The Essential Jesus

The "Advantage" of the Holy Spirit

John 14

Teaching t12698


Brief recap of series.  We come today to Jesus’ final conversation with His disciples just before His arrest and crucifixion, recorded by John who was there (Jn. 14-16).  In this conversation, Jesus lays a bomb on them: “Beginning this evening, I am leaving you in a hostile environment and commissioning you to be My witness to all peoples.”  No wonder their hearts are troubled (14:1), and they are filled with sorrow (16:6,22)!

But amazingly, Jesus tells them that His departure is to their personal advantage (read 16:7a)!  Even more amazingly, He says that His departure will enable them to accomplish more for God’s kingdom than even Jesus did in His public ministry (read 14:12)!  How can these things be?  Jesus’ answer is: the Holy Spirit (read 16:7b; 14:16,17).  He is the Parakletos (“Helper” is weak; “Advocate” is better - One with whom we collaborate, but who is the heavy lifter, superior in power and authority.  This is why Jesus calls Him “another” Parakletos – namely, just like Jesus had been.  Only the Holy Spirit will be with them forever (vs. only when Jesus is physically present) and actually in them (vs. only external assistance through Jesus’ bodily presence).

This promise of the Holy Spirit as Helper was not just for Jesus’ disciples; He is Jesus’ promise and gift to all who belong to Him (quote Rom. 8:9).  The Christian life is not trying to remember our dead Founder and imitate Him by our own moral will-power.  The Christian life is the Spirit-filled life – a dynamic life of daily receiving His supernatural enablement to live Christ-like lives that attract others to Jesus.  It is, in fact, Jesus living His life in us through the Spirit (quote Gal. 2:20).  Many Christians are spiritually impotent and unattractive simply because they are ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s advocacy.  Could this be your problem?  Let’s survey these three chapters and consider the specific kinds of enablement the Holy Spirit provides . . .

Assurance of God’s love

Jesus regularly spoke of God as His Father who loved Him (Jn. 3:35; 5:20; 15:9,10; 17:26), and whose love was the security of His life (16:32).  His disciples had experienced God’s love when they were in Jesus’ physical presence, and this had changed their lives (Peter in Jn. 1:42; John as “the disciple Jesus loved”).  This is the main reason why the prospect of losing Jesus filled them with grief.

But Jesus says 14:18-20 (read).  He will not leave them as orphans – His death will not cut them off from His love.  Jesus is not referring to the fact that they would see Him physically again after He rose from the dead.  He is saying something better than this – that through the Holy Spirit, they will receive the same personal assurance of God’s love that Jesus had.  The Spirit will somehow enable them to be included in the “inner circle” of love between Jesus and His Father.

The Holy Spirit’s personal assurance of God’s love is not just for Jesus’ disciples.  Read 14:21,23 – note “whoever” and “anyone”).  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus and His Father will actually “move into” the heart of each of His followers[1] and personally communicate their love to them.  Read Rom. 5:5.  This assurance of God’s love is foundational to a healthy spiritual life.

Young children need to know they are loved by their parents in order to be secure and flourish.  Hundreds of studies confirm that a stable home of consistent parental investment and loving discipline is crucial for a child’s development, and that parental neglect (let alone abandonment) hinders or prevents it.  Many of us know this first-hand because we are wrestling with the personal insecurities and relational self-protectiveness and even diminished functional capacity that comes from growing up without this assurance that we are loved.

But praise God, this is not the end of the story!  The moment you receive Christ, you get a new Father who loves you deeply, and His love can overcome parental dysfunction to heal and mature you over time.  This is why He not only tells us in His Word that He loves us (objective promise), but also gives us His Spirit to us so we can experience His love.  Sometimes we experience His love in intense and dramatic ways, but even more healing is the undramatic but consistent assurance that grows in us as we relate to Him day by day.

“It is wonderful to revel in the love of God.  Truly to experience that love, to live in the warmth of its glow, invests all of life with new meaning and purpose . . . Forgiving others becomes (possible), because we ourselves, thanks to God’s immeasurably rich love, have been forgiven so much.  Others may despise us, but that makes little difference if God loves us . . . Our speech, our thoughts, our actions, our reactions, our relationships, our goals, our values – all are transformed if only we live in the self-conscious enjoyment of God’s love.”[2]

This is the first great advocacy that the Holy Spirit brings.  Let’s look at another one . . .

Tutoring in God’s Word

Jesus is God’s Word made flesh (1:14).  He revealed God’s Word to His disciples so that it became alive and relevant to them in a way they had never experienced before.  Even with Jesus’ help, though, they still often forgot what He taught them (e.g., HUNGRY IN THE BOAT) or, worse yet, just plain didn’t get even His main points (e.g., THE NECESSITY OF THE CROSS; Jn. 13:7).  So the prospect of losing Jesus as their Tutor would be like being plunged back into blindness after receiving partial sight.

But just the opposite happened!  Jesus left, but they became masters in their understanding of God’s Word.  The books of Acts records their profound preaching, and their letters are a gold-mine of insight into Jesus and what he has given us through His death and resurrection.  What happened?  Did they get brain-transplants?  Did they enroll in an online course on spiritual enlightenment?  No, they received the Holy Spirit, who personally tutored them in God’s Word.

This what Jesus promises in 14:25,26 (read).  The Holy Spirit would enable them to understand what was over their heads now, and He would remind them of what He taught them.  This is what Jesus promises in 16:12,13 (read).  The Holy Spirit will guide them into “all the truth”—not all truth generally (e.g., ASTRO-PHYSICS), but all redemptive truth, all the truth about the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The Holy Spirit will also “disclose what is to come” – not a horoscope for what will happen tomorrow, but revelation about direction of human history and especially about life in God’s eternal kingdom.

This promise applies to all Christians as a promise of illumination – to enable us understand both the meaning and personal significance/relevance of what Jesus has given us (read 1 Cor. 2:12).  The Holy Spirit makes the Bible (and especially the gospel) “come alive” to us existentially.  The Holy Spirit reminds us of portions of God’s Word we have learned exactly when we need them for ourselves and/or for others (EXAMPLE).

This is why we can replace anxiety with peace.  Re-read 14:26; then read 14:27.  What is the connection between 14:26 and 14:27?  It is that Spirit-tutored instruction and reminders of Jesus’ teaching is how Jesus gives us His peace.  The normal way to a heart that is not troubled or fearful is not will-power or mental distraction or chemical medication, but going to the Scriptures (especially its promises) and asking the Holy Spirit to give us a fresh illumination of these promises.  As we do this, He crowds out our anxieties with the confidence that Jesus is with us.

Empowerment to testify

Jesus commissioned them to “testify” about Him – to report their personal knowledge of Jesus to those who don’t know Him.  While Jesus was with them, it was easy to testify to others (Jn. 1:41,45; 12:20-22).  But when He was arrested, they failed miserably.  Ten of them deserted Him, and even Peter wound up denying Him three times.  But only a short time later, these same men became super-courageous witnesses (explain context and read Acts 4:13).  Not because they took a public speaking or salesmanship course – but because they were filled with the Holy Spirit (read Acts 4:8).  This is what Jesus promised in Jn. 15:26,27 (read; also read Acts 1:8).

We have the same mission – to testify to others who we have found Jesus to be and how He has changed our lives.  And we have the same promise – the Holy Spirit will empower us to testify with boldness as well as with love (read Acts 4:31). 

Year after year, research shows that Christians know this is their mission, and believe that it is vitally important – yet only half of them share their faith even once a year.[3]  Church leaders urge them to invite guests, provide training in personal evangelism, and launch outreach campaigns – all good measures, but often with no lasting effect.  Why?  Perhaps because the most common reason for not testifying is fear of people’s disapproval or censure.  What can be done for you if this describes you?  Here is Jesus’ answer: the Holy Spirit will empower you to testify about Him.  When you ask Him to give you opportunities to testify, and when you trust Him and open your mouth as He prompts you, testifying about Christ ceases to be an intimidating duty that’s all up to us, and becomes an exciting adventure of experiencing the Spirit at work (EXAMPLE). 

Character transformation

The disciples experienced Jesus’ moral example inspiring them (FOOT-WASHING) – but apart from (and even in!) His presence, they reverted to self-centeredness (e.g., arguing about who is greatest).  But Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would transform their characters (read 15:5,8,16 – the Holy Spirit is the “sap”).  This fruit includes character transformation (read Gal. 5:22,23).  This is why unstable Peter became the “rock.”  This is why vindictive John became “the apostle of love.”

Gal. 5:22,23 is addressed to all Christians – to you and to me.  None of us is terminally screwed up.  None of us need be fatalistic about our bad habits and besetting sins.  All of us can experience gradual and incomplete but profound character transformation, because the Holy Spirit is in us to effect this change.  He does this in a variety of ways – sensitizing our consciences, inspiring us with other examples of godliness, exposing and breaking our pride, giving us insight into our hearts, teaching us how to recognize and turn away from temptation, motivating us to live to please God instead of people, etc.  Jesus changes lives through His Spirit!


SUMMARIZE the Holy Spirit’s advocacy.  How can we know this as an experiential reality?  The simple New Testament answer is “by faith in Jesus” – but it emphasizes three different expressions of faith: receive, align and depend.

Receive the Holy Spirit by believing in Jesus as your Savior.  Pantheistic/New Age spirituality teaches that we all already have God/Spirit within us; we just need to realize and develop this.  But the Bible teaches that we are born spiritually dead, separated from God because of our sin – and that we need to come to Jesus as our Savior in order to receive His Spirit. (Jn. 7:37-39a).

Align yourself with Jesus’ purpose and mission for your life.  The Holy Spirit is not a Genie who facilitates our agendas; He empowers us to become more Christ-like and to influence people toward Christ.  Jesus promises the Spirit’s advocacy to those who follow Him (Jn. 14:21,23; see also Acts 5:31).  Paul urges us to “keep in step with” the Spirit’s leadership (Gal. 5:25).  Christians who are committed to a self-serving life cannot have Spirit-filled lives.

Depend on the Holy Spirit to enable you to serve Jesus.  The life-giving “sap” (the Holy Spirit) is given to those who live in habitual dependence on Him (15:4,5).  Self-reliance and self-sufficiency – even in serving God – is always ultimately fruitless.  Learning to present ourselves situationally as God’s instruments (Rom. 6:13) and to ask for the Spirit’s help in order to serve God is a key to the Spirit-filled life (Lk. 11:13).

[1] We should be careful not to turn 14:21a,23a into a legalistic condition for receiving this assurance of God’s love.  These phrases are synonyms for being a follower of Jesus, “on mission” with Him.  Jesus’ main emphasis here is what He will do for us (through His Spirit), not what we must do for Him.

[2] D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Baker House, 1994), p. 197.

[3] “Survey respondents who were born again Christians . . . were asked if they had shared their faith in Christ with non-believers during the past twelve months. The research showed that there has been no significant change in this behavior during the past decade, with six out of ten Christians claiming to have shared their beliefs about Jesus with someone whom they knew believed differently.”  Barna Research Group, April 3, 2006  (