Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ John 15:26-27 ~ Sunday, June 9, 2019
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously claimed that we are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with. In other words, you tend to become like the people whom you are around the most. I recently came across another quote that is a twist on that thought: "You are a reflection of your five closest friends." The key thought here isn’t so much quantity of time with people as it is about the level of access we’re willing to grant to the deepest parts of ourselves. Our closest friends are the people we give permission to really know us and influence us. The kind of people we allow that kind of access to reveals something of who we are as well as the kind of people we are becoming.
Reflect on this a bit. Who are you surrounding yourself with? What kind of people do you give access to your heart, to your truest self? What does this reveal about you? What kind of impact are the people that you surround yourself with having on you, particularly the friends you give permission to really know and influence you. I want you to keep thinking on those questions and as we consider the Pentecost promise Jesus makes to us today: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (John 15:26)
We’re gathered in the house of God today to celebrate Pentecost, to celebrate the fact that Jesus has kept this promise to us! What exactly is the promise he made to us? Jesus promised to send us his Holy Spirit to us, whom he describes as an “Advocate” in the verse from John 15. “Advocate” is one way to translate the Greek word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit, the Greek word, “paraclete.” Not “parakeet” … but “paraclete.”
What’s a paraclete? That’s a great question! It’s a question that a lot of bible translators have struggled to answer. You sense their struggles in the variety of English words that translators have chosen for this Greek work “paraclete.” For example: “Counselor” (NIV 84) or “Helper” (ESV) or “Comforter” (KJV). There really isn’t a single word in English that captures all of the ideas that the Greek word “paraclete” conveys.
At its core the word “paraclete” means someone who comes alongside of you no matter what, someone who is by your side through thick and thin. There are 270 tribal languages in the Cameroon. Bible translators couldn’t come up with a good word to demonstrate this helper, advocate, counselor, comforter, encourager role of the Holy Spirit. So, they watched the natives go off into the bush carrying bundles on their heads. There was always one person who didn’t carry anything. They assumed he was the boss. But later they learned, he had a special job. If anyone fell over from exhaustion, this man would come and pick up the load and carry it for the man who was down. In the Karre language he was “the one who falls down beside us.” They used the same word for this verse. When we seem to be carrying things fine, the Holy Spirit is there giving us things like joy and goodness and faithfulness. When we are down, God sends the Holy Spirit to fall down beside us.
When we’re hurting and afraid, He’s our comforter. When we’re lost and wandering, He’s our guide. When we’re confused and overwhelmed, He gives us wise and dependable counsel. In many ways, Jesus is assuring his people, both then and now, that he is sending someone who will be a true friend to us! In promising to send us his Holy Spirit, Jesus is promising us someone who will “be there” for us.
That’s especially true when we find ourselves with our backs against the wall because of something we said or did. We’re in hot water and we need help. That’s why Jesus calls the Spirit our “Advocate,” someone who comes to our defense and pleads our case. Sometimes, in human courts when the evidence against you is overwhelming, the sentence will be a whole lot lighter if you just own up to what you did and plead guilty. In traffic court, for example, I’ve heard of judges who went lighter on people who confessed what they had done instead of trying to make excuses or blame others for their poor driving. When our consciences accuse us before God our natural instinct is to hide, or justify, or point the finger at someone else. But our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, wisely advises us to take a different approach. The Spirit counsels us to be honest, convicting us gently of sin–because denial only keeps us imprisoned by our guilt, but admission gives room for the Father to be merciful to us.
This is what a true friend does. A true friend is willing to be honest with you, tell you the truth even if it’s not what you want to hear. A real friend will tell you that guilt is your soul’s message telling you to stop. A true friend tells you this, not because they like to see you squirm, but because they’re trying to direct you down a different way, a better way, a renewing way! That’s what the Holy Spirit wants for you when he urges you to own up to your sins, to be truthful about your weaknesses, and honest about your failings.
Here’s why: the Spirit knows the Judge, and He knows what the Judge has done for you. The Holy Spirit tells you the truth that your life has never been about trying to prove yourself, your worth, your worthiness before God! You were loved long before you ever did or could do anything for God! The Judge so loved you that He came to live, and suffer, and die, and rise again for you, long before you were even born! The Spirit shows you that your Judge is also your Savior, who absorbed the punishing blows inflicted on him for every sin you have and will ever commit!
The Holy Spirit is your true friend because he works to bring you closer to Jesus, your soul’s true Savior! The Spirit knows that as long as you try to hide your sins, cover up your failings, make excuses for your weaknesses, you’re really just keeping yourself separated from Jesus, at odds with him and the truth that He truly knows about you. So listen to the Holy Spirit and come clean about your sins, your weaknesses, and your failures! He is putting you in the position to believe the merciful message of the Judge who has also taken your place, served as your Substitute, and now shares this liberating verdict: “I forgive you. You are free from the power and control of sin. So go, and sin no more!”
The Holy Spirit is also a true friend in helping you, encouraging you, to follow through on living in the freedom of forgiveness. One of the reasons we fall for sin is because we don’t like pain. Sin promises to relieve us of our pain, tempting us to believe it will give us relief, or help us more easily get what we want or more quickly get where we want, that it will make us happy. But the Holy Spirit knows the truth, the truth is that the path to spiritual maturity comes through the pain of spiritual growth.
But this is also why we need the Spirit’s help. Doctors and trainers will tell you that those tiny rips and tears to muscle tissue, though painful, are actually the body’s way of building muscle tissue and getting stronger. A similar thing happens in the soul. But when we feel pain in our souls, it can be hard to decipher the difference between debilitating pain, the kind where our soul, our conscience is signaling us to stop what we’re thinking and doing, and the kind of temporary pain that is actually a sign of real spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit is your true friend because he will convince you when pain is your soul’s message telling to stop or when the pain is just temporary and the solution is to keep on pressing on.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m really looking forward to this new sermon series that we’ve started today and will spend our time in this summer. This series is all about embracing the Spirit as our true friend, giving Him greater access to our hearts, more influence in our lives. We opened this morning thinking about the idea that “You are a reflection of your five closest friends.” As you’ve been thinking about the truth in that statement, think about the truth of what it will mean for you to grow in your friendship with the Holy Spirit! Actually, I’m hoping you’ll do more than just imagine what growing in this friendship could mean for you. I’m inviting you, encouraging you to find out, to experience it. Through this series we’ll be exploring the fruit of the Spirit, the qualities and characteristics that flow from a deeper, richer friendship with the Spirit. As we do, I’m praying that each one of us will experience in greater measure the power and influence of the Spirit in our hearts. That our lives testify to the truth that Jesus is our Savior and that our hearts are alive and our lives are becoming more like that of his Spirit, who is the fullness of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control! God graciously grant it! Amen.