Our world is overflowing with orphans. Some kids are discarded and abandoned by their parents. Other kids are torn from their parents by war, unexpected death, genocide, or family problems. Just about one year ago we were blessed to witness the baptism of our brother Bakwish. Bakwish is from Sierra Leone and he was just a small child when civil war broke out in his country. Some of you may have seen the movie, Blood Diamond. If you did then I’m sure you cringed as you witnessed the atrocities that took place. Bakwish and his family suffered under the havoc and mayhem as the rebels killed and maimed thousands upon the thousands of their own people.
Bakwish had spent his early years in a little village, but his family had sent him to live with his aunt, who was a teacher in Freetown, so he could gain a better education. When word came that the rebels were closing in on Freetown, Bakwish and his aunt decided to go back to the village where he had once lived. The journey was about 200 miles. After about six months the rebels closed in on Bakwish’s village and people fled in fear for their life in every direction. Bakwish ended up with a family on their way back to Freetown. When Bakwish made it back to Freetown he found himself living on the streets for some time. Nine years old, his father had been killed, he had no idea if his mother was alive or dead, and the mean streets were before him. Bakwish knew of another aunt in Freetown so he tried to find her. Eventually Bakwish did find his aunt and she took him to the Wellington Orphanage where Pastor Hassan and the staff took Bakwish in and cared for him for the next eleven years of his life.
We hear stories about orphans here in the US and around the world. Their stories break our hearts. Orphans are the most defenseless among us because they are so vulnerable. Orphans lack wisdom about the ways of the world. They are oblivious to the fact that there are countless people who are more than willing to take advantage of them in any and every way possible.
I’m sure that as you heard Bakwish’s story your heart hurt for him. You and I can’t even imagine the emotions, loneliness, and fear that must have gripped his heart and mind at such a young age. For those of us who have never had rebels threaten our life, take our dad from us, and keep us on the run–there’s just no way for us to understand. At the same time, the emotions of fear, loneliness, anxiety, despair, and isolation are emotions that we can understand, even though we’ve experienced them in a different context. All people know these emotions, experienced in various ways of course, but all people know what it’s like to be afraid, lonely, anxious, and what it’s like to feel despair.
We’ve spent many weeks in the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples. We’ve talked about how they felt as Jesus made it crystal clear that He was preparing to leave them. They didn’t know it, but Jesus, their Lord, Master, and the love of their lives was just hours from the cross. The thought of Jesus leaving them was already causing them incredible stress and anxiety. Jesus looked them in the eyes and said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Let’s read our Scripture for today and then we’ll talk.
15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17 the Spirit of truth. 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. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. (John 14:15-25 NIVO)
You might remember back in the 90’s when the credit card company American Express had a very successful ad campaign that included the tagline, “Membership has its privileges.” Anyone could apply for an American Express, but those lucky enough to qualify, those who showed they had deep pockets, would reap the rewards of being a member. In the Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples about a benefit that would be given to those who love Him. No need to apply. Accountants and financiers won’t go over our investment portfolio with a fine toothed comb to see if we are worthy. No, this benefit is reserved for those who love Jesus. We learned last week that “love” is more than mere sentimentality or an emotional attachment. Love is a verb. Actions speak louder than words. Surrendering our hearts, minds, will, and lives in humble service to our King and His people is the love Jesus desires for His followers. For those who love Jesus, He promises to…Give us “another Counselor” to be with us forever, to not leave us as orphans, but to come to us, we will be loved by the Father and loved by the Son who will show Himself to us, and last of all, the Father and the Son will come to us and make their home with us.
Children need to know they belong, have a place where they feel safe, provided for, and are loved. Jesus has not left us as orphans. We will learn from our study this morning that God has provided for us by sending us His Holy Spirit to live in us, counsel and comfort us, remind us of everything Jesus taught us, and provide for us everything we need in this life. What a blessing! What a comfort! What a mighty God we serve.
The next few lessons I want to share with all of us are lessons about the Holy Spirit? Who is He? What does He do? Why is understanding and experiencing the fullness of the Spirit so important for us as God’s people? These lessons are important because many things are being said about the Holy Spirit that may sound good, but they just aren’t biblical. It seems to me that the Church has gotten off track on two extremes about the Holy Spirit. First of all, those in what is called the “mainline church” oftentimes speak of the Holy Spirit as “it.” The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force to be wished upon those we love like Hans Solo telling Luke Skywalker, “May the force be with you.” The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, equal to the Father and the Son. We’ll talk more about that later. The other way that we’ve gotten off track is to make claims about the Holy Spirit that cause Him to blush in embarrassment. We tell folks, “The Holy Spirit wants to do ‘this’ or ‘that’ in your life.” when we no more know that than a man in the moon. We will attribute bizarre behavior to the acts of the Holy Spirit when in actuality they are no more than our own spirit run amuck. Well intentioned folks who lack the counsel of God’s Word concerning the Holy Spirit have done irreparable damage in the lives of many believers.
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal “it” that should be ignored like many in the mainline Church do in our day. Neither is He simply a “power” that we can use like a Harry Potter incantation to dazzle a watching world, fix whatever problem we encounter, and use to somehow separate us from the common, run-of-the-mill Christian community. R.A. Torrey has written a book called, “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.” In his book he writes,
If we can grasp the thought that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person of infinite majesty, glory and holiness and power, who in marvelous condescension has come into our hearts to make His abode there and take possession of our lives and make use of them, it will put us in the dust and keep us in the dust. I can think of no thought more humbling or more overwhelming than the thought that a person of Divine majesty and glory dwells in my heart and is ready to use even me. (Torrey, R.A. The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pgs. 8-9.)
Now there’s a thought worth pondering. To think that the Divine Third Person of the Trinity, the One who hovered over the waters in Genesis, the One who caused a virgin girl named Mary to conceive and give birth to the Messiah, the One who was poured out and transformed the followers of Jesus at Pentecost should come to make His home in my heart–that overwhelms me, give me chills, and drops me to my knees in humble worship!
I’m getting ahead of myself. All that I’ve shared with you is true, but we need to back up and take a long look at what Jesus said to His disciples so that we can understand what He was teaching to His disciples. I need to share something with you that is vitally important for all of us to understand. The promises Jesus shared with His disciples in the Upper Room were not for everyone, they are for those who belong to Jesus, those who love Jesus. Jesus will not give another Counselor, His Holy Spirit, to those who reject Him. The Father and Son will not take up residence in the hearts of those who reject God. I know this is a tough truth to consider, but it is biblical truth nonetheless. Let me show you an example of what I am talking about. While Jesus was in Jerusalem there were many people who were mesmerized by Him, by the miracles He did, but Jesus wouldn’t pull up close to them because He knew their hearts. Look at John 2:23-25 with me and let’s read together.
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25 He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. (John 2:23-25 NIVO)
The promises that we are talking about this morning are promises made not to fans, but to servants. They are promises made to those who like Job say, “Though He slay me yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15). They are promises made to those like Simon Peter who was in the crowd the day Jesus shared some hard things to hear. The crowd walked away when they didn’t like what they heard and Jesus was left alone with the disciples. As the crowd was walking away Jesus asked His disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter spoke up,
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 NIVO)
“Lord, there’s no place else for me. You are the Holy One of God, the Only One my heart longs for in life.” For those who love Jesus, He has promised to give us “another Counselor.” In John 14:16, Jesus said,
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– (John 14:16 NIVO)
The phrase, “another Counselor” translates the Greek phrase, “????? ??????????” (allon parakleton), and it’s important for us to understand what Jesus is promising His disciples as well as all of those who love Him. The word “another” in Greek is the word, “?????” (allos), but there is a second word in the Greek New Testament that is also translated, “another” and it is “??????” (heteros). Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, but they are also used to draw a fine point on what is being communicated. Let me show you what I mean. “Heteros” is sometimes used to designate something of a different “kind.” An example is found in Galatians 1:6-7. Read it with me.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 NIVO)
Paul let the folks in Galatia know they had turned to a “different gospel,” a gospel that wasn’t good news at all. When Jesus told His disciples He would send “another Counselor,” He didn’t use “heteros,” instead He used “allos,” to let them know that the One the Father would send would be of the same kind as the first Counselor.
We need to understand what Jesus meant by “Counselor” before we put all of this together. The Greek word that is translated, “Counselor,” is the word, “??????????” (parakletos) and literally means, “one called alongside to help.” In your Bible it may be translated as, “Counselor, Helper, Encourager, Comforter, or Advocate.” It’s an impossible word to translate with just one word. What’s really interesting is this: Jesus says He will ask the Father and He will send “another Counselor” to be with you forever. This Counselor whom the Father will send will take the place of the first Counselor whose name is Jesus. The Counselor whom the Father will send to take the place of the first Counselor, Jesus, will be like Jesus in His ministry to those who belong to God. In fact, He will shine a spotlight on Jesus in all He does in the lives of God’s people.
J.I. Packer is no longer with us, but he was a great Bible teacher and author of many books. In his book, “Keep In Step With The Spirit,” he tells a story which illustrates what I’m talking about when I say the Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on Jesus’ ministry. Packer said he was walking to church one winter evening to preach a message on Jesus’ words, “he shall glorify me.” Dr. Packer turned a corner and saw a building lit by floodlights and realized it was the perfect illustration he needed. These are his words:
When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact 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 see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior. Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message 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.” (Packer, J.I. Keeping in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (GR: Baker, 2005), p. 57)
What a beautiful illustration of the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of God’s people. Jesus had been the Comforter who had been with His disciples for three years, but now He was going to the cross. He would die, three days later be resurrected from the dead, and forty days later He would ascend to the right hand of the Father. But He would not leave His followers as orphans. I just finished a Bible study that I’ve been leading on Wednesday nights called, “Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You.” At first glance I questioned the title. There’s nothing better than Jesus. Yet, I read and watched the videos by J. D. Greear and realized that what he said was exactly right. During Jesus’ ministry He could only be in one place at one time. While He was ministering to the man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem the folks who were being tormented by the demoniac in the Gadarenes would have to wait. Jesus couldn’t teach on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Southern Steps of the Temple at the same time. The ministry of Jesus continued through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but His ministry was no longer confined to one place at one time. Because we have limited time I want to share just a few ways the presence of the Holy Spirit helps us in our daily walk.
First of all, the Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s truth. Truth seems to be ever-changing in this day in which we live. What was true ten years ago is now mocked and belittled. Even in the sciences we find that what was once accepted as truth has changed. Yet, God’s truth is still true and will never change. In John 14:6 Jesus said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Truth is more than facts, truth is found in a Person and His name is Jesus. in John 14:17, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of Truth.” Then, in John 14:26, Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would remind them of everything He had taught them. Jesus said,
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIVO)
Through the years I’ve heard so many people who were going through difficult times tell me, “I don’t know how people who don’t know the Lord make it through these kinds of experiences.” Without God’s truth, His counsel and comfort, we can easily misinterpret what we experience in life. We can get a promotion, a big raise, secure a monster deal and like Nebuchadnezzar say, “Look what I’ve done!” We can find ourselves in the valley of despair and conclude that God doesn’t love us. We desperately need God’s truth.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit not only reminds us of what Jesus taught, but He guides us into all truth. It’s one thing to be taught the truth. It’s an altogether different thing to have someone guide you in implementing truth in your life. In John 16:13, Jesus said,
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13 NIVO)
This coming week we will have tennis camp for 50 kids from our community. Our coaches won’t simply tell the kids how to hit a forehand, backhand, or volley. Our coaches will get in there with the kids, put their hand on the racquet with the child and lead them in learning how to stroke the ball. They will correct them when they fall back into old habits. They will cheer for them when they hit a winner. Our coaches lead our players and the Holy Spirit wants to lead you and me. Paul wrote to the Romans and said,
13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14 NIVO)
Another very important aspect of the help the Holy Spirit provides for God’s people is intercessory prayer. We are a praying church. We know that God hears our prayers. We know that God’s Word commands us to pray for our brothers and sisters. I send out prayer requests when one of us in need of prayer. We pray for one another, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. I’ve heard from many, many people through the years who were comforted and encouraged by your prayers. Now, imagine the Holy Spirit praying specifically for you. Not for the 7 billion folks on the planet in some kind of generic prayer, but specifically for you. Paul tells us, in Romans 8:26-27,
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27 NIVO)
We oftentimes pray for our friends to find relief from whatever it is that is hurting them, but the Holy Spirit prays in accordance with God’s will for you and me. If that were not enough, if we will keep reading in Romans 8 we will learn that there is Someone else who is interceding for us. Read it with me.
34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 NIVO)
Some of you are here this morning and you have no mom or dad that you can turn to for guidance, love, protection, and a sense of belonging. Maybe you were taken out of your home because your mom and dad had personal problems that prevented you from living with them. Some of you who are adults grew up without the benefit of a family. You were taken away by DHS and “placed” in a home, but your heart longed for something more. Or maybe you grew up in a wonderful family, but both of your parents have died and now you feel all alone. I want to let you know that your Heavenly Father longs to hold you in His arms and for you to hear that He will never leave you or forsake you. I want to invite you this morning to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior and find your place of love and belonging in Him. He will provide you, guide you, love you, provide for you, and pray for you as He reminds you that He will never leave you as an orphan.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 12, 2016