Daring Faith: The Holy Spirit

It was the first day of school for Dan Lear’s three kids. In a scramble to get his boys to class on time, the Seattle lawyer wound up parking in a space he probably should have avoided. “There was a fire hydrant, but the curb wasn’t painted and the fire hydrant was painted a kind of a funny color. And so I thought – and maybe it was wishful thinking – but I thought I would be OK to park there,” he says.

Sure enough, Lear returned to find a parking ticket on his windshield. Not wanting to deal with it immediately, Lear went home and put the ticket on his refrigerator door. That’s when someone told him about DoNotPay, a free online “robot lawyer.”

A robot lawyer is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence to ask the same questions as a flesh-and-blood lawyer about certain legal issues, in this case, parking tickets. The DoNotPay robot lawyer has helped drivers overturn more than 200,000 parking tickets in London, New York, and Seattle. The site’s creator claims a 60% success rate advocating for frustrated motorists. So Lear logged in and the DoNotPay “robot” asked him a series of questions – like where the ticket was issued and a description of what happened. Within minutes, he had a 500-word letter of appeal to send to the city.

The verdict? Lear’s citation was eventually dismissed. Another case won by the robot lawyer!

Robot lawyers might be able to handle your parking tickets, but I doubt you’d trust the legal counsel of a machine if you were ever in real trouble. If you find yourself in serious legal trouble, you want the best attorney representing you, counseling you, and advocating on your behalf.

John talks more about the Holy Spirit than any other Gospel writer. One of the interesting things is that he uses lawyer language to describe the Holy Spirit.

He uses the Greek word paraclete, which was often used by ancient Greek writers to denote a legal advisor. The word describes one who comes close beside another. Such a legal advocate is capable of making proper judgment because of his proximity to the situation. Paraclete is often translated one of two different ways in our English Bibles:

  • Advocate: one who speaks up for another, one who pleads your case. When you’re in trouble, you want a good advocate to represent you. You want someone who can clearly and compellingly articulate your claim. And who better to speak up for us, defend us, advocate for us than The Holy Spirit! I feel better already!
  • Counselor: similar legal application. A counselor is one who advises, gives wise counsel. Additionally, we go to therapists because we believe they can give counsel that helps, counsel that lightens our load. Wise counsel is always comforting, which is why paraclete is also sometimes translated as “comforter.” The comfort He provides is the result of the counsel He gives.

This is what Jesus teaches us about the Holy Spirit in John 14-16.

Read John 14:15-21, 25-27; 16:6-13

Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Counselor (Paraclete).” Another? If the Holy Spirit is “another” Counselor, it stands to reason that Jesus is the first Counselor. (John says as much in 1 John 2:1 when he says Jesus is our paraclete, speaking to the Father in our defense.) In the absence of Christ’s physical presence with His people, He gives the Spirit to function as another Counselor, providing the same wisdom and instruction Christ himself imparted.

Jesus also calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.” This is why His presence in our lives is tied to obedience. Jesus begins by saying, ”If you love me, you will obey what I command,” (14:15). We’re wrong to think of Christianity as “easy”, as if Jesus doesn’t demand something of us. I’m afraid that too often we think being a Christian only requires pleasant feelings of love without any sort of action to prove it. But that’s not true. There are over 1,000 commands in the New Testament, which, according to this verse, are to be obeyed by those who love Jesus. To be obedient is to live truthfully in light of what Jesus demands.

Jesus promises that the Spirit will live with and be in His followers: 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 (14:17). This is an important promise because Jesus has already told the disciples that He must leave (14:1-4). Understandably, this disturbs the disciples; we can picture them asking one another, “What will we do when Jesus is gone?” But Jesus promises that he won’t leave them as orphans: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (14:18).

Why do you think Jesus makes this promise? Why does He specify that He will not leave his followers as orphans? Jesus says this because fear of abandonment is a universal fear. Jesus knows that they are struggling with his imminent departure and the events of the next few hours will continue to bear that out. When Jesus is taken into custody, Simon Peter denies Him. John is the only one of the Twelve present at the crucifixion. By Sunday, they’re huddled together in the upper room with the doors locked. Removing Jesus accomplished precisely what the satanic forces intended: it’s crippled the movement with fear. Jesus is gone and the disciples are afraid.

And I’m willing to bet that at the lowest points in your life, your experience felt similar to this. You lost your job and you wondered if God was ignoring your prayers for a new one. Your child was sick and you felt like you were going through it alone. In your grief and anguish, you felt that fear of abandonment rise up on the inside.

The Bible is clear about this: Satan does his best work in isolation. From the very beginning in the garden right up to this very moment, Satan operates best when he can get you alone, when he can get you to feel like you’re on an island, when he can make you think that you’re the only one with your particular struggle. If he can get you alone, away from the wisdom of God’s Word and away from good spiritual influences, Satan has you right where he wants you. He does his best work in isolation. The Bible says this clearly and consistently.

But the Bible is equally clear about this: God’s people are never alone. In both the Old and New Testaments, God says, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. That’s not a promise with an expiration date. Never means never! Jesus tells his disciples that they won’t be orphaned; rather, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to be His presence with them into the future. And that’s a promise that applies to us as well!

And when you accept the reality of this promise – when you take God at His word that never means never – the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life becomes the source of your peace.

Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you, (14:27). This peace – the peace of Christ – is directly linked to the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. In the same verse, Jesus goes on to say, Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Why? Because troubles and fears are the enemies of peace and Jesus has already given us His peace through the presence of His Spirit.

When you fixate on your troubles and focus on your fears, there is a spiritual struggle that takes place within you. On the one hand there’s Jesus who, through the power of His Spirit living within you, is striving to bear the fruit of peace in you. And yet, on the other hand, you have the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12) working to subvert the gospel of peace by heightening our fears and tempting us to fixate on our troubles.

This is why the idea of the fruit of the Spirit is important. Gal. 5:22 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This fruit is evidence of the Spirit’s presence in our lives. If you’re not more loving, more joyous, more peaceful today than you were before you became a Christian, then there’s something going on to thwart that fruit. There’s some sort of toxic thought pattern or behavior or feeling that is running contrary to the Spirit’s work. The Spirit is trying to help, but you’re actively working against that. And then we blame God because there’s no fruit being born in our lives?!? And the whole while, we’re dumping toxic pesticides on the fruit the Spirit is trying to bear.

When we do this, we’re quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). So for those of us whose hearts are deeply troubled today, for those who are gripped by fear, these words from Jesus are a reminder of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to believers. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s role is to condemn the world of sin. In this light, the Spirit functions as a prosecuting attorney. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment, (16:8). The legal language here is pointed at the Spirit’s prosecution and conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit shows people their sin in order to bring them to repentance.

But when we respond in repentance, the Holy Spirit operates at a different level. The Spirit becomes our Advocate, not prosecuting but rather speaking up on our behalf. The Spirit becomes God’s gift of comfort and counsel to us. Jesus says it is better for Him to leave so that we might have the Holy Spirit. If given a choice, most of us would probably choose the physical Jesus. But Christ’s presence on earth was limited to one place at a time. But now, through the gift of the Spirit, He lives with and in every believer in the world.

This week’s dare: take time to sit with a passage of Scripture. Find a story about Jesus and invite the Spirit to guide you to the deeper meaning of that passage for your life. Listen to the Spirit’s counsel and instruction as you read through God’s Word, then faithfully live in light of the command of Jesus.

What Jesus intends as a gift of comfort and counsel has become a source of controversy today. The primary work of the HS is to bear witness to Jesus. Some Christians want to make the HS central – but even the HS doesn’t want to make the HS central. The HS wants to make Jesus central.

With that in mind, we close with the promise of Jesus, Because I live, you also will live (14:19). 

This entry was posted in Discipleship, Jesus, Scripture, Theology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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