How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 3

“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.” John 14:21

So far we have learned that the way to overcome the fear of abandonment is to focus on…

– The promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16).

– The permanent indwelling of the Spirit of truth (John 14:17-18).

The third way we can overcome the fear of abandonment is by focusing on THE PROSPECT OF LOVE FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON TO THOSE WHO OBEY (John 14:19-24). Jesus says to His eleven believing disciples, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19). Jesus says that “a little while longer” when He goes to the Father’s house after His death and resurrection (cf. John 13:33, 36; 14:2-3; Acts 1:9-11) “the world will see” Him “no more,” but His disciples will see Him through the revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus had revealed the Father, so the Holy Spirit will reveal Christ (cf. John 15:26; 16:14, 16). The coming of the Holy Spirit would be evidence that Jesus was alive and in heaven with His Father (John 16:7).

When Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also,” He was saying that His bodily resurrection would guarantee the bodily resurrection of all believers in the future (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-58; I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Since Christ rose from the dead and had conquered sin and grave, He could share His resurrection life with His followers through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would connect them to the Trinitarian God.

Christ explains, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). “At that day” when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost (Acts 2), the disciples will know by experience the indwelling of the Trinitarian God: “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ would live in them and the disciples would “see” Him (John 14:19).

Because the Holy Spirit would soon indwell His disciples, Jesus anticipated a new intimacy with them. “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.” (John 14:21). Observe the progression in this verse – “has… keeps… loves Me.” Before we can “keep” Christ’s commandments, we must “have” them. In order to “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said.

When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest” or reveal more of Himself to them. God’s love is not static or unchanging. It is a growing experience in our relationship with the Lord. “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but He also loves the obedient believer in a special sense (John 14:21, 23; cf. 13:23). God rewards obedience with a special experience of His love. Hence, when a believer obeys, Christ will reveal more of Himself to him or her leading to a deeper intimacy with the Father and the Son.

“If you listen to a radio station in your car, you know that the further you get from the broadcast station, the worse your reception of the signal gets. Many people have difficulty connecting with God because they’ve wandered too far away to pick up his signal. But if you come back home in obedience, relating to God through Christ in love, He will disclose more of Himself to you.” 1

“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ ” (John 14:22). “Judas,” the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), expected Jesus to manifest His Davidic rule to the world. He was looking for a political and physical manifestation of Christ. But Jesus was referring to a spiritual manifestation through the Holy Spirit.

“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.’ ” (John 14:23). Christ would only reveal Himself to those who loved Him by keeping His “word.” Not only would the Holy Spirit take up residence in them, but so would God the Father and God the Son. The reality of the Father and Son indwelling a believer was conditioned upon obedience. This is a picture of fellowship or closeness with the Godhead – “and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” The issue here is not salvation. A believer’s disobedience does not take away salvation. Christ is talking about discipleship in this verse. The more we love and obey the Lord, the more we will enjoy close fellowship with the Trinitarian God.

The word “home” (monḗ) is the same word Jesus used of the “many mansions” in the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:2). The link between verse 2 and verse 23 is that the current dwelling of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in an obedient believer’s life is a foretaste of God’s dwelling with us and in us in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Revelation 21:1-3). 2 “Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!” 3  Notice that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not based upon obedience, but upon belief in Christ (cf. John 7:37-39).

Christ then said, “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.” (John 14:24). If there is no love for Jesus, there is no obedience. Love to the apostle John is not an abstract emotion, but an action. Those who disobey Christ will miss out on knowing Him more intimately. Their relationship with Him will be more superficial. If you disagree with Jesus, He informs you that you also disagree with His Father who “sent”Him because Jesus’ teaching originated from His Father in heaven.

How many of you are married? How many of you believe you know your spouse better today than you did on your wedding day? How did that come about? Through shared time and experience and communication. Jesus says if we keep His commandments, He will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to us (John 14:21, 23). This is much like a friendship with another person. Through shared time and experience, the person opens up to you in a more intimate way. Also, as we obey Jesus, we will experience God the Father’s and God the Son’s love for us in a deeper way. So to know God intimately is to know His love more intimately since “God is love”(I John 4:8). If we are not developing a more intimate relationship with Jesus, it is probably because we are not living in obedience to Him. If that is the case, simply confess your sin to God (I John 1:9) and trust Christ to help you obey Him.

A story in Leadership magazine illustrates how the Holy Spirit can help us when we feel all alone. “Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.” 4

How often has our Helper, the Holy Spirit, given us the support we needed when we felt abandoned and all alone? Maybe we were discouraged and ready to quit, but then we sensed His comforting presence. Or perhaps He gave us the support we needed through a Christian friend. Jesus wants us to know that we can be certain the Holy Spirit is always standing alongside, ready and able to help. If you have the Holy Spirit on the inside, you can stand any battle on the outside.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the free gift of everlasting life which is received simply by believing in You alone. But to enjoy deeper fellowship with You, I must obey Your commands. Lord, You know my heart better than anyone, including myself. You know that I like to be in control because I feel so vulnerable when I am not. Because I long to know You and Your love more intimately, I want to surrender all control to You. Right now, I voluntarily surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. The more I love and obey You, the more I can experience closeness with You, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Although I sin every day, Your shed blood on the cross makes it possible for me to enjoy close fellowship with You the moment I confess my sins to You (I John 1:7, 9). Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group: Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1803.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 446.

3.. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol 1 (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 353.

4. https://bible.org/illustration/2-timothy-18.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 2

“… 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. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:17-18

COVID-19 not only affects the physical health of people but also their emotional well-being. During this global pandemic, restrictive measures are being taken to contain the transmission of this virus by mass indoor quarantines and social distancing. Add to this the changing of plans, loss of structure, routine, and isolation, and you have a plethora of triggers for the fear of abandonment in many people. 1

All of us have a need to connect with people, but when that need is threatened by multiple restrictions, the fear of separation and rejection can easily overtake us. Day-to-day tasks can become burdensome because of our preoccupation with abandonment. This feeling of being left alone can overwhelm us.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? We are learning from Jesus’ interaction with His eleven believing disciples how this can be done. Last time we discovered we can overcome the fear of abandonment when we focus on the promise of another Helper, God the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16). Today we see the second way to overcome this challenge is to focus on THE PERMANENT INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH (John 14:17-18).

Jesus now answers the question, “Who is the Helper?” Christ explains that the Helper is  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.” (John 14:17). The Helper or Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus identified Himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Hence, the Holy Spirit communicates “the truth” about Jesus (cf. John 15:26). Jesus identifies the truth as the Father’s “word” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth about Jesus through God’s Word. It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit tells us what to do. He does not speak audibly to us, He speaks through the truth of the Bible. The Spirit of God will not lead us to act contrary to the Word of God. He will give us the ability to do what the Word says as we depend upon Him. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep Jesus’ commands (John 14:15).

In a sense the Holy Spirit replaces Jesus’ physical presence. This Helper would be unknown to “the world” (John 14:17) because He would be unseen and unrecognized. For example, without a radio, radio waves go unnoticed. So too, the Holy Spirit is unnoticed by the unsaved because they have no spiritual life. Why would we expect non-Christians to obey God? They do not have the ability to understand God’s Word properly without the Holy Spirit (cf. I Corinthians 2:11-15), let alone obey God’s Word. Jesus promised His disciples that they would “know(ginóskō) the Holy Spirit from personal experience because “He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17b).

Keep in mind that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was not given to every believer. Those called by God to do a special ministry were clothed or empowered by God’s Spirit (e.g. Gideon, Judges 6:34; David, I Samuel 16:13). Also, the Holy Spirit was temporarily given and could be withdrawn (e.g. Samson, Judges 13:25; 16:20; Saul, I Samuel 10:10; 16:40; David, Psalm 51:11). Before Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit generally dwelt with believers (by their side), just like Christ had been with His disciples in bodily form. The Spirit’s indwelling was selective and temporary. But Jesus is now saying that the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell all believers forever after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit can dwell individually in each of us, but Jesus could not do that when He was in a human body while on earth.

Then Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18). Christ promises that He will not leave them as “orphans” who are deprived of their parents. Jesus had been like a father to the disciples – comforting, protecting, providing, guiding, and instructing them as His own children. And now He was leaving them. But He would not leave them as “orphans.” He says, “I will come to you” through God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would fill the void left by Jesus’ departure. The Holy Spirit would comfort, protect, provide, guide, and instruct them. He would function as their Divine Parent.

In his book Living Faithfully, J. Allen Bair tells of a man who was struggling to get to Grand Central Station in New York City. The wind blew fiercely, and the rain beat down on him as he lugged his two heavy suitcases toward the terminal. Occasionally he would pause to rest and regain his strength before trudging on against the elements.

At one point he was almost ready to collapse, when a man suddenly appeared by his side, took the suitcases, and said in a strangely familiar voice, “We’re going the same way. You look as if you could use some help.” When they had reached the shelter of the station, the weary traveler, the renowned educator Booker T. Washington, asked the man, “Please, sir, what is your name?” The man replied, “The name, my friend, is Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt.” What a thrill it would be to have the assistance of a such a famous person!

But how much greater is the Helper God has sent! The God of the universe now indwells every person the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 11:15-17; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). At the moment of faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves in to stay so that your physical body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). In Romans 8:9, the apostle Paul tells us that if we do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we do not belong to Christ. When we believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, we receive all of the Holy Spirit, so there is no need to seek a second blessing or experience. The God of the universe now lives inside of you and will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!

One day Jesus will return for His church to take them to the place in His Father’s house that He has prepared for them in heaven (John 14:2-4). The Holy Spirit’s seal on every believer guarantees their safe and secure delivery to this heavenly home. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

When we “heard” and “believed” the “gospel… of salvation” we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (1:13-14). The word “sealed” (sphragizō) was used in the ancient world to refer to a legal signature which guaranteed the promise or contents of what was sealed. It signifies ownership and security caused by the backing of the owner.

The word “guarantee” (arrabōn) was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The “arrabōn” was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees that the remainder of our “inheritance” blessings will eventually be given to us. The primary aspect of our inheritance involves life in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

Registered mail is a good example of the seal of the Holy Spirit. When something is registered at the post office it is sealed until delivered. Actually only two persons can open registered mail – the sender (if it is delivered back to him) and the recipient. When we believe in Christ for eternal life, we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until we go to heaven. God is the One who sends us on our way to heaven, and God in heaven is the Recipient on our arrival. There is no power greater than God Who can break the Holy Spirit’s seal. Only God can break this seal and He promises not to do so “until the redemption of the purchased possession” which is when the church is delivered safely and securely to God in heaven.  

No matter what I do or don’t do after being sealed by God the Holy Spirit, I am guaranteed a safe and secure delivery to God in heaven. Therefore, I do not need to look to anyone or anything besides the Holy Spirit to give me security in this life. My security is found in God the Holy Spirit, not in achievements, affluence, appearance, or the approval of others. This amazing truth must not be neglected or misrepresented because it is intended to bring “praise” and “glory” to our great and gracious God!

The Holy Spirit is not limited by COVID or government restrictions. When churches are not allowed to gather in one place, God the Holy Spirit can still meet with us and minister to us. And we can minister to Him as we worship the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the truth.

There are many physical orphans today in the world. They have been abandoned by their parents or by guardians. They are all alone. Some of you reading this article are all alone. Your family, your church, your friends, your co-workers, and neighbors have abandoned you. They act like you do not exist. But listen to what Jesus is saying: God will never abandon you! He will never give up on you. He is in your life to stay. Take time to get to know Him. Talk to Him through prayer about whatever is on your heart. Listen to Him as you read and study the Bible. He will help you understand what you are reading so you can apply it to your life.

Prayer: I come to You now, God the Holy Spirit, and I thank You for permanently indwelling me the moment I heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though there are many restrictions in our world today that hinder me from connecting with other people, I can still connect with You at any time and place about anything. I am so appreciative of Your presence in my life which provides everything I need to live for Jesus. Thank You for never abandoning me nor giving up on me. Thank You for sealing me the moment I came to faith in Christ. I am eternally grateful for the assurance that You will safely and securely deliver me to my Father’s house in heaven. I praise You that no one and nothing can break Your seal on my life except God the Father. And this will not happen until You safely deliver me to Him in heaven. Knowing this teaches me not to look to counterfeit substitutes for my security, but to solely rest in You for this deep need in my life. I give You all the glory, God, for this precious truth! In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7179484/; https://themighty.com/2020/03/coronavirus-fear-of-abandonment-borderline-personality-disorder/.

2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/illustrations/faithful-servants-11544480.html.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 1

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” John 14:16

A few years ago I watched the movie “Spotlight” which is based on a true story of how the Boston Globe newspaper’s spotlight team uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The many victims of abuse had been ignored by the Catholic Church and the Boston community. Near the end of the movie, many victims called in to the Spotlight department after they ran an article entitled, “Church ignores abuse by priests for years.” For years victims of sexual abuse were abandoned by people who knew about the abuse but turned the other way.

We might think, “Well, that is just the Catholic Church. That would not happen among true born-again Christians.” Evangelical churches would not ignore the victims of such abuse, right!?! Mission agencies would not tolerate such horrific treatment of their own people. Right?! Wrong! These assumptions are one of many factors that has hindered evangelicals and Bible-believing mission agencies from dealing with sexual abuse among their own people.

Former gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, says she was fifteen-years old when US Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar, started sexually abusing her. In an interview with Christianity Today, she says, Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church… 1

Mission agencies that once denied the possibility of sexual abuse among their missionary families have had to come to grips with the harsh reality that such abuse has and does take place among conservative evangelical missionary families. In fact, I was told by one mission agency leader in the Philippines, that sexual abuse takes place in every culture and subculture, Christian or non-Christian. All people are fallen and broken because of sin.

Sexual abuse victims are often isolated and left alone to deal with their pain and shame. Those who are abused within the church are wanting to know, “Where is God in all of this? Has God abandoned me? Why did He permit this to happen to me?”

The feeling of being left alone, not only haunts victims of sexual abuse, it also haunts the “divorcee in that apartment… or the one who just buried his or her life’s companion… or the couple whose arms ache for the child recently taken… the young nurse in 1967 who, after a shattered romance and broken engagement, went back to the Midwest to start over… like the disillusioned teenaged girl, away from home and heavy with child – wondering, ‘How can I face tomorrow?’” 2  Because of COVID-19, many people are experiencing abandonment by family, friends, colleagues, and churches. Some of you reading this article may be feeling as though God has left you or abandoned you.

The disciples of Jesus may have asked that question, “How can I face tomorrow?” After Jesus announced His departure to His disciples, they became troubled (John 13:33-14:12). They were afraid to be left alone without Jesus present. They did not want to fight battles and face issues alone.

Like Jesus’ disciples, we may struggle with the fear of abandonment. A word, a tone of voice, or gesture or lack of it can drive us to act in ways that we think will prevent someone from leaving us. But we do not have to yield to our fear of abandonment because Jesus has provided a Helper to encourage us during His absence.

In John 14:12-14, Jesus had promised His disciples that if they trusted Him, they would do greater works than He had done because He would go to the Father. Even though Jesus was leaving them, they were to continue His ministry of revealing the Father. Christ’s disciples would reveal His Father to a greater extent than He had done while He was on earth if they had faith in Him to work through them. The power to reveal the Father would be obtained through prayer in Jesus’ name.

For the next few days, we will learn how we can overcome the fear of abandonment. We can overcome the fear of abandonment by focusing on… THE PROMISE OF ANOTHER HELPER (John 14:15-16). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples,“If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15). While Jesus was gone, the disciples would have an opportunity to show Christ just how much they loved Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The present tense of the first verb, “love,” (agapate) could be translated, “If you keep on loving Me…” 3 They could reveal their love for the Lord through their ongoing obedience to Him.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “If you fear Me, keep My commandments.” The fear of Jesus is not the motivation for obedience to Him. Instead, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Love for Jesus is the strongest motivation for obeying Him. Our obedience to Christ is the outgrowth of our love relationship with Him. First John 4:18-19 say, 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.”The more I experience the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, the more my love toward Him will increase and express itself by obeying Him.

Some people may claim to love Christ while living in disobedience to Him. They may misconstrue that their love for the Lord is a feeling. But Christ makes it clear that our love for Him is revealed through our actions. Jesus taught His disciples that answered prayer is dependent upon obedience to Him (John 14:13-14; cf. 15:7). John writes in his epistle, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”(I John 3:22). We can say we love the Lord, but what truly communicates our love for Him is obedience to His Word (cf. I John 3:18).

Think about this for a moment. If Jesus just told us with His mouth that He loved us and never took action, we would still be dead in our sins. God’s love involves the commitment to do what is best for others. Our love for Jesus is expressed through our obedience to Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16). Jesus recognized the weaknesses of His disciples and their inability to fulfill the ministry of revealing the Father through their obedience to His commands, so He promises that the Father will send “another Helper.” The word “Helper”(paraklétos) literally means, “One who is called alongside to help.” 4 The disciples had been sent out to minister while Jesus was here on earth. But now they were being sent out to be His witnesses during His absence from the earth. Jesus had been their Helper while He was with them. In His absence, He would send “another Helper.”

This verse has much to say about the Trinity. Laney observes that “it is noteworthy that in vv. 13-14 Jesus commands His disciples to ‘ask’ (aiteō), the word used of an inferior asking a superior. But here Jesus uses the word erotaō (‘ask’), a word used of a request made to an equal. This has significant implications in terms of Jesus’ deity. Although submissive to the Father, Jesus regarded Himself as an equal (cf. 10:30; 14:9)5 to the Father.

Christ also considers the Holy Spirit to be equal to Himself by using the word “another” (allon) which means “another of the same kind.” 6 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another just like Myself.” According to Christ, there is equality among the Godhead (see diagram below). The Son is equal to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is equal to the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in every way as God, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity.

Christ is saying in this verse that the Holy Spirit will do for them all that He had done for them while He was with them. So they would not be abandoned or left alone to their own wisdom and strength. This Helper would be with them “forever.” There would never be a time when this coming Helper would be taken away from them in the way Christ was now being taken from them through His death and eventual ascension to heaven. 

You may ask, “If God the Holy Spirit is with me, why do I still feel all alone?” Because the Holy Spirit is not a feeling, He is a Person without a physical body. Rather than focus on our feelings to determine if we are alone and abandoned, we are to focus on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that this “Helper” will “abide with you forever.” The word “forever” is the English translation of three words in the original language and literally means “to the age” (eis ton aiōna). Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will continue with them (and us) until “the end of the world or time” itself to provide constant comfort, guidance, leading, power, protection, provision, and teaching. Unlike Christ who spent three and a half years with His disciples and then left them, Jesus now promises another equal Helper Who will never depart from them.

Think about this: how long is “forever?” It is permanent, isn’t it? It never ends. Even though you may feel alone, the truth is there will never be a time when the Holy Spirit is not “with you.” Feelings can lie to us. We may conclude, “I am alone because I feel alone.” That is a lie. We must not give our feelings more authority than God’s Word. Will we focus on a lie or on the unchanging truth of God’s Word? The choice is ours. If we feel alone it is because we are focusing on thoughts or feelings of loneliness which are contrary to the truth of Jesus. We need to follow the example of the Psalmist when he prayed to the Lord, “Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” (Psalm 119:29).  We can ask the Lord to remove this lie from our thinking and to graciously renew our mind with this truth that God the Holy Spirit is always with us to provide constant assistance and strength whether we feel this way or not.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending God the Holy Spirit to supply our needs in Your absence. I must admit that I have given my feelings more authority than Your Word when I believe I am all alone. Thank You for reminding me that I am never alone, Lord Jesus. Your Holy Spirit abides with me forever! Holy Spirit, I want to give You everyone and everything in my life right now. Please restore my union with You and guide me into a deeper connection with You, the Father, and Jesus. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://www.christianitytoday. com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html.

2. Adapted from Chuck Swindoll’s Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), pp. 164-165.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 260-261.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 438.

5. Laney, pg. 261.

6. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V., Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 252.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 3

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27

When we encounter stressful situations, it may be easy for us to want to medicate our uncomfortable feelings with some kind of unhealthy coping behavior such as drinking alcohol, blaming others, gambling, playing violent video games, overeating, overspending, taking drugs, viewing pornography, or watching excessive amounts of TV. We may have practiced these coping behaviors for so long that we are not even aware of what we are doing. The common thread in all of these coping behaviors is self-protection. We are trying to protect ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, so we engage in these unhealthy coping behaviors.

But instead of avoiding these uncomfortable emotions, God wants us to bring them to Him. He already knows they exist, so there is no need to try to hide them from Him. This is similar to what Jesus did when He experienced intense emotions prior to His approaching crucifixion.

In our study of John 12:20-33 we are learning how to overcome self-centeredness. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

The third way to overcome our self-centeredness is by SURRENDERING TO GOD’S CONTROL IN PRAYER (John 12:27-30). Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27). As Jesus contemplated all that was involved in His approaching death – He would die for the sins of the world and endure separation from His Father – He experienced a surge of emotion which drove Him to His Father in prayer. He was emotionally stressed and turned to His Father asking, “What shall I say (not do)? Father save Me from this hour?” In view of His upcoming sufferings on the cross, He was tempted to shrink back and ask for deliverance from this major trial. This was a normal human response, but Christ prevailed through prayer.

Likewise, if we are going to overcome our self-centeredness, we must surrender to the Lord’s control in prayer. If God’s Spirit is to be released from our inner man, we must surrender to the Lord when we face difficulties and trials instead of succumbing to them and our selfish desires. When we feel out of control, we may often try to control the situation or the people involved. But God wants us to look to Him in prayer during those stressful times. Prayer is dependence upon God. One way to determine how much we are depending upon the Lord is to look at our prayer life. The more we are praying, the more we are depending upon the Lord. The less we are praying, the less we are depending on Him. God will use difficulties in our lives to make us more dependent upon Him.

Jesus then prayed, “Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:28a). Jesus came to “this hour” (12:27b) of suffering to “glorify” His Father through His death on the cross. Even though Jesus knew all the trials and troubles He was getting in to, He endured them so His Father would be glorified. When Jesus prayed, “Father glorify Your name,” He reminds us of a very important principle. We are to let God glorify what we do, not us. Jesus did not pray, “I will glorify Your name.” Jesus let His Father do the glorifying. He saw that His Father was in control. He submitted to His father and His Father glorified what His Son had done.

We are to focus on doing God’s will and let Him glorify what we do. Do not try to do God’s job. He is big enough to bring honor to Himself. How often we may try to get in God’s way by drawing attention to what we do. Let God draw the attention. God glorified and exalted His Son (Philippians 2:8-11) after His Son submitted to His will, and one day God will exalt and honor those who are surrendered to Him now. The Bible says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6). Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before God. It is His responsibility to exalt us in His time and way.

Also, when Jesus faced the cross, He denied Himself and sacrificed His life. His self-denying obedience to the Father’s will glorified the Father. Jesus wants His disciples to face trials in the same way. He struggled and went to God and sought to glorify Him. Can we say that our purpose in going through trials is to glorify God? By His grace we certainly can. When we endure trials through God’s strength, He receives all the glory.

As Jesus approached the time of His sufferings, He understood who was in control, but did the people? 28b Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ ” (John 12:28b-29). A thunderous voice from heaven said, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” through the death of Jesus. God the Father was in control and He would glorify Himself through the triumph of the cross. The crowd heard the sound of God’s voice, but some thought it had thundered, while others thought an angel had spoken to Christ. They did not understand God’s message, but they should have.

Christian author and speaker, J. Vernon McGee says, “That is the same reaction many people still have today. They say God’s Word is full of errors and the miracles recorded can’t be accurate. Because they don’t believe in them, they say it just ‘thundered.’ ” 1  

“Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.’ ” (John 12:30). God’s message was meant to benefit the crowd, not Jesus. They needed to recognize that God the Father was in control and would be victorious. God intended this to be an auditory approval of His Son so that the crowd might believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah-God.

Jesus understood His Father’s voice, do we? We have the Holy Spirit to help us understand God’s Word. First John 2:20, 26-27 say, “20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things… 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and teach you as you read and study the Bible. You can also ask His Spirit to give you the power to obey what the Lord is saying to your heart and mind.

One reason we may not hear God’s voice is because we have so much noise in our lives. We may be too busy to slow down enough to hear the still small voice of God’s Spirit. Take time today to slow down and listen to the voice of God. Find a quiet place to meet with the Lord. Then take a few moments to do some deep breathing. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Then read a Bible passage aloud, slowly, and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Read the passage again, this time asking the question, “Where am I in this verse?” Finally, read the verse or passage again noticing what word or words jump out at you, grabbing your attention. Meditate on those words. Chew on them for a while.

Then write down what you observe the Holy Spirit saying to you. Writing down what you observe clarifies your thought processes and involves another whole section of your brain. Then request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. Instead of asking God to help you analyze His Word, ask Him to use His Word to analyze you. This is a supernatural process that produces a neurochemical flow of new understanding where your mind is being renewed (Romans 12:1-2). Once the Holy Spirit gets you headed in the direction God wants you to go, dedicating yourself to that direction in life will be used by the Lord to transform your life from the inside out.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for not surrendering to Your intense emotions when You contemplated the cross. Instead, You surrendered to the will of Your Father Who sent You to glorify His name by dying in our place on a cross as our Substitute. If Your love was a feeling, You never would have died for us. Thank You for showing me that You understand what it is like to feel troubled inwardly when faced with extremely difficult circumstances (Hebrews 4:15). You know how it feels to have a storm of emotions raging in one’s heart before yielding to the Father’s will. Thankfully, You are not overwhelmed by my intense emotions. You understand that the best thing I can do with them is to share them with You in prayer. And as I talk to You about those uncomfortable emotions, their power is diffused and Your peace that surpasses human understanding can guard my heart and mind as I yield to Your control. By Your grace, I want to give everyone and everything to You. Glorify Your name my Lord and my God however You deem best. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, 4:448.

Christ’s clarity in a confused world – Part 1

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37b-38

Christian author and evangelist, Larry Moyer, writes, “Some years ago, a commuter train stalled on the tracks moments before a freight train was due to arrive. A conductor ran to flag down the approaching train, and the passengers were assured that there was no need for worry. As they began to relax, the freight train suddenly came bearing down upon them.

“The engineer of the freight train narrowly escaped death by jumping just before the impact. He later testified in court why he had not stopped: ‘I saw a man waving a warning flag, but it was yellow. I thought he just wanted me to slow down.’ Examining the flag in question explained the confusion. The flag had once been red, but long exposure to the sun and weather had turned it a dirty yellow color. The cause of the crash can be stated in one sentence: The message was not clear.” Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], p. 13.) Confusion can destroy lives both now and in eternity.

In a remarkable book published some years ago, Canon Roger Lloyd, an archdemon instructs on an ancient and effective piece of Satanic strategy, “Insert yourself into the simple situations which call for plain and obvious duties and complicate them and complicate them again until at last no one involved in them can make sense of the confusion.” (http://www.biblia.work/sermons/ confusion-2). 

Satan’s strategy is to confuse the world about the identity of Jesus Christ to prevent Him from becoming more well known. We are going to study Christ’s clarity in a confused world in John 7:37-52. First, we will look at CHRIST’S CLARITY ABOUT ETERNAL SATISFACTION (John 7:37-39). The first thingJesus taught about eternal satisfaction is that it is free.

On each of the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles the priest led a joyous parade from the Temple area down to the pool of Siloam where a golden pitcher would be filled with water. The priest, leading the procession, would then return to the Temple where he poured the water into a silver basin by the altar of burnt offering. This was accompanied by the recitation of Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.” This ceremony symbolized God’s grace in providing water for the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness and His provision of refreshment and cleansing in the messianic age to come. It also served as a confession of thirst and an expression of prayer for autumn rains after the long, dry season.

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying…” (John 7:37a). The “last day” was the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the eighth day, this water ceremony did not take place which makes Christ’s offer for living water even more amazing. Jesus “stood.” Rabbis usually sat when teaching their disciples, but Jesus stood because of the importance of what He was about to say and so He could be seen and heard better when He gave this marvelous invitation. When Christ cried out this invitation, He was claiming to be the fulfillment of all that the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated. He announces that He was the One, the Messiah, Who could provide Messianic blessings. Jesus’ words compared His own Person to the rock in the wilderness that supplied the needs of the Israelites (cf. Exodus 17:1-7;  I Corinthians 10:4).

There is only one prerequisite to Jesus’ invitation. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b). “If anyone thirsts…” Only thirsty people drink. God has created us with a built-in need for Him. We are all born with a thirst for God — a longing to know God. For some, there is a deep thirst for significance. They want to feel like they are important and belong. That they are somebody. People whom society overlooks, those who are not wealthy, or handsome, or have strong personalities, thirst to be regarded as important. Some are looking for power – the ability to accomplish things. Jesus says to such. “If that is what you want, come to Me. Enter a personal relationship with Me,” Jesus says, “And your thirst for power and significance will be satisfied forever.”

Physical thirst is the most powerful drive known to man. The sex drive can be contained, you can even deny satisfying hunger for weeks at a time, but one thing you cannot leave unsatisfied is thirst. It becomes a driving force that takes over all your life and makes you think of nothing else but satisfying it.

Like the man crawling through the Sahara Desert when he is approached by another man riding on a camel. As the rider approaches, the crawling man whispers through his parched lips, ”Water … please. Can you give … water?” “I’m sorry,” replies the man on the camel, “I don’t have any water with me. But I’d be delighted to sell you a necktie.” “Necktie?” whispers the man. “I need water!” “They’re only four dollars apiece.” “I need water.” “Okay, okay, two for seven dollars.” “Please! I need water!” the man exclaims. “I don’t have any water, all I have are ties,” replies the salesman, as he heads off into the distance.

By now the man has lost all track of time, crawling through the desert seemingly for days. Finally, nearly dead, with clothes tattered and skin peeling under the relentless sun, he comes to an oasis with a restaurant. Summoning his last bit of strength, he staggers to the door and confronts the headwaiter. “Water … can I get … water,” the dying man pleads. “I’m sorry, sir. Neckties required.” I know – bad joke.

But have you ever really been thirsty? When you are thirsty, there is not much else you can think about, like appropriate clothing attire for fine dining. When you are thirsty, you cannot get it out of your mind. It is all you think about. That is what Jesus means. If you feel yourself driven, wanting something, restless and thirsty and longing for satisfaction, then His invitation is, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b). Jesus says, “If anyone…”Regardless of your background, education, ethnicity, intelligence, or social status, Jesus says to come to Him for eternal satisfaction and it is free. You don’t have to pay a cent. You don’t have to work for it. You simply come to Christ as you are.

The second thing Jesus tells us about eternal satisfaction is that it is by faith. “He who believes in Me…” (John 7:38a). The way to come to Christ is by faith alone apart from any good works. The word “believe” (pisteuō) means to  be convinced that something is true and then trust or depend on that something.

For example, years ago, three men were fishing on the Broadback River in northern Quebec. A violent storm arose and gale force winds overturned their canoe. The men knew they couldn’t save themselves. They noticed the large ice chest that had been in the canoe now floating on the water. They were convinced the ice chest could hold them up, so they pulled the ice chest underneath them, rested their weight upon it and trusted it to save them. And it did.

What Jesus is saying is we are to come to Him just as we are – as sinners, understanding that He died in our place to take our punishment and rose again, so that all we must do is believe or trust in Him alone for the free gift of salvation. The moment we trust in Christ alone for salvation, “As the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38b).

What “Scripture” is Jesus thinking of? I agree with Zane Hodges who argues that it refers to Ezekiel’s vision of the future Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 47 (Zane C. Hodges, “Rivers of Living Water – John 7:37-39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July-September 1979):239-48). “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…south of the altar… it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep… And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:1, 5, 9).  Ezekiel is talking about the Temple of God in the future 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth.

There is a link between the altar and the water ceremony which reminds us of Ezekiel 47. The waters issue forth at the right side of the altar of the Millennial Temple and the priest would pour water on the right of the altar during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Also, the waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have similar properties as the rivers Jesus speaks of, “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9).  Those waters are properly described as living waters. This will be a life-giving river that flows from the Temple in the future kingdom that will bring blessings to all it reaches.

If the Millennial Temple was to become the source of living, healing waters, could the destiny of those who believe in Christ be any different? Jesus tells us that when we come to Him as we are and believe in Him as our only hope of heaven, out of our innermost being will flow rivers (not just a river, but “rivers”) of living water. The great thing about what Jesus offers is that it will never run dry. We will always have more than we need. When we are filled with the water Jesus offers, it does not stop with us. It gushes out of us! It keeps coming and touches those that we touch. We become, pipes, so to speak – pipes for Jesus – that in effect, allow Christ’s living water to flow through us to others.  We are former thirsty people who now show thirsty people how to get a drink. God wants these rivers of living water to flow out of our lives to bless others.

So the third thing that we see about the eternal satisfaction that Jesus freely offers, is that it focuses on others. When we come to Jesus and He more than satisfies our spiritual thirst, we start to show concern for others. The satisfaction that we found in Christ leads us to reach out to needy people around us and to minister to them. Why not be a pipe for Jesus and let His blessing flow through you as you step out in faith to share the gospel with those who don’t have Christ in their lives? Be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much God loves them and wants to bless them with eternal life. God saved you so that you can become a blessing to others as His rivers of living water flow through you to satisfy the need of other people.

John identifies what the living water is. “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39). The living water is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not be given until after Jesus was glorified, that is, after His death, resurrection and return to the Father in heaven. This giving of the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost (cf. John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-13; I Corinthians 12:13). Jesus is announcing that the Holy Spirit would come on believers in a new way, namely, to regenerate (John 3:3-8; cf. Titus 3:4-7), baptize (John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; I Corinthians 12:13), indwell (John 14:16-17; I Corinthians 6:19), seal (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30), and empower them (cf. Acts 1:8).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your clarity in the midst of a very confused world. You alone are the Messiah-God!!! You created me with a spiritual thirst that only You can quench. I once tried to quench my thirst through the things of this world, including religion. But they only left me more dissatisfied. Thank You for freely giving me eternal satisfaction the moment I believed in You. I now have rivers of living water flowing through my inner being which can never run dry. As I continue to abide in You and Your Word, Your rivers of living water can flow through me to others who are searching for Your eternal satisfaction. Please grant me the boldness and clarity to proclaim Your eternal satisfaction to those who would otherwise die forever in confusion. Thank You for hearing my prayer my Lord and my God. In Your holy and powerful name. Amen.

Why do some followers of Jesus abandon Him? Part 1

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ ” John 6:60

A young man from the city was visiting a dude ranch and wanted to appear as if he was used to the surroundings. So he went out walking with one of the hired hands. Walking through the barnyard, the visitor tried starting a conversation, “Say, look at that big bunch of buffaloes.” The hired hand replied, “Not ‘bunch’ but ‘herd’.” Visitor: “Heard what?” Hired Hand: “Herd of buffaloes.” Visitor: “Sure, I’ve heard of buffaloes. There’s a big bunch of ‘em right over there.” Have you ever had trouble getting your point across like that hired hand?

Jesus Christ did when He was speaking to a multitude of people in John 6. Christ had just concluded His great message on the bread of life in the synagogue at Capernaum on a very offensive note, talking about “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” (John 6:46-59). Many were disturbed by His words, and John records their reaction.

We now come to that point in John’s gospel where many of Jesus’s disciples drew back and no longer followed Him. This is a turning point in our Lord’s ministry where He confronts the twelve with the question, Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). We are going to discover why some followers of Christ abandon the Lord whereas others remain devoted to Him. In John 6:60-66, we see that the majority of disciples in this multitude stop following Christ. Why does this happen? Why do some disciples desert or abandon Jesus? That is, why do some followers of Jesus drop out of sight never to be seen again? Let’s see.

BECAUSE JESUS’S TEACHING IS DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND (John 6:60). The apostle John writes, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ ” (John 6:60). “His disciples” refers to the whole multitude, not just the Twelve.  The word “disciple”(mathētḗs)means a learner, a pupil, a student, that is, someone who is under the instruction of Jesus. This crowd contained saved and unsaved disciples.

These were people who had been miraculously fed by the Lord the day before and had followed Jesus over to Capernaum (John 6:1-14, 22-25). Jesus had just spoken to them about being the Bread of life who had come down from heaven to give eternal life to those who will believe in Him (John 6:26-59). In John 6:38, 51, 54, 58, Jesus claimed to be God when He said He had come down from heaven (Christmas) to offer eternal life to those who believe in Him. Hence, Christ is the Bread of Life and we are the beggars. Because of our sin, we are starving for eternal life (relationship with God). Christ compared saving faith to eating His flesh and drinking His blood to demonstrate that it is voluntary.

For example, just as you must choose to eat a slice of bread or drink a cup of water, so you must choose to believe in Christ. And as food goes into your body and is digested and becomes a part of the body, so we must appropriate Christ, that is, we must personally trust in Him alone for the free gift of eternal life in order to receive His life. When the Bible says, “this is a hard saying”(John 6:60), the hardness was in their hearts, not in Jesus’ words.

This crowd was not going to pay any attention to what Jesus taught; they did not want to be troubled with difficult teaching. They wanted a leader who would do things for them like Jesus had just done when He multiplied the bread and fish. Instead He required them to believe that He had come down from heaven and to come to Him in faith. He even had the audacity to claim to be greater than Moses! Those who drop out of discipleship are often bothered when difficult teachings are taught. They want touchy feely experiences, not truth! They want entertainment, not expectations.

What about us? When we experience difficulty understanding God’s Word, do we quickly give up and do something else? Or do we turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for His help to understand what is meant in God’s Word? God has given us the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand and apply what is written in the Scriptures (cf. John 14:26;  15:26-27; 16:13-14; I John 2:20, 27). The Bible does not make sense to an unbeliever because he or she does not have the Holy Spirit to help him or her understand it (cf. I Corinthians 2:9-14). But a Christian has the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her to understand and apply God’s Word to their lives (cf. John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-14; I Corinthians 2:12-16; 6:19-20; I John 2:20, 26).

Take time to get to know God the Holy Spirit. He is not some impersonal force or power. He is just as much a Person as God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit can speak (cf. Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2). He does not speak audibly, but He speaks to us through God’s Word giving us insight and promptings.

A real person has the attributes of personality, which include mind, will, and emotions. The Holy Spirit has a mindsince He “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10-11).

The Holy Spirit also has a will. First Corinthians 12:11 says, But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” We also see that the Holy Spirit has emotions. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Christians can grieve the Holy Spirit when we communicate with one another in hurtful ways. Because the Holy Spirit has a mind, will, and emotions, we know that He is a Person. 

A real Person also has the capacity to have relationships with others. That’s the primary reason we have mind, will, and emotions. According to Philippians 2:1, the Spirit is able to have fellowship with us. According to 2 Corinthians 13:14, the Holy Spirit can have communion with us. Someone who is able to commune and to have fellowship is capable of personal relationships. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is a Person.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, before I believed in You for everlasting life, the Bible did not make much sense to me. But the moment I received Your gift of everlasting life, You took up residence in my body through Your Spirit. Then the Bible came alive to me as Your Holy Spirit helped me understand and apply the Scriptures to my life. But I must be honest and admit that sometimes I am tempted to stop reading the Bible because it is not always easy to understand. It requires diligent study and reliance on the Holy Spirit to understand and apply Your intended meaning. Thank You that following You is not dependent on my resources and abilities, but on Your enabling grace through the Holy Spirit. It is my responsibility to look to You for guidance, insight, power, and understanding. It is Your responsibility to provide them. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Your name. Amen.

Can a Christian commit Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

31 Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:31-32

Many Christians fear that they have committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and will not go to heaven when they die. Is it possible for a Christian to commit this sin? Let us look at the context of this passage in Matthew 12:22-37 to determine first, what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirt, and second, who can commit this sin. 

After Jesus healed a “blind and mute” demon-possessed man “the multitudes” asked if Jesus could be “the Son of David,” the descendant of king David who would be their Messianic King (12:22-23). The Pharisees could not deny that Jesus performed a miracle, so they attributed the power by which He cast out this demon to “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (12:24). The Pharisees knew Jesus performed this miracle by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:2), yet they offered a different explanation so that the multitudes would not conclude that Jesus was their Messianic King.  

Jesus responds to this charge of the Pharisees by giving three reasons why it is false:

  1. Satan would not empower Jesus to cast out a demon because that would divide his kingdom and bring it to destruction (12:25-26).
  2. Since the Pharisees believe that Jewish exorcists cast out demons by God’s power, it is inconsistent for them to charge Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power (12:27). The Pharisees knew that “If” Jesus casts out demons “by the Spirit of God” (and He does), then it means “the kingdom of God has come upon them” (12:28). 
  3. Before a robber can enter a strong man’s house, he must have more power to subdue the strong man, meaning if Christ can cast out a demon He must be stronger than Satan (12:29). But Satan would not give Jesus more power than his own. So Jesus refutes this false charge of the Pharisees on three counts.

Jesus invites the crowd to decide to either be “with” Him or “against” Him (12:30). Then He acknowledges that a God-Man (“Son of Man”) living among people may not be fully understood so He says, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him” (12:32a). It is possible for a non-Christian to blaspheme (“slander, defame, speak against”) Christ and later seek His forgiveness as in the case of Saul (Acts 9:3-5; 26:9-11; Philippians 3:6, 9; cf. Luke 23:34). However, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit…will not be forgiven” (12:32b). 

“Blasphemy” (12:31) has the idea of uttering false charges which defame or damage another person’s reputation. In this historical context, blasphemy of the Holy Spirt involved attributing to Satan the works which were knowingly performed by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. The religious leaders of Israel, the Pharisees, knew that what Jesus did was the work of the Holy Spirit. They knew Jesus was from God because no one could perform the miracles that He performed unless “God was with Him” (John 3:2). Yet they knowingly attributed the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus to Satan. 

Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven by God or is impossible for God to forgive. No, He says blasphemy of the Holy Spirit “will not be forgiven men…will not be forgiven him” (12:31b, 32b). God is willing and able to forgive any all sins (cf. Psalm 103:2a, 3a; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19b). He is also willing and able to forgive those who seek His forgiveness (Psalm 86:5; Acts 10:43). The form of the Greek statement in Matthew 12:32 is not saying that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. It is saying that there is no case or example of forgiveness for this sin “in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32). So instead of referring to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as “the unpardonable sin,” it is more accurate to refer to it as “the unpardoned sin.” 

Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Absolutely not, because the Word of God clearly teaches that anyone who believes in Christ receives at that moment a positional forgiveness for all of his sins – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). This forgiveness is perfect, complete, and permanent (Heb. 10:10-18). Therefore, a non-Christian who later believes in Christ for eternal life is not capable of blaspheming the Holy Spirit because he seeks and obtains God’s unlimited forgiveness when he believes in Jesus for His gift of salvation (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 2:8-9). It is also impossible for a Christian to commit this sin because he not only has permanent positional forgiveness of sins the moment he believed in Jesus (Acts 10:43), but he also has available to him when he confesses his sin, God’s daily fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9; cf. Matthew 6:12, 14-15). 

What causes the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus teaches that a person’s words reflect the condition of his heart. The words of the Pharisees were a manifestation of their hardened hearts (cf. Matt. 15:19 which says “blasphemies” arise out of an evil “heart”). It takes a hardened heart to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit and then knowingly attribute that power to Satan. The Pharisees knew Jesus was from God (John 3:2), yet they attribute the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him to the devil. Although the Pharisees had been given an enormous amount of light from Jesus who is “the Light” (John 1:4-9; 8:12), they deceitfully attribute it to the kingdom of Satan. The Pharisees knew Jesus healed the demon-possessed man by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet they offered a different explanation to deceive the crowds from moving toward faith in Jesus as their Messianic King. So instead of Jesus being recognized as God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14), He was regarded as the incarnation of Satan!

Any individual or religious system that attributes the power of God in and through Jesus Christ to Satan will not be forgiven because his heart (or their hearts are) is too hardened to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, any individual or religious system that denies that “Jesus is the Christ,” the Messiah-God in human flesh who is equal with God the Father, is “antichrist” (I John 2:22-23). 

In summary, what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It is knowingly attributing the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ to Satan. Who can commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Non-Christians whose hearts are too hardened to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43). 

If you are afraid of having blasphemed the Holy Spirit, ask yourself, “Am I willing to seek God’s forgiveness for this? Do I believe in Jesus Christ alone to give me eternal life and complete forgiveness of all sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43)? If so, according to Jesus Christ, you will go to heaven. Sometimes Christians are overly introspective and miss out on the joy of being forever secure in Christ. Doesn’t that sound like the work of the devil who has “come…to steal…kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10a) the joy of believers being secure in Jesus Christ? Dismiss the devil’s lies and embrace the truth that you are forever secure the moment you believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 10:28-29).H