There are times when we feel cut off from God – by feelings of failure or unworthiness, feelings of ignorance or unbelief, or by feelings of abandonment.
In times like this it is important we remember Jesus’ words to his disciples during the last hours before his arrest and crucifixion: “If anyone loves me, they will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).
The disciples were grief-stricken at the thought of Jesus’ going, but he was assuring them that his going would mean the coming of the Comforter, the Helper, the Holy Spirit – who comes from the Father and the Son.
Tomorrow, Thursday, is Ascension Day. It’s a good day to reflect on Jesus’ physical departure following his death and resurrection. With that we also recall his promise that he would be sending his Spirit to be his people and to work in the world.
For many, Christianity is little more than a moral code that they must struggle to observe, or a creed to be recited mindlessly every week. Their experience of faith is legalistic and dull. In the hours before his arrest, Jesus assured his followers that he wanted them to know and enjoy a deep relationship with the One who is at the heart of the universe. ‘It’s about knowing me and having me live with you through my Spirit,’ he said.
We don’t have to despair that we’re not good enough for God. We don’t need to languish in ignorance or unbelief because the idea of God seems so utterly foreign to us. The Christian faith involves knowing the love and the beauty of Christ through his Spirit in our lives. ‘God in the soul of men and women’ is how one ancient writer put it.
But Jesus knows – as we do when we think about it – that relationships are only meaningful when they are based on truth. His following words are most important: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
One way we can be assured that the Bible is true is found in these words: “The Spirit will teach you all things…” The Spirit enabled the disciples to recall exactly what Jesus said and did. Furthermore, he enabled them to interpret the events of Jesus’ Person and work truly and accurately. What the disciples taught and what they wrote comes with this authority.
So, John 14:26 is not primarily a promise for us, for the simple reason that we were not there to listen to Jesus. We arrived too late! But we do have the great assurance that the disciples got it right. Their preaching, their teaching, their writing, is true because the Spirit of God was at work within them. He was inspiring them – breathing into them God’s Word of truth.
This is enormously encouraging, for it means that we can enter a true, authentic relationship with the living God. Our faith is not about some vague, mystical experience that may or may not be true.
The Bible is more than memories of a long-dead hero – more than the teachings of a wise man. The Bible enables us to listen to what God says and what Jesus says, so that we can grow in the riches of that relationship. If we ignore the Bible our relationship with God will grow weary and weak.
“If anyone loves me,” Jesus says, “we will come and make our home with them.” This is a wonderful privilege, a wonderful experience – God with us and in us. There is nothing second rate in this promise. Jesus couldn’t have spelled it out more clearly.
Have you thought about this? Have you asked Jesus to make his promise real to you? I am not talking about some mystical experience or speaking in tongues. I am talking about knowing deep down in your heart, in your soul, the love, the joy and the peace of Jesus Christ in your life – not just in the good times, but at every twist and turn of life.
In Romans 8:15ff, Paul the Apostle writes: ‘You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him’.
Once again I am touching on some very big questions. And so important are these matters that we are addressing them at the June Anglican Connection conference.
Here is a link you may want to check out: Conference Flier
If you are unable to attend yourself, why not encourage someone else to go? Don’t miss out!
Prayer O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: do not leave us desolate, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to where our Savior Christ has gone before, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore. Amen. (BCP, Sunday after Ascension)
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© John G. Mason