September 19th, Day 32 - John 15:18-16:15
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” – John 15:20b
Have you ever been treated differently for being a Christian?
Was that a positive or negative experience?
How do you cope when you are torn down for following Jesus?
Take heart in the reality that Jesus has led the way on our journey. Ask Him to fill you with His enduring Spirit as you continue to follow Him.
Read John 15:18-16:15
Few people in the world enjoy knowing that they are hated. Hate is defined as an intense or passionate dislike. Imagine (or remember) that feeling when you know someone absolutely loathes you. You might feel a sinking pit in your stomach. You might rise to defend yourself and fight. You might feel anger or hurt welling up inside.
This hatred is part of what we sign up for as Jesus followers. It’s persecution.
The choice to not be a part of this world as we follow Jesus has a consequence. And Jesus knew that hatred was the mark of the world just as love was to be the mark of the authentic Christian. So as you read, follow Jesus’ logic as He walks through why they persecute and why they hate. And don’t give up, because Jesus doesn’t leave us stranded and without hope. In fact, Jesus’ departure gives us the ultimate hope. Without His atoning death, we would be condemned and without hope for salvation.
Let’s look to what God wants to say directly to you today through John 15:18-16:15.
Scripture: Write down any verse or phrase from the passage that most captures your attention today. Why do you think that is?
Observation: Why might the world hate us? According to Jesus, what is the role of the Helper amidst persecution?
Application: Have you ever felt that you were hated because of your faith in Jesus? When was that? What truth from today’s passage do you especially want to hold on to this week?
Prayer: Ask the Lord to help you remember the promise and presence of the Helper today as the only way to take heart, hold on, and follow Jesus, no matter what situation you follow Him into.
What does the Holy Spirit do in our lives today? Let's explore this article to find out!
The Beginning of the Christian Life
In Jesus's teaching we find an especially strong emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in initiating persons into the Christian life. Jesus taught that the Spirit's activity is essential in both conversion, which from the human perspective is the beginning of the Christian life, and regeneration, which from God's perspective is its beginning.
Conversion is the human's turning to God. It consists of a negative and a positive element: repentance, that is, abandonment of sin; and faith, that is, acceptance of the promises and the work of Christ. Jesus spoke especially of repentance, and specifically of conviction of sin, which is the prerequisite of repentance. He said, “When he (the Counselor or Advocate) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because people do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned" (John 16:8-11). Without this work of the Holy Spirit, there can be no conversion.
Regeneration is the miraculous transformation of the individual and implantation of spiritual energy. Jesus made very clear to Nicodemus that regeneration is essential to acceptance by the Father: "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. . . . No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (John 3:3, 5-6). Clearly, regeneration is a supernatural occurrence, and the Holy Spirit is the agent who produces it. The flesh (i.e., human effort) is not capable of effecting this transformation. Nor can this transformation even be comprehended by the human intellect. Jesus in fact likened this work of the Spirit to the blowing of the wind: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (v. 8).12
The Continuation of the Christian Life
The work of the Spirit is not completed when one becomes a believer; on the contrary, it is just beginning. He performs a number of other roles in the ongoing Christian life.
One of the Spirit's other roles is empowering. Jesus probably left his disciples flabbergasted when he said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). These greater works were apparently dependent on both his going and the Holy Spirit's coming, for the two events were closely linked. Indeed, when the disciples were evidently grieved at the thought of his leaving, Jesus said: "But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). It probably seemed incredible to the disciples, who by now were very much aware of their own weaknesses and shortcomings, that they would do greater works than the Master himself had done. Yet Peter preached on Pentecost Sunday and three thousand believed. Jesus himself never had that type of response, as far as we know. Perhaps he did not gather that many genuine converts in his entire ministry! The key to the disciples' success was not in their abilities and strengths, however. Jesus had told them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), who would give them the power that he had promised, the ability to do the things that he had predicted: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (v. 8).
Another element of Jesus's promise was that the Holy Spirit would indwell and illuminate the believer: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17). Jesus had been a teacher and leader, but his influence was that of external word and example. The Spirit, however, is able to affect one more intensely because, dwelling within, he can get to the very center of one's thinking and emotions, and lead one into all truth, as Jesus promised. Even the name used for the Spirit in this context suggests this role: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you" (John 16:13-14).
The Spirit evidently has a teaching role. Earlier in the same discourse we read that he would bring to mind and clarify for the disciples the words Jesus had already given to them: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26). Jesus also pledged that "when the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father-the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father-he will testify about me" (John 15:26). This ministry of illumination by the Holy Spirit was not merely for that first generation of disciples, but also includes helping believers today to understand Scripture. Illumining us is a role that falls to the Spirit, for Jesus is now permanently at work carrying out other functions mentioned in this same passage (e.g., he is preparing a place for believers [14:2-3]).
Another point of particular interest is the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit. We are familiar with Jesus's intercession, as the High Priest, on our behalf. Paul also speaks of a similar intercessory prayer by the Holy Spirit: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God" (Rom. 8:26-27). Thus believers have the assurance that when they do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit wisely intercedes for them that the Lord's will be done.
The Holy Spirit also works sanctification in the life of the believer. By sanctification is meant the continued transformation of moral and spiritual character so that the believer's life actually comes to mirror the standing he or she already has in God's sight. In the earlier part of Romans 8, Paul dwells on this work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has liberated us from the law (v. 2). Henceforth believers do not walk and live according to the flesh, their old nature, but according to the Spirit (v. 4), having their minds set on the Spirit (v. 5). Christians are in the Spirit (v. 9), and the Spirit dwells in them, a thought that is repeated three times (vv. 9,11 twice). As the Spirit indwells believers, he guides and leads them, and the deeds of the flesh are, accordingly, put to death (v. 13). All those who are thus "led by the Spirit of God are the children of God" (v. 14). The Spirit is now at work giving them life, witnessing that they are children rather than slaves, and thus supplying clear evidence that they are truly in Christ (vv. 15-17).
This life in the Spirit is what God intends for the Christian. Paul in Galatians 5 contrasts life in the Spirit with life in the flesh. He instructs his readers to walk by the Spirit instead of gratifying the desires of the flesh (v. 16). If they heed this instruction, the Spirit will produce in them a set of qualities collectively referred to as the "fruit of the Spirit" (v. 22). Paul lists nine of these qualities: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (vv. 22-23). These qualities cannot in their entirety be produced in human lives by unaided self-effort. They are a supernatural work. They are opposed to the works of the flesh-a list of sins in verses 19-21- just as the Spirit himself is in opposition to the flesh. The work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, then, is not merely the negative work of mortification of the flesh (Rom. 8:13), but also the production of a positive likeness to Christ.
The Spirit also bestows certain special gifts on believers within the body of Christ. In Paul's writings there are three different lists of such gifts; there is also a brief one in 1 Peter (see table below). Certain observations need to be made regarding these lists. First, while all of them have reference to the gifts of the Spirit, their basic orientations differ. Ephesians 4:11 is really a listing of various offices in the church, or of persons who are God's gifts to the church. Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Peter 4:11 catalog several basic functions performed in the church. The list in 1 Corinthians is more a matter of special abilities. It is likely that when these passages speak of the "gifts of the Spirit," they have different meanings in view.
Hence no attempt should be made to reduce this expression to a unitary concept or definition. Second, it is not clear whether these gifts are endowments from birth, special enablements received at some later point, or a combination of the two. Third, some gifts, such as faith and service, are qualities or activities expected of every Christian; in such cases it is likely that the writer has in mind an unusual capability in that area. Fourth, since none of the four lists includes all of the gifts found in the other lists, it is quite conceivable that collectively they do not exhaust all possible gifts of the Spirit. These lists, then, individually and collectively, are illustrative of the various gifts with which God has endowed the church.
It is also important at this point to note several observations Paul made regarding both the nature of the gifts and the way in which they are to be exercised. These observations appear in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.
- 1. The gifts are bestowed on the body (the church). They are for the edification of the whole body, not merely for the enjoyment or enrichment of the individual members possessing them (12:7; 14:5, 12).
- 2. No one person has all the gifts (12:14-21), nor is any one of the gifts bestowed on all persons (12:28- 30). Consequently, the individual members of the church need each other.
- 3. Although not equally conspicuous, all gifts are important (12:22- 26).
- 4. The Holy Spirit apportions the various gifts to whom and as he wills (12:11).
*This resource an excerpt from Christian Theology: 3rd Edition by Millard J. Erickson (Baker Academic, 2013), page 795-798.