Bob's Sermon for Sunday, June 3, 2018

 

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“Are you familiar with God’s Counselor?”

 

John 15:26-16:4 NIV

 

     (John 15:26-16:4) "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. (27) And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

     “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.

(2) They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. (3) They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.

     “I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.”

 

     Jesus promised to send a Counselor, “from the Father.”

 

     My 2016 Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “counselor” three ways:

  1. ADVISER

  2. LAWYER 

  3: “One who has supervisory duties at a

           summer camp.”

 

     Consider these definitions in reverse order:

#3 - We can be certain that when Jesus spoke of the Counselor, he did not have in mind a summer camp supervisor. On the other hand, during the three years Jesus tutored the Apostles, they argued constantly about which of them was the greatest and/or most important.

At times Jesus must have felt the frustrations of a summer camp counselor.

 

# 2 - When promising a counselor, did Jesus think the Apostles would need legal help?

 

In many situations, legal counsel would definitely benefit us, but for the most part, Jesus told the Apostles to tell the truth about him, and God would take care of the consequences.[1]  

 

# 1 - In respect to the first definition: Do God’s people need His advice? We clearly do and His Counselor is the Holy Spirit.

                  

     But who or what is the Holy Spirit? The lyrics of the oft-sung “Doxology,” are: “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Does the title, “Holy Ghost” bother you as much as it troubles me? Folks usually associate ghosts with disembodied spirits.

   

     Is the Holy Ghost the disembodied spirit of some long lost saint? “Ghost” is an inappropriate translation used in the King James Version of 1611.[2] Fortunately the New King James Version reads “Holy Spirit,” not “Holy Ghost.” But who or what is the Holy Spirit?

 

     Many theologians say the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. In about 300 AD, a theologian named Arius was teaching that Jesus was a created being. In 325 AD, prominent churchmen gathered in Nice, France to refute Arius’s claim. To counter Arianism, a man named Athanasius wrote precise   definitions of the godhead.

 

     In adapting Athanasius’s ideas, the group in Nice formulated the “Nicene Creed.”

 

     Definitions found in the Nicene Creed go far beyond what the Scriptures teach. Some churches recite the “Apostles’ Creed.” The Apostles did not write the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed was written about the same era as the Nicene Creed and largely accords with views in the Nicene Creed. The definition of “creed” is “a statement of the essential beliefs of a religious faith.”        

 

     If creeds are declarations of truth from the Bible, why do we need them? But creeds usually make definitions and claims that are not found in Scripture. The Lord warned us about adding or taking away from God’s word; creeds are additions.[3] Creeds actually limit and hinder our views of God; they do not advance our knowledge of Him.

 

     For example, the fourth chapter of Revelation describes God’s throne in heaven. Revelation 4 portrays God’s glory and majesty in splendid, colorful ways and expresses the praise our Creator deserves. But chapter 4 does not define God’s nature. Believers should practice the same restraint as the Scriptures model; human ideas or concepts cannot define God.

 

     The next time you see an ant, consider human inability to define things. As a British poet once wrote: “Fleas know not whether they are on the body of a giant or upon one of ordinary stature.”[4] Before you rub it out, stomp on it or chase that little insect with Raid, try imagining this about an ant’s or flea’s grasp of the world. Tiny insects might innately see us as large threatening objects or a good place to stop and have a bite to eat. But do you think ants have any concept of our mental and physical abilities?  

 

     When King Solomon dedicated the first temple, he realized the point I’m making: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”[5]

 

     This Cosmos in which we live is stupendous. Measuring the size of God’s creation requires figures greater than the US national debt. Scientists measure space in light years--the distance a beam of light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles. Physicists say that most stars we see are about a hundred light years (600,000,000,000,000 miles) from us. I understand it takes about eight minutes for sunlight to come 93,000,000 miles to earth.

 

     Our sun is just an average star among the estimated 30 thousand million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, many of them a 100 light years from us. How many of us can wrap our brains around the fact that with our eyes, we can see only one galaxy and there are many galaxies? God is greater than this cosmos he created. Even the highest heavens cannot contain God. 

 

     A microbe on the leg of an ant is infinitely greater in comparison to LeBron James, than Mr. James is to God’s creation. The earth itself is barely a blip in the total Cosmos. And yet we human beings think that we can define God. Even worse, we think we know more about life than God does.  

 

     To many Christians, the Holy Spirit of God is like a strange uncle the family mentions only in whispered tones. Though church folks speak rarely about the Holy Spirit, Jesus said a lot about Him. The Spirit is the subject of our text: "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.”

 

     People seem not to grasp this fact about the Spirit: Jesus said: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--.”[6] What did Jesus mean by “additional Counselor?” The word Counselor or Comforter refers to someone who is by your side to encourage you or assist you.

 

     We all feel the need for someone like that, don’t we? In a Peanuts cartoon strip, Linus was building castles in the sand and told Charlie Brown: "Working with your hands is good therapy ... It takes your mind off your troubles ... Whenever I feel depressed, I build sand castles ... I've been feeling pretty depressed lately!" Behind him the cartoon showed a dozen sandcastles. 

 

      Have you lately been building sand castles? I read a baseball story about a rookie who for the first time faced Walter Johnson. Johnson pitched for the old Washington Senators in the early 1900s. Some think Johnson had the fastest pitch ever. At one time he held the record for the most shut-outs, the most strikeouts and the most consecutive scoreless innings pitched. Johnson was in his prime. A rookie was facing him for the first time. The rookie batter took two quick strikes and headed for the dugout. He told the umpire: “Keep the third strike—I’ve seen enough.”

 

     Are you at that point? Are you saying: “I’ve had it; I’ve seen enough!”?              

 

     At times we need someone to stand beside or behind us and tell us: “You can do it.”

              ·        To encourage us to keep tying: “Don’t give up.” “You can overcome this.” “You can make it.”  “You’ll get through this.”

 

     When Jesus, the Son of God, came in the flesh, he was the first Comforter. He was with his disciples—alongside them and encouraged them:

·        He told the Apostles that they could be more than ordinary tale- telling fishermen.

o   He told them not to worry.

·        He trained them to be successful missionaries.      

o   He calmed stormy seas.

·        He confronted scary, screaming, demon possessed guys that hung around cemeteries.

 

     Jesus created everything and then came here. He trained, encouraged, and counseled. But Jesus’ primary mission included announcing the arrival of God’s rule, and our need to change our selfish ways. Jesus endured the cross, overpowered death in the resurrection, and then ascended back to the Father. He did those things while in human form.

 

     One person cannot be everywhere to encourage everyone. It is not physically or emotionally possible. Ministers who don’t learn that sometimes go crazy, often quit,—at the very least become depressed.

If you wonder why a minister can’t always be there for you, remember:

While he was in human form, not even Jesus could satisfy every person’s need. Jesus told his disciples that the only way he could be truly with them was if he went away from them.

 

     It was necessary that Jesus go away so that the Holy Spirit could come. In Spirit form, he could be everywhere at once. Jesus promised us this Counselor, Comforter, and eternal Witness to Himself.[7] Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is present with us always. Jesus told the disciples: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--.” God gives His Holy Spirit to all who unite with Christ in baptism. After he explained the facts of Jesus’ Good News, Peter said: (32) We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”[8] The Holy Spirit is the second comforter (another counselor) that God sent after Jesus left the earth.

 

     Finally, note the context of today’s text in which Jesus promised the Holy Spirit. After we repent, submit to God’s rule, and confess our faith in Christ, we believers tell Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. When we do that, the world derides us, mocks us, and opposes us. But the Holy Spirit encourages us to keep witnessing for Jesus during persecution. The gift of the Spirit is not a special language to make some Christians feel superior and brag they are high-status-folks in God’s kingdom. God’s Spirit heartens and emboldens Christians to boldly proclaim Christ and never be ashamed.  

 

     Jesus gave all of us the same commission he assigned the Apostles:    “Go.  . . make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[9] Through God’s Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us. To obey and follow Christ, I do not have to know precise details about the Godhead.

 

     To benefit from gravity, we do not have to completely understand it. No physicist alive can fully explain how gravity works. We walk; we fly in airplanes, and do many things by conforming to gravity’s principles. When we begin telling others about Jesus, we learn and experience things about God and His Spirit we never knew were possible.

 

     If you are thinking about making a total commitment to Christ and are having trouble deciding, consider one more truth Jesus revealed about the Spirit: (8) “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) “of sin, because they do not believe in Me; (10)  “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more”

(11) When you hear that “little voice” urging you to do right when you are considering doing something you should not do, that is likely the voice of God’s Spirit convicting you of sin. I pray that we shall listen, because only Jesus is the Word and the way of eternal life. 

 

 


[1] Matthew 10:18 -20 NIV “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. (19) But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,

(20) for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

[2] 2 Corinthians 13:14 now reads this way in the NKJV:The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

[3] See Revelation 22: 18, 19

[4] Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864) Imaginary Conversations, “Southey and Porson”

[5] I Kings 8:27 NIV

[6] John 14: 16  NIV 

[7] A few of the above illustrations are from the sermon: “I will not leave you comfortless.” author unknown.

[8] Acts 5:32 NIV

[9] Matthew 28:19, 20 NIV

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 

 

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