When I first conceived of our current sermon series in 2019, none of us knew of COVID-19. Indeed, the virus, for all we know, did not exist yet. It certainly was not infecting humans. My intent was to share stories about issues which are affecting us in new and different ways and then point to the one constant in the midst of all that change – Jesus. Thus, the title of the series is Constant in a World of Change. I could have never imagined how much change we would see in 2020.
And, of course, the virus is only one part of that change. The sexual revolution marches on and does so without as much attention right now because the focus is elsewhere. But other changes are happening and will now happen in ways that were inconceivable just a few week ago. Why? Because of an invisible virus called COVID-19.
Of course, the virus is not really invisible, but it does take a microscope to see it. However, the invisible force of the virus is not the most powerful, yet unseen force right now. No, that title belongs to the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is still present. He is still active. And He is still providing hope for all who know Him. We talked a little about the Holy Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus a couple of months ago. Today, I will discuss His ongoing role for us.
The Holy Spirit Comforts Us (John 14.16)
When Jesus knew He was leaving the earth, He knew His followers would need comfort. The ESV uses the term Helper. But another word could be Counselor (John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7).
Counselors do not bring comfort; they help us find comfort. Their words can help us understand our troubles, they can provide possible solutions, and they can guide us along a path. But the counselor himself or herself does not bring comfort. Our response to a counselor is what brings comfort.
The same is true for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us find comfort which is truly found in peace – a peace offered by God the Father, promised by the Son, and fulfilled by the Spirit. Many people say they believe in Jesus but have no peace. That is, they cannot find comfort. If we are truly born again, and do have the Spirit within them, the Spirit (or Counselor as Jesus calls Him) gives us the ability to find peace, but we must choose to receive the help and guidance.
In the context of John, Jesus was speaking not only of the lasting comfort that the Spirit would provide, he meant the comfort His disciples would need soon. Jesus was about to depart and when He did, the Counselor would come (John 16.7). But Jesus HAD to depart for the Counselor to come. Jesus knew His disciples (i.e. His friends) would be devastated at His leaving. But He promised them a Counselor (a Comforter) who would comfort them, if only they would allow it.
The Holy Spirit Lives in Us (John 14.16-17)
Jesus first introduces this idea of a Helper (Counselor) in John 14. He says that His disciples already know this Helper and He knows them. Specifically, in verse 17, Jesus says that “He dwells with you, and will be in you.”
The Holy Spirit was upon Jesus. We see this in a literal sense in Matthew 3 when the Spirit descends as a dove after Jesus is baptized. But it is through the Spirit that Jesus does what He does. And so, the disciples having seen and known Jesus already know the Holy Spirit, even if they cannot see Him.
But Jesus says it is more than knowing. The Spirit will be within them. Therefore, He will be with them all the time, whereas Jesus was not – at least not with all of them all of the time. But the Spirit would be.
And it is because of the Spirit that we can abide with Jesus. John 15.1-7 talk about the need to abide with Jesus. In a physical sense, that may have been possible for the disciples, but it is not for us. But Jesus did not mean physically. He meant a spiritual intimacy. And that intimacy with Jesus, that is, with God, is possible because of the Holy Spirit. We can abide with God even though we are not physically with God because the Spirit is within us just as it would be for His first disciples, if we truly believe in God.
But the Spirit is within us for more than intimacy. He is there for three more reasons which I will cover quickly.
The Holy Spirit Teaches Us (John 14.26)
We need to spend time with God to be taught. God wants to teach us and does so through His Spirit. During our current situation, it is not hard to imagine a teacher showing up to teach but not having any students. That could often be true of God. God has much to teach us, but if we are unable or unwilling to receive His teaching then we are poor students. Now, we must be willing, but the Spirit makes us able. And the ability He gives us is to understand the truth. Not my truth or your truth, but His truth which is THE TRUTH.
John 14.26 says that the Spirit was to teach the disciples what they needed to know, including reminding them of what Jesus taught. That is, in part, how we have the gospels, and how and why the Bible was written. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 and 2 Peter 1.21 both talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in writing the Scripture and the 2 Timothy verses share how Scripture can help us.
Much more can be said, and should be, but I want to spend just a minute talking about the difference between guilt and shame. Most of us know when we have done something wrong. If we are Christians, we might be struck with guilt. That is the Holy Spirit. We feel guilty, or a better word is convicted because we have violated what God desires for us and for others. But shame is not from God. Shame is feeling unworthy. Shame is what others make you feel. The devil wants us to feel shame – to feel unworthy, to feel unloved, especially by God. Guilt on the other hand is the realization we have done something wrong, and with the teaching of the Spirit, we can respond and have a chance to grow. Shame will not bring growth. Guilt can.
The Holy Spirit Testifies to Us and Through Us (John 15.26-27)
In John 15, Jesus speaks of abiding, but then He says that they disciples need to know more about Him. They need to further realize the truth of who Jesus is. That is a part of the teaching that the Spirit will do. He will “bear witness” about Jesus. He will make it clear who Jesus is. He will make it clear what Jesus did. And then the Spirit will use us to tell others.
Honestly, this is one of the key understandings of the Holy Spirit. If we do not desire to tell others about Jesus, then we may not have the Spirit within us. Now, let me be clear. I am not attempting to shame you if you do not share. I am not saying that “you should be ashamed of yourself.” I am certainly not saying that God does not love you if you do not share. If you hear that voice, it is not mine, and it certainly is not God’s. It is of the devil as I said in my last point.
But you may feel convicted. And as I just stated in the previous point, that is good. That means the Holy Spirit is pushing you, teaching you, to want to do that. If we have the greatest gift God could give (salvation through Jesus Christ), then we should want to share. That is what Jesus said to His disciples on that last night He was with the before He was crucified. And it is what He says to us – not only through the words of the Bible, but through the testimony of the Spirit.
The reality is that we can all share more than we do. We can all testify more than we do. So, if you feel guilty about not testifying, thank God for that guilt. But then, do something about it. Testify.
The Holy Spirit Empowers Us
And we can testify not only because Jesus said that the Spirit will testify through us, but because He empowers us. But He not only empowers us to understand God’s teachings, He also empowers to live our life free from sin. We talked about this topic a little this past Wednesday night in our Bible study.
Romans 8.2-17 talks about the freedom we have in Jesus because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (If you want more on that topic, I invite you to watch the video from last Wednesday night’s Bible study on the church’s YouTube channel. Go to Youtube.com and type in Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri – Missouri is important because we are not the only Fairfax, think Fairfax, VA).
A part of the breaking free from that bondage is found in Galatians 5. The chapter begins with the declaration that Christ set us free so we could truly be free. Beginning in verse 16, Paul wrote about the distinction between those who live according the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. The desires are very different. And the desires of the Spirit are to honor and glorify God. Specifically, we do that by showing fruit in our lives. And the fruit that comes from the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).
This fruit was so evident in the life of Jesus, and it is meant to be evident in our life as well. We cannot grow that fruit ourselves. It is the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit comes when we allow Him to plant Himself into us and allow Him to cultivate us to allow it to grow. It is then that the fruit becomes evident. It is then that the fruit becomes mature. And it is mature fruit that helps not only us, but others.
So, the Holy Spirit live in us to comfort us, to teach us, to testify to us, to testify through us, and to empower us. But only if we believe – that is, if we are born again.
The Creed says, I believe in the Holy Spirit. But are these just words to you, or are they a way of life?
If they are simply words, you will live your life the way you always have which is exactly the way that you desire to live. Sure, you may feel ashamed of yourself and your lifestyle, but you will not change because you do not have the power to change yourself.
But if those words are a way of life, then you will be empowered to change. Sometimes the change will be slow. At other times, it may be so fast you will feel your head spinning. You will still make mistakes, and thus you will still feel convicted, but you will use that conviction as an opportunity to grow. Your fruit will grow. Your relationship with Jesus will grow. And that is all possible (and only possible) because of the Holy Spirit.