3 Things Jesus Told Us About The Holy Spirit

“He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14.16) is one of the ways Jesus describes the Holy Spirit.

Much has been written about the Third Person of the Trinity, especially in the last fifty or sixty years. So much that it is very easy to overlook this very straightforward and practical description of Who the Spirit is and what He does.

First of all, He is another Helper.

The word another is important. The word translated another here, means “another of the same kind”. The another clearly compares this “second Helper” to the original Helper, namely Jesus Himself. Jesus had so much confidence in the Holy Spirit that He said it was to the advantage of the disciples for Him to return to His Father and send the Holy Spirit.

We have as much help from the Holy Spirit as the disciples had from Jesus – if not more. Jesus in His days on the earth was not omnipresent. The Holy Spirit is.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is our Helper.

The word translated Helper (New King James Version) is a difficult word to translate. It is translated in lots of different ways in different translations. Helper sums them all up and goes to the heart of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. He’s here to help us. He’s an enabler Who is at work in and through us from before we came to know Christ until we finally reach heaven. Whenever you need help, wherever you need help, the Holy Spirit is available.

Finally, He has come to be with us forever.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is presented as someone who is very sensitive. His dove like qualities are emphasised to the point that it can seem as though a bad day or an off moment can frighten Him away.

Of course, such teaching when it is used to encourage us to be sensitive to the Spirit is very helpful. But the Holy Spirit does not move out because we give in to things we should resist. That is when He gets on our case. He gets alongside us. He wants to help. To encourage. To draw us back and empower to live for Christ and impact the world in which He has placed us.

We all need help. Often much more help than we care to admit. Thankfully, the Helper is always with us.

An Invitation to Influence

Discipleship has become a popular topic of conversation in Christian circles once again. I’m sure it was never really off the agenda. Perhaps we just referred to it in different ways. But it’s back. The question of how we make disciples is one of the burning questions of the hour for many church leaders. And sometimes we are told that we should be making disciples instead of asking people to make decisions. That is a whole discussion in itself. How can we help people become disciples if they don’t make a decision to follow Christ in the first place?!

Perhaps an even more basic question is: what exactly is a disciple or follower of Jesus?

Luke chapter 5.1-11 records the call of Simon Peter to follow Jesus. Jesus promises Simon Peter that if he follows Him, He will enable him to catch people instead of fish (v.10). Obviously the picture that Jesus paints makes perfect sense to Simon Peter as he is a fisherman and he has just brought in an unexpectedly huge catch of fish.

We know that Simon Peter spent the rest of his life influencing people for Jesus, most notably on the day of Pentecost when three thousand responded to his preaching.

How does all of that translate for us?

I would suggest that discipleship can be stripped back to two things: being influenced by Jesus and being an influence for Jesus.

The story in Luke 5 illustrates both of these aspects.

Simon Peter was influenced by Jesus. Simon Peter gave Jesus his boat so that He could preach to the people (v.3). Simon Peter listened to Jesus’ instruction to sail into deeper water and let down the nets – even though that advice was contrary to the wisdom of fishermen. After all they had already fished all night unsuccessfully (v.5)!

And Simon Peter recognised His own sinfulness in the presence of Jesus (v.8).

Simon Peter opened up his life to Jesus both practically and spiritually. He allowed Jesus to influence the way he “did” everyday life. And he also acknowledged the reality of his own spiritual condition.

When we allow Jesus into our everyday lives and when we are courageous enough to submit to a spiritual reality check, discipleship is in process.

Jesus, however, isn’t just interested in turning us into better people. He also calls us to be influential people. Influential for Him. The kind of influence that we have for Him might not be expressed in the same way as Simon Peter’s influence was expressed. But to live consistently and courageously and compassionately for Jesus will bring His influence into the world that you live in, even if you never preach a sermon that results in three thousand conversions. He will make you an influence for Him, just as surely as He made Simon Peter skilful at fishing for people.

A call to follow Jesus is an invitation to influence. And the more you are influenced by Him, the greater will be your influence for Him.

The Extraordinary Power of Purpose

Viktor Frankl, whose bestselling book Man’s Search for Meaning, drew upon his experiences in Auschwitz, made some profound observations about what caused human beings to keep going in the midst of unimaginable suffering. He concluded after interviewing dozens of prisoners that a sense of purpose and meaning was what distinguished those who survived from those who did not.

That might sound simplistic. In fact, if this explanation had not been advanced by someone who had endured the horrors of a concentration camp, it might even have seemed to trivialise the experiences of those who endured such suffering. However Frankl had been there too and he was the one who had conducted the interviews. His conclusions serve to underline a simple if profound truth: living with a sense of purpose can profoundly affect the outcome of our lives.

We find this exemplified in the life of Jesus. His sense of purpose propelled Him forward in His most difficult and testing moments.

Towards the end of Luke chapter four, we find that after a time of incredible miracles and healings the people of Capernaum tried to keep Him from leaving them (v.42). Jesus resisted their overtures with a strong statement of purpose: “I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to other towns also.” (v.43)

In Luke chapter nine verse fifty-one we are told that “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. He knew what was coming and despite any misgivings of His own disciples or opposition from antagonistic Samaritans, Jesus’ resolution prevailed.

Luke 13.31 records Jesus’ response to Herod’s threat to kill Him. Once again, he responds by stating His purpose: “I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” (v.33). Purpose. Even when the government threatened Him with death, conviction about His purpose enabled Jesus to handle the threat with composure.

We need to grasp the purpose God has for us. Without it we will likely yield to the pressures of temptation or opposition or even just flattering distraction. Read the Word. Meditate deeply on God’s general purpose for us all, namely to live to glorify Him. Ask Him to show you His specific purpose. If you will grab hold of that and not let go of it, you will find it unlocks His grace in all sorts of unfamiliar or difficult situations.

Life is not normal

In the early days of the second world war, The Observer newspaper reported on life in occupied Paris. The article remarked that the Nazi occupiers had complete control of the media. According to the report, they used news media to sell their own particular view of France. France was promoted as a wonderful nation right at the centre of the new world order the Nazis were creating. Its culture and its people were celebrated. It was a great country with a bright future. Life was wonderful! Life was normal.

Of course, we know, and the French people knew, that life was neither wonderful nor normal. Far from it. Behind the semblance of normality, the nation was at war.

Throughout the Bible we are reminded again and again that we are at war. One of Satan’s cleverest tactics is to convince us that everything is normal. That spiritual warfare is only for Christian super soldiers.

A number of things are worth remembering with respect to spiritual conflict.

Firstly, this war between God and Satan and God’s people and Satan has been raging from before the earth was created. Isaiah 14.12-15 and Ezekiel 28.12-17, when read alongside Revelation 12 appear to point to the fall of Satan. It is worth noting that Satan was already a fallen angel when Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden. Revelation 12, in highly symbolic, apocalyptic language depicts the unfolding of this long war between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.

Secondly, that means that we are all caught up in the conflict, whether we want to be or not. It also explains some of the things that happen to us as individuals and as churches. Satan wants to destroy God’s people and thwart God’s purposes. The thief comes, said Jesus, to steal and kill and destroy (John 10.10).

Thirdly, we must remember what might seem like a paradox: Jesus won the war, but we still have to fight battles. A good way to think of this might be to think of an army that knows it has lost the war but is determined to fight to the death and wreak as much destruction as it possibly can.

We win the remaining battles by relying on Jesus and His victory. Peter says “Resist [Satan] standing firm in the faith” (1Peter 5.9).

Life is not normal. When “stuff” happens it is a reminder that life is not normal. A reminder that we are in a fight. But it’s a fight that Jesus has already won (John 19.30). And because He has won the war, we too can win the battles we fight.