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Witness: Living in Focus – “The Spirit of Truth”

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Witness Living In Focus 1

John 15:26-27; 16:4-15

May 19, 2024

There have been several stories in the news recently in which the insights of counselors have been sought to explain peoples’ behavior.  While professional counselors can be very helpful, it almost seems as though counseling has become a cure all for everything.  Why did the teenager attack some of his classmates physically and on social media?  I don’t know, let’s get a counselor to find out.  Why do two parents, who have a good reputation in the neighborhood, abuse their children?  I don’t know, maybe a counselor can straighten them out.  Even if a person realizes that their thinking was misguided and their behavior was wrong, that doesn’t address the deeper issue – a need for repentance and faith.

Think of it this way.  Imagine that you and I are sitting outside your house on the front porch when the trash truck comes by and several bags of trash fall off the truck on to your driveway.  Bags split open and there is a huge mess that will need to be cleaned up in order for you to get your car out of the driveway.  So we walk over to look at the trash and you say to me, “Look at this mess, how do you think all of this trash fell off of the truck?”  And I say to you, “I don’t know, but it smells awful and look at all of the wasted food that was thrown away.”  You then say to me, “You’re right, what a waste.  Some of that food looks like it was never taken out of the boxes.”  And I reply by saying, “I’m going to try not to throw so much food away anymore, it really makes the trash smell bad.”  And finally you say, “I agree, let’s go inside the house so we don’t have to look at this mess.”  So we go inside and just leave the mess on the driveway.  While it may have been nice that we decided not to throw so much food away in the future, we failed to address the problem – the mess from the trash needed to be cleaned up.

My point is that you can counsel and talk about the how and why of a person’s actions and feelings, but ultimately that won’t fix the real problem.  Now I am not criticizing counseling in any way as counselors do some wonderful work, but if we dismiss every thought and every action as an illness that medication or counseling can cure, I don’t think we are getting to the real deeper issues of sin and grace.  We need to address those issues not just from a mental aspect, but more importantly from a spiritual aspect.

I bring this up because in our Gospel lesson for today on this Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit is called a “Helper” or in other translations a “Counselor.”  This does not mean that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to examine our minds to help us understand our feelings.  The Holy Spirit did not come to fix our brains.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fix our hearts and our souls.  In our text, the disciples just had their hearts broken.  Jesus told them that He was leaving them as He was going to be betrayed, arrested, and nailed to a cross to die.  The disciples were so stunned at hearing this news that they did not say anything.  It’s the kind of shock you might experience if your spouse or parents told you they were going away.

Jesus said in verse 7 that it is for their good that He was going away.  But how could Jesus’ departure be good for His disciples?  Imagine if you are doing yard work on a hot day with a friend and your friend all of a sudden leaves while you are still busy pulling weeds.  You probably wouldn’t be very happy with your friend that he left you behind to finish the yard work.  However, I’m sure your attitude would change if your friend came back with a power tool that could finish the job much more quickly than you would have been able to do on your own.  Likewise, Jesus wasn’t ditching His disciples.  He was leaving in order to save them.  He was going back to His Heavenly Father, but by way of the cross.  Had Jesus remained with His disciples as they wanted, He never would have earned forgiveness for them or for any of us.

So instead of feeling sad, they should have been rejoicing.  Finally, the time had come for God to complete His plan to save them; but since they failed to ask Jesus what He meant when He said He was leaving, they were frightened and confused.  When we look for answers to some of the tough questions in life, about why things happen, in places other than God’s Word, then we shouldn’t be surprised if our days are filled with sadness and confusion as well.

But being the loving Savior that He is, Jesus wanted to offer His disciples some comfort.  So He made it known that while He would be visibly leaving them, He would in turn send the Holy Spirit to be their helper or counselor.  Specifically, He said the Holy Spirit would guide them in all truth and would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  But what does that mean?  How will that help them?  The sin the Holy Spirit has come to convict in us is not an obvious sin like greed or adultery.  In verse 9, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will come to convict the world of the sin of unbelief.  The greatest sin you and I can commit against God is to say that we don’t want Him or we don’t need His gift of Jesus.

Just imagine if you spent your entire life looking for a cure for cancer.  And finally, at a very old age, you discover a cure and you put it into a pill.  Now imagine offering that pill to a loved one who is struggling with cancer with the promise that if they take the pill they will be cured.  However, instead of accepting the cure, they reject the pill and accuse you of trying to hurt them.  Wouldn’t you be disappointed or even angry?  Sure you would.  God offers us the cure for our greatest disease, that being sin, so we can live forever.  It was a cure that involved having to abandon His Son by allowing Him to be put to death on a cross, and yet there are people today who say they don’t want that cure, they’re not interested, they don’t have time, they don’t believe it, or they don’t think they need it.  Just imagine how that must grieve our God.

Jesus said earlier in John 14, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  “But what about my neighbor, he doesn’t believe in Jesus, but he is the nicest person I know and he helps so many in our neighborhood.  Certainly he’ll go to heaven someday right?”  Again, Jesus said, “No one can come to the Father, except through Him.”  I cannot convince anyone of that truth on my own.  No amount of human counseling can convict anyone of that truth.  That kind of help or counseling of bringing someone to faith in Jesus as their Savior, to believe that truth, is only done by the Holy Spirit.

The reason the world cannot understand the importance of faith in Jesus is because it does not understand what God considers to be righteous.  Righteousness, in the eyes of the world, involves the visible things we do, such as being helpful and kind to others.  But the Holy Spirit’s job is to help us understand that no one is deserving of heaven, not even the nicest or most righteous among us.  Righteousness is not found in the things we do.  We cannot make ourselves righteous, because we are sinners.  Instead, righteousness is found only in Jesus and in what He has done.  So while God still wants us to be a witness in sharing Jesus with others, it is only the Holy Spirit who will convict us of our sin and our lack of righteousness, and turn us toward Jesus for life and guidance.

When the disciples were left with the prospect of finishing their lives without Jesus on earth, they initially felt abandoned.  What were they going to do?  We live in a time where many people live that way every day.  They don’t know what to believe or what to do, because instead of looking for truth and guidance for living in God’s Word, they go looking for answers in life in all kinds of other places.

Jesus assured His disciples they would not be left alone.  They would be given a Helper or Counselor – The Holy Spirit – who would live in their hearts, guide them, and convict them with the truth.  And that’s what the Holy Spirit has done to us.  He has convicted us of sin, righteousness, and justice.  We know we’re sinful.  We know we’re not righteous.  We know we deserve God’s justice, that being death – eternal separation from God.  Yet the Holy Spirit has also shown us where all these convictions come together – at one place, the cross.  Only in the cross do we see our sin paid for in full.  Only in the cross do we find our righteousness.  Only in the cross do we see God’s kind of justice, that through our belief in Jesus, we are forgiven and we live with the joy of knowing that no matter what we face, nothing can separate us from our loving God.

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