Today’s passages: Jeremiah, chapters 16-17; Psalm 96; John, chapter 16
Scripture: John 16:7-15 (NRSV) – Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Observations: Several things strike me from this passage. First, Jesus tells the disciples that it is to their advantage if he goes away. I’m sure they didn’t believe that for a minute! They were used to having him there, teaching them and fixing problems, and I’m sure that the prospect of him leaving them was terrifying! It is often that way with us: we get so used to things being the way that they are that the prospect of any change throws us into a tizzy. As a pastor, I’m used to seeing that resistance to change, and trying to help people through it, but the fact is that when the change involves me, I’m just as likely to resist it. But what Jesus tells the disciples is true for us, in a much broader sense: when God is at work, and things start to change, it is for our advantage.
The second thing that strikes me is what Jesus says that the Spirit will do when he comes. First, Jesus says that when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. Two things stand out to me: first, the Spirit has come, so he is doing all of those things in the world today. Jesus promised the disciples that he would send the Advocate; that happened at Pentecost. That means that the Spirit is active in the world right now, proving the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. Second, Jesus says that the Spirit will do those things; nowhere does he tell the disciples that they are to do those things. When we focus on following Jesus (as the Spirit will lead us to do), the Spirit will use the fact that Jesus is alive in us to do his work.
The last thing that strikes me is that the Spirit will glorify me [Jesus], because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Spirit does is intended to glorify Jesus, just as everything that Jesus does is intended to glorify the Father. That means that the Spirit’s purpose is not to glorify us. If it glorifies Jesus to attract attention to us, the Spirit will do that; if it glorifies Jesus for us to fade into the background, unnoticed in the light of his glory, the Spirit will do that. We need to focus on just doing what the Spirit leads us to do. And since the Spirit is the Spirit of truth, he primarily leads us through God’s eternal truth – the written Word and the living Word. That’s why we need to stay in the Word each day!
Applications: God is reminding me that the litmus test for my actions must be, “Does this glorify God?” If I have to come up with some drawn-out rationalization for how this might glorify God, it’s probably not the right course! When I listen to the Spirit each day, allowing him to lead me through what God’s Word says, I won’t have to worry about whether it’s glorifying God; the Spirit will make sure that I do. It’s easy to get caught up in doing things that other people think we should do. I need to keep my focus on Jesus, and allow him to set my agenda.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the reassurance that the Spirit is leading me, and that he will lead me in ways that ultimately bring glory to you. Thank you for the reminder that the Spirit is already at work in the world, convincing the world of its sin and its need for you. I don’t have to convince the world of their sin; the Spirit will do that. I need to walk in obedience, so the Spirit can use me to demonstrate that there is an alternative to the way that leads to death, that they can find life and hope and peace in Jesus. May your Kingdom come in greater measure today, so people will see that there is life in Jesus. Amen.