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Slow down and enjoy the view

What's in a name?

The Bible: map, mirror, microscope

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What's in a name?

Have you ever wished you could have been around at the time of Jesus? Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to ponder his parables as he spoke them; to watch the lame jump to their feet, the blind see, the deaf hear and the dead rise; to listen to him laugh; to listen to him pray?

I certainly do! And because of my thinly veiled jealousy of those first disciples, I find it somewhat baffling that Jesus said, in John 16, "It is for your good that I am going away." My immediate thought is: How could it have been "for their good? Wouldn’t it have been much better to have Jesus around in person? Obviously not, in some respects, because Jesus said this was "the truth." He also gives us some insight in that same verse as to why it would be "good" that he left. If he went away, he would send "the Counselor" to them.

This Counselor is the Spirit of God, the third member of the Trinity. And what I’d like to focus on are the names that are used for the Spirit, which will highlight two things: (1) what we need, and (2) what we have.

The context of Christ’s statement is found in the two mandates which are given in chapter 15. The first command is to "remain," or, as some versions have it, "abide." (15:1-17) It means, in a very casual way, "to hang out with." The intent is that we should not just visit Christ on Sundays, but to "hang out" with him all the time; to make him a conscious part of our everyday lives. When you think of remaining, think of it in terms of relationship, not ritual.

The second mandate is to "testify" (15:18-25), which simply means "to give evidence." In this case, it is to give evidence for the reality of Christ in your life. Or, as Peter put it, to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you.

There are three things I’d like to mention about these mandates before moving on. First of all, there are promises given with each one. For remaining, there is the promise of fruitfulness. For testifying, there is the promise of persecution. Most of us do not face the threat of immediate death (though many do in other countries), but there will always be a price to pay for making our faith known to others. Secondly, these are in sequential order. We must first remain, and then testify. If we don’t develop the relationship, we won’t bother to share the good news of salvation in Christ with others. Finally, these two mandates give a nice summary of what it means to be a Christian. It’s not about rules and regulations - that’’s not where we need to start! Rather, it’s a personal relationship with the Father through Christ (read John 14:6). It’s knowing Christ as the only way, truth and life, and sharing that good news with others. The things we do and don’t do as Christians should stem from our love for God, not rigid duty. People who are in love instinctively do what pleases the other person. Even so, the external evidence of our Christianity should come instinctively. If not, we’re in trouble.

As I said, Jesus’ reason why it would be for their good that he went away (referring to his resurrection) was that he could then send the Spirit. Perhaps the main reason that would be advantageous is stated in John 14:17, where Jesus says, "[The Spirit] lives with you and will be in you." The Spirit has been around since eternity past - he is not a new phenomenon. However, there is an level of intimacy that we enjoy today, as believers, which was never known before. He permanently lives inside every believer because he is not limited to time and space. Jesus, in his incarnation, limited himself to being confined to time and space. Although he knew what was going on in other places (read the gospels), he could only be one place at one time, but the Spirit has the ability to be omnipresent (present everywhere at once). Also, he can never be taken away from us, which was not the case in the Old Testament. David once prayed, "Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me." We don’t have to pray that prayer because we have been "sealed" with the Spirit - he is our guarantee of heaven!

But what I want to focus on right now (and I realize it’s taken me awhile to get here) is what we learn about the Spirit’s help from the names he is given. Names are helpful in understanding either the nature or expressions of people. For example, when she was 1.5 years old, we nicknamed our daughter "the Beast." Hearing that, you can assume certain things to expect from her, just as you can deduct certain characteristics from the nickname of our eldest boy: "Idi Amin." The names given to the Spirit of God are equally helpful and I’d like to highlight three of them.

First, he is called "the Holy Spirit" (John 14:25). Please note: "Holy" is not his first name - it is an attribute! In fact, holiness is probably God’’s most distinguishing characteristic. It literally means "set apart." God is not a part of creation; he is totally distinct from everything that he has created. By the way, holiness is what we are called to as Christians (1 Peter 1:15-16), in that we are to be "set apart" to God. When you think of holiness, think of it in terms of relationship ("being"), more than activity ("doing"). Doing certain activities does not make me holy, but my relationship with God does. Interestingly, holiness is essential to the two mandates given in John 15. Without holiness (relationship), we will neither remain nor testify. We won’t hang out with someone we don’t like and we won’’t be compelled to tell anyone else about him. My point is this: the nature of the Spirit corresponds directly to our calling.

Second, he is called "the Spirit of truth" (14:17; 15:26; 16:12). Jesus said that the Bible is "truth" (John 17:17) and the Spirit can be justifiably called, "the Spirit of the word" (the word of God). In fact, he relates to the word of God in three primary ways. First of all, he inspires it (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 2:20-21). He carefully oversaw the original writing of the Bible so that everything God wanted is in there, exactly as he wanted it said. Secondly, the Spirit illuminates the word (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). He makes it understandable. This is vital, because the word of God is necessary for "remaining" (John 15:7). Every time you read the Bible, you should ask God to make it understandable to you. Finally, the Spirit ignites the word! Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." By the way, here is fair warning for you: when you read the Bible, expect the Spirit to use the word to penetrate your life first! Sometimes it’s painful, but it’s always for your good.

Third, the Spirit is called "the Counselor" (16:7). You may recall, from Christmas readings or Handel’s "Messiah," Isaiah 9:6 - "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." In John 14:16 Jesus says he is going to send "another" Counselor (literally: "another of the same kind").

Because of the modern conception (and misconception) of counselors, maybe a brief word of clarification will be helpful. The Greek word translated "counselor" means "one called alongside to help." The Spirit’s single focus is to keep us active and healthy. He is not as interested in "why" there are problems as he is in fixing them. For example, think of going for a medical check-up. The doctor will probe and poke and question you to see what kind of condition you’re in. If he finds a problem, he may ask how it came about, but his primary focus will be to helping you get healthy. I can’t imagine a doctor who, after discovering a medical problem, would accept any excuses or rationalizations for it and say, "In your case we’ll just forget the problem exists. Just go on living with your disease and don’t worry about it."

But the Spirit is more than a doctor in an office. Remember, the term used here stresses that he comes alongside - he joins us in the action! And what action is this? The two mandates of John 15 - remaining and testifying (read John 15:26-27). The way he helps us is to take the word of God (the Bible) and put it up against our lives, much like an x-ray. Then, if something is found that shouldn’t be there, the Spirit uses it like a double-edged scalpel to remove the foreign object. Remember, it is the truth that sets us free, Jesus said.

The main point I hope you take from this is that God is on your side! He wants us to succeed in living the abundant life available to all believers. And in order to make that possible, he has given each of us the Spirit, who corresponds exactly to what we need to live and enjoy the Christian life; to achieve the holiness to which we have been called. It is in fulfilling this calling that we grow and blossom in our Christian life. Therefore, it is certainly "for our good" that he is sent to us.


In Ephesians 4:30, where we are told not to "grieve the Holy Spirit." How do we do this? In light of what we’’ve just learned about the Spirit, I’’d like to suggest three ways we grieve him. First of all, we grieve him by our sin, which goes against his holiness. Secondly, we grieve him by our ignorance of the word of God, which is the primary tool of the Spirit’’s work. And finally, we grieve him by our apathy, ignoring (or refusing) his assistance in drawing closer to Christ and in fulfilling the mandates we’’ve been given as children of God.

When we celebrate communion, we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. We understand that it was "for our good" that He came, for we could never achieve a level of goodness on our own which is required for acceptance by God (which is perfection). Paul makes that clear in Ephesians 2:8-9, where he says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." But let’’s also understand that it was "for our good" that Christ left, for in sending the Spirit, he helps us accomplish what Paul mentions in Ephesians 2:10, saying, "For we are God’’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works." Our salvation is made possible by Christ, not our good works. But the good works to which we have been created as Christians is made possible by the work of the Spirit in our lives.


It is not surprising to me that we shouldn’t grieve the Holy Spirit - it’s mind-boggling that we can! Imagine the all-powerful Creator of the universe - the Author and Sustainer of life - giving us the possibility of offending him! And please notice the word used: "grieve." It doesn’t say we shouldn’t “offend the Spirit,” or “disobey the Spirit,” or “make the Spirit angry.” It says we shouldn’t grieve him. That’s an intensely relational word. Contrary to the idea that God is a mean old grouch just looking for a chance to beat us over the head when we step out of line, this is how He reacts to our sin: he grieves over it. That’s how much He loves us. That’s how much He cares. That’s how much he wants us to succeed.

Think about it.



Comments to date: 1. Page 1 of 1.

Fiona,  Trinidad West Indies

Posted at 8:50pm on Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Hi Celia,
Your story is very fascinating and deep. I never would have thought that you have passed through such difficulties in life. It is understood that when people have faced up to terrible times in childhood they usually become antisocial and care nothing for others. You are truly one in a mi... read more »


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Rev Jim Beerley

Monaco Christian Fellowship Perspective
by Pastor Jim Beerley

The Passion of The Christ - Free Bible