“Welcoming The Helper”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

It’s almost been two years now. In just a few days, my family and I will celebrate our two year anniversary here in Bellingham. It’s hard to believe it’s gone so fast. Two years ago on this date, Cheryl and I were heading west into the great unknown. Along with the excitement came a little trepidation. We really loved our time in St. Louis. Would our new congregation welcome us? Would there be too many problems to overcome? Am I really ready?

At seminary, I knew what was expected of me. The school was my security blanket. If I had a question, I had the best professors in the business right there to provide me with answers. If I struggled, I knew that I wasn’t alone because every student there was going through the same things I was. I was comfortable, secure even.

I imagine the disciples felt much the same way in our text this morning. Jesus has just told them He was to leave them. It was now going to be up to them to carry on His work. No longer would he be their security blanket. It would be them against the world. Would their message be welcomed? Will the resistance to their message be too difficult for them to overcome? What roadblocks would they encounter in their efforts? Were they really ready for such a calling?

Why did Jesus have to leave? Wouldn’t it have been easier for all of us if He just stuck around? Have you ever struggled with these thoughts? The security blanket of all security blankets for the disciples and now He’s going away.

Well, as any Christian should know. Jesus didn’t abandon His disciples just when things were heating up. He left to accomplish our salvation but He didn’t leave them alone. He helped the disciples the same way he helps us today, the same way he helped me as I left the comfort of the seminary for the unknown. Out of His love for us, He gave us a helper to be with us forever, the Holy Spirit himself.

In our trials in life, it’s important for us to remember that God continues to provide His guidance and protection through the Holy Spirit, even though those trials may have come because of our own bad choices in life. During those times when we feel scared or maybe even unwanted, we can be assured that we are indeed cared for and loved with the same passion as God loves the righteous. We don’t need to find our security in worldly things because the ultimate sign of love has been provided to us to help us to be secure with who God has made us to be. Self-help video’s and seminar’s on “being the best you can be” might uplift our spirit’s for a time, but none of them can promise the lifetime of love and security that is available to us through faith in God by way of the Holy Spirit.

In John 13, Jesus is telling His disciples about true greatness. He gives them direction saying in verse 34, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus told His disciples that true greatness would be found in humility and in service to others out of love. He then showed this greatness by washing His disciple’s feet. Jesus was preparing them for when He would no longer be with them. He knew that love, not hate would be their greatest weapon when they came upon trials and tribulations. He knew that love would is the greatest tool in winning the hearts of the lost. He knew that love would be the answer when they would be attacked with loathing. And out of this same love, God would never leave the disciples alone. By way of the Holy Spirit, that love would be instilled into them so that true greatness would be achieved.

That same love found it’s culmination on the cross as Jesus gave up everything, even His own life for us. He gave Himself completely to His Father’s will, he dedicated himself to every law, decree and command His Father had ever uttered, so that we might, one day be joined with Him in paradise. Everything Christ accomplished here on earth was for us, but when He left this earth He did not leave us alone. He left those who would put their trust in Him with the Holy Spirit so that He might continue to provide comfort and healing, care and mercy.

In verse 16 of our text, Jesus expands on God’s plan of salvation by promising His disciple’s one He called the “Counselor” or “Helper.” He is foretelling the events of Pentecost which we’ll celebrate in a couple of weeks. He did this because He knew they were troubled because of His announcement that He would be leaving. He knew the confusion that would be caused by His arrest, His suffering and, ultimately, His death. Jesus wanted them to know that He would never forsake them even when it appeared all was lost. So He makes them the promise of the Helper. The Greek word for helper here is describing one who would walk with them, encouraging and instructing along the way.

I can’t think of a better way that God could show His love for His people after Jesus left this earthly plain then to provide us with His Spirit to counsel and lead us. Jesus provides us a description, “I will leave you a helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be with you.”

In my walk with Christ, my prayers always include the request that He put people in my path to shape me into the man He has called me to be.

I look back and I see He has been faithful in that request though I have resisted from time to time. In my life, I can see so many that have led me to where I now find myself, sometimes with stern words and sometimes with hard lessons but always with love.

God has given all of us that same blessing. As a counselor, the Holy Spirit comforts, guides and instructs us, sometimes with stern words, sometimes with hard lessons but always with love. He does this by way of God’s Word to us. First He shows that we need a Savior. We can’t love ourselves and others into heaven. No amount of good works or positive thinking can gain us admittance. No matter how good we feel about ourselves or make other people feel about themselves, without Christ there is no hope. And for us to truly understand this Word and promise of God we need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised this to His disciples and He holds that same promise for us.

In your time of need, God provides His Spirit of truth. The Lord shows us that He cares because He deals with the truth. He calls a sin a sin even as the world tries to change the definition. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our own sin. He reminds us that we have defied God over and over again in our thoughts and in our actions. Every time we read God’s Word we’re reminded just how vulnerable we are. Maybe that’s why so many choose to avoid it and thereby avoid the work of the Holy Spirit as well.

To overcome the sin within us we must meet it in truth, face-to-face. The Holy Spirit provides truth so that we don’t have to put our trust in ourselves for salvation. The Holy Spirit’s main job is to turn us from ourselves and towards Christ for certainty of forgiveness and salvation. He leads us to Christ for those times we need strength to carry on.

Sadly, there are still so many who deny the truth. They can’t see past themselves to someone greater then themselves. Jesus says these people cannot see the Holy Spirit because they have not allowed the Holy Spirit to work in them. They don’t know the Holy Spirit because they have put their confidence elsewhere. The world looks at the truth of God’s love and sees it as folly. It’s happy enough wallowing in the things that separate us from God. It’s happy enough with sex and lust in the absence of love. It finds its enjoyment in earthly goals at the expense of heavenly ones.

That is why the Holy Spirit leads us to find the truth together so that we might put our Christian love into practice. The Holy Spirit swells within us so that our path through the narrow gate might be made possible. He moves us to love each other even when we have don’t deserve it. In this way we obey God’s command, living our lives out in active prayer.

The Holy Spirit leads us to love out of humility and grace not out of sinful pride. He provides us with the power to love even when the sinful heart is opposed to it, even when it’s inconvenient or unappealing. Christian love is the willing response the Holy Spirit works in our hearts which becomes evident in our lives.

Jesus promised never to leave us or forsake us. He made it clear when He said He would provide a helper to dwell within us. The Spirit used Baptism to start this relationship. He has been with us from the beginning.

The Holy Spirit is responsible for the faith we have in Jesus Christ and he is responsible for kindling the flame of faith within us, allowing us to live for Christ and Christ alone. We first think of our limitations when Jesus says “If you love me you will obey my commands,” but these words need not frighten us. By the grace of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit we can know that these requirements are not achieved by our own words and merit but by the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit leads us to obey God by reminding us of His promises found in Scripture. By way of Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we have a faithful God who loved us enough to die for us, rising again so that we might be with Him for all eternity. This message of love leads us to the trust we need and that trust is seen in how we are formed.

Several years ago, Gatorade had an ad with Michael Jordan where he was covered in orange drops of sweat. The image says clearly that Michael Jordan is so full of Gatorade that it is literally pouring out of him like sweat. That’s an appropriate image of the Holy Spirit in us. If the Holy Spirit is living inside of you, there’s going to be evidence. Whatever is inside of you is eventually going to come out of you.

If you squeeze a grape, you’re going to get grape juice. If you squeeze an apple, you’re going to get apple juice. If you squeeze a prune, you’re going to get prune juice. Whatever is on the inside is eventually going to come out. And if the Spirit is in us, it will shown in how we live our lives.

The Holy Spirit encourages us to focus on the simpler things in life. He daily reminds us of the simpler things of faith, forgiveness, salvation and hope. Each day He molds us to be the people God created us to be so that by our actions, people might see a bit of God. We don’t have to listen to a great motivational speaker to inspire us because all the motivation we need can be found in God’s Word and Sacrament under the guidance and direction of the Helper.

So listen for His cues. Read His instructions. Dedicate your life to Christ and let the Holy Spirit lead you to places you never thought you’d be, doing things you never imagined doing. We don’t have to spend a fortune to find peace. We don’t have to wear a mask to find acceptance. We don’t have to bow down to the world to find happiness. The Holy Spirit has provided the inspiration so don’t doubt, simply believe. You have the promises of God to back you up. Amen.

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