If we are going to grow in our spiritual lives we must read scripture. In the words recorded in the scriptures God reveals himself to us and teaches us how to respond. Paul in his letter to Timothy tells us that all scripture is useful for growing in holiness and equipping us for good works (2 Tim. 3:16). John tells us in his gospel that there are many other things that Jesus did that he (John) did not record but what he did record were written so that we might believe (Jn. 20:31). I have always encouraged those who begin to read the bible for their own spiritual growth to read John’s gospel. If you never read anything in the scriptures you should take the time to read John’s account of Jesus in the upper room recorded in Chapters 13-17.
To me, those five chapters in John’s gospel provide us keys to living our lives as disciples. One day I hope to do a weekend retreat on those chapters because there is so much we can learn from them about how we are equipped to become the people God desires. Our life is meant to be one filled with the presence of God and lived by understanding how Jesus’ death freed us from the penalty of our sins. The washing of feet by Jesus was more than an example of how we must serve each other; it is also a visual image of how Jesus washed away our sins.
We do not have time to go through those 155 verses in those five chapters in John’s gospel but let’s look at one we heard today in Chapter 14 verse 26 “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” How can we not understand the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives with statements like this?
God promised to send this Spirit to us almost 800 years before that evening in the upper room. You will find this promise of God in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Joel. Through the prophet Isaiah God tells us he will do something new and what is dead in us will come to life so that we would announce his praise (Is. 43: 19-21). Through the prophet Jeremiah he tells us that he will make a new covenant with us and will write his law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33). Through the prophet Ezekiel God tells us that he will give us new hearts and put his spirit within us so we will naturally follow his laws (Ez. 36:26). Through the prophecy of Joel God tells us that he will pour out this Spirit on all mankind (Joel 3: 1-3).
God’s plan to restore our glory began as soon as Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. God revealed to us that plan through the prophets and God’s plan involved three major events, the incarnation, the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. God understood how we humans can never completely follow the laws of God or of man. We are weak and we know what we should do but we just cannot do the very basic things God desires for us to do. Paul says this for us when he says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:19, 24). That my brothers and sisters is a description of us and it is exactly why God’s promise of the Spirit is so important to us.
Just think of our history with God: we have God freeing the Israelites from slavery; we have the law written on tablets of stone given to Moses; we have the thousands of Levitical laws given to the Israelites so that they may live and yet we are completely and utterly incapable of following the simplest of laws to love one another.
God knew we did not need more laws instead we needed to be freed from the sins we have committed and will commit in the future. God knew what we needed was a way to follow them naturally and that is the role of the Spirit in our lives.
Today we have a glimpse of one thing the Spirit can do for us: remind us and teach us everything that Jesus ever did and ever said. The spirit will do that for us not by giving us a book to study but the Spirit will open our minds to understand the words he inspired in the words of scriptures. In the scriptures we have the heart of God revealed. In the scriptures we have the recorded words and actions of Jesus and the Spirit will guide us to understand how those words can heal our hearts, open our eyes, enlighten our minds and feed our hunger.
The Spirit is the culmination of God’s plan to restore us to that intimate relationship intended when he created us to reflect his glory. The outpouring of the Spirit is God equipping us in order for us to follow him with our whole minds, hearts and souls. It is because of the gift of the Spirit we are able to overcome sin and the temptation of sin in our lives. With the power of the Spirit we are able to live a life without the hammer of condemnation hanging over our heads.
Isn’t that reason enough to begin to explore what the Spirit can do for your relationship with God? It is the only way we will be able to our lives as holy men and women. God provided us a way to be freed from the power of sin and to have intimacy with God by this gift, so embrace the Spirit that lives within you. I invite you over the next two weeks to read and reread those five chapters of John and pray daily for God to pour his Spirit upon you and make the day of Pentecost a new beginning for your relationship with God and the people of God.