Summary: This sermons addresses what Jesus teaches about the key to ministry: the Holy Spirit
A Visible Presence
Ray Pritchard tells of doing a TV interview with David Mains about his book, “Names of the Holy Spirit.” Everything had gone well until David caught him off guard with this question: “If you had to grade your congregation on their knowledge of the Holy Spirit, what grade would you give them?” I didn't see that one coming. Suddenly I was at a loss for words. But the one thing you can’t do on TV is say nothing. The camera hates dead air. So I blurted out my answer: I would give my congregation a C+ on the knowledge of the Holy Spirit.” It seemed safe to me, not too high, not too low. Evidently I sounded like the proverbial hard-nosed teacher because David looked at me with a frown. So I quickly said: “Look, if you graded my congregation on their knowledge of God the Father, I would give them an A, and on Jesus Christ, I would give them an A+. But I don’t think we know as much about the Holy Spirit as we do about the Father and the Son.” David Mains smiled and said, “That’s fair,” so I knew I was off the hook. Sort of. As I did other interviews for that book, I discovered that the first question was always the same. "Why don't we know more about the Holy Spirit?...He’s the God we hardly know. We know about the Trinity even if we can’t explain it. But most of us would be hard pressed to pass a mid-term exam on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.”
Our Scripture today falls in Jesus’ Last Discourse. It marks a decided shift in Jesus’ ministry from teaching and ministering to the masses to a focus on Jesus’ inner circle of disciples as Jesus realizes the cross is fast approaching. Thus, he turns to the disciples to prepare them to for his departure and to carry on his ministry. In this teaching time, Jesus announces his coming crucifixion to the disciples, teaches them about servanthood through the washing of the their feet, speaks about the intimacy and relationship Jesus has to the Father and through him, the disciples will have as well. And finally, Jesus teaches about the key to ministry: the Holy Spirit.
So what do we learn from Jesus about the Holy Spirit today? First, the Holy Spirit reveals the Truth. Almost 2,000 years ago, a Roman governor chose to ask a profound question of a man who was about to be executed. "What is truth?" he asked. Most people ponder that question at some time in their lives, especially at critical points when they are struggling with the meaning of life. After all, the need for meaning is a basic human need, and there can be no meaning without some ultimate truth. It is in the midst of this search that God reveals the Truth through His Holy Spirit. The first is through His Word, the Bible, which is God's message to us. Phrases like "And God said..." occur about 3800 times in the Old Testament alone. The Bible defines itself as the Word of God and consistently claims divine authorship. It claims to be the authoritative, inspired Word of God and presentation of ultimate truth. The Bible doesn't just talk about God, in its pages God speaks Himself and reveals the Truth about himself.
The Truth was also revealed through Jesus. In response to Pilate, Jesus said, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the Truth. Everyone on the side of Truth listens to me.” Jesus demonstrated the power of God through many "signs and wonders,” fulfilled more than 300 prophecies and through his life, death, and the resurrection revealed the Truth about God and the depth of His love forever that had not ever been seen before. As Jesus leaves this world, he promises that the Truth will continue to be revealed to us through the Holy Spirit and His work in the world and as we read God’s Word and as we come to an understanding of Jesus’ identity and commitment to Him. But our Scripture today also says the Spirit will help us to know and understand what is to come as well as we seek to follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s Truth for our lives, and it’s available to us. Jesus had proclaimed "You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free," This is the freedom that the Holy Spirit offers to all those who continually seek Him. For Jesus said, "Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you." Matthew 7:7
Second, the Holy Spirit comes for God’s glory. In the earliest historical reference to the glory of God, Moses asks God, “show me Your glory!” Exodus 33:18. What is God’s glory? The Hebrew word for glory is kabod, meaning “heavy in weight or stature.” The glory of someone or something is what sets them apart in a special and inimitable way, in the same way the glory of a Zebra is its stripes; the Cheetah’s it’s speed; or the peacock’s it’s plumage. When you glorify someone, you recognize their importance, or their “stature” or some desirable quality they possesses. For God, it refers to His power, majesty, and splendor. When the psalmists give glory to the Lord, they’re pointing out God’s attributes that set Him apart from everything and everyone else and make Him worthy of worship. In the New Testament, the Greek word for glory is doxazo, and its usage is meant to convey a sense of brilliance, or radiance of those who share, or participate, in heavenly glory. James Packer in his book, “Your Father Loves You” tells the story of walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, "He will glorify me" (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as he turned a corner. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace." This is where the gift of the Holy Spirit comes in. It is the Spirit of God which sets us apart, makes us unique and empowers us like nothing else. So when the Spirit comes, it is through those who receive it and do great things in the name of Jesus that gives glory to God whose power, majesty and beauty it reveals, reminding us it’s not about us. It’s about His glory!