Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Comforter and Much More

A Comforter and Much More

Scriptural Reading: John 14:15-26
Devotional Reading: Psalm 23

I came across a very interesting article cited at which brought back many comforting flashbacks in my life. Comfort Frogs are used to help children get through their stress, i.e. to name a few stressful situations, bullying, abuse, and loss of a loved one. The article reminded me of my youth when my grandmother made dolls that had a close human resemblance. Naturally she was not able to create a human, but many were the times that people looked twice at my doll, commenting they thought he was real. And yes, I even took him to college with me. It was like having a part of my home with me. So I was comforted, feeling my new surroundings would not harm me. However, I have always been a member of the sheep community. If I had a Comfort Frog, it would not have been the reason for my peace. Because I had the comforting doll, it was not the reason for my peace. Psalm 23 is expressive in declaring our reason for peace and comfort. In only six short explosive, exploratory verses, it states, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (NKJV) The LORD is my Shepherd and will always tend to His sheep. He will make sure we are comforted at all times, whether it is in the presence of our friends or foes. For this we can lie down in safe pasture.

This quarter of study is entitled “The Spirit Comes.” We are in Unit I – “The Pledge of God’s Presence” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second of a five-lesson study focusing on the promise of the Holy Spirit. In our lesson today we review the promise of Jesus to His disciples and all who loved God and followed God’s commandments to ask God to send another Counselor, Comforter, and Presence – the Holy Spirit. He wanted them to know they would not face the future alone in the face of the public oppositions against His ministry and imminent threat of His imprisonment and death.

At John 14:1-14 Jesus made His disciples some promises. What type of promises? Jesus knew the time had come for Him to lay down His life for the sins of the world. He wanted to comfort His disciples. Jesus tells them His Father has plenty room. He will prepare them a place and come to receive them. Jesus promises that He speaks on the authority of His Father who does the works. The disciples had seen many miracles and did not recognize that the Father was in Him and He was in His Father (John 14:11a). Jesus then gave a gift to the disciples who believed in the works that He performed. They were now able to do those works and even greater works, if they prayed in His Name. He would then intercede and go to His Father and if they asked for anything in His Name that would glorify the Father by the Son.

Our lesson picks up with Jesus challenging them to prove their love for Him after they receive their commands and promises. He stated at John 14:15-17, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." (NKJV) The Apostle John did not speak to the commands Jesus had issued. However, they knew of them. In Matthew 22:37b-40 Jesus refuted a Pharisee by responding, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) So we now see Jesus challenging the disciples to prove their love for Him through obedience to His commandments. It opens the door to the fulfillment of His many promises, even His interceding and praying to the Father to send the Holy Spirit. When Christ is telling them to keep His commandments, He reminds them of their duty. By performing their duty with love, nothing will go wrong. Provided they keep up their end of the bargain (their duty), Christ will keep up His end of the bargain (ask the Father to send another Helper). The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit was the great New Testament promise. The Holy Spirit was to provide great comfort, to be Christ’s advocate, a teacher, and so much more. He is also known as another Helper because Christ had provided the disciples the comfort they needed and now he promised another after He left to be with His Father. The LORD is our Advocate and the Holy Spirit is another Helper – not another of a different kind, but another of a similar nature. This blessing of a Comforter is not for a moment or an event as it was in the Old Testament. The Comforter shall abide with us forever. The prayer of David recorded at Psalm 51:11b, “…do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (NKJV) is not suitable today, although it was relevant for the Old Testament saints. The Holy Spirit is never taken from a true believer, although He may be grieved, or quenched, or hindered.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth because His teaching is true and He glorifies Christ who is truth. The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it cannot see Him. The disciples knew the Holy Spirit because He had worked in their own lives, and they had seen Him working through the LORD Jesus. The Comforter would work in a spiritual way, enlightening their minds to the truth, as to the Gentile idolatry and the Jewish tradition. He would remind them of the words and ways of Christ in His teaching for such is truth.

The LORD promised never to leave His disciples in an orphaned, comfortless state. In John 14:18-20 Jesus comforts the disciples and lets them know He would always look out for their best interest. The cited passage indicates, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (NKJV) Although Jesus would no longer be physically present, He did not want His disciples to grieve or feel like orphans. He wanted them to know that His separation would be temporary following the Resurrection. He pledges to come speedily to them. The world won’t see Him, but His disciples and followers will. They will know He was looking forward to His Resurrection life with them as they would be eternally united with Christ and the Father through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that He had promised to send to them. To say it another way, Christ is in the believer in the sense that His life is communicated to him. He actually dwells in the believer through the Holy Spirit. The believer is in Christ in the sense that he stands before God in all the merit of the Person and work of Christ.

Jesus then returns to teaching that love is the root and obedience is the fruit that all believers must follow to be eternally united with Him and the Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our passage reads at John 14:21-24, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “LORD, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (NKJV) The real proof of one’s love to the LORD is obedience to His commandments. It is useless to talk about loving Him if we do not want to obey Him. You cannot talk from both sides of your mouth because He knows your heart. This directive was given to disciples and all believers alike. Each of us has the common goal to be eternally united. We now know, following the Resurrection, that Jesus is God’s Son We realize that to know Christ was to know the Father, and to see Jesus was to see God.

Judas (not Iscariot) was inquisitive. The writer made sure we knew it was not Judas Iscariot. Judah, or Judas, was a famous name; the most famous tribe in Israel was that of Judah; two of Christ's disciples were of that name: one of them was the traitor, the other was the brother of James (Luke 6:16), one of those that were akin to Christ Matt 13:55. Judas was a good man, but he could not understand how the LORD could appear to the disciples without appearing to the world. They probably held on to the notion of a conquering king but had the faith to see Him by the Word of God. Jesus lovingly answered Him by explaining that obedience would be the key. If the believer loves Him and obeys His teachings there would be an eternal union where they can see Christ and the Father. However, the pretenders, those who walk in the world, lovers of themselves will not receive the promise of eternity. They do not love Christ, have not practiced the fruit of obedience of His commands, and refused the words and ways of the Father as well. Only those who obey Him will be able to experience Jesus’ abiding presence through the Holy Spirit.

Christ comforts the disciples stating that they should be under the tutorship of the Spirit. John 14:25-26 expressly declares, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (NKJV) While He was with them, Christ taught the disciples up to a certain point. He did not retract any of His teachings, but ratified them. He could not reveal more truth because they could not have taken it in.

Most interesting is that Jesus came in His Father’s Name, as His Ambassador. Now the Holy Spirit is sent by God, as requested by Jesus, in the Name of the Son. It is this reason the Holy Spirit pleads the cause of Jesus Christ and does His work. Christ specifically pointed out to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring all His teachings back to remembrance. In order to learn for themselves or be able to teach others, they must communicate with and be taught by God. This is a work of the Holy Spirit to be a tutor. Secondly, Jesus taught the disciples many things. They either did not retain or understand it. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the teachings of Jesus back to their remembrance. He is not able to change one iota of the teachings, only to bring understanding. This is true with the Holy Spirit’s relationship for all believers. He is to teach and bring back to remembrance with a spiritual understanding that what we know about Christ.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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