When Dhati kicked off our new series, One, by looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church he gave the challenge to study the person of the Spirit as depicted in John 14-16. What follows are my thoughts.
The story depicts the emotionally charged account of Jesus’ last night before he was betrayed and delivered over to be crucified. In John 16, Jesus is trying to warn his disciples of His fastly approaching death. The man who they had come to know and trust as Lord, who they left families and gave up everything to follow, would no longer be there to guide, teach and love them. I don’t think there is a louder cry in the human heart than the desire to know God. And they had him: tangibly, intimately and very personally.
And he was leaving.
I can’t imagine the sorrow that must have permeated the environment. Right in the thick of this sorrow, Jesus makes an ironic and almost incomprehensible statement, “It is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7). Advantage? What could have possibly been more advantageous for the disciples than Jesus staying with them forever? It would seem to me that having God in the flesh with me would be the best way for me to know him, but Jesus says otherwise. “It is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper (The Holy Spirit) will not come to you.” Jesus says it’s better for the church to have the Spirit of God living within us than to have the Son of God standing before us! But why?
My thought is this: Jesus being there in the flesh could only do so much to enact the type of heart change that would be needed to love like him. And loving like him is the primary command to us (John 13:34) and the primary task that the Holy Spirit is to help us with. It’s easy for [pull_quote_right]The work of loving one another is a matter of the heart, not the flesh. It is a work that must be accomplished from the inside out.[/pull_quote_right]me to think that if Jesus were physically present it would be so much easier to avoid sin. I’m sure I would never have looked at any pornography if Jesus was actually sitting in the room next to me. I would never yell at my wife, if Jesus was sitting in the room next to me. But the interesting thing is that it doesn’t mean I would never lust in my heart if Jesus was in the room next to me. It doesn’t mean that I would never be angry and bitter and hateful in my heart toward my wife, if Jesus was in the room with me. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to be selfish with my time and resources when my friends need my help. If anything, it just shows that I value the presence of the Spirit less than I value the presence of Jesus, physically. Maybe that’s why Jesus says the Spirit is a more advantageous helper than himself. The work of loving one another is a matter of the heart, not the flesh. It is a work that must be accomplished from the inside out. My heart is flimsy, and as sad as it is to say, I would probably find reason to doubt God’s goodness even if he stood right in front of me.
In light of that, it makes sense why we would need a different helper. If Jesus is God with us, then the Holy Spirit is God in us! He is in us (John 14:17), empowering us with courage (Acts 4:31), convicting us of sin, teaching us about our Father (John 16:13-15) and giving us gifts to love one another with (1 Corinthians 12:7). If we are to grow together in the gospel, in the context of family while living on mission, we must come to embrace the Holy Spirit as our Helper in knowing the Father and loving one another. He is to us what Jesus was to the first disciples, only more advantageous! I pray that his presence would be very real to us and that we would see that having God in us is even better than having God with us.