Series > Worshiping the Spirit
The Need for the Spirit
Zach Pummill // March 31, 2019
scripture Passage // John 16:1–14 (ESV)
“ 1 I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
My grandfather was a World War II veteran. He tried to get into the core of engineers, but he was put in the infantry, and if you asked him what it meant to be in the infantry, he said, "It means that you are the guy that everybody is shooting at." And it was late in the war, and the allied forces had moved into Germany and Germany was a really tough battle ground because Germany's covered in dense forest. There's one particular battle that they were caught up in where he said it lasted for days and the Germans fought them extremely hard.
After the battle was over, my grandfather's company and another company were completely lost. They didn't know where they were and neither commanding officer could even figure out where they were on the map, so they didn't even know how to get home. And so they spent hours deliberating, the two commanding officer's, trying to figure out and try to come to some consensus on, "How are we going to get these boys home?"
Finally, after a few hours that came to the rest of the soldiers and they said, "Look, here's the situation we're in. We simply can't agree on the way that we should go. So here's what we're gonna do. Each of us will make our case for where we think we are and how we're going to get home, and then you can decide who you want to follow. You're free to go." And so each of them stood up, made their case for how they thought they could get out of there and where they felt they were and they all decided, and as it turned out, both of them thought they should go in completely opposite directions.
My grandfather listened and he chose the officer that he would follow. Now, I hate to spoil the story, but since I'm standing here, he made the right decision. But there was a lot on the line with that decision because they found out later that all the soldiers that went with the other officer were lost. They were never heard from again. Now, John would say that your life is no different, that there are two paths in front of you.
You're just like one of those soldiers trying to figure out which way you're going to go 'cause one of those paths is narrow and one of those paths is wide. One leads to destruction, the other leads to life. And your very life itself comes down to a decision as to who you decide to follow. Because whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, or whether you're aware of it, you're a follower. You either follow the father of lies who will deceive you or you follow he that is Truth. One leads you to oblivion and the other leads to extraordinary life.
And Jesus will say this morning that if you want to follow after him, you can't do it without the Spirit. And so my goal is simple, that you would have a better understanding of your need for the Spirit as you seek to follow after Jesus. Because that's exactly what he tells his disciples, is they can't follow after him without the Spirit. And he's been saying goodbye to the disciples as we've been looking at the farewell discourse these last few weeks.
He's been explaining to them what it means for them to follow him, but he's also last week and this week, he's been explaining to them what's going to happen when he's gone if the disciples continue to follow him. Jesus said, "The world hated me. The world's going to hate you. The world persecuted me. The world's going to persecute you as well." And then in verses 1 through 5 in our passage today, he just makes it sound even better. And he says, "You're going to be driven out of the synagogues. You're going to be rejected by your own people and there'll be those that try to kill you and will kill you thinking that they are doing so in service to God."
Who wants that job description? Who wants to sign up for that? For us to understand our need for the Holy Spirit then we need to understand what the disciples are actually being told, but also their reaction to it because we have the same reaction all the time. So let's put ourselves in their shoes for a second and imagine what it would be like to hear these words. But let's put it in the context of maybe something more familiar to you. Let's put it in the context of India.
Imagine that you want to go to India this year. You're excited about what you're going to experience, what you can be a part of, and how God is going to move in your life. And so you spend the next six months preparing, doing all of the required reading, doing a fundraising. You get a ticket, the money comes in, you're ready to go, and three days before you leave is when we have our last team meeting and we go all the way to the end of the final team meeting and then you hear, "Oh, and if you go, you're going to be driven out of the villages. You're going to be rejected. You're going to be persecuted and there's going to be those that seek your life because they think that they're serving God."
You still want to go? Goodness. Would I still want to go? That changes the game real quick. My thoughts change very quickly. I start thinking about my wife, my son, my daughter, my smoker, all of the things that I would have to leave behind that I think give my life meaning and value and then Jesus comes along and put that to question. Why? Because that changes the game. Facing that kind of gauntlet puts my priorities in the balance and that's exactly what Jesus tells the disciples. He says, "There's only two paths ahead of you and this is what it means to follow me down mine. Are there any takers?"
Which is why Jesus says what he does in verses 5 through 6. He says, "None of you asked me, 'Where are you going?' But because I've said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart." He can see it on their faces that things have changed for them. Now their concerns have turned inward on themselves and in light of the things that he's telling them, they're now focused on their own welfare. They're weighing the cost or thinking about their family, think about what they have to leave behind, thinking about what is valuable to them and what truly matters, instead of what God is accomplishing through Christ and how they can participate.
It's because they feel the weight and the cost of discipleship. And perhaps just like you, whenever discipleship gets hard and you feel the weight and cost of it, like the parts that we try to ignore, but a really hard saying's that, "Pick up your cross and follow me," kind of discipleship, that when we try and do that it gets really difficult. It's very uncomfortable. And there's times where we might just simply think, "Life was easier before Jesus came along." Ignorance is bliss, because I'm sure that to some degree the disciples, those long hot days on a fishing boat started to sound a lot better compared to the alternative that Jesus is laying before them.
And so this section simply highlights easily how the call of discipleship is extremely expensive, and it's the fact that it shows how we prioritize our own sense of wellbeing over our Spiritual welfare. And that when push comes to shove, we are always inclined to take the easy road, and Jesus says, "My road is the hard road." Discipleship's hard. So what does it look like for you as you consider some of this? Well, what is something that you would like to see change in your life? How would you like your faith to be different if you just snap your fingers and make it happen? What does one thing that you would like to see growth in? What's one thing that you would like to stop struggling with? Where do you desire to see change in your life?
Well, to follow Jesus down his path and to try to experience those things, you have to recognize the same exact thing that the disciples are here is that it's not going to happen apart from going through hardship, through difficulty and through discomfort, and disciples had to be willing to step into that to follow Jesus because there's no Plan B. There's no side road to following after him. And if they weren't willing to step into that difficulty, then they weren't following him. And it's the same for us. You may not be martyred next week, most likely not. I'll bet the farm that you won't be and you probably won't lose everything because your boss or coworkers find out that you're a Christian.
But maybe you know your anger is driving a wedge between you and your kids, or your marriage is falling apart because of your age. Your addiction numbs your ability to be intimate or connect or have deep relationships, or your impatience fills you with so much anxiety that you wake up every single day exhausted. Your materialism always puts you in a place where you feel like financial calamity is just around the corner, or you're an accident away from losing everything and you're tired of pretending as though that's not the case.
The truth is if you desire to grow in any of those areas, if you desire to experience change, then you have to be willing to step into the hardship and the discomfort of following Jesus in those moments of decision because the only way you're going to grow inpatient is to be put in a situation where you feel impatient. The only way you're going to grow in self control is to feel out of control, to feel like life has gotten outside of your grasp and your ability to do anything about it. If you want to experience true joy, then you have to be sad and you can't do that if you're never willing to feel your emotions and you try to drown on with something through distraction.
We're never going to experience those things unless we stepped into the hard places because those are the moments of decision where two paths lay before us, and the disciples are just now coming to terms. You can hear it preached in a sermon, but whenever you get those moments in life where you have an opportunity to make those decisions, that's where push comes to shove. This is the exact moment we see from the disciples because now they know what Jesus was teaching about all those years before. Right at the beginning of his ministry when he said, "Easy is the way that leads to destruction, but hard is the way that leads to life."
Saying Jesus died for my sins and showing up in church on a Sunday morning is easy. Following Jesus is not. I think that that realization is often what makes a lot of us give up. We just quit. We realize change is really hard. For those things to be removed from your life, those addictions, those battles, those things you're prone to, it feels impossible at times. It feels like you're never going to change. And when we begin to feel that way over time, we just resign ourselves to coasting. We just kind of coast through our faith. We go through the Christian motions, but there's no real following.
And so the gospel just becomes a set of facts and not the call to follow, which puts us in a really dangerous place called nominal Christianity, where we can say all the right words, but our hearts really wants something else and they're pursuing something else and Jesus would have you recognize that following him is difficult and you need something. And maybe that's where you're at today. If you're doing great, great, but I'd like to talk to you if you're not, you've just been coasting for a long time. You don't feel like any change has happened and the version of you from 15 years ago is the same version of you that you experience day in and day out and you're ready for newness of life.But you also know that walking down that road of discipleship is hard.
And so what would motivate you to reengage that narrow road of discipleship? What would motivate you to get up and follow Jesus with a true renewed sense of devotion?
Well, what did it take for the disciples? Because we know what they chose. In light of Jesus telling them everything that was going to happen to them, we know what they ended up doing. They went back to fishing. They went back to what was easy, predictable and comfortable. They took the easy road and went back to fishing.
So then you're just left with the question, what takes on Jesus denying Peter that went back to fishing and then turns him into a person that could stare death in the face with such resolve that he says, "Crucify me upside down. If you want to kill me, let me add an addendum to how you do it"? To face death with that kind of confidence. We want that kind of change, but we don't want the road that he had to walk. And so what motivated him? What came into his life? Well, we know Jesus says it's simply and it's only the Holy Spirit.
Consider how Jesus talks about the Spirit. Consider what he's telling them. Consider how he talks about the necessity of the Spirit. He's told them what it means to follow him and the cost of discipleship, but then he says all of these other things where he'll say, "There's so many other things I want to tell you, but you can't possibly bear it. You couldn't possibly bear everything that I would tell you. The only way that you will is when the Spirit comes. The only way that you're going to understand is when the Spirit comes. And the only way that you're really going to follow me and leave the fishing boat and what's comfortable is when the Spirit comes."
I find that absolutely fascinating quite frankly, and if that doesn't really convince us of our need for the Spirit than I don't know what will, because Jesus is essentially telling the disciples, "I could talk to you till I'm blue in the face, but my words alone are not enough. They're really not. My words alone are not enough. You will always twist them. You will reject them. You need the Spirit to come and to reveal the truth of my words and to guide you. And without the Spirit, you'll never take that first step at all." Which should really challenge us in how we are approaching our faith just on a regular basis.
Because if we're doing so without a mindfulness of the Spirit's work in our dependency on the Spirit, then what are we following? What are we really doing if we are not being led by the one thing that Jesus says we have to have in order to follow him? Because let's be honest, you can read your Bible from time to time and consider Jesus' words and move on, but that's not following. That's just reading a book. And so if we engage it in a way where we're not mindful of our dependency to understand the words on the page that we need the Spirit to awaken the truth of it so that it comes alive in our hearts, then we're not following.
And if Jesus tells his disciples who heard all of his words live in the flesh that for them to understand them and to remember them and to live by them, they need to Spirit, we have to recognize that what makes us think that we would be any different? Because we will never experience that type of change that we desire and be motivated to step into those difficult parts of life that Jesus does want to change unless we're willing to be led and to learn to listen to the Spirit, which is why Jesus says, "I have to go away. And it's better if I go away because actually the one who is coming, who can actually bring you to a place where you experience the fulfillment of your calling, that's not my job. That is the role only of the Holy Spirit."
Do you see your need this morning? Do you believe you need the Holy Spirit? Daily? Not as an idea. And I don't mean that theologically just because you can say yes, the Spirit regenerates us and you can say all the things that you see in a book. But do you live on a daily basis with the sense of need in your life? Do you realize that the Spirit is non negotiable? And I think more often than not we don't. And it's evidenced by this, for instance, most of the time people would say, and if you're there, fine, it's common to say, "I don't really know a lot about the Spirit. It's a complete mystery to me."
But then Jesus comes along and he says, "You actually can't fall on me without the Spirit," which should really challenge us to say, "Do I really have that sense of need of the Spirit as I think I am following Jesus? Or am I just pretending?" And honestly, as I've thought about this sense of the Spirit guiding and leading us, I thought about being a dad all week, and the fact that I spend a tremendous amount of time guiding and directing a three year old ball of beauty and sin all wrapped into one.
A good portion of my life is just spent intervening to teach him, to guide him, to say no, to direct him, to protect him and all of these different things. And so starting last Sunday, I started compiling a list of all the ways that I said no or had to correct him and guide him and teach him this week. And so here are a few highlights from a week in the life of Asher. "No son, you cannot clip your own fingernails." "No, you cannot play with scissors." "No, you can't stay home. You have to go to church even though the big kids stare at you." Never sure what that was about. Some of you make them feel very uncomfortable.
"No, dad is not going to run over your fingers with the vacuum cleaner and no, you cannot sit in your sister's puke." Let's pray. No, just kidding. Needless to say, as he navigates the world, he needs to constantly be guided in the way that he should go, not just every now and then, on a regular basis, hourly, minute by minute and bad things happen when he chooses to not listen to my voice. Now, I think one of the biggest mistakes in your faith is to think that you're any different than him. That you don't need to be guided on a daily basis, because you think that somehow because you're older, you're a little bit wiser and you're autonomous, you say, "Oh, look at the house I live in. Look at my job. Look at my bank account. I must be doing something right."
Because Jesus would say, "No, that's not true at all. How could you follow me on a daily basis if you don't recognize your need for the Spirit on a daily basis?" And just because we get older, I actually think the opposite is true, that our need to be guided grows. Why? Because the stakes get raised as you get older. Don't emotionally connect with that coworker of the opposite sex. Don't invest your money there trying to make a quick buck. Don't go into business with that person. Don't take those pills. Don't make that phone call. Don't chat with that person on social media. Don't treat your spouse that way. Don't raise your kids like this. Don't show your kids what a bad example you are.
And believing the lie of autonomy in the end is nothing more than laying discipleship aside because it treats your need for the Spirit as non essential, which means that those are the places, those are the moments, those are the days, weeks, months, and years where we're not actually following Jesus. And we're unaware of all of those ways that we're sitting in puke or just trying to put our fingers in a different kind of vacuum cleaner that does far more damage. And as we consider Jesus has called to us this morning to recognize your need for the Spirit, he also says that you can learn how he operates 'cause if we need him, then understanding how he works in our lives is essential.
But it's the same as the invitation for the disciples. He's going to lead you in the difficult, hard and uncomfortable places in life. Why? So that you can have new life. And if you listen to how Jesus talks about how the Spirit's going to work, the Spirit's going to push your buttons. He says in verse 8 that, "When the Spirit comes, he will convict of sin. He will convict of righteousness and he will convict of judgment." Now, each of these things is a sermon in and of itself, and we're going to cover more of these things as we move on because we've got a number of weeks ago in our series.
But with each of these things that Jesus says the Spirit does, all I want to do this morning is to try and understand them a little bit and then let's turn them into a question so that you can begin to think about that question and evaluate and learn to listen and try and understand how the Spirit is guiding you. And the first thing he says is that the Spirit will convict the world of sin. Why? "Because they do not believe in me." And he's referencing that the Spirit's work will be pushing back against unbelief in Christ by bringing a recognition of sin and all throughout the gospel of John, he would say that the world's sin is unbelief and the one that God sent to rescue them.
And the way that they express unbelief is by their unwillingness to be called out of their sinful condition. "Pharisees, your whitewashed tombs." No, we're not. We've got it under control. And so unbelief is a part of how the Spirit comes in and attacks, pokes our buttons, those moments where we exhibit unbelief. And so how as Christians do we exhibit unbelief? Well, we express it and all the ways that we simply learn to live with our sin, and we don't take it seriously anymore. We just consider it's a part of our life. "This is just who I am. I'll always be this way. I'll always struggle with this. I'm actually at a place where people that are closest to me have learned to accept it too."
Instead of pushing back against it. And we learn to make room for it in our lives instead of being called out of that sinful condition. So part of that question then becomes what sin have you learned to coexist with? What sin have you learned to make room for in your life? I think that the Spirit would show us that it seems like a good time, but perhaps if it would awaken us, we'd recognize that we're splashing around in puke. That's not good for us. There's something better for you, but you're only going to walk that road if you allow the Spirit to convict you of sin.
And secondly, the Spirit convicts us of righteousness because why or why? Because Jesus is going to the father. And what he's referencing here is in short that the world past a verdict over Jesus, that he was a guilty criminal and worthy of death. That was the world's verdict. And God overruled that verdict. He was a higher court than the court of this world. And how did he overrule it? He raised Christ from the dead because he was righteous, pleasing, and acceptable to the father. What the world rejected and said was filthy, a blasphemer and a criminal and worthy of death, God says, "No, that is exactly completely and perfectly what is pleasing to me, and I will vindicate it by raising him from the dead."
Now, if we apply this to the Spirit leading us and part of the Spirit's work means that you learn to distrust the verdicts of the world around you. You learn to distrust the verdict of what's going to give your life meaning, value, purpose, because the world failed the greatest test of all in its rejection of Jesus and it's going to fail you in trying to give your life the things that you want. And the one led by the Spirit recognizes that Jesus is what is pleasing to God, the life that the father delights in his Jesus' life. Instead of being conformed to the image of this world and its values and its priorities.
So maybe you begin to start asking the question, "What makes me feel acceptable? What makes me feel like I am okay?" Is it being the person that knows everything and people come to you because they always want advice? Is being the person that's always there and available for any time somebody has a need? Is it being the greatest parent of all time with perfect children? Is it being seen as wealthy and successful? How are you wanting the world to see you and tell you that you are okay and wonderful? Because righteousness is not just about behavior. Righteousness is about you pursuing something that will fill that hole in your heart.
And the Spirit will come along and say, "There's only one way." And that's for you to be convinced that because of Christ, you are loved, accepted, and precious to the father. And you can go one route that doesn't work, or you can go the route of understanding your standing before God and allow that to change your life. Where are you feel rejected? Where are you pretending? Where are you looking for someone to tell you that you are acceptable? And lastly, Jesus says that the Spirit convicts of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
And all this simply means is that in the cross and the resurrection, that when Jesus was raised from the dead, the clock started ticking on this world, and it's fading and it's not going to last forever. And you can't make the mistake of living as though you're going to live forever because Jesus is the final revelation from God of what is pleasing and acceptable to him and a life that he vindicates. And if Jesus isn't good enough for you or he's not worthy of your life, then there's no one else coming for you. And you actually don't have that much time because actually amazing how quickly life can go.
It's amazing how 10 years can seem like just a few days, that a lot of life can happen and yet it can happen so quickly. Had a person who wants to tell me that when you have kids, the days go by slow, but the years go by fast, and how true is that of our faith? That life slips out from under us so quickly and we make the mistake of thinking, "I'll get serious about my faith tomorrow. I'll get serious about my faith whenever this season of life is over," and that's not true.
And so is there any sense of urgency in your faith? And when we recognize that there is urgency, we begin to give our life to things that actually have eternal value instead of the temporary trivial things that we give ourselves to. As we consider all of this from Jesus and we recognize our need for the Spirit, notice that he does not talk about your need for the Spirit. It's just being that one moment in time, a long time ago, whenever you decided to walk down front and give your life to Jesus or your moment of conversion. He talks about it in a way that you need the Spirit on a daily basis because there are two paths in front of you each and every day, and he offers you a new life.
But that new life is only available if you're willing to be led by the Spirit, and it's the only way that you can experience it. I came across the story of Faith this week. Faith was born in North Korea. She was born in a farming community, just a few miles from North Korea's border with China. And she was raised under the North Korean propaganda, which is, that South Korea is just a poverty stricken nation that's oppressed by the imperialistic west. That's it's just a wasteland.
She was raised thinking that as a North Korean, she is the envy of the world. That her lifestyle is what the rest of the world wants to have. So she was raised thinking that she is on the top of the food chain and that her life is built and her life is dependent and her purpose is dependent upon building the North Korean regime and making it stronger. And then when she got to be about 16, since she lived close to the border, some smugglers started bringing in some things from outside.
And one of the things that changed her life was a VHS tape, what was a video of the streets in the city scapes of Seoul, South Korea, which is a massive metropolis. One of the biggest cities in the world. And she took in all the lights, the smiling people, the beauty and compared that to her gray communist environment that she lived in. And she realized that the entire world she thought was real, was a complete lie. And some more and more paraphernalia would come across and she'd see it and it made her miserable.
Why? Because now she knew the truth. Now she knew that the world she lived inside of lied to her, that her life didn't come down to this being her purpose and value, that what gave her meaning wasn't this, that she was lied to about what is truly valuable, what is truly good and what the good life is. And it convinced her that she's living in poverty, and yes, she's the envy of the world. And then she recognizes through all this paraphernalia that it's not true whatsoever.
When she got to be about 30 years old, those smugglers told her, they said, "If you want, we can actually get you across the border. We can get you through China, which is very dangerous because if they catch you, they'll just send you back to North Korea, but we'll get you through and we'll get you to South Korea and you can have full citizenship," which is how South Koreans receive North Koreans. She said, "I'm ready to go." She was so ready to get out of the misery of it and she immediately said yes.
They planned a time and she ended up crossing the border, and when she crossed into China, she realized very quickly that they lied to her. Due to the surplus of men compared to women because they've spent multiple decades of boarding their daughters, is that they have a surplus of men that can't find wives. So they smuggle in and they traffic North Korean women and they sell them off. And Faith was sold for $800, and her life was even worse than it was in North Korea. She didn't know the language. She was married to someone that just obviously didn't love her, but just needed some help around the house. Someone to bear kids, someone to help on the farm.
Her in-laws hated her, always thinking that she was going to run. She was always under constant scrutiny because they're afraid that she was gonna run away. And there's two other North Korean women that lived in that same village with her that were sold off as well. And they told her that they'd heard about an underground railroad. A way that will actually get them to South Korea. And then one day they were gone. Never heard from again. In months later, Faith got a call. The phone rang, she answered and the person said, "The two women that used to live in your village." The voice said, "Yeah, we actually took them through the underground railroad and they're safe in South Korea. They told us about you and if you're willing, we've selected you to be next if you want to come to South Korea."
So she had a decision on her hands. She had already been betrayed and it was an incredibly dangerous route to go through China's security system and did she want to go through all that again? She immediately said yes, and she said, "When and where?" And so she took her kids and she agreed upon a spot where there's just going to be a person with a car and he ends up taking her to a safe house. And each and every day that voice would call and say, "This is where you're going to have to go. I'll let you know tomorrow where else you have to go, because things change. I just need you to trust me. You got to follow where I tell you to go."
So she'd go from safe house to safe house. She'd spend a week on a bus just to go one direction, but then border security would tighten and she'd have to go the other direction. Weeks led to months. Finally, there was a window where she could get through at the Vietnam border. She crossed over by night, had to go all the way from North Vietnam through South Vietnam into the border of Cambodia by night, sneaking across and she finally made it to the South Korean embassy where she was received as a full citizen. And two months later she was sent to Seoul, South Korea to start a new life.
She did start a new life. She found herself in church. She became a Christian and she started working for the NGO that actually saves all of these North Koreans, and she now is rescuing them herself. She says that she will often go to the demilitarized zone because it's in that place where she can see her old life and compare it to her new life. She can remember what it was like, what it was like to go through all of that and how worth it it actually was.
The call to follow Jesus is the call to new life, but he tells you that your story is just like Faith's because that new life is only possible if you're willing to be led. And if you think that you can do it on your own, that's foolishness, and if you're not willing to be led, then that means you'll never actually take the first step in that journey in the first place. There's two roads before us all.
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you guide, lead and direct us and that apart from your Spirit, we have no hope. And so we thank you that you have given us your Spirit. Would you be at work in our lives, convicting us of our sin, convicting us of righteousness and judgment? Help us pull away from the things that brings shame, guilt, and destroy and lead us to recognize who we are and what our identity truly is. We thank you that you did not leave us to ourselves, but you came to us in our brokenness and in our complete and utter inability to come after you. And we thank you that you gave us this table to remind us of that. Would you meet us at it? Would you strengthen us for the journey? Because we so desperately it. And we ask this in Christ's name. Amen.