Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 5 of Passion Week part 1: The Gift

This is the day of our Lord Jesus' last supper. There is so much crammed into this last week that it is impossible to look at it all in such a short period with this blog. We haven't touched on the teaching from the widow's offering, or Jesus' explanation of the last days, or a number of other important matters. However, just as this last week is crammed so is the last supper in the upper room with the disciples. Only John gives us a detailed account of what Jesus taught at this meal and there is a lot of it so I am going to address it in two parts. Later today I will look at Jesus' actions, what he did, but this morning I want to consider one thing he promised.

Much of the world cannot understand the Church, the followers of Jesus Christ. Why would we believe in a god when there is no undeniable proof. We know we have undeniable proof but the world cannot see what we are talking about because it takes faith to make that first step. They laugh at this but faith is like receiving a new set of eyes that allows us to see colours and depths that we were never able to perceive before. This new set of eyes is called the Holy Spirit and without him we have nothing of God.

During the last supper in that upper room Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the Holy Spirit to his disciples. It was important that they at least have the knowledge of what was about to happen so that when it did happen they would understand. It is like studying the plans and map of a roller coaster. You can have the knowledge of what it will be like but you don't really understand until you have the experience of riding it. Jesus told his disciples:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18)

This is the proof we have of Jesus but that proof is for our own assurance and comfort when the world comes against us, because the world cannot accept him. How can the world accept what it cannot see or know? The Spirit is our Comforter, assuring us of the presence and promises of Jesus, but he is so much more:

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:25-27) 

The world asks, "How do you know? How can you be sure? Give us proof?" We know because the Spirit teaches us and brings to our mind what it is that Jesus taught and what Jesus did. The only way we can doubt Jesus is if we totally ignore the Holy Spirit who has been sent to empower and equip us for the mission we have in this place.

Jesus left the upper room with his disciples but he continued to teach. At one point he was explaining why the world would hate them and he told them:

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." (John 15:26-27)

We who are in Christ have all experienced this testimony of the Holy Spirit, that moment when suddenly you knew that Jesus was real and he indeed died for our salvation. The Spirit testifies to the truth of all this directly to sinners' hearts. We add our testimony to this as well so that the person has a choice to believe or to walk away. But for that moment the Spirit lifts the veil and speaks the truth to them. And with this truth comes conviction:

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." (John 16:5-11)

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit and without him our conscience is seared and we are left to the depravities of our nature. Man is totally lost without the Creator of heaven and earth. Left to our own we will sink even further into the dark depths of our depraved nature. We are twisted and sick and an enemy of God. But the Holy Spirit has been given so that the light would be held up to reveal the darkness so that we understand the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, the Holy and the common.

Jesus gave one last bit of teaching on the Counselor whom he would be sending to birth the Church:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:12-15) 

It is a big deal that he will guide us into all truth, taking from Jesus and making it known to us. He tells us what is yet to come. We are not meant to be blind in this age but we have eyes to perceive and to understand because of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to stumble around in the dark and guess at what is to come because the Holy Spirit is telling us what is to come.

We act as if we are on our own, having to make this up as we go along, as if we have to come up with the plans. We act as if the Holy Spirit is nothing more than God's presence with us, rubber stamping any plans and ideas we come up with. He is our Counselor, our Guide, Jesus' voice and hand in our lives. He directs us and teaches us and gives to us directly from Jesus. There is no need for us to make wrong turns based on our own limitations. We have no limitations when we are dependant on the Spirit. Somehow I think we have forgotten all of this and acknowledge the existence of the Spirit but totally ignore who he is and what he does.

To be possessed and guided by the Holy Spirit is not an option. The letters of the apostles who served Jesus by the Holy Spirit testify to this importance but I want to conclude with one simple verse we find in Paul's letter to the Romans:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

Can't be stated any plainer. Do you understand that Jesus took precious time in his last moments to teach this to his disciples so that they would understand what was happening when it would happen? This is important, important enough that if we deny the Spirit we deny Jesus. My prayer is that the Church would wake up to what Jesus has made available to us through the Comforter, Counselor, Guide. He is a great gift that Jesus sent to us, a gift that is essential for us to accept and live by. We were never meant to go it alone so don't try to. Submit to the Spirit and discover the power that has been made available to you.

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