Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1357
July 1, 2018 John 14.15-27
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“Relating to the Holy Spirit”
Relating in Our Choices
I have been preaching on friendship with the Lord and specifically friendship with God the Father, God the Son, and today, God the Holy Spirit. Each share commonalities but they also differ in the same way that the roles of Father, Son, and Spirit differ. We relate as friends in that all three are fully God and we relate differently in that the Father, Son, and Spirit are known to us in different roles. It is about as difficult to express this relational aspect as it is to express the Trinity itself, but we are giving it a try!
I used the text of Psalm 25 to begin our journey in this friendship and spoke of being rightly related to God through trust and obedience. I also raised the issue of God’s constant presence as a “haunting” presence, that is to say that we have this abiding consciousness of God. Last Sunday I spoke a friendship with Jesus Christ, which on the surface looks easier to understand as Jesus called the disciples friends and thus has called us his friends. Jesus came as a human and we can relate to that in a familiar way. This friendship also includes certain characteristic like obedience, as well as, joy and love. I shared the hospitality of Jesus when we abide in Him.
I want to go back to Psalm 25 in dealing with our friendship with the Holy Spirit in 25:12. Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. In this Psalm we see the way of growing into God by the Spirit that the Scripture not only guides our choices, but eventually makes our choices second nature. The Spirit instructs us in the way we should choose. We come to a point where we do not have to think twice about what to do or what is God’s will or what is right. Now, this is not to say that we are always right. Not to say that we never choose wrongly, but to say that in the Holy Spirit we are moving toward a way of living and thinking and choosing that is totally instructed in the ways of God. I want to emphasize this thought over our time this morning, that it is the Spirit who is a friend who instructs and leads and guides among many other things. Let’s first look at how we relate to the Holy Spirit.
Relating in Friendship
When we begin a new friendship with someone, we start to learn things about one another. Friendships are begun with common interests and common thoughts or ways of thinking. It is why people enjoy one another, because we are more alike than different. We can easily deal with someone who doesn’t like broccoli even if we do, but we struggle to understand people of different political views. It helps to shape congregations of like minded people in this day and age, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, we think a bit differently on certain topics and we are more at home among those who think like us. But friendships also challenge our thinking and our likes and dislikes. Friendships help to shape us most certainly in our early years. Older adults help to shape our ideas and likes and as we grow older we tend to shape the younger generations, at least a little bit, we hope!
This is especially true in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The last two Sundays we have seen how we can relate to the Father and the Son as friends and the same holds true for the relationship we share in God’s Spirit. But we recognize there are distinct differences in the concept of relating to the Father and to the Son and even more strange to us is relating to the Spirit. Perhaps it helps us to see how the distinctive roles of the Trinity work in our lives. In salvation, for instance, the Father sends the Son, the Son obeys the Father, and the Spirit completes the work. Look at John 16:7-11, 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
It is the Spirit who works in us for conviction of sin and producing righteousness and discerning judgment. It is the Spirit who builds on what we know from Jesus’ teachings and life and work in His death and resurrection. I think of the Spirit as that “burning in the heart” that the two disciples experienced when Jesus opened the Scriptures to them on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). The Spirit is that still small voice, that whisper of truth where we hear the Lord in our hearts and minds (1 Kings 19:11-12). The Spirit is that intuition that tells us something is right or wrong. The Spirit is how Jesus keeps His promise to be with us to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). The Spirit is that constant Helper, Companion, Consciousness, and Friend. The Spirit intercedes on our behalf, like a friend would intercede for us in a time of need. Look at Romans 8, 26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
These verses are sometimes missed because we want to rush to verse 28 where all things work together for good...but how incredible that the Holy Spirit is praying for us when we do not know how to pray and does so according to God’s will. You cannot get anymore powerful than that. Our closest friendship is actually with the Holy Spirit because that is how Christ now dwells in us. Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 2.20 does not say this directly but we know from the sending of the Spirit that this is the case, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. We know that it is not Jesus’ physical presence that lives within us, it is by the Holy Spirit. Our friend God is known to us through the Holy Spirit who is also known to us as God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit has made His home in us, therefore, God has made His home in us.
The Spirit at Home
John 14.23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
The Spirit of Truth has made His home in our hearts...here abides the Lord. Here abides Father, Son, and Spirit.
This reminds me of Genesis and the creation narrative, let us make humanity in our image. It is the same kind of understanding of God creating humanity in the image of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The “we” who will come to make “our” home with us is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is by the Spirit that God makes His home with us. It is by the Spirit that the Son makes His home with us. Remember last Sabbath we spoke of John 15:9 when Jesus says to abide in his love. Abide is the concept of at home, staying in the dwelling place of love. That is the same thought here in John 14, God at home with us.
The apostle Paul says it this way (1 Corinthians 6.19-20), Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. John reveals a similar thought in Revelation 3.20... Jesus is speaking, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. We will sit around the table of fellowship, the kitchen table of the home, and eat together.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to contemplate the heart, the center of our being as the home of the Spirit is an incredible mystery, incredible recognition, incredible conviction, and incredible life guiding realization. The Spirit resides in us and we reside in the Spirit. The Spirit is at home in us and we at home in the Spirit. I’ll leave this point resting here and let us think about that one for the rest of the day!
The Spirit as Teacher
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14.26).
Friends are often our teachers. I’ve learned many things from friends, from their learning, from their experiences that differ from mine, and from their commitment to our friendship. This particular verse became important in my early walk with Jesus. One of my deepest desires after becoming a believer was to know the Scriptures. When I first came across this passage in John, I remember trusting, or laying claim, to this truth that the Holy Spirit would teach me and bring to remembrance what Jesus said. I’ve believed that my entire Christian life. I do not lose confidence in this when my senior moments come and go. I’ve been amazed at what the Spirit brings to mind. Some might limit what Jesus is saying here to what the disciples needed to know to write the gospels or letters or for preaching and teaching, but I lay claim to it for all believers. And when our minds do fail us, others take on the responsibility to remember for them.
I went back through the Scriptures to see some of the places where it speaks of our being taught.
Psalm 86.11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. There are eleven references to God teaching us His Word in Psalm 119. The Lord taught people like Moses and Jeremiah what they were to say. The teaching of the Holy Spirit has a specific purpose. The ultimate goal in this friendship is our sanctification.
John 17:14-19 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
We are being sanctified in truth, that is, brought to a particular purity of heart and mind, made whole and perfect and set apart. We teach in the reformed faith that we are justified in Christ. We are made right with God in Jesus Christ. In the Holy Spirit we are sanctified. This is the on-going work of sanctification. We are being taught day by day what it means to follow Jesus and to walk in the Spirit.
Jot down these texts to go back to later….
1 Thess. 5.23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thess. 4:1-8 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Perhaps this is a text that many churches and denominations should reclaim in our sexual immorality. It is certainly a text for our culture.
Romans 6:19, 22-23 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification... But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
It is the role of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. He is our teacher. He sets us apart. He works the will of God in us.
Peace in the Spirit
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14.27).
With the presence of the Holy Spirit there is peace. There is shalom. There is wholeness. There is no need for fear or troubled hearts. Turn with me to Romans 8:5-8 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
To be a friend of the Holy Spirit is to set our minds on the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. Isn’t this what we do with friends, we set our minds on them? We think about them and pray for them and seek to spend time with them. To set our minds on the Spirit is to walk in His ways, God’s ways, to welcome the Spirit into our home (life), to abide in the Word, to worship in spirit and truth, to bear the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5.22-23). It is to become spiritually aware, Spirit-filled, and Spirit led.
Ultimately this peace enables us to live with untroubled hearts, fearless in the face of all that is fearful. Because the Spirit is our friend and dwells within us, we can look upon the things of the world and keep our heads. We can discern what is truth from what is fake. We can know perfect peace in the midst of chaos and lack of civility. I imagine Jesus telling us through the Holy Spirit that we are His and therefore we are at peace. I imagine the Spirit reminding us of Jesus’ prayer that He will sanctify us in His truth, the Holy Scriptures. We are set apart in the Word of God, by the Spirit, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Spirit we are friends of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let us strive to grow in this friendship that we might be a friend (neighbor) to all in whom we come in contact, that they too might become a friend of God. Amen.