You’ve probably felt what they felt. When Jesus told His disciples, "I am going away" (John 16:7), they were filled with grief and couldn’t bear the thought. How were they going to carry on without Him? Have you ever felt like Jesus has left you? Our rebellion and guilt give us every reason to feel this way. Yet Jesus gave them this promise that extends also to us: "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) Here the Holy Spirit is called the Counselor. Other translations use the word Comforter or Advocate or Encourager or Strengthener. The rich Greek word "paraclete" contains all these thoughts. To try to capture it in a single phrase, the Holy Spirit is by you and for you. You are not alone. This is not some nebulous force; in the mystery of the Trinity, this is God Himself by you and for you.
Notice how the Holy Spirit comes to your aid and stands by your side: He "will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." This is what you read throughout the Gospels, the New Testament, and the whole of the Scriptures which testify about Jesus. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, and His work is to put the spotlight on Jesus as your Savior. His work is to bring you what Jesus has promised: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) Every earthly thing God could give you cannot measure up to this peace that Jesus gives and that the Holy Spirit instills in you through the Word. The world’s peace is always intermittent and temporary. The peace Jesus gives – the peace that surpasses all hardship and difficulties with the promise of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Him – is constant and eternal. So take heart; THE HOLY SPIRIT IS WITH YOU AND FOR YOU THROUGH GOD’S WORD.
At any given time millions of dollars of counterfeit money are circulating around the country. But genuine U.S. bills have a security thread so the authenticity of any bill can be tested. Did you know that God provides us with a 'security thread' to test counterfeit teachings and to recognize the authenticity of His teaching? "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God." (I John 4:2,3) An ancient confession of faith, the Nicene Creed, was written 1700 years ago for this very reason, to proclaim and defend the truth that "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh," that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. 'We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God…true God from true God…for us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and became fully human.'
Don’t miss the IMPORTANCE and the COMFORT of this truth; it is 'for us and for our salvation.' It all hinges on the fact that 'He came down from heaven,' that "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." If Jesus is not God in the flesh, then He suffered and died as just a martyr rather than as your Savior. But because He is true God as well as true man, then you have the payment you need for the forgiveness of your sins. Let me put it this way: If I write you a check for $1,000,000, don’t get your hopes up; my account doesn’t hold that kind of money. But if you get a $1,000,000 check signed by a billionaire, take it to the bank. Similarly, if Jesus is not true God, don’t get your hopes up that you are going to heaven. But because He is true God, you can take it to the bank that you are going to heaven. Counterfeit teaching, like counterfeit money, holds no value in the end. Use the 'security thread' God has given you and accept no substitute: JESUS CHRIST HAS COME IN THE FLESH FOR US AND FOR OUR SALVATION.
Of all the things that are called into question and doubted in life, God’s love is probably at the top of the list. Because our conscience testifies of our guilt and our inability to make up for our wrongs, how many times have we wondered, 'Does God really love me? I know who I am. I know what I have done. How could He love me?' Or maybe we have questioned God’s love because of difficulty or tragedy we have experienced, wondering, 'God, if you love me, why are these things happening to me?' God’s Word bursts into the middle of these questions with an exclamation: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are." (I John 3:1)
It’s more accurate to the original Greek text to translate it this way: "Behold! What kind of love is this that the Father has given to us?" "Behold" is meant to wake us up to the reality of God’s love and to marvel at it. Behold! – He has given His love TO us by giving Himself FOR us, sending His Son as the perfect sacrifice to be condemned in the place of you and me and all rebellious mankind. What kind of love is this? Oh!, it is a passionate love that loved you to death (and back!); it is a gracious love that loves the unlovable; it is a miraculous love such that the Father loves you beyond what is seemingly possible, with a love beyond any earthly love, a love beyond measure! Of all the things we could question in life, the Father’s love isn’t one of them. This love, given to us in Jesus, proclaimed to us in His Word, poured out upon us in baptism – this love doesn’t just call us God’s children; it MAKES us His children. "And that is what we are." HOW GREAT IS THE LOVE THE FATHER HAS GIVEN TO US!
"No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine." That’s Botany 101. Jesus uses that simple illustration to make a serious point: "Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." That’s Spiritual Life 101 – there is no life with God apart from Jesus, the life-giving Vine. Jesus gets even more direct when He says, "apart from me, you can do nothing." Some people point to the good they do as their claim to life with God, but that’s as backwards as a branch claiming it receives life because it’s fruitful... No, it all depends on the connection to the vine, and our life with God all depends on our connection with Jesus, the life-giving Vine. This simple illustration with its blunt words is Jesus’ loving but serious way to get you to see and understand that life with God does not and cannot depend on you or what you do, but can only come from Him. (John 15:1-8)
This is why Jesus says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you." (v4) When you are connected to Jesus in faith, you are connected to the very Son of God. You are connected to the One who made you and the One who saved you. You are connected to the perfect life He lived for you and the full price He paid for your sins by His death on the cross. You are connected to His resurrection from the dead and to the heavenly home He has promised to prepare for you. The life that flows from this Vine to every branch connected to Him is the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and life everlasting. The result here and now? "If a man remains in me and I in him, he WILL bear much fruit." (v5) IN JESUS YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A FRUITFUL LIFE.
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.