Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon

The Helper

August 13, 2023

The Helper

Passage: John 14:15-31
Service Type:

The Helper

JOHN 14:15-31


If you are new to River City, we are halfway through a four year journey that started with going through the whole book of Luke, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, studying the life and ministry of Jesus, looking at what he did, what he said, who he interacted with, and all of that, and now we are headed into the book of Acts, where we want to see how this same Jesus born in a manger, never sinned, died on a cross and rose again, how he continues his ministry to this day in and through the local and global Church. 

These days church can mean  a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and I think the book of Acts can give us a helpful reset by helping us take a look at what that early church did, what they believed, how they lived, etc.  

Now I just told you we are heading into the book of Acts, but we have a little bit of groundwork to do first. If you open a book for the first time, what is normally right in front of the first chapter? The preface, or the introduction. 

Let’s be honest here – how many of you skip over that when you read? How many of you feel like you can’t honestly say you’ve read the whole book unless you read the intro? I am 50/50. I’ll read the first page of the preface and if it’s interesting and sounds like it matters, I’ll read it. But a lot of the time if it’s just thanking people that contributed to the book, I’m out. Head over to chapter one. 

But the preface is usually the setup. It tells you why the book is written. In non-fiction books, that preface often tells you the basics of the thought process, so you know where the author is coming from. It might even tell you about the moment that the idea was sparked for the book. Or in a fiction book, it may introduce the main character or the setting or give you historical context to get your brain ready for that first paragraph. 

Well, I believe the book of Acts has a preface. It’s not an obvious one, so don’t worry about it if you’ve never read it or never thought about it this way, but I think the preface to the book of Acts is found in Jesus’ last major conversation with his disciples before his crucifixion. Because there in that Upper Room, around that Passover table, Jesus set up his disciples for what we know as the book of Acts. He uses this conversation to prepare his disciples for what’s to happen after he leaves earth, and I think it’s absolutely foundational to understanding the book of Acts, because He’s not coming at this through charismatic lenses, or reformed lenses, or Mennonite or Methodist or Catholic theology. He’s coming at this as the eternal Lord of heaven and earth who knows all things!

So here’s the beginning of the preface, the Apostle John, who was in the room at the time, setting the scene for us – John chapter 13 if you have a copy of scripture with you. 

[1] Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. [2] Now when it was time for supper, the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot's son, to betray him. [3] Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. 

Jesus knows his past: He knew that he eternally existed with the Father, that he been sent from heaven to come to earth in obedience to the Father for this very moment. He knows this is why he was sent. He knows he came from God and why he came from God. 

Jesus knows his present: He knew that the Father had given everything into his hands. He knows all about the devil’s work of seducing Judas into betraying him, and despite the many reasons he had to walk away from not just Judas but ALL the disciples – Jesus has loved and served them right up to the last moment. He knows the hour, he knows the situation, and lastly.. 

Jesus knows his future: He was going back to God. He’d been sent by his Father, and he was going back home very soon. 

I’m sure many of you have had those moments in your life when you were a teenager, and you did something you shouldn’t have done – you wrecked the car, or you broke curfew again, or they caught you in a lie, and you knew you were going to have to face your dad. Or if you grew up without a dad who was present in the home, maybe for you it was in sports, coming back to the sideline or the dugout after making a crucial mistake that cost the team, and having to face your coach. Or something at work where you knew you would have to face your boss. 

We are often afraid of those moments because our earthly parents, coaches, and bosses tend to respond sinfully in those kinds of situations, and we’re afraid of their anger. 

But Jesus is completely on the other side of that. He plans to perfectly obey everything he was sent to do, because he knew he was headed back home to his Father, who doesn’t have a shred of sin or unrighteous anger in him, and Jesus knows that a warm welcome awaits him when he returns. And with all of that in mind…

[4] … he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. [5] Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.

But reclining there at the table is a man named Judas who the devil has already stirred up to betray Jesus. And with everything given into his hands, Jesus of course knows this, he knew it when he chose Judas to follow him. But Jesus comes around the table and serves the one who has already been scheming against him – who already made arrangements for later that night to lead the soldiers right to Jesus. He moves around the table and washes the feet of the disciple who will deny him three times. And when he gets around to everyone and stands up, Jesus has washed the feet of his 12 closest followers whom he knows will all abandon him the very next morning.

And then Jesus looks at them and says – this is what I want you to do when I’m gone. These apostles are all going to be in positions of authority, where they will carry a lot of weight in the early church, and Jesus tells them in verse 14, if I as your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I’ve given you an example you should follow.” 

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus could have played the God-card when he was here on earth. If anyone deserved to have his feet washed, it was him. That’s why Peter threw a fit. But Jesus put aside what he deserved, and served even the people who were scheming against him. 

Most of us in this room would have labeled Judas a toxic presence. Get him out of there. But our Teacher, Jesus, humbles himself, puts himself in the vulnerable position of serving the very person who will betray him. 

The inverse of verse 14 would have to be that if you refuse to serve someone, just because you think they are working against you or have made your life complicated or difficult, then you have forgotten that you are a servant of your master; you’ve forgotten your past – that you too were a sinner, far from God. You’ve forgotten your present, that you are in Christ: forgiven, washed in the blood of Christ, made righteous in God’s eyes, blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. And you’ve forgotten your future, that this world is not your home – that one day soon, you’re headed home to the Father. V14:2-3 – Jesus said he is going away to prepare a place for us, after which, he will come again and take us to be where he is. If we are unwilling to serve others, especially those who don’t deserve it, we have forgotten our past, our present and our future, and we have forgotten the example of our master. 

Soon after this, Judas headed out to do what he had conspired to do, and Jesus looked at the rest of the people in the room, and told them in v13:34…Here’s the new commandment: “In the same way I have loved you, you also are to love each other.” 

Love each other in the same way as Jesus loved you – meaning, he gave up what he deserved, and gave others what they did not deserve. Jesus never said, “they’ll know you’re my disciples by whether or not you raise your hands when you sing, or because you subscribe to this or that theology.” No, they’ll know you’re my disciples by how you lay down your life for people who don’t deserve it. 

Then in John 14:15, Jesus sums up this whole conversation about loving and serving down to these few words. If you love me, you will keep my commands. It’s really not that complicated, but it’s very important. In fact it shows up four times in chapter 14 alone. 

  • v15 – if you love me you will keep my commands
  • V21 – the one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me
  • V23 – if anyone loves me, he will keep my word

Here’s the opposite now

  • v24 – the one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words

But if you’re like me, it’s easy to say that it’s not that complicated, but it’s extremely difficult! It’s easy to say I love the Lord as long as he doesn’t ask me to serve someone I don’t like! Or someone who has wronged me! 

Out where we live, we have one neighbor that’s very nice, very easy to get along with, and one who is a little more difficult, and has made life a little complicated for us. Guess which neighbor is easier to think nice things about. Guess which one I’m more tempted to not say nice things about, to assume the worst about their character, or whatever. Nothing about serving people who we think don’t deserve it comes naturally to me, or to any of us. 

Here in America, we tend to think that anyone who gets in the way of our happiness is toxic and we should remove toxic people from our lives. And yet, if we are in Christ – we are following in the footsteps of a king who gave up his rights and served instead. The reality is, God might just put a Judas in your life to make you more like Jesus. God might have that difficult person in your life on purpose, because he/she will push you to a deeper reliance on Jesus than you would have had otherwise. 

For Jodi and I, this complication with our neighbor has led us to pray for their salvation like we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s led us to cry out to God and examine our own hearts and motives in ways we never have before. It’s led us to trust God’s sovereignty like we never would have otherwise. I won’t speak for my wife, but it has revealed the idols of my heart like nothing else would have been able to. 

But on my own, I don’t have the ability to love that neighbor the same way I love myself, or to lay down my rights for them. What Jesus commands me to do, I don’t have the strength or the ability or even the desire to do. 

And that’s where Jesus looks at his disciples and says, oh, have I got something good for you. I’ve got just what you need to be able to do this. I’ve got just what you need to help you understand how to live this kind of life. I know someone who can help. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you. 

And here’s where Jesus begins to introduce us to that gift of the Father that is The Holy Spirit. It’s not that he never spoke of the Spirit before, or that this is the first time in Scripture we’ve heard of the Spirit – but Jesus is setting up the role of the Holy Spirit, who will now, he tells the disciples, be in you, and here’s what he says: 

  1. The Holy Spirit is a Counselor. The word here is the word “paraklaytos”… which means “advocate, intercessor, comforter or helper.” 
  1. If you’re seeing a counselor, the idea is that you’ve called in someone to help you do something you are unable to do on your own. To help you. To intercede for you. An advocate that fights for you. That’s the word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit. 
  2. But unlike an earthly counselor or therapist, who can give you faulty or incorrect or even sinful advice, or just not pick up the phone or be available when you need them, Jesus says in verse 17 that this counselor is the Spirit of truth, and he will be with you forever, remaining with you and will be in you! So the Holy Spirit is like having a perfectly wise Counselor, who knows everything about you and everything about God and his commands, his plan, and his will, which means he’ll only ever give you perfect advice, inside of you to help you live your life and obey Christ’s commands! You can ask him for advice and wisdom and understanding at any time of the day or night – he’s not going anywhere!

And here’s something wild…It’s not the only place this word is used in Scripture. In 1 John 2:1, this word is used again when John writes: [1]... if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the righteous one.

  1. That is the same word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit, except now it’s used of Jesus himself!
  2. So the Holy Spirit is the advocate, the counselor, the intercessor, the helper that is coming from God the Father to live in the disciples, and Jesus is also the comforter, the counselor, the helper, the advocate, who is with the Father! 

And that’s awesome, right? You have two counselors working with you that both perfectly mirror your Heavenly Father! Two advocates! One that’s with you, one that’s with the Father, and their advice always lines up with God’s! Their character and wisdom and knowledge and understanding always lines up perfectly. Their personalities are the same. They have the same goals, the same insight, the same access to truth. They are not the same person, but just like Jesus is a mirror image of God, the Holy Spirit is a mirror image of Jesus! 

So much so that in verse 23, Jesus says… “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make our home with him. 

I mean, these poor disciples’ heads had to be spinning at this point. Wait up. Who is the “we?” You said earlier the Counselor, the Advocate, the Spirit of truth is coming to us. Then you said you are coming to us. You’re going away, we’re guessing on a trip or something by yourself, and then you’ll return to us? And you’ll bring the Father with you too!? What do you mean, come to us and make your home with us? Isn’t your home already here?

And Jesus, I think to keep their heads from exploding on site, says this in verse 26…

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”

The Counselor is also a teacher. He will remind you of everything I have told you. This would come in very handy for several of the guys in that room who would end up writing scripture. The Holy Spirit would remind them of what Jesus said, and teach them how it all worked so that we would be able to read about it. 

So, you might ask the question today – how do I know if the Holy Spirit is speaking to me? When I sense something speaking to me inside, telling me to do something, how do I know it is the Counselor here, and not just me?! 

What does Jesus say the counselor will do? He’ll remind you of what Jesus taught and help you keep his commands, so that your love for Jesus and for the Father increases. 

If that still small voice, or that sense of someone speaking to me, either in your head or in your heart or the advice you get from a friend or someone else is a) reminding you of Jesus’ words, b) helping you obey his commands, and c) increasing your love for Jesus and the Father, you know it’s the Spirit. 

And here’s a fourth way you’ll know it’s the Holy Spirit: Jesus said, [27] "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don't let your heart be troubled or fearful. [28] You have heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 

If you follow that advice, either the counsel of another believer speaking to you, or the sense you have internally, if you follow that advice, does it lead to the peace of Christ? Or does it lead to the peace of the world? People have advised Jodi and I on the situation with our neighbor to do things that they thought would bring us peace and solve the conflict by showing our neighbor who’s boss. That’s not from the Spirit. Advice from the Spirit promotes the settledness that comes from trusting Christ to do his good work no matter how long it takes.

Then Jesus wraps up the talk around the table by giving them a clue about what is about to happen next, and why they should not be fearful. 

  1. The ruler of the world is coming for me (in a few minutes) but I’m telling you all of this before it happens so you don’t freak out in the moment: HE HAS NO POWER OVER ME. 
  2. In fact, verse 31, the opposite is true. I want everyone to see how much I love the Father, so I’m letting this happen, because I want to do exactly what he has commanded me to do.

Now because we’ve all read the end of the story and we talk about this and sing about this every single week, we know what God commanded Jesus to do – he commanded him to go to the cross. He commanded his Son into suffering and death, and Jesus loved and delighted in and cherished his own Father so much that he willingly laid down his life for sinners. But he did not stay dead. This whole conversation is a waste of time if Jesus didn’t rise again. God rose him out of that grave on the third day, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and 40 days later, ascended him to the throne of heaven for the most incredible coronation ceremonies ever, crowning Jesus King of kings and Lord or lords.  

But the good news for us today is that Jesus never expected his disciples – either the first disciples or you and me – he never expected us to keep his commands without sending us a Counselor to help us do it. In fact, it’s impossible to keep Jesus’ commands, to love him the way we should, and to love others like he loved us unless we have help. 

He gives those who believe the wonderful Counselor, the Spirit of Truth. Scripture tells us the Spirit also convicts us of sin, lets us know “hey you don’t want to do this” or after the fact “there was a better way to handle that.” But not only do believers have an advocate inside us, working for our good, teaching us all things… we also have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the righteous – who stood in for sinners under God’s wrath, and purchased unlimited grace for us, still to this day continues to work our case, taking our prayers to God, and by his Spirit giving us strength to love him and obey his commands. 

We want to respond to this in prayer today, and so I’ll throw a few things on the screens for you to think through and pray about:

    1. Are you anxious or fearful today? There in 14:27, Jesus offers you the same peace that he had here on earth! He faced his own crucifixion with a calm, unhurried, un-anxious presence. How in the world could he do that!?! He knew his past, he knew his present, he knew his future, and Jesus himself was filled with the Holy Spirit. 
      1. Anxiety is not a disorder – it’s a natural human experience because we can’t see the future. We can’t even be certain that we’ll walk out of this service alive or that a family member makes it through this week. Naturally, that causes us to be fearful – it’s a perfectly human thing to feel! 
      2. But God didn’t leave us to rely on our natural human 2 Tim 1:7 says, but the Spirit God gave us does not make us fearful, but gives us power, love, and sound judgment. Fear and anxiety is the fruit of the enemy convincing you that you are able to live your life without the Counselor, the Helper, the Advocate that The Father sent. I’ve been there and done that. 
      3. So, if that’s you today, I encourage you to once again allow the Spirit of God to remind you of all things – that he loves you, sees you, knows you, and that he is so, so good! He can be trusted. As the Spirit reminds you of what is true, you’ll have to preach the gospel to yourself everyday so you don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.
  • Confess sin  If the Lord has convicted you of anything today, bring it to him. Confess it. 1 John 1 and 2 say if we confess our sin, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You’re already washed and forgiven by the blood of Christ, but pulling our sin out of the shadows and into the light through confession is one of the ways the Counselor helps us kill sin. 
  • Rejoice in your king! 
    1. The ruler of this world had no power over Jesus, everything is in his hands, and with the cross and the empty tomb, Jesus defeated sin and Satan once and for all! He’s given us the gift of his Spirit, securing our present and our future! 

Let’s pray and then we’ll sing…