Jesus continues to explain the work of the Holy Spirit. Last week we looked at how the Holy Spirit makes God real to us, bringing us into union with while maintaining our freedom and identity. One of the ways he does this is to make Christ known to us, we see this in Jesus “realistic” language in these verses. He says that he will “come to” the disciples, that they will “see him”, that he will “show himself” or “manifest himself” to them. We can see then, as we obey the Lord’s command to love, the Holy Spirit manifests Christ to us in various ways:
Firstly, he manifests the person of Christ to us. It is crucial that we have this deep sense of personal relationship to Christ. This sense of personal relationship brings into our lives a dynamic that would be missing if we just served God as a principle of goodness or a distant ruler. It brings a sense of service, of honour, fear of God (in a good sense), loyalty, expectation of reward or discipline, and a longing to see him. We see this very much in the language of the Apostle Paul about his relationship to the Lord. In our own time, Mother Theresa talked about having a sense of serving Christ personally when she helped the poor who were sick. This sense of personal relationship to Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, he manifests the work of Christ to us, applying what he has done to us personally so that we become aware of its reality and truth in our own lives. For example, in the great methodist revival of the 1700’s hundreds of thousands of people came to a personal awareness that Christ died for them on the cross. This “conversion” experience, made real to them a conviction of their own sin, a real sense that Christ loved them and died for them and that they were truly forgiven. Similarly, the Holy Spirit can gives us an assurance of salvation or of the certainty of Christ’s rule and ultimate victory. The Holy Spirit also makes known to us the work of Christ in resurrection, giving us his life (vs. 19) enabling us to put sin to death and live new lives of obedience to God.(Titus 2:12)
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit manifests the Word of Christ to us. He make Scripture real to us, bringing home its truths or speaking them to us personally at just the right time, to encourage, rebuke, teach or commission us. He also makes Christ’s Word in creation known to us, helping us to see God’s revelation of himself there too so that we learn what it teaches us about him (e.g. “Look at the birds of the air…” Matt 6:26) and the whole of creation begins to point back to Christ.
1. The Holy Spirit works differently at different times and in different people. Experiences range from the “strangely warmed heart” of Wesley to the “FIRE!” of Pascal. What is key is that the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s person, work and Word truly known to us, and that this is evidenced in increasing love for God and man. Is Christ real to you? Are you living as if he is?
2. God commanded Israel to make altars of uncut stones (Ex 20:25). Today people have access to sophisticated, captivating, non-spiritual experiences. Pornography and promiscuity are endemic, media is highly sophisticated, technology enables us to inhabit virtual worlds and produces beautiful and complicated things that appeal to our senses in unprecedented ways. Philosophers call this “hyper-reality” because, a bit like the Holy Spirit, they can make things seem more real. But, unlike the Holy Spirit, these experiences are often misleading and temporary, leading us away from our need of God and toward destructive and empty lives. They also makes us bored, skeptical and easily distracted. Today more than ever then – like Israel’s altars – we need to deliberately make room for the work of the Spirit and carefully avoid all substitutes. We must be careful that in our personal lives we don’t get caught up seeking after these experiences, but live simply, looking only for the work of the Holy Spirit in whom is true life. Likewise as a church, that we – in all that we do – consciously make room for and invite the presence of the Holy Spirit through simplicity and transparency.