Last week we began studying a new section of Jesus’ discussion with His disciples that runs from John 15:18-16:15. In this section of Scripture Jesus suddenly switches topics. He ends His conversation about His love for them, His choosing them as His own, and their need to love one another. In verse 18, Jesus says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Then, in verses 18-25, Jesus tells His disciples why the world will hate them, He reminds them that they do not belong to the world, and He quoted from the Psalms, either Psalm 35:19 or Psalm 69:4, when He let them know His adversaries “hated Him for no reason.” In John 16:1-4 Jesus will pick up this theme again, the theme of how His followers will be treated by those who reject Him. What’s really interesting is that tucked in the middle of these persecution verses from John 15 and rolling into John 16 we find our Scripture for this morning. Read along with me from John 15:26-27.
26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27 NIVO)
Some Bible teachers say these Scriptures had to have been inserted by a later copyists because they just don’t fit, they break up Jesus’ line of thought about the persecution of His followers, but I believe they fit perfectly. They not only fit perfectly, but they can give you and me great insight and confidence for our own lives. Here’s why I believe that to be true. We live in a world that is opposed to the cause of Jesus, surrounded by people who reject His claim to be God, to be the singular way to God, to be the source of salvation, the fountain of peace, comfort, and purpose. In this world which snickers or scowls at our faith we will either shrink back and fade into the crowd or we will stand up and unashamedly share who He is and what He has done in our lives and what He desires to do in the lives of those who snicker and scowl. Jesus’ words in John 15:26-27 give us the backbone and tools needed to never shrink back.
There is no doubt in my mind that most Christians today really love Jesus. We are well familiar with who He is and what He has done in our lives to rescue us from ourselves, free us from the shackles of sin, and reconcile us to God the Father. We know these things, we have cognitive understanding of these truths because the Bible tells us so over and over again. Yet, Jesus didn’t instruct His disciples to simply know these truths. If you will remember, in John 15:16, Jesus told His disciples,
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16 NIVO)
Jesus made it clear that He had chosen His followers for a purpose. He had chosen them and appointed them to go and bear fruit–fruit that would last. The truth of the matter is that over and over again Jesus reiterated to His disciples that they must go and tell somebody. His disciples did just that, many heard the Good News, and became followers of Jesus themselves. Generation after generation heard the Good News and in turn they told someone as well. They came from palaces and shanty towns, they were intellectual elites and laborers who toiled in the fields, they came from families that had taught them the faith, nurtured their faith, and from families who disowned them once their faith was discovered, but they were relentless in their desire to live for and tell others about Jesus. Some lost their lives, others lost their positions in society or in their families, and some shared their faith with no apparent consequence, but they all told someone. And then someone told you and me.
I read a study this past week that caught my attention. The study was conducted by LifeWay Research as they set out to try and determine if American Christians are sharing their faith. The study found that 80% of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a responsibility to share their faith. I guess 20% feel no need to share their faith. The sad reality is that the 80% are much more like the 20% than they would like to admit. LifeWay found 61% of those who believe they should share their faith in Jesus do not. 75% of those interviewed felt comfortable in their ability to effectively communicate the gospel and yet they don’t do it.
The survey also asked people how many times they have invited someone who does not attend church to attend with them in the last six months. 48% said, “Zero.” 33% said, “Once or twice.” Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, said,
Many times we’ve been told new Christians are most active in sharing their faith. In reality people who have been a Christian longer have higher responses for sharing Christ than newer Christians. (Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research.)
I wasn’t shocked by the number of the followers of Jesus who don’t share what the Lord has done in their life or invite their friends to church. The reason I’m not shocked is because of what Ed Stetzer said. We will become active in sharing our faith when two things take place in our lives: First, our understanding of what God has done to rescue us must become more than an intellectual understanding–it must become a personal experience. God didn’t just give His Son to die for sinners, He sent His Son to rescue me, to die in my place so I might be reconciled to the Father. Second, we need to learn how God has provided for what He has commanded. God calls and He equips. Our Scripture for this morning will give us great insight into this truth. Jesus told His disciples, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father…” Who is this Counselor and why does Jesus place such great emphasis on His role in the lives of the disciples? That’s a great question that we will spend the next two weeks trying to understand.
First, let’s take a look at the word, “Counselor.” The Greek word translated Counselor, is “??????????” (parakletos) and it means, “called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid, advocate, supporter, or helper.” This past week I checked four different translations and each one translated this Greek word differently, and yet all of them capture some aspect of the meaning of the word. The New International Version translates it, “Counselor.” The English Standard Version, “Helper.” The King James Version, “Comforter.” The New Living Translation gives us, “Advocate.” None of these translations are wrong and yet one word can’t capture the scope of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the followers of Jesus. The first appearance of the word is found in John 14:16, in the Upper Room, when Jesus said,
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. (John 14:16-18 NIVO)
The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth.” The world can’t accept Him. They don’t know Him. The followers of Jesus know Him because He lives in us and is with us. The second occurrence is found in John 14:26 where 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)
The Holy Spirit is our Counselor who will teach us all of the things God wants us to know and He also reminds us of everything Jesus said. The ministry of the Holy Spirit would be so integral for the ministry of the followers of Jesus that He instructed them, after His resurrection, to stay in Jerusalem and wait. Turn with me to Luke 24:46-49 and let’s read together.
46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:46-49 NIVO)
“Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things.” In other words, you will be My messengers. Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. In Acts 1:6-8 we can gain more clarity about what Jesus was talking about. Read along with me.
6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8 NIVO)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Being “clothed with power from on high” is a reference to the power that would be given to them when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Did you notice what would be the direct result of the Holy Spirit’s coming? They would be witnesses starting right where they were, in Jerusalem, and going out from there to the ends of the earth.
It is so important for us to understand this. The disciples had spent three years with Jesus. They had listened to Him speak. They had watched how He did everything from confront His adversaries, heal the sick, impart eternal life to sinners, comfort the broken, and teach about the Kingdom of God, but all of the information they had gathered wouldn’t be enough. They needed something more. They needed the empowerment, the filling, the enabling, the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must remember, Jesus didn’t redeem His disciples simply so they would go to heaven. He chose them, rescued them, redeemed them, and appointed them to be His witnesses, to testify about the Good News.
In our Scripture for today we read that “the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me…and you also must testify…” The word, “testify,” is an important word for you and me to understand. It is the Greek verb, “????????’ (martureo) and it means, “to be a witness, to speak about what one has seen or heard or experienced.” The Spirit will testify and the followers of Jesus will testify. This is exactly what Jesus promised in the two verses we looked at in Luke 24 and Acts 1. Actually, the word that is used in those two passages is the noun form of the same word for “testify.” In Luke, Jesus said, “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached..to all nations beginning in Jerusalem–you are witnesses of these things.” In Acts 1:8, Jesus said once the Holy Spirit came His followers would be His witnesses, they would testify, beginning in Jerusalem and going to the ends of the earth.
Just as the disciples had knowledge of Jesus, but needed something more, so you and I who know Jesus; we know what He taught, what He did, and how He interacted with others, yet we need something more than knowledge. We need the Holy Spirit who testifies to enable us to testify in this culture that is opposed to Jesus and His truth.
The question I’ve asked this past week is this: “How does the Holy Spirit testify?” We’ll get into this more next week, but for this morning let’s focus on two important aspects of the Spirit’s testimony.
The Word of God
First of all, the testimony of the Spirit is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word of God and the teacher of the Word of God for the people of God.
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21 NIVO)
You may have heard, or you may even believe, the Bible was written by people, but the Bible says something very different. Scripture doesn’t originate with people. The Holy Spirit moved on people who wrote what God led them to write. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God, teaches it, and applies it to the lives of His people. Paul wrote to the people in Corinth and shared a very similar idea with them in 1 Corinthians 2:12-14.
12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 NIVO)
Paul said the person without the Spirit doesn’t accept the things of God. Unbelievers can be presented the same evidence that we’ve been shown from the Word of God, which has convinced us that Jesus truly is the Messiah, and they can fail or refuse to see what we see.
The Persuasion of the Holy Spirit
This leads to what I see as a second way the Holy Spirit testifies and that is persuasion. We who are followers of Jesus have been presented the proof of the truthfulness of the Gospel, but we have also been persuaded so that we have embraced these truths and surrendered to them in our daily life. The old preachers of the Reformation use to speak about the “inner witness of the Spirit.” By that they meant that the Spirit bears witness to our spirits that the Bible is the Word of God. The Spirit of God also convicts us of sin, convinces us of our need for salvation found in Jesus, and then reassures us that we are children of God. Proof is not enough, we must be persuaded and it is the Holy Spirit who does the persuading. R. C. Sproul has written,
Objective proofs for the Bible are many and compelling, but they cannot force people to believe against their wills. Sinners are only persuaded to receive the Bible as God’s Word as the Holy Spirit changes their hearts and assures them that they can trust and rely on what Scripture says. (Sproul, R.C., The Spirit’s Internal Witness.)
It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever that provides proof and persuades so that they become followers of Jesus. The “internal witness of the Spirit” provides the followers of Jesus with an additional blessing and that is the assurance that we are children of God.
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Rom. 8:16 NIVO)
Jesus said the Holy Spirit testifies and then He said to the disciples, “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” Those who heard those words had been with Jesus since the beginning of His ministry and they were called upon to share what they had seen and heard. For those who came to know Jesus through their testimony, they were given the same charge… “Go and share the Good News.” I want to encourage you not to share your faith in the same way the Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons share their faith. Let me explain. The folks who belong to these two groups are out in our neighborhoods day-after-day. They have memorized a script with questions and Scripture to share with the people who are brave enough to open their door. Don’t memorize a script and Scriptures, rather, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you as you interact with those He leads across your path each day. Without the Holy Spirit we will reduce testifying to nothing more than another task to do and that is not what Jesus calls us to as His witnesses.
In Matthew’s Gospel we can read about a time when Jesus sent out His twelve disciples with instructions. Jesus told them to be on their guard for people who would hand them over to the local authorities. Then, in Matthew 10:19-20, Jesus said,
19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20 NIVO)
A script and a few verses won’t do you much good in front of the court. They needed more than an apologetics class. They needed the assurance that the Holy Spirit would give them what they needed at the time it was needed in that specific context. And so it is with you and me.
When we step outside of these doors we will walk into a world full of people, some who love Jesus, some who could care less about Jesus, and some who are adamantly opposed to anything to do with Jesus. We need more than a script and a few well-selected verses, we need the assurance that we are not going alone. The Counselor has come and He will lead us and lead others to us, He will give us the words to say that fit the situation we are in, apply those words to the people we are talking to, and He will give us the courage to speak instead of quietly fading into the background.
There is one more thing I need to share with all of us this morning that is vitally important. The words we speak to an unbelieving world will be validated, or invalidated, by the life we live. If we speak of Jesus, the joy, peace, and security He has brought to our life, but they see no evidence of His transforming power in our lives, then our testimony will be heard for what it is, nothing more than hypocrisy. On the other hand, if are living each day with the Cross before us, seeking to honor God with our words and actions, then an unbelieving world will be much more inclined to hear what we have to say. They may not believe, but at least they will be more inclined to listen.
Let me give you a closing illustration of what I’m talking about. All of us go through tough times, “dark nights of the soul” as the ancients called them, but we, as followers of Jesus, have resources to deal with these dark nights that the world lacks. This past week Connie gave me a sermon by Pastor Spurgeon called, “Songs in the Night.” I read it and it ministered to me in such a powerful way. Pastor Spurgeon says that we, as followers of Jesus, have been given a song for the dark nights we go through in life. He also says our song in the night is a testimony to our unbelieving friends and family members. Pastor Spurgeon writes,
I tell you, we may preach fifty thousand sermons to prove the gospel, but we shall not prove it half so well as you will through singing in the night. Keep a cheerful frame; keep a happy heart; keep a contented spirit; keep you eye up, and your heart aloft, and you will prove Christianity better than…all the wise men that ever lived. Give them the analogy of a holy life, and then you will prove religion to them; give them the evidence of internal piety, developed externally, and you will give the best possible proof of Christianity. Try and sing songs in the night; for they are so rare, that if thou canst sing them, thou wilt honor thy God, and bless thy friends. (Spurgeon, Charles. Songs in the Night.)
Most people are not evangelists, but every follower of Jesus has a testimony of what the Lord has done and what the Lord is doing at the present time. Your life is a testimony of His faithfulness. Your hardships are a testimony of His sustaining power when so many others would have thrown in the towel. Don’t be afraid to share His story of mercy, grace, and salvation being written on the pages of your life. It’s your story of His work in you. People will surely oppose you, but the Holy Spirit is with you and will strengthen you to continue to testify.
There is most certainly someone here today who is not a follower of Jesus. I hope the Holy Spirit has shown you this very morning your great need for Jesus. I would ask you to this day confess your sins to Him and ask Him to come into your life and begin to lead you in your daily walk with Him.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 18, 2016