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Sermon - March 8, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1202

March 8, 2015                                                                                                John 14:15-27

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Christ Alongside”

 

1)            Soaking our Souls in the Gospels

 

 

I so enjoyed reading about soaking our souls in the gospels that I thought I would spend a few Sundays specifically in the gospels for the purpose of getting to know Jesus a little bit better.  Today I have selected Jesus in the final discourse with his disciples in John’s gospel. 

 

2)Holy Spirit – Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Companion, Friend, One to stand by you, Christ alongside

 

 

The particular focus is on Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He is sometimes called Advocate, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, Companion, Friend, the one to stand by you, so I chose to focus upon Christ alongside us. 

 

3)God with us

 

            We know this truth from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life in the Christmas story.  The name Immanuel means “God with us” and signifies a particular characteristic of Jesus.  But often we think of Immanuel and its connection with the birth narrative as pertaining to his earthly life.  The name Immanuel is perhaps most often equated with his earthly presence – his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  We may not think about “God with Us” as including the life of God with us beyond Jesus’ physical presence on the earth.  The promise of God with us is not limited to the person of Jesus Christ for God has made this promise all the way back to the Old Testament and is promised long after Jesus ascended into heaven. 

            God has been with his people from the Old Testament, really since the beginning of creation.  God is with us in the Old Testament, perhaps we might broadly think about God the Father.  Secondly God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ.  And then God is with us through the Holy Spirit.  When we think about the way God has been present, a burning bush, a pillar of fire, the many promises of presence.  Then in Jesus we have the presence of God in human form and in John 14 he has been telling the disciples that he would one day be gone from them, but the promise he makes is that he would not leave them orphaned.  When we consider the term “orphaned” we are mindful of the parent/child relationship.  I will not abandon you.  Jesus is going away, but God will send another to be with them.  Jesus has been with them for three years and he has told them of his departure.  With the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains with the disciples in a new way of presence. 

 

4)Old Testament Promises of Presence

a.Deuteronomy 31:8

b.Psalm 139:5

 

 

            Let’s look at the some of the promises of the Old Testament.  One such promise is Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Joshua was about to take over things for Moses.  The only time we need fear is if we thought God could abandon us.  That would certainly be reason for fear.  But we are promises over and over that God will not forsake, will not abandon.  And even if there is a hint of abandonment it is so short that it is perhaps inconceivable.  The lament Psalms complain about abandonment, the most famous is Psalm 22, “Why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus quotes this Psalm while on the cross.  What is interesting about Psalm 22 is that halfway through the Psalm, God has restored the Psalmist.  God delivers us from abandonment.   “I will not leave you orphaned.”  There is no time when God will completely abandon us. 

 

 

Consider Psalm 139: 5, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”  It is not just a promise that God will be with us, but it implies there is nowhere we can go to escape God.  When we walk out these doors today, God goes with us.  We heard from this Psalm last Sunday about how God knows us and we come to know God.  God, in verse 5, is before us, after us, around us, there is nowhere we can God where God is not.  “Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”  We cannot hide from the Lord.  We cannot hide in darkness, can’t go to your room and lock the door, for God is there.  We cannot leave God’s presence. 

 

            The promise of God’s presence has always been active.  To Abraham, to Moses, to Joshua, and to so many people of faith – we see this continuing pattern of God with them. 

 

 

5)Promise of Continued Presence  - John 14

a.Present

 

Let’s now turn to John 14, Jesus says in verse 16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”  This is the same promise given in the Old Testament.  This is the promise given in the name Immanuel.  God is present with us, now the presence is known through the Holy Spirit.    If you have ever been in a place where you were working to do something on your own and you get stuck or you can’t figure something out and someone comes along to help us, then you know something of what it is like to have a helper.  God is such a helper.  We are never really alone trying to do anything because God is always with us.  The Holy Spirit has come alongside us.  This is the promise of presence. 

 

b.Truth

 

The next term Jesus uses about the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.  Jesus said of himself that he is the way and the truth and the life.  Now he calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth.  We are constantly trying to find out the truth about things.  We watch the news and sometimes we see things and wonder if these things could really be true.  But more than that, more than just trying to determine what is true and what is false, we are searching for THE truth.  We know the truth is Jesus.  He is not just telling us about things that are true, he does do that, but he himself is the truth.  He is the measure against which all things are determined.  Everything he says, everything he teaches, everything he gives is the truth by which we live. 

The world wants to tell us to live by other measures.  One such measure is that seeing is believing.  Things invisible have no bearing on this life, that is, the world wants to take Jesus completely out of the equation.  In the world’s point of view Jesus has no influence.  Seeing is quite difficult in today’s world.  Photoshop has made seeing a fantasy.  If you have ever seen pictures on the internet that seem so incredible, most often they are.  Some websites present pictures and then question if they are real or fake.  It is often very difficult to tell. 

Then there are the people, some in politics, who believe that if a lie is said long enough and repeated over and over it will eventually be trusted as truth.  Or the experts who tell us one day that eggs are bad for us and two weeks later another expert tells us that eggs are good for us.  What is true, or more to the point, what is truth?  Jesus Christ is the Truth and God has sent us the Spirit of Truth.

 

c.Teacher

 

The next identifying characteristic of the Holy Spirit is that of a teacher, verse 26, “he will teach you all things.”  God, in the Spirit, teaches us.  I think back to my favorite teachers from elementary school and beyond.  A favorite fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes.  Eighth grade it was Miss Postell.  Dr. Cousar in seminary.  There were many others.  All of them taught me something memorable and, even more, they taught in a way that made learning important.  They taught me how to think and made learning fun or impressed me about a subject.  Think back to your teachers, the people you respected and looked up to. 

The Spirit is far above any earthly teacher we have ever had, teaching us to discern all things, to have a biblical perspective about life, to walk in the ways of God, and to love.  And the Holy Spirit as teacher is forever teaching us.  We will never learn everything the Spirit has to offer.  I remember when I asked one of my professors to sign one of his books for me and I had taken every course he offered and he said, “You will know everything I have to teach by the time you graduate.”  That was close to being true, I guess, but we cannot exhaust the knowledge of the Holy Spirit. 

 

d.Remembrance

 

The fourth identifier is this, “he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  This is partly how I think the New Testament was put together, the Spirit inspired these people to remember everything Jesus told them – his teachings, his parables, his sermons, his miracle stories, and so forth.  I think God has been at work to bring this sermon today, to bring back to my memory the scriptures mentioned here today.  I think about what John 14 is saying and God starts filling my mind with related passages.  He does it even now as some things will pop into my head that I may not have remembered before.  I have always trusted this verse to help me and to help you remember verses and truths from scripture.  What a great promise!  And yet, we are deeply concerned about memory loss.  The older we get the more we tend to forget things.  Many people can only remember hymns or Bible verses when they get older but may not be able to remember their own family members.  I thing the Spirit calls us to remember for them and thus to pray for them. 

 

6)Promise Fulfilled – Acts 1

a.Commanded through the Holy Spirit vs. 2

 

One last concern for us this morning is how Jesus transitioned between his physical presence and the sending of the Holy Spirit.  Look at Acts 1:2, I had not really seen this verse this way until this week. 

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

 

The disciples had received commands through the Spirit implying that Jesus was not with them, but the Spirit gave them commandments.  Perhaps this was one of the times when the Spirit was bringing things to their remembrance.   Jesus communicated through the Holy Spirit in his absence and he also appeared to them in his body after the resurrection.  He was present sometimes in Spirit and sometimes in body. 

 

b.Immersed in the Holy Spirit

 

In Acts 2:4 they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.  They were, on that day, immersed in the Spirit.  They were soaked in the Spirit.  They were engulfed by the Spirit.  They spoke in tongues and everyone could hear the gospel in their own language.  Peter preached the first sermon after that about Jesus Christ.  I believe the Spirit was certainly at work bringing all things to Peter’s memory. 

We acknowledge being soaked in the Spirit at baptism.  Water symbolizes that we have been soaked in God’s presence and gospel.

 

c.Life in the Holy Spirit

 

The last section is about life in the Spirit.  We have been promised the Spirit and the Spirit has been sent and now we are called to live in the Spirit.

 

 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

 

            Live by the Spirit because the Holy Spirit is God present with us in Jesus Christ.  Walk by the Spirit.  This is God’s Spirit in and around us, soaking us in the gospel of Christ and the history of God with his people.  God is with us, rising and sleeping, coming and going, The Spirit is always at work in us, interceding for us, teaching us, comforting us, counseling us, befriending us, loving us, guiding us – that is, God is with us always in the Holy Spirit.  Soak yourself is that knowledge and in that reality.  We can take great courage and great faith and great comfort and all things in this awareness that Jesus is with us in his Spirit.  When we face the problems of our lives and the problems of this world we can know that “greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  That is God’s promise and that is good news.