Walking with Christ is hard work. It demands diligence, focus, devotion, and determination. Most of us are working at our faith. We are trying to live God’s way, serve each other, represent Him well. But much of the time we find ourselves weary, worn out, and feeling alone. It is with this reality in mind that Jesus gives us some helpful news. He tells us about the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Paraclete (literally, the one called alongside). . . and I think Eugene Peterson is appropriate in calling the Holy Spirit “the Friend”. He is the friend, the companion, the helper we’ve always longed for.
Max Lucado likens the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives to a guy who wants to learn to dance. This fellow is a rational, intelligent sort, so he goes to the bookstore and buys a how-to book. He takes it home and starts reading. He carefully does everything it says. When the instructions say sway, he sways. When the instructions say lean, he leans. When the instructions say spin, he spins. He even cuts out paper footprints and arranges them on the family room floor so he will know exactly where to step.
At last, he thinks he’s got it down pat. He calls his wife in and says, “Honey, watch!” With book in hand and reading aloud so she’ll know he’s done his homework, he follows the instructions step by step. It says, “Take one step with your right foot.” So he takes one step with his right foot. Then it says, “Turn slowly to the left.” He turns slowly to the left.” He keeps it up, reading and then dancing, reading and dancing, through the whole thing.
Then he collapses exhausted on the sofa and says to his wife, “What do you think? I executed it perfectly!” To which she replies, “You executed it all right. You killed it!”
The befuddled husband says, “But I followed the rules, I laid out the pattern, I did everything the book said…”
“But,” she sighs, “you forgot the most important part–the music!”
She pops a tape into the stereo. “Try it again. Quit worrying about the steps and just follow the music.” She holds out her hand, and he gets up and takes it. The music starts, and the next thing the guy knows he’s dancing–without the book!
Lucado observes: “We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music. We master the doctrine, outline the chapters, memorize the dispensations, debate the rules, and stiffly step down the dance floor of life with no music in our hearts. Dancing with no music is tough stuff. Jesus knew that. For that reason, on the night before His death He introduced the disciples to the song maker of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.” [A Gentle Thunder by Max Lucado. Word Publishing, 1995. Pages 67-68.]
The Holy Spirit has come to Awaken Those Spiritually Dead
He Shows us who we really are rather than what we pretend to be
We can preach against sin all we want to, we can confront people with the inconsistency of their lives, and lovingly try to show them their lostness . . .but without God’s Spirit, we will only irritate people. It takes God’s Spirit to peel away the fascade of a human life so they can see clearly the bankrupt nature of their heart.
A good illustration of this would be at the time of King David. When Nathan the prophet says “You are the man!” David’s eyes were pried open to the sinfulness of His behavior.
Like David, we have turned away from the One who loved us before the creation of the world. We have also turned away from the one who came to give His life on our behalf. David’s sin was horrible . . . ours is worse.
He opens Our Eyes as to the Real Nature of Christ
God’s Spirit doesn’t only reveal who we really are . . . He shows us who Christ really is. Most people believe Jesus was a fine man . . . a good teacher. . . .a model for what we want to be. But God’s Spirit helps us see that Christ as the only one who has lived the way He should. We come to understand that Jesus is the only One who deserves to “go to the Father.” God’s Spirit helps us see Jesus as: God dwelling with men. This understanding is supernatural in origin.
He opens Our Eyes to our Need for a Savior
God’s Spirit makes us aware of how deserving we are of condemnation. As we look at our rebellion and Christ’s perfection we see how far we fall from the standard. We come to realize that if God is Holy He must judge those who rebel against Him. If God is Good, He must confront those who do evil.
At this point the Spirit enables us to see why Christ came. It is only when we see that we are drowning that we come to truly appreciate the Life Guard. God’s Spirit helps us see that our only hope is for Christ to stand in our place . . . to pay our penalty . . . to apply His goodness to our account. We cannot find eternal life until we see the truth about ourselves, Christ and Judgment.
It’s my hope that everyone who reads these words are doing so because God’s Spirit has awakened you. I trust that you have seen the horror of your own lives and the beauty of God’s act of providing someone to “pay our debt”. It is not enough just to see . . . we must respond. If you have seen, what have you done about it? Have you taken God’s gift? Have you asked Him to forgive You and to lead you in your life? If not, then I hope you will do so right now. If so, then you already appreciate the wonderful work God’s Spirit has done in your life.
The Holy Spirit Has Come to Help God’s Children
If you have made a sincere decision to receive Christ’s sacrifice for your sin and have declared your willingness to follow Him as your Master and Leader, then God’s Spirit lives in you. There is no subsequent experience necessary. God has placed His Spirit in your life. God lives in You!
1 Cor. 12:13 -For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
2 Cor. 1:21-22- Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Gal. 3:2-3 – “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” [We have God’s Spirit not because of an experience we’ve had. . . but because of our faith]
Eph. 1:13,14 – And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.
The Spirit Comforts and Encourages Believers
Jesus knew that His disciples were sorrowful at the thought of His departure. He tells them not to be in sorrow but to rejoice because something great was about to take place. In His earthly body Jesus could only be in one place at one time. He could only focus on one need at a time. He could only hear one question at a time. Now, He was going to send one who would be attentive to our hearts and lives every moment of every day.
Every one of us longs for someone who will be there
- when we are unjustly criticized
- when other “so-called” friends jump ship
- when those you had depended on let you down
- when those you thought would understand, don’t
- We look for one who will help us through the dark times of life
- We yearn for one who would calm our anxious hearts
- We are all looking for a REAL friend.
That one we are looking for has come in the person of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit Helps Us Understand What is True
Jesus tells us that the Spirit “will guide you into all truth.” How does He do this? He does it first of all by REMINDING US of the truth we have heard. The reason we have the Gospels is not because the disciples followed Jesus with tape recorders and notebooks writing down everything He said. We have the gospels because God’s Spirit brought the words and deeds of Christ to their memory as they wrote about Him.
Has that ever happened to you? You might be talking to a friend when just the right verse of Scripture pops into your head. You wonder how you remembered that verse (or insight you were taught) at that time. It’s simple – God’s Spirit.
Jesus leads us to the truth when He REVEALS what the Bible is saying. The disciples didn’t understand half of the things Jesus was talking about as He spoke to the crowds. Later however, after God’s Spirit was given, they came to understand the parables, the miracles, the deep teachings. And I suspect you know what that’s like too.
Have you ever been reading the Bible, or listened to a message and had a verse (that you had read dozens of time) suddenly jump off the page and speak to you with a clarity you had never seen before? That’s the Spirit revealing the truth to You.
God’s Spirit leads us to the truth by giving us DISCERNMENT. The Holy Spirit helps us see the danger in some of the things others are saying. You may be listening to a teacher or even a friend and suddenly there are alarms going off in your head. Something isn’t ringing true. You ask whether you are reacting to something just because it is different than what you had previously held to. You decide that’s not the reason. Something isn’t right. You back away. That’s God’s Spirit helping you see the difference between truth and error.
God’s Spirit also helps us understand the truth by GIVING US INSIGHT INTO OTHER PEOPLE. God’s Spirit makes us alert to things we normally wouldn’t see. It may be a person’s potential. It may be the packet of hurt that they keep hidden beneath the surface. It may be the fear that causes them to build a wall of protection around them. Whatever it is, the Spirit helps you see the very thing that will help you love and minister to a person that most people have written off as hopeless.
The Spirit guides us in the Future (v. 13)
Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit will “tell you what is to come.”
The Holy Spirit gave John, Peter, Paul specific insights as to future happenings as they wrote about the second coming of Christ, the Judgment and the world thinking of our present society. 1 Timothy 4 reads like a description of our contemporary world.
But, God’s Spirit does not only show us the future in a prophetic sense . . .He tells us what is to come in a practical sense. He guides us in our DECISION MAKING. God’s Spirit gives us guidance when it comes to practical matters. In Acts 15 the Spirit brought peace to a troubled church as they had to adjust their style of ministry to reach a new group of people. The Spirit also helps us:
- in the selection of a college
- Choosing a job
- Finding a Mate
- Making Investments
and a whole host of other decisions for our life.
The Holy Spirit prepares us for the future by cultivating Christ-like characteristics in our lives. (Gal. 5:22,23) And He equips us for the future with Enhanced abilities (spiritual gifts) to do what needs to be done.
We have no fear of facing the future . . . God promises His Spirit will guide us and equip us.
An Important Question
If all of these things are true? Why do we lack the Spirit’s power in our lives? Do we need to have an “experience”? Do we need to speak in tongues, fall over in a faint, bark like dogs or laugh uncontrollably? I don’t think so. What is more, I see no instruction that these things are needed. In fact, Jesus warns us that the Spirit’s chief characteristic is that He will “bring glory to Christ.” Any movement that is seeking to “glorify the Spirit” is not a movement of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit always puts Christ in the spotlight. Discern.
But this does not answer the question: where is the power of God’s Spirit in our lives? There are no commands to seek a particular experience we do see are some specific instruction:
Gal. 5:16 – So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Gal. 5:25 – Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Eph. 4:32-34 – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [How do we keep from grieving Him?] Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Eph. 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
What do these commands teach us?
We are to Cooperate With God’s Spirit
We must act on what the Spirit reveals and prompts us to do. We must open the channels of communication. God’s Spirit will guide us . . .but we must listen.
My parents live near O Hare airport in Chicago. You can stand on the back porch and count plane after plane coming in to land at the airport. They are a couple of miles from the airport but you can hear the jets clearly. But do you know what? After you are there for awhile you don’t hear the jets at all. It’s not because the noise isn’t there . . . you’ve just tuned it out. That’s what has happened to too many believers. We have silenced the Spirit’s whispers so many times that we don’t hear them any longer.
Dwight Moody once illustrated this truth as follows: “Tell me,” he said to his audience, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man said, “Suck it out with a pump.” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After many impossible suggestions, Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to show that victory in the Christian life is not by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but rather by being filled with the Spirit
If we want the vitality of God’s Spirit in our life, if we want to “dance with the music” then we have to listen. We have to obey when
- we are prompted to turn from wrong behavior
- we are “moved” to talk to someone about the Savior
- when we sense a need to visit someone
- when you sense God’s call to serve in a certain capacity
- when we feel overwhelmed by a mountainous task
In these times we must truth God’s Spirit enough to walk forward in obedience. As we respond to the Spirit His power will be freed to work through us.
Do you understand how we have been guilty of trying to “dance without music”? In our attempts to share the gospel with others we spend too much time “trying to convince” someone and too little time seeking the Spirit’s convincing power. We need to keep talking but we must remember that only God can change a human heart. Our first step should be to prayer. Is there someone who has been resistant to the gospel in your life? Are you asking God to work through His Spirit in their lives?
Do you understand that when it comes to guidance all the “weighing of options”, seeking of counsel, reading books cannot yield the degree of guidance that comes from seeking God in the Bible and in prayer. God’s Spirit will lead us if we allow Him to. Are you facing a big decision? Have you asked for God’s help?
Do you understand that even in those times when you feel all alone . . . you’re not? God has promised to stand with you in the person of His Spirit. It’s time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start rejoicing in God’s Spirit who testifies of your great inheritance in Christ.
Is it possible, my friend that you have God’s Spirit “locked” away in a corner of your life some place? Are you trying to combat the world, the flesh and the Devil in your own strength? It’s time to stop being foolish. It’s time to let God help you. It’s time to trust His Spirit that He has planted in you. It’s time to realize that you have a friend who will never let you down. It’s time to turn up the music.