In those last hours before His betrayal, Jesus equipped His faithful followers for the task ahead of them after He departed. He had laid the foundation of the work; they must now continue it in His absence. This is recorded for us in the Gospel of John, chapters 13-17.
Among the mighty provisions He left them are His example-reinforced command that they should love and serve one another selflessly (Jn. 13), the promise of His return to take them home with Him (Jn. 14:3), an immediate and intimate relationship with His own Holy Father – even the conscious indwelling of both Father and Son by the Spirit (Jn. 14:23), immediate “hot-line” access to the Father through prayer (Jn. 14:12-14; 15:7,16; 16:23-27), the Word (Jn. 17:8,14,17), and a wonderful preview of His present tender intercession for His own (Jn. 17).
But, if it is possible to consider one of His provisions greater or more important than another, that one would be His gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell, accompany forever and mightily empower the lives and ministry here on earth of His followers. “Without Me you can do nothing,” He plainly told them in John 15:5 (niv). Yet He was leaving them. The Holy Spirit is the personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of His Church and of individual believers during His physical absence.
No passage in the New Testament could be more relevant for us as Jesus’ loyal followers in a hostile world today than these chapters in John’s gospel. Our situation is exactly what the Lord anticipated for the twelve when He left them. A hostile world, a despised and rejected Lord and Savior, our need for supernatural resources – all the elements that made up the post-Ascension scenario are present today.
And the Holy Spirit whom our Savior requested and whom His Father sent on Pentecost is still here. He will be with us forever, Jesus promised (14:16). In a very real way we can say that the Holy Spirit of the first century a.d. is the same Holy Spirit today. Nothing has changed – except perhaps the enthusiasm of Christians.
The currently popular question among Christians, “What Would Jesus Do?” is best answered by the presence of the Holy Spirit Himself with and in us (Jn. 14:16). It’s not up to us to imagine or invent the probable action of Jesus in a given situation. We have His personal representative to enlighten and guide us! We can learn much about what Jesus would do and what we ought to do by studying His behavior and reactions while He was here on earth. The Holy Spirit is both the means to discern Jesus’ behavior in the Scriptures and the desire and capacity to do the right thing. Jesus promised this: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26). He also said, “He will testify about Me” (Jn. 15:26). Finally, He summarized the Spirit’s work in our lives this way: “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 bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you” (Jn. 16:12-14).
Paul wrote to the Philippians that “God … works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). He is able to do that, of course, because He is present within us in the person of the Holy Spirit, a powerful and unfailing means to know what Jesus would do – and what He wants us to do – in any situation.
To the Corinthians Paul also wrote that “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Again, it is the active presence of the Holy Spirit within us equipping and enabling us to think God’s thoughts. Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are infinitely above our own (Is. 55:8-9), but Paul, as if responding to that humanly unbridgeable gap between God’s thoughts and our own, says, “but God has revealed them to us by His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10).
The Miracle Of Indwelling
The powerful presence within us of the very Spirit of God is a miracle that God Himself longed for centuries to perform. He anticipated it in Ezekiel while grieving over Israel’s disciplinary exile for their perpetual disobedience and repeated idolatries: “I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:24-27).
Jesus refers to this cleansing and Spirit-rebirth in John 3, expressing surprise at Nicodemus’ ignorance of it (Jn. 3:10). God longs for the final, permanent solution of the problem of the human tendency to sin by implanting His own Spirit in the human person. But it could take place only on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Israel, the nation, still awaits that regeneration. How blessed we are to have it now!
Since “we have the mind of Christ” (the capacity of the Spirit of Christ) active within us, we can “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Rom. 12:2). It is not a matter of striving to do what Jesus would do in specific situations, but of being motivated in all our behavior, actions and reactions by the very Spirit and thought patterns of Jesus.
Jesus surprised the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles by shouting an invitation to all the thirsty to come to Him and drink. Of the Spirit He said, “Whoever believes in Me … streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn. 7:37-39). He spoke to the Samaritan woman of His gift of eternal life as a “spring of water welling up to eternal life” within the believer (Jn. 4:14). Now He speaks of the Spirit, given to every believer, as streams of living water flowing out, presumably for the refreshment of others – perhaps a reference to “witnessing,” that is, sharing the blessing of eternal life.
A Big Responsibility
It is no small thing to walk around this polluted world carrying the very Spirit of the Holy and Almighty God within us. It is vitally important that we not “grieve … the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30). It is never suggested that a grieved Spirit will leave us, but we can understand how His free-flowing ministry in and through us will be hindered by a condition in us which grieves Him.
How is He grieved? Remember, He is a holy God: sin grieves Him. Disobedience is a rejection of His authority. Choosing our own will or way over His own as the criterion for our choices, decisions and actions, repeats the sin of Eden, that is, believing we gain by venturing out on our own or by listening to and acting on advice other than His.
A grieved Holy Spirit cannot freely and without hindrance move or empower or enlighten us because He is distracted from His main mission toward convicting our conscience and laboring for our restoration to a right orientation and motivation. In a similar way, we ourselves, when we are sad, do not have the energy nor the motivation to work effectively. One effect, or “fruit” of the Spirit’s free working in us is joy (Gal. 5:22-23). But can a grieved Spirit produce joy?
Galatians 5 speaks of “living by the Spirit” and being “led by the Spirit” and “keeping in step with the Spirit,” promising that if we do we will not “gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” As Christians, born anew into the life and nature of Christ, we have a major conflict in the area of our desires and inclinations. We also still have our old sinful nature which is incapable of doing good by God’s definition, and which exerts all its will and energy toward producing its own vile product, resulting in an ongoing struggle for dominance in our lives. We can never win a battle against our human tendencies. Our “flesh” or sinful human nature can never oppose or control itself. We must choose to submit to and obey the impulses and urgings of the Spirit. Then He can put down our wrong inclinations and lead us in His way.
Galatians 5:22-23 lists nine varieties of the “fruit of the Spirit.” We could say that these nine qualities are a portrait of Jesus Christ as a man. He displayed these qualities perfectly. The more we “live by the Spirit,” following His leading, the more He is free to produce those qualities in our lives. Then, in answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” we will be doing what Jesus would do!
Further, Romans 8:28-30 tells us that God’s plan is to conform us to the likeness of Christ – to make us like Jesus! And He is working “in all things” in our lives to accomplish that transformation. Second Corinthians 3:18 says that the Spirit carries out that ongoing transformation as we are occupied with Christ (as we “contemplate” Him), so that we “reflect” His “ever-increasing glory” in a progressive transformation toward Jesus’ likeness.
None of this can occur while we are resisting the Spirit’s will and leading. He’s here to represent Christ within us, and through us to show Christ to the world by changing us more and more into Christ’s likeness. Let’s not interfere with His work!
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.