The Gift of CompanionshipPastor Lutzer | September 16, 2012
Selected highlights from this sermon
The Holy Spirit is not only with us, He is in us.
When we sin, He is grieved. When we think that no one cares, He comforts us. When we can’t pray because our circumstances are so dark, He prays on our behalf.
With the Holy Spirit as our permanent companion, our past has been forgiven and cleansed, our future is sealed, so there’s nothing to fear in the present.
Can we just take a moment and bow together in prayer?
Our Father, we ask in the name of Jesus that every person listening to this message might by Your grace have an open heart. Draw those who feel distant from You into the inner circle of Your love and fellowship. For those, Father, who may feel distracted because of what happened this week, we pray for a special focus, a special interest. Overcome, Father, all reluctance to hear what You have to say, and then make us obedient to whatever we hear. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Let me begin today by asking you a question: What do you think of when the phrase Holy Spirit comes to mind? What are you thinking about? Do you think of the Holy Spirit as some kind of a force, like electricity, or some kind of an impersonal force that maybe gives you guidance, but there’s very little intimacy or connection?
The first time I ever experienced a GPS was in Germany about ten years ago when Rebecca and I were there visiting our daughter and son-in-law. He was in the military, and they had a car with a GPS. Now it spoke English and not German, for which we were very grateful, and here I found myself driving along, taking orders from a woman I had never met before (laughter) and she was telling me where to turn, and how many yards it was to the next exit. But then we came to a certain place where she said, “Turn around,” and we just kept driving and then at the next opportunity she said, “Turn around.” I thought she was going to say, “You idiot, turn around.” (laughter) But there was no way that we could really communicate with her. We couldn’t tell her that the place where she told us to turn was under construction. There was really no personal element in that kind of leading. It was all one way and no connection with a personality, even though she, of course, was a person.
Do you think of the Holy Spirit like that? Or do you think of the Holy Spirit of God as a companion, which is of course the subject of today’s message, that you know that the Holy Spirit of God is with you and beside you and in you, and that Christ is there, as we are going to learn as a result of His work?
Now when the disciples were on earth they, of course, had Jesus with them physically, and we like to think about how wonderful it would be if we could have been there at Galilee when Jesus was actually there, when he was walking on the water, when he was multiplying bread. Today when you go to Israel everybody wants to say that they were where Jesus walked. There aren’t many places that we can say with authority Jesus was here. But on the south side of Jerusalem there are some stairs that were uncovered a number of years ago by archeologists and they are the first century stairs leading up to the Temple area. There’s no question that if you walk there you can say, “Jesus walked here.”
So what did some of us do? We walked up and down every one of those steps. Up and down! We wanted to say, “We walked where Jesus walked.” We think, “What a privilege.” Do you know what Jesus would say to us? He’d say, “You don’t have it right at all.”
“It is good for you,” He said to the disciples, “that I go away because if I don’t go away I can’t send the Holy Spirit, and the benefits of the Spirit being sent to My people far outweigh My physical presence here on earth,” for reasons that will become clear in just a moment.
So today you and I have the privilege that even the disciples only entered into after the Spirit came at Pentecost. What a marvelous opportunity and privilege that is given to us.
Our text today is John 14 where Jesus is speaking to the disciples, and trying to comfort them in light of the fact that He was going away, and would die on the cross. And eventually they had to live without His physical presence, so He’s trying to give them some hope and telling them that the benefits of His leaving were wonderful indeed. John 14:15 says, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments, and I will ask the Father and He will give you another helper.”
Now I want to pause right there and say that the Greek word that I’m sure you’ve heard is paraclete (paracletos). Para means next to and caleto means to call. It is indeed a helper. It is a companion, somebody who is called alongside of somebody else who is in desperate straits, and the paraclete comes along as a helper. Jesus is saying, “When I leave I am going to send you another helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot see because it neither receives Him or knows Him, but you know Him for He dwells with you, and will be in you.
Wow! It’s time to pause for just a moment and catch our breath. When Jesus says, “I am going to send you another helper,” in English we have a word for another and it’s kind of a standard word that is used in many different situations. I may say, “I have given you a pen,” and then I can say, “I gave you another pen,” even though that pen may be quite different, its shape and size and everything else, than the previous one. So there would be a word for that. I’m giving you another pen. It means a different one. It’s not the word that Jesus used here. When he said, “I will give you another helper,” the word that is used is “one like Me, one who is identical to Me because He is going to represent Me now and manifest Me to you.”
I sometimes used to say that the Holy Spirit is the substitute for Jesus in Jesus Christ’s departure and absence. That is not quite right. I want to correct that nuance and say that it’s not as if the Holy Spirit substitutes for Jesus. It is that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings Jesus to us during this time when Jesus is gone. That’s why the words that the choir just sang are so appropriate. “Christ with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside.” Wow! Biblical in every respect because it is now the Spirit that brings Jesus to us so that Jesus at the Great Commission can say, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel, and lo, I am with you until the end of the age.” How is He with us? By the ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit of God!
Now why was it for our advantage that Jesus went away? What’s the advantage? Well, when He was here on earth physically He could be in one place at one time only. Even after He was raised from the dead and was given this glorious body He could travel from Galilee to Jerusalem in a split second, but He couldn’t be in both places at the same time. So He’s going to be with His people. If He is going to be with his people in Thailand and Morocco and Egypt and Iran and Iraq, because God does have His people even in those countries, if He’s going to be with His people all around the world, there’s only one way He can do it, and that is by His Holy Spirit. And so the Spirit is the one who brings Jesus beside us while He is absent from us physically.
Now someday, of course, we’ll see Him physically, and we’ll even see His nail prints, but for now He sends the Spirit and says, “I am with you no matter where you are on this planet.”
So, that’s one advantage. The other advantage is simply this: “The Spirit is with you,” Jesus said, you’ll notice in the last part of verse 17, “but He will be in you.” In the Old Testament the Spirit came upon people, sometimes left people, gave them the ability to do marvelous things, but so far as we know the people of God were not universally indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That’s a new ministry of the Spirit–when the Spirit comes.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, I don’t understand all this terminology. Wasn’t the Holy Spirit always here?” Of course, the Holy Spirit is always here because the Holy Spirit is God, so He was here in the Old Testament, He was here before the Day of Pentecost, but what Jesus is saying (and my, how important this is, and how it deserves fuller elucidation) in the Day of Pentecost is that now a whole new era–we call it a new dispensation–has come. And that means that rather than people just being in a land (the Jewish race with all of the revelation from God), now that is being spread around the world, and so now we have a new era called the Era of the Church. And with that new era God says the Holy Spirit is going to have a brand new ministry. He’s going to be around you, next to you, beside you, but also in you. That’s why we titled this series of messages When the Spirit Has His Way – Recapturing the Wonder of God Within You. Wow! If we could recapture that, we’ll have accomplished something.
Now what I’d like to do is to help you to understand this word paraclete, and in order for us to understand it, it is variously translated and with good reason. God used a word that has many different ways and aspects and meanings because God said He’s going to be everything that you need in any situation. “I’m sending you the Spirit–the paraclete.”
First of all, the main meaning of the word means advocate. He’s an advocate. You know, it says in Romans 8, and I’ll just read it to you, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.” Do you feel weak today? Do you feel powerless? Do you feel as if you are being unheard, unappreciated, like you don’t matter? Well, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses for we don’t know how to pray for ourselves. He helps us in our weaknesses. He helps us to pray. The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, and 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. There are times in our life that are so dark, that are so puzzling, that are so grievous, that we do not know how to pray. We have nothing to say to God, and the Spirit prays on our behalf.
Rebecca and I know a couple whose son committed murder, and a book has been written about it so it’s no great secret, but I remember the mother saying that when that call came very early in the morning while they were asleep, she rolled on the floor. And she was there on the floor and she couldn’t get up for a long time. What do you say to God now? Is there anything to say? Groanings too deep for words, and the Holy Spirit who is an advocate, prays, and out of the dust and the ashes of that terrible experience, believe it or not, many wonderful things have happened. Their son who is in prison today is leading Bible studies, leading people to Christ. It’s an amazing story if you can get the total picture, but there are times that are too dark for us, and the Spirit says, “In your weakness I am here for you.”
The Spirit even helps us when we sin. He doesn’t help us to sin, let me be very clear. But when we sin, what does the Spirit do? He is grieved. In fact, we’ll have an entire message in this series on the grief of the Spirit, but what does the Spirit do? The Spirit points us to Jesus because the Bible says He shall not speak of Himself, but what He has heard from Christ He shall speak. And Jesus said, “He’s going to glorify Me,” because Jesus deserves the glory and the glorification, and He’s going to point people to Christ, and that’s something that we can be assured of.
There was a man who was walking through the desert, and he didn’t have a compass, but he had a homing pigeon on a long string. And every once in a while he just let the pigeon loose and it would circle for a while and then it would head in the right direction, and that’s the way he knew that he was on the right trail. That’s what the Holy Spirit always does. The minute you become intimate with the Holy Spirit, Jesus is glorified. He’ll always point you to Scripture. He’ll always point you to Jesus. That’s His work and so the Spirit is our advocate.
You may feel today so broken in spirit. Can I encourage you? If you’re a believer in Jesus (and the Holy Spirit is limited to believers in Jesus Christ, those who are converted), you’ll notice that Jesus said the world can’t receive Him, so in the world there are plenty of other spirits, but they are false spirits. The Holy Spirit is given to those who believe in Jesus and trust Him as their Savior. So He is indeed an advocate.
The Spirit is also a comforter. Isn’t this beautiful? Maybe you came to this service today not expecting to be blessed. Well, get over it. Get blessed, would you please? (laughter) You’ll notice Jesus says in verse 18, “I will not leave you as orphans. I’ll come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more [Indeed He’s going to die, be resurrected, and go to heaven]. But you’ll see me.”
I think I should say it right here. Sometimes we confuse the visible with the real and think that if something isn’t visible it isn’t real. Jesus is invisible but He’s just as real as if He were standing beside us on the Lake of Galilee. That’s the whole point. That’s why I want you to develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit–His companionship. “I will not leave you as orphans. I’ll come to you and yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you’ll see Me, and because I live, you’ll also live. In that day you’ll know that [and notice the beauty of this] I am in My Father, you in Me, and I in you.” Can you get any closer than that? The answer of course is no. He says, “I won’t leave you orphans.”
This past week, despite my self-imposed busyness, I just thought to myself, “What would it be like to be an orphan?” Now some of you can identify with that, and thank God for all the orphan ministries, and we think, for example, of “As Our Own” in India that we help support. But I would think first of all I’d feel very abandoned, as if, you know, I’m just left. Jesus said, “I’m not going to leave you that way. I’m not going to walk out on you and say, ‘Well, now do the best you can because your “parent” (and I’m putting parent in quotes)-because Jesus is gone.’”
“No, no, no, I will come to you,” Jesus said, “by the Holy Spirit of God, and you have to realize that I’m not going to abandon you. I’m going to be with you.” So, I think one of the feelings I would have is abandonment.
I think another feeling I would have is, what shall we say, a sense of worthlessness. I would feel as if I don’t really matter. Why would I matter to anybody? If my parents abandoned me they must consider me worthless. I say to you today, my dear Christian friend, those of you have received Christ and have the Holy Spirit, you matter to God. You matter to God so much that look at what Jesus said. He’s just piling one blessing upon another. He says in verse 23 I think it is, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word. My Father will love him and We [all because of the Trinity–you can’t understand this without the Trinity] will come to him, I and the Father and the Spirit, and We will make our home with him.”
God says, “Those people out there who abandoned you and think that you are worthless and of no account, just know that that’s not the way I consider you. To Me you are so valuable that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, thanks to the Trinity, is going to not only dwell beside you, but He is going to dwell within you.” And be encouraged because the Holy Spirit of God is the comforter. He’s the comforter and He will not leave you an orphan.
Now a part of this of course is that we need the body of Jesus Christ. Of course we need other people beside us and who care about us. And that all becomes a whole emphasis later on in the New Testament, but when you go back to that lonely apartment and think that nobody cares, the Holy Spirit of God goes with you and is beside you and in you for fellowship and for companionship. Will you remember that? God says, “I am with you. I am not going to leave you as orphans.”
Something else that the Holy Spirit does is He is our teacher. That’s what the paraclete does. Four times, by the way, Jesus uses the word paraclete–twice in this chapter. We read the first time, and now we come to the second time in verse 25: “These things I have spoken unto you while I am still with you. But the Helper [There’s the word], 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.”
The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible. The Bible says in 2 Peter 1 that holy men of God spoke as they were moved and carried along by the Holy Spirit, so that we hold in our Bible the word of God. And the words are important. That’s why we believe in verbal inspiration. You can’t just have ideas that are inspired, because if you use the wrong words you get a different idea. So the Holy Spirit of God was there in the inspiration of the Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit is also necessary in what we call the illumination- that is, within our minds to be able to grasp spiritual truth. The Holy Spirit of God is the teacher. I don’t believe He teaches us anything new but that which is already in the Bible, but He illuminates it. He makes it clear to us.
Now there are folks on television that will tell you they are getting all these revelations. I don’t want to chase a rabbit trail on this, but I need to caution you that many of these revelations are obvious. You wouldn’t have needed a revelation from God. I’ve seen instances when the revelations are snatches of Scripture. So read the Bible, and you get that revelation. Some revelations are anti-biblical, and some (I say this humbly but perhaps more forcefully than I should) are just plain silly, and yet they are being called revelations from God.
I really urge you to stick with the Scriptures because what Jesus was saying is the Holy Spirit will bring to mind the things that have happened here. Those will be written down. After all, John was there, and Peter was there, and the other Apostles, and they would have a clear memory as to what happened, and the New Testament would be composed later. He will be, however, your teacher, and He is the one that illuminates the mind also for us to grasp spiritual truth. The Bible says the natural person, that is, the person who doesn’t know Christ as Savior, who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, reads the Bible and says, “You know, I have to tell you that I’ve tried to read it and it makes no sense to me. There’s no way I can really put it together,” and he just closes it and says “This isn’t a book for me.”
Now I know that the Bible can be very complicated, especially if you begin in the book of Genesis and end in Leviticus, as everybody does when they are keeping their New Year’s resolutions (laughter), but they can even read the New Testament and simply not get it.
Now I’m going to preach another message in this series on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever, drawing them to Christ. That’s why it’s so important for you to hear these messages together, but I’ll tell you, apart from the Holy Spirit of God you can be sitting on a pile of diamonds and think that it is coal. You can be exposed to the most glorious truth that could ever engulf the human mind or imagination. You can have that happen and still not get it because there are some things that are spiritually understood and the enlightening of the mind in relationship to the Scriptures is absolutely essential. And when I preach on that topic in the future I’ll give you some examples of how the Gospel has been preached to some people. It has been clarified and they still don’t get it, because only the Spirit can bring the conviction and quicken the mind so that they grasp it. And that’s why it’s so important that whether we teach in a Sunday school or a TMC community or whatever it may be, we always depend on the Holy Spirit.
When I am sitting up here before I stand in this pulpit, what do you think I am thinking about? I’m not trying to figure out if I remember the sermon, though that hopefully happens before I come here, but what I’m saying is “I depend on the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, if you don’t show up in this message it is a lost cause, a wasted effort,” because only the Spirit can open our minds and show us the truth that we need to know.
Now there’s something else that the Spirit does, and that is because of His work in us and through us: He is our peace giver. See, that’s why Jesus can say in verse 27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives do give I to you. Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.” What a glorious promise that really deserves a message of its own, but I’m going to give you only a very brief exposition of it.
“Peace I leave with you.” Notice first of all, Jesus said, “I’m giving you My peace.” Could you imagine those words on the lips of somebody else? Freud, you know, was the great psychoanalyst, trying to help people with all of their guilt and all of their problems. Could you imagine Freud saying to a client, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives give I unto you. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.” Wow, would that ever be comforting–Freud’s peace.
Jesus can say that, because Jesus Christ is God and He can speak with authority about the kind of peace that He gives us. So Jesus here says, “Peace I leave with you.” What kind of peace? Peace, first of all, with God. Here’s a verse of Scripture that I hope will grip the heart of many a person. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And we have access to the Father as a result of it. “So therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God.” That takes care of our past. The past is over because our relationship with God has been redeemed and restored and we can rejoice in that. By the way, can all those of you who are listening to this message say that you are at peace with God, and you know it because your relationship with God has been restored? It only happens through Jesus.
So that takes care of the past. It also takes care of the future, doesn’t it? I mean, now let’s clarify. This peace doesn’t mean that you won’t have sorrow. Of course you are going to have sorrow when somebody dies or because of a wayward child. But the Bible says that we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. It’s a different kind of sorrow. There is a peace that is connected with the sorrow, and that can happen.
I failed to mention earlier that this past week the mother of Donnita Travis (who is the executive director of By the Hand Clubs) with whom she had a very close relationship, went home to heaven. So it’s hard, but it’s not overwhelmingly hard because there is a peace. They shall see each other again, and we can say that with confidence. And it’s not the kind of peace that means that you will not ever be harassed, treated unjustly, or even put to death. After all, this is Christ’s peace, and look at what they did to Him. Think of what He went through with all the mockery and the hatred and the betrayal and the pain. But here is the point. Whether your fear today is an economic fear, a health fear, a fear because of the future, terrorist fear because of what is happening in the world, whatever that fear is, the fact is that if your past has been taken care of and you have a relationship with God that has been restored through Jesus, and your future is absolutely secure so that you know that when you die you’ll go to be with Christ, what then actually is it that you and I fear? Anything in between those two things can’t be that great.
That’s why Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body,” and after that they run out of ideas–there’s nothing more they can do, “but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” How is that communicated? It’s communicated through the Holy Spirit of God.
I hope that you understand that my burden today in speaking about this is, as we give you some bottom lines here, first of all that I want all of us to develop what we can call a Christ consciousness, or we could say Spirit consciousness in our life so that we always are aware that the Spirit is with us, in us, behind us (as we sang about Christ) because He does communicate Christ to us in Christ’s absence. So when you walk down the street, when you are harassed at work, when things don’t go your way, and the world is difficult and people betray you, that you always know that it is happening in the presence of the Spirit who knows all about it. By the way, have you ever realized that we don’t really have to explain anything to Jesus? We spend a lot of time praying, explaining it to Him, and saying, “Jesus, did You get that, or do I have to go over this again?” He knows, He knows, He knows, and He is beside you and in you. I want you to develop that Christ consciousness.
This past weekend I was also on a retreat. Don’t ask me about my schedule this past week. And the question was asked, “Why is it that if we have the Holy Spirit of God, we have so few evidences of His fruit–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance?” The answer is this: It’s not automatic. It’s not that the Holy Spirit comes and says, “Okay, I’m here to take over and I just want you to get in line.” It’s not that. The Spirit is sensitive. That’s why He’s likened unto a dove, and unless there is a time in our life when we die to ourselves, the Spirit is grieved, and
He really can’t exercise everything within us that He would desire to do. And I pointed out that during the days when archeologists were excavating the pyramids, they discovered that there was grain buried with the mummies (with the Pharaohs) that was 4,000 years old–right? 2,000 years before the coming of Christ, and 2,000 years since that time. It seems to me that that is about 4,000 years old, or is it 6,000? I guess math isn’t my strength because I always say, “As long as I’m right 90% of the time, who cares about the other 5%?) I think 4,000 years before Christ, the pyramids were built. I’m not sure now whether it’s two or four. Take your pick. (laughter) Could I simply say this? The grain was very old. Can we agree on that? The grain was very old. It was a couple of thousand years old at least, taken out of the darkness, planted in soil with water and sunlight, and it grew. For a few thousand years, however many you think, that life was bound up in the grain with no expression of it. Jesus said, “Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone.”
You see, as long as it is about our agenda, what we want to do, the bitterness that we want to hang on to, the lifestyle that we want to live no matter what God says, as long as it’s all about that, the Spirit says, “I am with you and in you if you are a believer, but I am not manifesting Christ to you because you have to deal with those issues.” Are you willing today to die to self, and say, “Lord, live in me no matter what?”
May we pray together?
And so what do you have to say to God today? You talk to Him right where you are now in this moment of silence. You talk to God, and you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the issues that you need to deal with so that the Spirit might have His way.
Hear the prayer of Your children, Lord, and also hear the prayer of those who aren’t Your children who are crying up to You for help and for forgiveness. Let the Spirit have His way among us, and answer all the prayers of Your people offered in this moment. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.