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History’s Greatest Gift

By Michael Roop

Naming a sermon series is a bit of a challenge, so maybe I should give myself some grace. We called the most recent Advent series History’s Greatest Gift, with the obvious implication that Jesus is that gift. And of course, a strong argument could be made along those lines. But does it square with Jesus’ own words?

I’m thinking specifically of a long conversation between Jesus and His disciples. Picture this: It was the night Jesus was betrayed, just hours before the sun would rise to reveal Him on a cross. Right in the middle of this conversation, Jesus makes a startling pronouncement: He’s about to leave the disciples and return to the Father.

Naturally, this causes them incredible dismay. The Messiah’s earthly reign was meant to be eternal, right? But according to Jesus, the situation following His departure would actually be better for them. Here are His exact words, as recorded by the Apostle John, who was in the room:

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 ESV)

Unless I’m not reading this correctly, I take Jesus to say that the disciples are gaining a better situation in the Holy Spirit than in Him! They will be better off when Jesus physically leaves the earth and sends the Holy Spirit. They will gain an advantage through Jesus’ departure. How could this be?

Jesus, being both fully human and fully God, is located in one body. He could only be in one place at a time. In order to commune with Jesus, the disciples had to be with Him. When Jesus withdrew to pray, they weren’t with Him anymore, and they missed His presence.

But when Jesus goes back to the Father, the disciples gain the advantage of receiving the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who will dwell in them, and always be with them, and never leave them. Thus, they will commune with God at all times and in all places, no matter where they are.

Article 6 of the EFCA Statement of Faith lists some of the advantages we have in the Holy Spirit’s presence:

He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christlike living and service.

Let that list sink in.
  • The Holy Spirit graciously convicts us of our guilt so that we will go in search of the Guiltless Savior (John 16:7-11).
  • He causes sinners to be reborn to new life (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27), which is necessary to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
  • When the Spirit falls us on, He signals and seals our union with Christ. Because of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:26-27; 1 John 4:13), we are united with Christ in His crucifixion (Galatians 2:20), burial (Romans 6:4), resurrection (Colossians 3:1), and ascension (Ephesians 2:5-6).
  • Beyond being the key to living the Christian life, and the presence the joy of which satisfies our souls, the Spirit also seals us as God’s (Ephesians 1:14). His presence is the reason we can trust that we will enter God’s physical presence in the New Creation.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit does all this to glorify Christ (John 16:14). In other words, He magnifies Christ so that the church and the whole universe can see His beauty and majesty more clearly. I do not mean magnified in the sense of making something small seem bigger than it is, like a microscope, but making something far off appear as huge as it actually is, like a telescope.

In His convicting, regenerating, baptizing, indwelling, illuminating, guiding, equipping, empowering work, the Holy Spirit throws a cosmic spotlight on the glory of Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice paves the way for all this to be possible. He “takes all that is (Jesus’) and makes it known” to us (John 16:14).

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day we remember and celebrate the advantage we have in Jesus’ ascension and the subsequent arrival of the Spirit. We worship a God who glorifies Himself by dwelling among us to the satisfaction of our souls. May we walk this and every day according to this great gift!