Saturday, April 7, 2012

Perfect Peace - The Holy Spirit's Role

This is the 5th post on my blog on the topic of "Perfect Peace - Hope for the Weary Soul." Another foundational discussion, building on the last one where we talked about how true peace is actually a person, or...comes to us by having a close relationship with that person, Jesus Christ. I'm referring to more than the mere fact of whether one is a Christian.

Clearly, you can be a Christian and not enjoy Perfect Peace. But this is something God intends for us to experience. To help us, He provides the most wonderful gift. The gift of Himself. The gift of the Holy Spirit.

But how many of us really know the third Person of the Trinity? God, the Holy Spirit?

Of all the Gospels, God tells us the most about what happened at the Last Supper in the Gospel of John. Four whole chapters in fact (John 13-16). Jesus said a great deal to His Disciples on that last evening and, apparently, God wanted us to hear it. One of the primary topics Jesus discussed was the Holy Spirit. But first, let’s look at something Jesus said about Himself.

“I am the Vine, you are the Branches.” (John 15:5)

This is a familiar passage and a powerful metaphor. Because it is familiar, we can sometimes forget what was happening when Jesus said it. It was the eve of His death. After three years of being with His disciples day and night, Jesus was about to leave them. And not just for a short journey. He was about to die a violent death at the hands of his enemies.

Yet Jesus shares this picture of a Vine and Branches, specifically drawing attention to the closeness of the disciples’ union with Him. Jesus was the Vine and they were the Branches, which meant they were to live in complete dependence upon Him. The disciples would have known all about vineyards, vines and branches. They would know the branches must remain connected to the vine to receive life, and to have any chance of bearing fruit. Jesus uses this metaphor to show His disciples how they should relate to Him.

They must remain this close. But how can they? He is leaving them this very night, for good.

To strengthen this idea of total dependence Jesus adds these words: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” And yet, this very night, He will be taken away from them. Still, He tells them here, in essence, don’t do anything from now on apart from me.

In light of what was about to happen that night, it might make more sense for Jesus to say, “Remember Me always.” He actually does say this earlier in the night when He led them through the first sacrament of Communion. Then He used the metaphor of His body like Bread being broken, and His blood was like the wine they would drink. And He did say, “Do this in memory of me.”

But here, a little while later that night, we have this new metaphor with the Vine and Branches. Jesus isn’t speaking of remembering Him. He’s talking about an ongoing relationship with Him that He wants them to have, well beyond the horrific events of this night. And clearly, He intends this relationship to be so real, so close and so strong that the best way to describe it is to call to mind the relationship between a Vine and its Branches.

The reason John wrote down all these extra words about the Last Supper is because he knew this is also the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with everyone who would believe in Him. That includes you and me. Today, right now. And He wants this kind of relationship with us every day we live on this earth, until the time we see Him face to face in Heaven.

Looking back at that moment, it must have been perplexing to consider how such an intimate, ongoing relationship with Christ could be possible, since He was about to die and be taken from them that very night.

But Jesus doesn’t leave them in confusion, to ponder a nice but irrelevant metaphor that can’t possibly connect to real life. He tells them exactly how this new, intimate, dependent relationship with Him would be possible. In fact, experiencing it for themselves was part of the reason He was about to give His life for them (and for us) on the cross.

This is why He introduces them to the Holy Spirit that night, the third Person in the Trinity.

He is the One who had been with Jesus from the beginning, and whose sweet Presence and fellowship united Jesus to His Father while He was on earth. Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit six times that night (that makes introducing the Holy Spirit the primary topic of the night).

The first time, Jesus said this: “If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth…” (John 14:15-17). Here, Jesus identifies the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth.” Then He says He is coming as “another Helper” (Jesus being the first Helper). And then, to offset the sad news that He would be leaving them physically that night, Jesus says, “He will abide (remain) with you forever.”

In the very next verse, Jesus adds this: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

This can only mean that a primary role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is to serve as a living link to Jesus. Jesus comes to us through the union we have with the Holy Spirit. And not only Jesus, but the Father as well. A few verses later in verse 23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

The Father and the Son make their home in our hearts through the person of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who unites the Branches to the Vine.

After the Last Supper, it is abundantly clear that the early disciples got what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. We see them constantly talking about the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts and the epistles. And it is very evident…they related to Him in a personal and dependent way.
In contrast, I’d say many modern Christians don’t get what Jesus said, and don’t relate to the Holy Spirit the same way. In my observation, as a Christian for over 35 years (25 years as a pastor), I’d say many modern Christians relate to a “different Trinity” than what the apostles and early Christians experienced.

Instead of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, for some of us, I think our “functional Trinity” looks more like:

•    The Father, Son and The Church
•    The Father, Son and The Bible
•    The Father, Son and Theology
•    The Father, Son and The Pastor

Many of us depend on things like the church (people in the church), the Bible, theology books, or a pastor in a way God didn’t intend. Certainly, these are important things, good things, necessary things. But they are not the Vine and cannot give us life and peace. They are a means God uses to help us. But we must learn to relate and depend on the other, primary “Helper” Jesus talked about at the Last Supper.

The Holy Spirit.

We need the Holy Spirit every bit as much as Jesus said we would, every bit as much as the early disciples did. Especially if we have any hope of experiencing Perfect Peace. The Good News is…if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit already lives within you, and is eager to help you draw closer to God.

It’s my hope that over the course of time, you will become much more familiar with this most precious gift―the Holy Spirit―and become far more comfortable relating to Him. Not just every day but, as Jesus did, throughout every moment of every day.

For it is the Holy Spirit who will help us to keep “our minds stayed on Him.” Let's close with this challenging question? Do you believe in the Trinity? If you are a Christian, likely you do. But is your "functional Trinity" the Father, Son AND the Holy Spirit?

4 comments:

  1. Wow! Excellent questions. Easter is the perfect time to sit and peer into our hearts while relfecting on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. I have taken the weekend to talk to my four children about 'what Easter is really all about.'
    Let's forget the Easter Bunny and candy for a time and remember the ultimate sacrifice that was made for our sins so that we may obtain eternal life through Christ.
    I enjoyed reading your post this morning. This is my first time on your website after a member from ACFW suggested I read your books. I bought 'The Homecoming' and can't wait to read it!

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  2. Thanks so much, Rachel. Great to hear you sharing these things with your kids. Thank your ACFW friend for me.

    BTW, not trying to sell books here, but wanted you to know...The Homecoming is the sequel to The Unfinished Gift, my first novel. You can read them out of order, though. I wrote the 2nd book a year after, so we tried to make it work as a stand-alone, realizing lots of people wouldn't have read the first one first.

    You can check out this link to my website, if you want to get a feel for what both books are about. Scroll down a little and you'll see both covers. http://www.danwalshbooks.com/MyBooks.html

    Hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday!

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