Another Councellor John 14 v15-31
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Love & Obedience:
Love is one of the most powerful emotions we have. The actress Joan Crawford once said âLove is a fire but whether it warms your heart or burns your house down, you can never tell!â Love can motivate, give pleasure, hurt even destroy. It can make us do bold, even stupid things. During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiance had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!” As Christians, portrayed in the bible as brides of Christ, who is the Bridegroom, we too have a lover who gives us life because of his sacrifice. We are told that one day the Bridegroom will return and we shall be reunited and honeymoon, so to speak, in heaven. Before the world of political correctness and equality, the marriage ceremony as printed in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, made the bride, not bridegroom, pledge to obey the one they loved!
At the very beginning of today’s passage Jesus tells the disciples “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” I guess many of us have said similar things in our past. For instance, kids might say to their parents “If you really love me you’ll buy that new computer” or a wife might say to her husband “If you really love me you’ll stop going down the pub every night”
Just as important as what Jesus said is what He did not say. Jesus didn’t say, “If you keep my commandments, then you love me” You can’t turn a cause and effect statement around without changing it’s meaning. “If you keep my commandments, then you love me” means that love is produce by obedience or love flows out of obedience. Now how many of you know that just isn’t true?
Anyone that has been zapped by a speed camera or pulled up by the Police and gets a fine and endorsement is likely to be a bit more careful in the future, especially if the lose of their driving licence is threatened. Our obedience to the law doesn’t come about by our love for the policeman who pulled us over or installed the camera. Even if they were nice or handsome like I used to be when in the police! Neither because we necessarily agree with the speed limit set, let’s be fair some are stupid, especially at night on empty motorways! So why do we drive slower? Because we don’t want a fine or endorsement!
What Jesus said was, “if you love me, then you will obey my commandments” In other words, love produces obedience, or obedience to Christ’s command is the result of genuine love. It is possible to obey Jesus’ words, as we would a speed limit, and not love Him, maybe because of fear of God. However it should be impossible to love Him and not obey Him. I say should, because we often hurt the one we love don’t we! I am convinced that the Lord prefers obedience out of love more than out of fear! Would’nt you?
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit but is it for all?: As Christians we often speak about God’s unconditional love, I’ve often preached on it. However on face value reading the first two verses of our reading “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth” it seems that conditions apply! Although God’s love is available for all mankind, as we read on it becomes apparent that the gift of the Counsellor, The Holy Spirit is only available for those who have a love relationship with Jesus. Those who not only know about him, but have invited him to be part of their lives, to indwell within their very body. A Christian with a capital C!
The importance of Calvary: It is abundantly clear that Jesus knew and fully understood he had to take the road to Calvary. Although there wouldn’t be any nasty policeman hiding behind bushes with speed traps, his journey would involve much more pain and punishment than we could ever imagine! If you think the M25 is the road to Hell as portrayed in the record by Chris Rea, it pales into insignificance to the road to Calvary that Christ took!
Not only did he take on the punishment we deserve but paid all the penalties as well. However maybe as Christian drivers we should be a bit more responsible in keeping to speed limits. Although Jesus will be a constant passenger, he won’t pay speeding fines!
Jesus explained to his disciples that unless he went to his death, the Holy Spirit would not be sent. John 16 v7 “But I tell you the truth; It is for your own good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
Holy Spirit a Person not just a power source: Notice here Jesus always refers to the Holy Spirit as a person not just a power source! He speaks of he and him not it! I believe that the Bible clearly shows that the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions and will, characteristics of a person not a thing! For example: He intercedes (Rom 8 v26) He speaks (Acts 8v29, Rom 8v14) He Testifies (John 15v26) He Leads (Acts 8v29) Rom 8 v14) He commands (Acts 16v6-7) He Guides (John 16 v13) He appoints (Acts 20v29) He can be lied to (Acts 5 v3-4) He can be insulted (Heb 10v29) He can be blasphemed (Matt 12 v31-32) not recommended, an unforgivable sin! Each of these acts or emotions are characteristics of people, not of an impersonal force or power, like gravity or magnetism!
Equipping us and our churches: Jesus clearly teaches the importance of us allowing the Holy Spirit to fulfill his role in both our personal lives, and the life of the church. However it seems to me that many people and churches just give lip service. A Church without life – that is without the Holy Spirit – is like a radio without batteries or without a connection to electricity. It could not serve any meaningful purpose, as you would not be able to listen to it. It would only serve as a mere decoration. There is a story of a young man who left home to live on his own. The first thing he did was to buy a refrigerator and stock it up with all his favourite drinks and food. The next morning he opened it and reached for a drink. It was warm and looking in saw that all his favourite food was spoilt. He was really annoyed and called the store to complain. ‘Just open the door and see whether the light comes on?’ the store assistant asked politely. “No it does not” he angrily replied. “Put your ear up close to the fridge and tell me if you can hear the hum of the motor,” the assistant again asked politely? “No” he again replied angrily. “Go to the back and look for the cord and see if it’s plugged into the energy source?” The man realised he had not plugged in the cord and after a long pause he came back to the phone and said “considering the amount I paid for the fridge it should have worked anyway.” The Church without the Holy Spirit is like a fridge without electricity or radio without batteries or electricity. It does not really matter how nice or how expensive the appliance may be it will not work unless it is connected to an energy source.
Who knows what the initials WWJD means? What would Jesus do? Iâve seen quite a few people with WWJD bracelets, and bumper stickers, hats, and t-shirts, especially on my trips to the USA, I know some of you have them here. I can recommend you read the book WWJD. Iâm not against such things and I don’t want to offend anyone, but it seems a bit paradoxical. I guess they help focus our minds on what Jesus would do if he was still here on this earth, and hopefully help us display the fruit of Christianity, the likeness of Christ. Well, I got good news for you folks, Jesus is still here! He is very much here in the form of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to wonder what Jesus would do. We can ask the Holy Spirit what he would do. The Holy Spirit is compared to Jesus, by Jesus himself. The Holy Spirit is necessary to make sure that our knowledge about God is transformed into an experience with God.
Transformation: ILLUSTRATION: Transformed by an Elevator:
A family from a remote area was making their first visit to a big city. They checked in to a grand hotel and stood in amazement at the impressive sight. Leaving the reception desk they came to the elevator entrance. They’d never seen an elevator before, and just stared at it, unable to figure out what it was for. An old lady hobbled towards the elevator and went inside. The door closed. About a minute later, the door opened and out came a stunningly good-looking young woman. Dad couldn’t stop staring. Without turning his head he patted his son’s arm and said, “Go get your mother son”
Wishful thinking eh! Well although the Holy Spirit will not transform your wife, husband or partner into a new younger model, He is in the business of transformation! Having said that, I can remember when I was in the Police Force speaking to an elderly Christian lady who lived on my patch. She knew I was a Christian and one day she confided in me that although she had been a Christian for most of her 78 years she had never experienced God in a personal way like she had heard me and others speak of. I asked her if she would let me pray with her for both physical and spiritual healing, she used a zimmer frame as a stroke had left her paralysed down one side. As I prayed for her, I could see the Holy Spirit at work and before my very eyes wrinkles were disappearing and not only did she appear 10 years younger after prayer but she was given power back to her paralysed parts. As I finished praying for her she became very excited and asked me for some string to tie a knot, something she was unable to do for many years. Having no string, I yanked off my police tie and she tied 10 knots in it. I don’t suggest you try it next time you are pulled up for speeding, but a policeman’s tie is designed to come off, if pulled, without strangling them!
Make no mistake the Holy Spirit is in the transformation business! Although our reading from the NIV calls him the Counsellor, as does the New Living Bible & RSV, other translations refer to him as the helper (Good News & NKJV) the Comforter (KJV & Living Bible) The advocate (NRSV & The New English Bible ) this isn’t a discrepancy! They are all interpretations either passive or actively, translated from the original Greek parakletos which literally means ‘to call beside’. Actively as one who stands by and exhorts or encourages as in Comforter and passively as meaning one called to stand by someone, particularly in a court , though as a friend of the accused rather than a professional pleader, as my Illustrated Bible Dictionary points out.
Whatever we choose to call him, we can rejoice that in him we have someone to turn our darkness into light, our sorrow into gladness, our weakness into strength, if we allow him to do so. That’s the problem! As Jesus says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” REV 4v20. I believe the same is true with The Holy Spirit of Jesus. Although he desires to live within us, that we, our bodies, might be his holy temple, his dwelling place, he won’t kick the door in to get entry. ‘The Englishman’s home is his castle’ goes the saying. Do we find it hard to lower the drawbridge and let the Lord into our very being, or do we either keep him at a distance or allow access to only certain parts? Are we frightened to do so in case we become radical or even charismatic, heaven forbid! Well no not actually, just the opposite, because in heaven we are told that Jesus sits at the right hand of God pouring out in abundant measure blessing and anointing! Don’t panic The Lord doesn’t want us all to be like clones walking around in a trace or roaring like lions or barking like dogs! But he does want us to be open to his anointing to fulfill his purpose in our lives. Yes that can sometimes mean radical action! But wasn’t Jesus a radical!
Spiritual Blindness or resistance: In verse 17 Jesus says “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him” Sadly all of us at times view things from a worldly perspective, even in church. What is one of the most divisive issues in the church today, although I speak generally, I’m sure it has and will apply to St. Chad’s! The movement of the Holy Spirit! The very person sent to unite and bring blessing to God’s people! Sometimes, when the Spirit moves in people’s lives, those around feel uncomfortable. Goodness me, some struggle with open pray, let alone if someone gives a tongue or word of knowledge!
Filled for life: In some circles, especially in the Church of England, some people still go along with the teaching that we are filled with the Holy Spirit at infant baptism and that is the end of the story. Thank God that Paul and the rest of the leadership team realise that this is not the end of the story, there is much more to come! About ten years ago Maggie & I joined another Anglican church which we believed God guided us to. Having just left a lively spirit filled church, we were somewhat dismayed by the sermon the vicar preached at the first evening service we went to. The vicar’s understanding of scripture was that we are all filled with the spirit at baptism, and certainly that was sufficient! At first we though perhaps we had misheard God, how could we possibly worship and serve God there. You know God’s timing is so right isn’t it! I had recently completed my Christian Studies Certificate from St. John’s Nottingham, a well recognised & respected Anglican Theological College. One of the six study units I chose was an in depth study of The Holy Spirit. Although the Vicar & I were like chalk and cheese both in personality and our understanding of certain biblical issues, I must say that we soon began to work well together as we learnt from each other. In fact I must say that to his credit, that vicar supported and encouraged my ministry more than any other past or present. The Holy Spirit had fulfilled one of his roles in uniting chalk and cheese. What did we learn off each other, I don’t have time to give full details but certainly he learnt that we all need a constant infilling of the spirit, because we all leak as someone once put it. For me, I rediscovered that the Holy Spirit is still powerful in the quiet reflective times. It is often in these times The Comforter draws alongside us giving us his peace.
Something New from the Old: A common misconception is that the Spirit first came at Pentecost. Although he did come in power and was revealed in new ways, and was now available to all believers, never forget the Spirit of God was there in the beginning. Genesis 1 v2 “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Jesus himself we are told, called on and was filled with the spirit on more than one occasion. For example after being baptised by John the Baptist and anointed by the Spirit he was led by t into the desert to be tempted at the start of his ministry (Matt 4v1). He cast out demons in the power of the spirit (Matt 12v28) He was given insight as to what others were thinking by the Spirit (Mark 2v8) The Spirit filled him with joy (Luke 10v21) In conclusion we must turn to the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy and again quoted in (Luke 4 v18-19) where Jesus said “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” The proof of the pudding is in the eating! Jesus fulfilled God’s earthly plan to the letter. Jesus by the power of the Spirit gave freedom, preached with authority, healed the sick and brought about the way of salvation in abundance. How stupid would we be to even think we could begin to serve God with out the constant anointing of The Holy Spirit.
I have to ask the question, how much of what we say or do is Spirit inspired? Let us encourage one another to seek Godâs will in our lives and the life of His church. Donât be fearful that if you open yourselves up to the Spiritâs movement you couldnât cope or may be embarrassed. God wants to move us all on, however sometimes it will be at different speeds, the important thing is that we move. Static water soon becomes stagnant.
Illustration: SLOW AND STEADY
The power of the Holy Spirit is not just for salvation, but transformation, a process that might be slow and gradual. The difference might look like this:
You can take ten gallons of petrol and release a tremendous amount of power and energy by just dropping a lighted match into it. It makes a dramatic onetime impact. But there is another way to release the energy in that petrol. Place it in the fuel tank of a new car, designed to get 40 miles to the gallon. The high tech engine will use that ten gallons of petrol to take a person 400 miles or more.
Explosions may be spectacular, but the sustained, controlled burn has staying power. You don’t want to be a flash in the pan, you want to make a difference in this world over time. You want to last for the long haul. You don’t want the Holy Spirit to just save you for heaven, you want Him to use His power to transform your life. You want Him to use you in this world for kingdom purposes.
Finally in verse 26 Jesus tells his disciples the Holy Spirit âwill teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to youâ Why do we remind people of things? So they get done, that action takes place! May we together become a spirit filled church, never forgetting that action speaks louder than words! To close a quote from Ex Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when speaking to a Church of Scotland Assembly some years ago. “Nowhere in the Bible is the word DEMOCRACY mentioned. Ideally, when Christians meet, as Christians, to take counsel together their purpose is not (or should not be) to ascertain which is the mind of the majority but what is the mind of the Holy Spirit – something which may be quite different.” Can you imagine a PCC meeting or similar if all members were in tune with the Holy Spirit, and not speaking their own agendas! Why the meeting would probably be a lot shorter than one of Paulâs sermons!
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ we thank you for taking the road to Calvary not only that we might have the opportunity of Salvation but also that we could receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Forgive us when we have quenched or ignored the Spiritâs prompting in our lives and the life of this church. This very morning as we celebrate Communion and reflect on your sacrifice may we open our hearts and minds to be filled afresh. Lord we give you permission to continue transforming and equipping us for your service, take away any barriers that we have erected, preventing your perfect will for our lives. This I ask in Jesus precious and wonderful name. AMEN