apostles and prophets to produce the picture of Jesus so we can see him. And now, as we look at that window, the Holy Spirit is like the sun shining through that window to bring it to life for us. Illuminating the window so that we can see and know Jesus.
(14-15)Father, Son and Spirit are all at work in the inspiration of scripture and the Spirit is now at work showing us Jesus. The Bible isn’t just a book, but God’s word active by the spirit so we can see Jesus. That means as we read our bible we ought to praise God and be thankful that we have God’s word. And pray for the Spirit to be at work to show us Christ. If we want to know Jesus more we explore the Bible where God the Spirit speaks to us, illuminating Jesus.
The Holy Spirit delights in bringing people to love, follow, worship, and obey Jesus, that is how you spot the Spirit at work. He does it as he convicts us of sin and shows us who Jesus is and leads us to repent and follow him. He’s at work as he testifies about Jesus as he inspires the Apostles to write the Bible and as he illuminates scripture for us, and all so that we can know Jesus.
Do you want to know and grow as a follower of Jesus? The good news is we haven’t missed out on knowing Jesus, the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus so we can know Jesus. We don’t have a second hand experience as we open our Bible. We can hear him speak, see him in action, hear him teach, as we pick it up and read at home, in church in or gospel group. And the Spirit is at work in us to make Jesus real to us. The question is, will we pick up our Bible, will we set time aside to listen? Will we believe Jesus words “it is for your good…”?
The Holy Spirit is integral to our following Jesus not just in convicting and converting or inspiring and illuminating the Bible. But in our being transformed to be more like Jesus as we grow to love him more.