The Holy Spirit Lives In Us For Relationship
John 14:15-17, 1 Corinthians 6:17-20
In 2015, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley announced they would be part of a $100 million dollar project for space travel to see if there’s intelligent life in the universe. The plan was to send tiny nanocrafts – like spaceship butterflies – traveling at one-fifth the speed of light to Alpha Centauri. Stephen Hawking described the goal of the mission like this: “It is important to know if we are alone in the dark.”
The folks at Berkeley are not the only ones who want to know. We’re all constantly sending out tiny little probes, emotional nanocrafts, to find out whether we’re alone in the dark. They travel at high speeds, and it’s easy to miss them. They can be small: “Did you see the game last night?” They can be poignant: “I don’t think I’ll ever call my dad again.” They can be deep: “I’m not sure my wife loves me anymore.” They can be urgent: “I have no one else to talk to; can I speak to you confidentially?”
These emotional nanocrafts are what researcher John Gottman calls “bids” for emotional connection. We start issuing these bids before we can talk. A baby’s cry is a bid to connect. As we grow older, these bids – or invitations – for intimacy take other forms. “A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch – any single expression that says, ‘I want to feel connected to you.’” Intimacy of every kind is either built up or eroded, based on how well we handle the subtle little nanocrafts of relational life.
Are we alone in the universe? Am I alone in this world? When we ask questions like that, we really aren’t talking about being alone. We’re talking about being lonely. Longing for connection. You can be alone for a period of time and not be lonely at all, provided you have connections in life. We all need “down time,” time to ourselves. But you can also be lonely in a room full of people if you don’t have that sense of connection. We are created for relationship. From a baby’s cry for attention to a high five or fist bump with a friend to a hug with a family member to a spouse’s loving touch, we are created to be in relationship with other people. Some of us need lots of relationships, and others of us need fewer but deeper relationships, but we’re all created to be in relationship. We are, at our core, relational. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And he made the woman. We are, at our core, relational. We are created for relationship.
That’s because we’re created in the image of God, and God is, at God’s core, relational – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three in One. Three distinct persons, one God. Perfect relationship. The mystery of the Trinity. And God has made us not only for relationship with each other. He has made us for relationship with himself.
And what does sin do? It destroys our connection with God, and it destroys our connection with one another, right? Arrogance, pride, selfishness, self-centeredness. Sin makes the “me” more important that the “we.” And it makes me more important, in my own heart and mind, than God. More important than anyone or anything else. So now we are born separated from God and from one another, and seeking connection. Connection with one another, and ultimately connection with God. Relationship. God desires a relationship … with you.
Jesus, through his death and resurrection, offers forgiveness and grace and makes that relationship possible. And it is the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to everyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus, who begins to live in us and facilitate that relationship. The Holy Spirit lives in us for relationship. Turn with me to John 14:15-17.
Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room celebrating what we now call the “last supper,” Jesus’ final moments with his disciples and his final meal before going to the cross to die for our sin. And his disciples have no idea what’s coming. But Jesus HAS given them bad news … one of them would betray him. And then more bad news … Peter, one of his closest friends, would deny even knowing him that very night. And then even more bad news … he was going away and they could not follow him. Less than a week before, they had entered Jerusalem with Jesus to the cheers of the crowds. Their hearts were pumping. Life was good, and it was getting better. Now, a few days later, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him, another will deny him, and he was leaving and they would no longer be able to follow him. They were confused, frightened, devastated. Everything they thought they knew was being taken away. The path they thought they were on now had a door being slammed in their faces.
Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it? One minute life is good, things are cruising along, you’re on top of the world. And then … wham! The bottom falls out. Your world is changing so fast and you can’t keep up with it and everything you were sure about a minute ago you now question. You’re in the dark, you’re drowning, and you feel alone.
But you aren’t alone. Later in the same conversation, Jesus tells his disciples, “because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 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” (Jn. 16:6-7). Jesus, as God incarnate, God in human form, was bound by time and space, just as our bodies are bound by time and space. There was always one place where Jesus was, and many places where Jesus, because of that, wasn’t. Because you are here, you are not at home. If you are at home, you are not here, right? That’s how our bodies work. Despite our best efforts, we can only be in one place at a time. The same was true of Jesus’ body when he was here on this earth.
So it was to their advantage, and ours, that he went away, because when he returned to the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit, and he would now be with us wherever we go, even if we all go in separate directions. And because of that, no one who places their faith in Christ will ever, ever be alone. We may feel alone at times, but we are not alone, because through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us. The last words of Matthew’s gospel, spoken by Jesus: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). “You will never, ever be alone. You will never, ever be without me.” How? Through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has told us that he IS the truth, right? Earlier in John 14, the chapter we’re looking at today. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). “I am … the truth.” So it is interesting that when Jesus tells them that when he goes away, he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them, he calls the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth” (V. 17). Jesus IS the truth. The Holy Spirit is the SPIRIT of truth. What is Jesus saying here? That he and the Holy Spirit are one, just as he and the Father are one, and the Father and the Spirit are one. Jesus is saying, “The Holy Spirit is me with you. Wherever you go. Whenever you go. You are never alone. Ever.”
Now, the word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit, is “helper.” It’s the Greek work “parakletos.” Not “parakeet,” like a pet bird, but “paraclete.” It’s a word that only appears in John’s writings in the New Testament, although it was common enough in the Greek language. In the other place John uses the word, 1 John 2:1, he uses it to refer to Jesus, the Son. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” It’s translated as “advocate” there, but it’s the same word. Again, what is John saying? That the Son and Spirit are one.
At Christmas, we use the name “Emmanuel” for Jesus, don’t we? Why? Because Emmanuel means “God with us.” In Jesus, God put on a human body and came to be with us. But the babe whose birth we celebrate at Christmas would grow to become a man, would die on a cross, and would be raised again to life in victory over death, and then he would ascend again into the Father’s presence to be by his side. And yet … he is still Emmanuel, God with us. How? Through the Holy Spirit. Because he and the Spirit are one.
So what does the word paraclete mean anyway. It’s translated in lots of different ways. Helper, advocate, counselor, comforter. So what does it mean? The word actually shows up in two primary contexts. The first is a legal one. In a courtroom, lawyers are usually referred to as what? Counselors, right? A lawyer is a legal counselor, a legal friend, right? If you ever have to be in a court room, and I hope that never happens to you, but if it does, chances are you’ll have a lawyer, a legal counselor, there with you, actually representing you. It’s someone who knows how to navigate the very complex legal system and who can help you understand what is happening. It’s someone who knows how to speak legalese to the judge and other attorneys, work a jury if the case involves a jury, and also knows how to take all of that and make is understandable to you. It is someone who speaks and acts on your behalf, saying what needs to be said and filing the papers and things that need to be filed to keep things moving along.
As our counselor, or helper, or advocate, the Holy Spirit comes alongside us to mentor us as we follow Christ, to counsel us, to inspire us, and to encourage us. The Holy Spirit speaks and acts on our behalf. He is our helper and our advocate. Advocate with whom? With God. With our heavenly Father. In Romans 8:26, Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Even when you are feeling so lost that you don’t know how or what to even pray, the Holy Spirit is there praying, interceding on your behalf.
I know of a mom who knew that something was desperately wrong in her son’s life, but she didn’t know what. He was actually suicidal and was actively attempting to kill himself at the time. She didn’t know that, but she is a follower of Christ and she had this inner sense that something was desperately wrong. The weight on her was extremely heavy, but she didn’t know what or how to pray. All she could do was drop to her knees and pray the Lord’s Prayer over and over and over again until she felt a release. The release came, and then the police showed up at her door with her son, who had been miraculously found in the woods attempting to kill himself. The Holy Spirit was active deep within her, acting and speaking on her behalf when she had no idea what was going on. And her son is alive today.
The other context in which the word “paraclete” is used is a military context. In the book Healing the Masculine Soul, Gordon Dalbey says that when Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, he uses a Greek word, paraclete, that was an ancient warrior’s term. “Greek soldiers went into battle in pairs,” says Dalbey, “so when the enemy attacked, they could draw together back-to-back, covering each other’s blind side. One’s battle partner was the paraclete.” Jesus does not send us to fight the good fight alone. The Holy Spirit is our battle partner who covers our blind side and fights for our well-being.[i]
And the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the advocate, isn’t just with you, he is IN you. V. 17 says “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 says, “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
The context is sexual sin there, but his point is that even your body belongs to Christ because your body is the temple, the dwelling, of the Holy Spirit, who is “within you.” Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus isn’t just with you, beside you, he is IN you. Empowering you to follow him. Advocating on your behalf. Acting on your behalf and for your good. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even when you feel alone. And because he is IN you, he begins to change and reform your conscience, your thoughts, your will, and your desires, bringing them slowly but surely more in alignment with God’s desires for you.
Friends, if you are following Christ, if you have repented and placed your trust in Christ, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is alive IN you, speaking and praying and acting on your behalf before God. And this is a gift to you. It isn’t something you achieve. It’s God’s good gift to you. He doesn’t expect you to go through this life alone, and he doesn’t expect you to be able to follow Christ alone. No. He is with you … IN you … every step of the way.
And Jesus is very clear that this is a benefit only to those who have trusted him. Look at V. 16. “ … the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees nor knows him.” This doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit isn’t at work in the world. He is, holding everything together and drawing people toward Christ. But he is not IN them, the way he is IN you, because you follow Christ. He is IN you, for relationship. You are not alone.
Let us pray.
Holy Spirit, our Comforter, and our Friend, as we stand on Your Word, we ask that You rain down on us. Let Your power fall on us and change our hearts. Open heaven wide and pour out the rain of Your Holy Spirit over our church and our lives. Change us, renew us, empower us. We need Your touch again. Precious gift from heaven, send us Your cleansing rain. Amen.
[i] Tom Tripp, Colusa, California. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.