A Strengthened HeartErwin W. Lutzer | July 30, 2000
Selected highlights from this sermon
The Holy Spirit is our helper, our companion, and our teacher. He is the continuation of the presence of Jesus in believers—all believers—simultaneously, all over the world. If Jesus had not ascended to heaven, He could not have sent His Spirit to us. He is with us at all times, illuminating the Word of God and changing us by the wisdom He gives us. And He will continue to do so forever.
I want to begin today with a question. When you were growing up as a child, did you feel loved and accepted and secure? Or did you feel abandoned?
I believe it’s Bruce Wilson who was abandoned on a park bench by his mother when he was five or six years old. And he said that he stayed on the bench for two days before anyone came by to ask him whether he had a problem. Never saw his mother again. There’s a ministry today in New York to street children.
I remember being in that orphanage in Romania and seeing those little children–fortunately, it was a Christian orphanage, so they were well taken care of–but I do remember a little boy who, at Christmas, said, “I can’t eat this chocolate bar because my sister’s in a different orphanage and she needs to get at least half of it.”
I know that they were grown men, but the disciples, during the time of Christ, really were beginning to feel abandoned when Jesus kept telling them, “I’m going to go away, I’m going to leave you.” And they began to think, “You know, this is the one who was there. We were there with Him when He stilled the storm and when He fed the multitude. And we were there when He answered His critics with wit and with logic. And whenever we were with Jesus, somehow we knew that everything would be okay.” And now He was saying, “I’m going.”
And so Jesus had to give them some reassurance. And He said in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John-the passage that I want you to turn to-He said in chapter 14, verse 15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command, and I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” And now I’m going to skip for the moment to verse 18: “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. No chance that I’m going to leave you on a park bench and then walk away and you never see or hear from me again! I’m not going to treat you that way–I will come to you.”
Jesus isn’t referring to the Second Coming when He’s going to come. No, no. He is referring, actually, to the coming of the Holy Spirit. You see, it’s the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to substitute for the physical presence of Jesus in our lives. You say, “Yeah, but, Pastor Lutzer, that’s easy to say, but it’s not the same, it’s not like being there when He was feeding the multitudes and stilling the storm and walking in Nazareth. It’s not like it!” Oh, yeah? It’s not exactly like it, I’ll agree with that. But it is certainly much like it–the ministry of the Spirit.
You’ll notice that Jesus said in verse 16: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor.” In Greek, there are two ways to use that word “another.” One word means that, “I will give you another one, which may only be similar.” Let’s suppose, for example, I happen to drive a Chevy car (not a motorcycle, but a Chevy car), and let’s suppose that it isn’t working and it’s in the garage and I say to somebody, “You know, I need another vehicle.” That would give you a lot of latitude; you could give me any car that worked. Could be a Ford, it could be one of these sports utility vehicles–I’d really look good tooling around in one of those, wouldn’t I? It could be any one of those, because all that I’m asking for is another vehicle.
But there is in Greek another word for the word “another,” which means “identical.” If I used that word, if I said, “I want you to get me another one,” you’d have to get me another Chevy. That’s the word that Jesus uses here. He says, “When I depart, I will send you another helper who is like I am.” Perhaps not identically like, because the Trinity must constantly be distinguished, but He is going to substitute for my presence in your life. In fact, this comforter is going to be with all of you simultaneously and indwell everyone.”
You know, I think we overemphasize sometimes the desire that all of us have to walk where Jesus walked in Israel or, as Pastor [Roy] Schwarcz always says, “to run where Jesus walked.” I remember studying there in 1968, and in those days there wasn’t a lot of archaeological work and it was difficult to say, “Jesus walked on these stones.” There were a few places where you could say that. Today, there are many places you can say with authority, “We’re down here now to the period of Christ, and He walked on these stones and these steps,” and we all want to say, “I was right where Jesus was.”
In fact, my wife and I were in Stratford, England, not too long ago, and we went to where Shakespeare was. And I remember hearing about a man who was so in love with Shakespeare that there was a bench there where he apparently would sit with his girlfriend and this man sat on every part of the bench–inch by inch, inch by inch, inch by inch–he wanted to say, “I want to sit where Shakespeare sat.” [laughter] I suppose this guy was normal in other ways, I don’t know...We’d all like to be able to say, “I sat where Jesus sat.”
My dear friend, may I remind you today that Jesus said, “It is good for you that I go away, because if I don’t go away, I cannot send the Holy Spirit to you. But when I send the Holy Spirit to you, you will find the continuation of my presence by the Spirit simultaneously, multiplied.” when He was here on earth, He couldn’t be in Galilee and Jerusalem at the same time. Today He’s in Jerusalem, He’s in Namibia, He’s in Chicago and Atlanta and all over the world in His believers simultaneously, and He could not do that with a body. So He said, “It’s good for you that I go away, because if I don’t go away, the new ministry of the Holy Spirit can’t happen.” Because the ascension was necessary for the coming of the Spirit, as we shall see in a moment. So, Jesus is saying, “I will come to you, the Spirit will take over where I’ve left off.”
So, here’s my agenda in the next few moments: what we’d like to do is to look at those ministries of the Spirit that Jesus did and continued in the life of His disciples and how those ministries continue and multiply now that He is not with us physically, but has sent another helper who is like unto Him to be with us and to be in us. And what we’re going to do at the end of the message is talk to you about experiencing this Holy Spirit, so that you will not only know this intellectually, but you’ll be able to leave today and you’ll be able to face Monday a little differently than you faced last Friday. That’s what we’re going to do.
First of all, I want you to see that the first ministry that continues is that the Holy Spirit is to us a living helper. Now I’m back again in verse sixteen: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor.” And if you are acquainted with the King James Version, where I did most of my memory work, it will be “another Comforter.” Another translation says-the NASB says, “I will send you another helper.” Another translation says, “I will send you an advocate,” and you say, “Why don’t these scholars get together and figure out what the meaning of this word is, and finally translate it right? Which word is it? That’s what you want, isn’t it? I can see you shaking your head. You’re saying, “Yeah!” Listen, that’s why you come to church.
The answer is: it’s all of the above. The word paraclete–para means “alongside of;” cleo means “to call” – the noun is paraclete. That means somebody who is called alongside of someone else. And that person, that companion, may have many different functions and ministries. That’s why, bless God, the ministry of the Spirit can’t be limited to one word. It is really all of these words and none of the translations are incorrect, and all of them have truth in them.
What Jesus is saying is, “In your need, I am sending you the Spirit, who is called alongside of you so that He might be able to represent Me and be Me in your life, if you please.” And, in so doing, we have the privilege of being able to walk this life with Christ by means of the presence and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that there was no way these disciples could do world evangelism without the ministry of the Spirit. You can’t do evangelism in Israel or in North Africa or in Chicago without the presence and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus said, “He who is in you is greater than He who is outside of you, He who is in the world.” And as a result of that, the Spirit of God is going to come along and to be a helper to stand with us to teach us to pray, because He sometimes prays for us and in us with groanings that are too deep for words. And whenever you need help, this is a companion who is already standing beside you. He is the helper.
Let me say also, let’s make this more personal: He’s not only a helper; He is a living companion. I want you to notice what Jesus says in verse seventeen: “This is the Spirit of truth,” He says, “The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him or knows Him, but you know Him,” and now notice, “And He lives with you and will be in you.” That little phrase, which I hope you are looking at in the text, is one of the best shorthand explanations for the difference between the ministry of the Old Testament, Holy Spirit’s ministry, and the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit of God was with people. There were some people that He indwelt, but not all believers were indwelt in the Old Testament. Sometimes the Holy Spirit came upon people for specific ministries, and then He left them. It was a different kind of work of the Spirit, but Jesus said, “He is with you. But when I ascend to the Father, I will send Him with a new ministry of being in you.” Now keep in mind that the Holy Spirit was here before He came, because He’s God, and He will be here after He leaves, because He’s God, because He occupies the whole universe and will explain the Trinity in just a moment. But keep this in mind; what Jesus is saying is it’s going to be a brand new ministry of the Spirit, because the Spirit of God is now going to dwell within you.
Now I have to ask you a theological question: Is it possible to have the Holy Spirit of God dwell in you without the Father dwelling in you and without the Son dwelling in you? Actually not, because there is only one spirit that pervades the whole universe. If there were three spirits, then there would be three gods. So, you can’t have the Holy Spirit of God in you without having Christ in you, without having the Father in you. Look at what Jesus Christ says to Judas (not Iscariot). Judas asks the question, verse 22, “But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching, my Father will love him, we will come to him, and we will make our home with him.”
Now I am going to test your memory, those of you who have been here in this series of messages, when I was preaching on John chapter 14, verse 2, I pointed something out. When it says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” the only other place that that word appears in all the New Testament is right here in verse 23: “We will make our dwelling place with him.” I find this remarkable that first of all, when we go to heaven, we are going to be dwelling with God. But now until we get to heaven, God comes to dwell with us. We’re going to be in that dwelling place. But He says, “Until you get there, I’m going to be in this dwelling place, namely with you.” And Jesus said, “My Father will come to him and I will come to him, and together the Trinity will make their abode in him.” What a statement! You have God in you if you are a believer.
Second Corinthians, chapter six… (and I love to quote these kinds of verses when I am under the stars. You know, there are places in the world where it gets very dark and it looks as if the stars are just out there like that…and by the way, did you know that there are trillions and billions? The other day I was sitting on a plane next to a guy who makes lenses for the Hubble telescope, and he said that recently they pointed the Hubble telescope in one direction only for 11 full hours without moving it into what they thought was black space, and they discovered 1,500 new galaxies that they did not know existed. Isn’t that something? I said to him, “You know God just threw a party when He created these stars. God just said, “Hey, a trillion here, a couple trillion there, ten trillion over there, He just threw a party.”)
Now listen to this, I’m not making this up… Second Corinthians, chapter six says, “God hath said I will dwell in them, and I will walk in them, and I shall be their God and they shall be my people.” Wow! Jesus said, “By the ministry of the Spirit, the Spirit will come, the Father will come, I will come. We will make our abode with him.” And where does He dwell? Right here in me, in you, the dwelling place of God. And God is personal, I’m talking about living companionship, I mean, how personal is this Spirit? He’s as personal as a friend whom you might invite to go with you to a shopping mall. That personal. Yet He is with you at all times. He’s with you when you ride the subway, He’s with you when you drive in a Chevy, and yes, He’s even with you when you drive a motorcycle. (And could I remind you bikers that are here, that angels that guard you when you drive officially retire at 65, could I remind you of that?) The Spirit is with us.
I know you may think that this is strange, but when I went to seminary, the first time when I arrived in Dallas coming from the hinterland of Canada, I was very lonely. I know I shouldn’t have been because I was in my 20s, but just accept the fact that I got there early before anyone else, and for those first few days, and even the first couple of weeks, I was lonely. Later on of course, I made tons of friends and it was okay, but I would just be so lonely. I finally learned that loneliness is a terrifying thing, where you think that you are kind of alone here, you don’t have anyone who really cares about you, because nobody knows you and you don’t connect. I had a roommate, and he and I never really bonded. He was on a different trajectory altogether. And sometimes, I would come into the room when he wouldn’t be there, and I would just throw myself down in the presence of God, and I would just pray and spill out my heart to God. I had such an overwhelming sense of the presence of God, that I said to myself, “I could live alone all my life if God were always this real.”
Now I’m not lonely anymore. Since that time, I had the good sense to marry a lovely wife, we have three children; we have a grandchild, and another one on the way, so I am not lonely. The ministry of the Spirit now takes on a different character. Now the Spirit ministers to me in terms of guidance, in terms of wisdom, in terms of dealing with hidden sins, and protection from the enemy. He is that to me because that is the helper that I now need to be alongside of me.
Listen up, those of you who are grieving, maybe because of a lost partner, or because of a lost marriage, or a lost child. The Spirit of God to you is what? He is as the King James says, “A comforter to you.” Those of you who are seeking guidance, you say, “I don’t know what to do with my life. The world is so confusing and my choices are so few, or my choices are so many.” To you He is the Counselor. To those of you who aren’t sure of your salvation, you’re not sure whether you have savingly believed on Christ, when you savingly believe, the Holy Spirit witnesses with your spirit that you are a Child of God. The Spirit of God takes on the ministry of witnessing to you and to your spirit.
And if you are fearful, and you don’t want to face tomorrow because there are all kinds of things that you don’t want to deal with, and you’re just saying, “I’m tired of this life,” the Holy Spirit comes alongside. He is your companion, He walks with you, and the issue is not how much courage you have, but the companion that stands with you and walks with you through the darkness. That’s what the Spirit does, different ministries. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, the Holy Spirit is a Companion, and He’s also a Teacher.
Now we have to skip all the way down here to verse 25: “All this I have spoken while still with you, but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” There is another ministry of the Spirit. As long as Jesus was here on earth they could ask Him questions. They could clarify. Jesus isn’t here now. We have a record of Him in the text, we know what He said. The Spirit of God came along, brought to the remembrance of those who were there the things that happened, and they later on recorded the Scriptures: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
But the simple fact is that the Spirit of God today has a little different ministry. It is called the illumination of the Spirit. The illumination of the Spirit is when truth not only comes to you, but you are transformed by it, and you’re gripped by it. The Bible says that, “The truths of the Spirit are not discerned by the world.” That’s why you can have people listen to messages, and whether the messages are good or bad, as long as they are scriptural, it could well be that it absolutely does not penetrate anyone.
I was at Promise Keepers speaking in Portland not too long ago, and it was wonderful to see there were some men there who just came and sat through the whole thing and were unmoved by it, untouched, they went home as they came. And there were others, hundreds of them, weeping as they came forward to pray with their pastors in one of the most remarkable scenes I had seen. In fact, they were lined up to pray, many of them weeping.
Why the difference? There are some people who are illumined by the Spirit, as they belong to Christ, and there are other people sitting under the same messages, the same truth, and it does not affect them. It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, to illuminate the Word of God and to change us by that Word and also to grant us that wisdom. The Spirit of God is very intelligent, needless to say. The Spirit of God knows all things, but that doesn’t mean that He reveals things to us directly. He does so through the Word. But what it means is that Christ has made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, and ultimately God comes to us at the very point of our need and meets us where we are, and the paraclete is standing beside us as a companion, a teacher, a helper.
You say, yes, but, I have never really experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. Or, if I have, it’s been a long time ago, you say. You say, you know somehow I’m going through all these difficulties and I go back to my apartment and I am alone, and I go to work and I am alone, and I fall into sin and the Spirit of God doesn’t seem to help me. Where is all of this ministry of the Spirit about which you have been speaking? Where is this companionship?
There is something I need to remind you of as we come to some final conclusions here today. And the first is this: don’t ever forget the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is very, very sensitive, and we can grieve Him easily. That is why He is represented as a dove. Doves are birds evidently that can be very easily offended and then they fly away. The Spirit doesn’t leave us, but when He is grieved, the Spirit of God can no longer minister to us. That’s why Paul says, “Don’t grieve the Spirit,” and he lists all the sins that grieve the Spirit in the book of Ephesians. The Spirit of God must find a home within us, where He can be comfortable.
Just imagine the Spirit is at your side and in you, watches every television program you watch, can’t help it, may be grieved by it, but He’s there. He watches everything you see, is aware of everything that you and I think, and the Spirit of God has to put up with this in our lives. And when we are unwilling to deal with the sin in our lives, and confess it and forsake it, the ministry of the Spirit of God is not experienced. He is resident, but He is not President.
I remember in Ephesians chapter three, where Paul is speaking about Christians. He says, “I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” I used to read that as a child and say, “Is Paul having a problem with his theology?” Very dangerous, you know, to try to correct the theology of the apostle Paul, until I learned something. Actually, the word that he uses is this: that Christ may have a deep-down dwelling, that Christ may feel at home in your heart. That’s a good translation. That Christ would feel at home in your heart by faith. In other words, that we might give Him a residence that is clean, that is yielded.
Of course we struggle with sin. But we are constantly confessing it, and we’re constantly forsaking it, so that the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, can minister the truth of God and the companionship of Jesus in His physical absence. That is why He was sent. F.B. Meyers says, “God is willing to become the mansion of the soul that believes on Christ, but asks in return that such a one should prepare a guest chamber and become a mansion in which He may dwell.”
As He steals with loving tread into the loving, believing heart, I hear Him say, “This is my rest forever, here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” From my heart to yours today, don’t ever think that the Spirit of God is reluctant to fill you. Reluctance has never been on the part of the Spirit, that’s why He dwells in you. that’s why He’s there. He wouldn’t have come if He would be reluctant to minister to you. That’s not the issue. The issue is on our side of the equator, our unwillingness to listen to His voice.
And, another thing I am learning the older I get (I know I’m not getting as old quite as fast as you are, but the older I get…) (laughter). Ask the Holy Spirit, “What is there in my heart that I have done that grieves you? What is there that I need to take care of?” And then be silent before the Lord and it will be amazing to you the things that the Spirit of God reveals to you at a moment like that. Remember that it is His desire, the sensitivity of the Spirit. We need to deal with sin.
Could I say also a second truth? That is the Spirit’s ministry in His fullness must be received by faith. Jesus said, “It is good for you that I go away, because if I do not go away, I can’t send the Comforter.” Elsewhere, He says clearly that the Spirit can’t come until I’ve ascended, and then I’m going to begin this new ministry of the Spirit. When Jesus died on the cross, He purchased your salvation. How do you receive Christ? By faith.
Some of you to whom I speak have not yet done that, but you can receive Christ as your Savior by faith. But also, part of the act of salvation was the resurrection and the ascension into heaven. As a result of the cross, we have forgiveness. As a result of the ascension, we have the poured out Spirit. How do you receive the Christ of the cross? By faith. How do you receive the poured out Spirit? By faith. He indwells everyone who is a believer, yes, but His fullness is received by faith.
Let’s just talk candidly for a moment. It’s just you and me now. When I woke up this morning, I have to tell you in all honesty, I didn’t have a heart hot for God. As a matter of fact, when I rolled out of bed at about 6:10 this morning, I thought to myself, “You know, this morning would be a good day to not go to church.” (laughter) But then I remembered that if I did that, some people would know about it. So I said, “That option is closed to me.”
But then I began to read the Word, go over my sermon notes, and I told the Lord that I feel dry; I don’t feel Spirit-filled. But what I want to do is to receive in simple faith the filling of the Holy Spirit. And in that act, for Christ who is the companion, to be called alongside of me, He is already there, the paraclete, the comforter, the helper, whatever word you would want to use, all of them are true, and today Jesus becomes in me all that I do not have. When I began to think about those truths, I was excited about coming to church and said, “It is going to be great to be there, to worship and to be with the people of God.” That is why D.L. Moody, when asked why he had to be filled with the Spirit, so often said, “It’s because I leak.”
F.B. Meyer, whom I quoted a moment ago, said these words: “I left the prayer meeting and crept away into the lane saying, 'Oh Lord, if there were ever a man who needs the power of the Spirit, it is I.’” Does that resonate with your heart? You’re a man, or a woman, or a child, or a teenager, and if there is anyone in the world, who needs the fullness of the Spirit, it’s you and me. But he said, “Lord, I do not know how to receive this fullness. I am too tired, too worn, too nervously run down to agonize.”
And then it was as if he heard a voice that said, “As you took forgiveness from the hand of the dying Christ, so you receive the fullness of the Spirit from the hand of the ascended Christ. And in faith He came to drink, and to drink and to take again, and again, and again. And tomorrow I will have to take again, because what I had today will not last for Monday.” But Jesus said, “I am sending you another Comforter, one like unto me, who will continue my work, performing many of the same ministries as I did with the disciples.” And so, notice what He says, “He will be with you forever.” All the way home to heaven. The presence of the Spirit, in lonely apartments, in times of crisis, in times of need, He is there. Would you receive Him today in His fullness?
Let’s pray. Our Father, we want to thank you today for these comforting words. We confess that we do not understand how Jesus could say that the Father will love Him and together will come and make our home, our dwelling place with Him. And yet, Father, God is here with us today, and you are here with us, but you are also in us, those who have believed. And so we pray today, oh may this life of God break out from within us. May there be a death to our own self, a dealing with sin, so that in simple faith, we can receive the fullness of the Spirit and say today, I accept all that the Spirit has for me. Grant that, Father, we ask. And for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, they’ve never believed on Him, we pray today, that they might do so. May they receive by faith salvation from the crucified Christ, and the fullness of the Spirit from the ascended Christ. Do that in our hearts we ask, in Jesus’ name, Amen.