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Fifth Sunday of Easter
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, May 3, 2015

The Spirit of Truth Inside You

TEXT: John 14:15-21

When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, there is one promise that He brought up several times. That was His promise to send the Holy Spirit. We heard this in today’s reading from John’s Gospel. There is so much to say about the Holy Spirit that it would take many sermons to even begin to do Him justice. But let’s make a start by looking closely at this passage. Jesus said,

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, ....

Notice the conditional nature of this promise. “If you love me....” The Holy Spirit is not for everybody. You will remember that on Pentecost, Peter preached from the scriptures and said that in the latter days, the Lord will pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. (Acts 2:17, quoting Joel 2:28-32) And the scripture spoke of signs and wonders and prophecies, and people coming to know the Lord in great numbers. But the fact that God’s Holy Spirit is moving throughout the world doesn’t mean that He has taken up residence in every person. This is what Jesus means when He says, I will ask the Father, and He will give you the Spirit of truth, if you love me and keep my commandments. Jesus was promising was a special gift for His disciples—both those who loved and served Him then, and those who love and serve Him today.

Jesus said in verse 14 that the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. “You will see me,” He said, “but the world will see me no more.” When He spoke of “the world,” He was referring to the great mass of people who do not believe that He is the Son of God who came to save them from sin and death. They cannot receive the Spirit of truth. He may speak to them and shake them up. He may even draw them to Himself. But until they come to know Him and believe in Him and trust Him and surrender to Him, the Spirit of truth will not come to dwell in them.

You may look up at the beautiful night sky that we see so clearly in our area. You will see the moon, and the constellations and the planets, and maybe a comet or a meteor; and you will be filled with awe and wonder at the work of God’s hand. Jjoy will well up in your heart, and you will proclaim, “God is. God is the Creator. He is majestic. He is the God of eternity. He is the God of the Universe!”

And another person will be standing right there looking up with you and think, “Wow, isn’t it amazing how all this came about totally spontaneously. It almost looks like somebody worked all this out, but of course we know that isn’t true.”

We have had three great answers to the prayers of our prayer chain this week. Emails have been going around saying how great God is to hear our prayers. But others would hear these three stories and say, “Doris and Bill are just benefitting from fluctuations in blood chemistry. The fact that Lou’s eye turned out not to be cancerous is just a matter of chance.”

What is it that makes you see the hand of God with such clarity and certainty? It is the Spirit of truth dwelling within you, which the Father has sent you. Romans chapter 1 tells us is that what may be known about God has been made plain to everyone. (Romans 1:19) It says that God has made it plain.

Primitive cultures are not atheistic. They may not have met Jesus yet, but they see what God has made plain to them. Most people in the world would say that the notion that there is no Creator is preposterous. I read about a recent study that showed that American children under 8 years old naturally see the divine as explaining why things happen. They have a natural tendency to see the hand of God until they get reeducated by the vain philosophies of this world.

Romans explains that those who do not see what God has made plain about Himself have suppressed the truth. (Romans 1:18) It says they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:25) And so, they worship created things in place of the Creator. It has always been thus.

All of that is what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.

One of the themes the Gospel of John pounds home to us is that God wants us to know the truth. The word “know” in all its forms, appears 101 times in John’s Gospel, almost always on the lips of Jesus. And the word “truth” appears 52 times in the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. God wants us to know the truth. And that is why, as Jesus was about to leave this earth, He encouraged the disciples with this promise. An incredible gift awaited them. After He left, the Father would send the Spirit of truth, to be with them forever.

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a “Helper.” “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper who will be with you forever.” (John 14:16) “Helper” happens to be the word the English Standard Version uses for the original Greek word, parakletos. Other versions use other names to try and capture this concept, such as “Comforter” and “Advocate.” Some English Bibles have coined the word “Paraclete.” The reason for the different words is that there is no exact translation. In common usage at the time of Jesus, the term parakletos referred to several different things. They all had to do with someone appointed to come alongside a person and help them with what they need.

• If they needed someone with knowledge and influence to plead their case, the paraclete could do that. Hence, “advocate.”

• If they were grieving or afraid or sick or in trouble, the paraclete would comfort them. Hence,”comforter.”

But the Bible uses the term even more broadly and richly. For Jesus said, another paraclete. What He was saying was, the Father will send you one like me, to be with you always and to do the things that I have been doing for you.

• And so, Jesus was a comforter—“Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

• He was a teacher. They called Him Rabbi. They gathered around to hear everything He had to say. They were amazed, because He preached with authority.

• Jesus was a healer.

• Jesus was a reconciler.

• He forgave sins.

• He performed signs and wonders.

• And He stands as our advocate before the throne of God when we are judged for our sins.

• And He is, at the same time, our judge.

Jesus was all those things. And what Jesus was saying is that when I am not here in the body anymore, I will be here in the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send to you. And He said that it was good that He should go away, so that He could be present with them in this new way. (John 16:7) For in this new presence of God, the Holy Spirit dwells right inside us.

• He doesn’t just walk alongside us.

• He doesn’t just stand before us.

• He doesn’t just carry us.

• He doesn’t just speak for us.

• He doesn’t just whisper to us.

He lives right inside us. He is as close to us as the blood running through our veins and the brainwaves running through our cerebral cortex and the retina in our eye. “You will know Him, Jesus said, “for He dwells in you and will be in you.” (John 14:17)

So what difference does all this make? Well, we have a lot of places to look. We have the amazing stories in the Book of Acts. We have Christian lives down through history. And we have our own experience of the Holy Spirit.

Here are just a few of the things the Book of Acts tells us the Holy Spirit did:

• On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak in other languages. (Acts 2:4)

• He gave Peter the ability to preach with power and bring 3000 people to faith in Christ that one day. (Acts 4:8)

• The Holy Spirit gave the disciples boldness. (Acts 4:31)

• He made the early Church one in heart and mind. (Acts 4:32)

• He enabled them to preach with power to convert. (Acts 6:10)

• He gave Stephen the eyes to see heaven open, and the courage to face martyrdom. (Acts 7:55-60)

• He showed Peter that the Gospel was for the gentiles as well as the Jews. (Acts 10:19ff)

• He guided the disciples to send Paul and Barnabas on the first mission. (Acts 13:2)

• He guided the Jerusalem Council on the matter of ritual laws for the Gentiles. (Acts 15:28)

• He showed Paul where to go on his missions, and prevented him from going to Asia. (Acts 16:6-7)

• He let Paul know he would be taken into custody in Jerusalem, but gave him the courage to go there anyway. (Acts 20:22-23)

• And He guided them in the selection of their leaders. (Acts 20:28)

In all these instances, the scripture is explicit that it was the work of the Holy Spirit.

• And don’t you know that the Holy Spirit was at work in Martin Luther when he posted his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg?

• And wasn’t the Holy Spirit at work in William Tyndale when he violated the law by translating the Bible into English for the first time?

• Don’t you know that the Holy Spirit was the one who “strangely warmed” John Wesley when his whole ministry became about God’s love?

• The Holy Spirit was in George Whitefield when his preaching sparked the Great Awakening in the American colonies.

• The Holy Spirit was working in Bill Bright when he started Campus Crusade, and in Billy Graham when he preached his first tent crusade in Los Angeles.

• He was working in Rita Bennett when she first started doing healing ministry,

The Spirit of truth is God’s presence in us and at work in the lives of those who love the Lord and keep His commandments.

How did this congregation become a people of prayer? It happened about nine or ten years ago when the Holy Spirit spoke separately to four of our members. Each came to me with the same message. The five of us went to lunch, and out of that came our prayer chain, our altar rail ministries and our intercessors group.

The Holy Spirit was the founder of our Christian Worldview Institute. One day about five years ago, He touched Jan Beckett’s heart and gave her an interest in Christian Apologetics. It was a brand new subject to her. She came to see me, and all I could think to tell her was to start reading everything she could on the subject. Eventually that grew into a discussion group that met once a week to talk about topics like:

• How to answer atheists who say there is no God

• How to defend Jesus’ claim that He is the only way to the Father

• How to talk about why God allows evil in the world

• How to address claims that science and faith are incompatible

What has come out of that is amazing. We now have the Christian Worldview Institute, which has presented three courses to over 60 people on the reasonableness of the Christian faith and the Biblical worldview. We have presented a course on Islam, which many of you attended this winter. And many have asked if we are doing it again. We are preparing to present it again in the Fall in the Kilmarnock area.

We have learned that 75-80% of Christian youth lose their faith when they go to college. It happens because they are not trained in Christian apologetics. And this Summer we are kicking off an after-school club for senior high students to prepare them for what they will face when they leave home for college or jobs.

The Spirit of Truth has put all this together. He knew that the two biggest issues facing Christians today are the modern-day challenges to the Biblical worldview and the aggressive expansion of Islam.

I could tell you stories like that about our neighborhood evangelism program, our partnership with Uganda, and our new neighborhood care groups. And the next thing the Holy Spirit is already working on is the healing ministry that we will one day offer to the community.

God has big plans for Light of Christ Anglican Church. That is why He has guided us through the rough waters of these past dozen years. He has big plans for us. And we are up to the task, because it isn’t our own strength and our own creativity that will make it happen. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

This great gift that the Father has sent us through the request of the Son is there because:

• He loves us.

• He has called us according to His purpose.

• He has blessed us to be partners with Him in His awesome work.

• He knows that without Him we are completely helpless and lost.

• And He delights in giving us His truth, His power, His encouragement, His comfort and His help.

• And He cares very deeply about “the world,” all those out there who do not know Him, and need to be saved.

The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and is a close to us as the breath in our lungs, the blood in our veins and the signals in our brain. And He is the One who moves us toward the fulfillment of His mission for us.

So the message He has sent me here with today is that we ought to expect that He is going to do all those things in our lives.

• He is going to open our eyes to the truth.

• He is going to deepen our understanding of His Word.

• He is going to show us the way forward as we seek to fulfill His mission.

• He is going to give us the courage and the trust in Him for every next step.

• And He is going to do miracles that will surprise and delight us, and will draw many other people to Him.

Expect Him.

Welcome Him.

Celebrate Him.

Count on Him.

© Jeffrey O. Cerar 2015

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