Scripture: John 14:15-21
It seem that today we live in a culture of consumption. I say this not to be critical of the world but as an observation. We want and we strive to obtain what we want. The problem comes when we do not know what we want. That is where consumption comes in. It is when we seek to fill a need with something but what we seek to find fulfillment leaves us not only still seeking to fill the need, but needing more of it. The ancient Persians observed this sort of thing when they first diagnosed diabetes, saying that there was an increased appetite but a collapse of function. That seems to describe our cultural condition, we have an increased appetite but the results of our appetites seem to go nowhere. This consumptive disease affects all aspects of our lives. It affects our minds when we fill it with things of little or no lasting value. How often do we stay glued to the 24-hour news cycle where there is a constant repeat and rehashing of the same story continuously for days or weeks, or we spend hours online reading articles that seem interesting but have little evidence to back them up? We fill our minds up we consume vast quantities of information yet have learned very little. This consumptive disease affects our bodies in ways that I do not really need to describe because we have all seen these effects. It saps our strength; because we spend hours working in front of monitors sitting in chairs to the point that walking up the stairs becomes a chore. But what we least see is how this consumptive disease has damaged our spirits. It may surprise you that our culture is spiritual consumers, but often people will get a dose of the spiritual fell good for a while and go back for more. The problem is that they seek quick fixes and when reality sets in they leave and try something else, using excuses like, “I’m just not being fed.” Which then leads them to something different that may or may not fill the need, and all too often the spirit is left hungry because we have an increased appetite but a collapse of function because we filled our hunger with nothing of lasting value.
This consumption based culture will often look at passages like John 14 and focus on verse 12, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…” and believe that the miraculous should be happening all around them if they believe hard enough. Then they will read verse 14, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it…” and then will allow that to justify their consumption based lifestyles. The danger is that often things do not work how we want, and we pray and ask for things in Jesus’ name and they do not happen how we desire. We strive to do great works and maybe our efforts do not have the results that we wanted so we begin to question our spirituality and question God. We then turn to other ideas and consume other brands of the spiritual. This is one reason why I felt it was necessary to focus on the term believe last week. Because without belief, without the movement from knowledge, to trust, to entrust we run the risk of consuming spirituality without getting nourishment.
Which leads us to today’s passage. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” These verses that follow directly after the verse that says you can have anything you ask of me, seem to turn that verse upside down. Because the asking of verse 14 would be tempered by the pleasure we seek in Jesus whom we love. If we love Jesus, we are entrusting to Him our desires and the fulfillment of our desires. So when we ask for things in His name they are not our desires but His. And the thing that Jesus gives, the desire we long for and ask for in His name is another Advocate that will be with us forever.
Jesus is telling this to His closest friends, He is looking at them and can see that in each of their minds the greatest desire that they have is that He would stay with them forever, establish the kingdom and throw off the chains of their overlords. Jesus is telling them that they will not be without. They want Him to stay but the Father will give them another Advocate. The key word there is another. We often jump over that word and read Advocate. The term Advocate is one that is often illustrated in the legal usage of the word, which is similar to a lawyer or one that represents an individual. This word is also translated as helper, comforter, and consoler each of those terms lend a different type of image. And even the legal terminology seems to fall short, because the term refers to a special kind of lawyer, one that is more of an advisor as well as a representative. This type of lawyer is a close friend that helps you discern a path into the future. So I do not want to diminish the importance of the Advocate but want us to focus in on the word another because Jesus is already an Advocate. The disciples were looking at him thinking we already have you why would we need another?
This other advocate that Jesus speaks of is the Holy Spirit that abides, remains, and continues forever. Jesus tell them that they already know this other advocate, that they have already had intimate experiences with it but that this knowledge will deepen even more. Early Friends often spoke of the Spirit as that of Christ that dwells in all people. Some theologians would say that not all people have the Spirit and that the Spirit only dwells in those that believe, but I want us to just consider for a bit why our culture is so consumed then? Why is it that people continuously sought out the spiritual or why do they seek to deny the spiritual? How could God harden the heart of Pharaoh if the Spirit of God was not active in any way in the hearts of all people? But then you may say that Jesus just said that the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth. This is where deepening our belief becomes important, deepening our knowledge and trust as we move to entrust our lives deeper into our relationship with God. Receive is not just an acquisition but also a benefit. You can read verse 17, as the world cannot benefit from the Spirit, why because they neither see nor know Him. The concept of see extends not only to the visual aspect of the word, means to look at, understand or experience. And the word know refers to an intimate understanding or relationship. So the world cannot benefit from the Spirit of truth because they have not experienced the intimacy of the relationship, they have not understood, examined, or acknowledged that relationship. But you have it.
Let us take a step back again to Advocate. If the advocate is not only a legal representative, but an advisor, helper and counselor then it is the teacher and encourager as well. Jesus is telling us that this Spirit of Truth, who abides forever with us, is our ever-present teacher and guide. This concept is what started the Friends movement. This idea that God will teach us directly is what inspired George Fox and others to begin ministering to their countrymen. George Fox also spoke of knowing things experimentally, which is to say that he had an understanding both through study and intimate experience. Jesus and Fox both are speaking of the same concept here. If you love God, if you believe in God there will be an intimacy that will move you from knowledge, to trust, to a relationship where you will entrust every aspect of your life into the hands of God. And that as this relationship grows you will experience or become familiar with this everlasting advocate, the Spirit of truth. And as that experience deepens you will become less focused on yourself and become more focused on the things that God would have you do in the world around you.
Jesus begins this passage by saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What commandments are we to keep? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and Spirit and your neighbor as yourself. All the books of the law and the oracles of the Prophets are summed up in those two commandments. Which leads us to another question how do we keep these commandment?
This goes back to the Advocate. If Jesus is the first Advocate, the first advisor, intercessor, helper, and all then we look first to him. Jesus in his humanity showed us a lifestyle, or spirituality that would deepen an intimacy with God. And in His divinity he provided the means for that intimacy to happen. He showed us a rhythm of life that would open our eyes so that we could see and experience life with God. The rhythm of worship, prayer, and service which could be called loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others. This same rhythm of life was embraced by nearly every religious movement and order within the history of the church, this rhythm where intimacy with God through prayer and worship led them to serve and minister to those within the community that were often marginalized by the world. It was through the rhythm of worship, prayer, and a willingness to serve others that they were inspired to become the embodiment of Christ to the world that was left blind to the intimacy of God. How will the world ever receive the Spirit of Truth if the people that believe do not entrust their lives to God? How will the world ever experience the truth if those that claim to love Christ do not extend that love to them where they currently are?
We live in a culture of consumption. We have an increase in appetite but a collapse of functionality. We have a desire for spirituality but often we feed that appetite with things that do not reveal the truth. We strive for the abundant life in Christ, but instead of seeking Christ to fulfill that desire we instead look for the quick fix. But there are short cuts to intimacy. Much of the trending and popular things of spirituality are nothing more than pornography for the soul, giving us a taste to quench a desire but leaving us still hungry to the point of collapse. This is why Friends turned from many of the traditional expressions of faith, because all too often the deep meaning behind the symbolism was left behind and they were then presented as quick spiritual nuggets. All you need to enter heaven is to eat this bread and drink this wine, and Jesus is in you. All you need to do to gain the kingdom of God is to be washed in the water and your sins are forgiven. All you need is to say a few words and you are born again. None of those things in themselves are wrong, in fact they are beautiful ceremonies that can be used to deepen faith but all to often they are presented as a quick simple solutions to a spiritual life that has collapsed and is failing to function. They can become a distraction to the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that says that the Kingdom of God is at hand; the kingdom is all around us and abides in and with us. They are quick fixes to a broken life that only true repentance can mend; a life where we turn from ourselves and entrust all our hopes and dreams in God, through Christ in the Spirit.
I realize that I may have stepped on toes and may have upset some people, but the truth is that if we want to see great and mighty things happen in our community we must first believe, if we want Jesus to do anything that we ask in his name, we must first be wedded to his name. If we want to see or to know deeply the intimacy of God we must experience him through that rhythm of life that was shown to us by our first advocate Jesus and continuously revealed to us by another advocate, the Spirit of Truth. There are no short cuts or quick fixes only a progression of belief beginning in knowledge, advancing to trust, and engulfed or saturated in the entrusting of our being to God.
Where is it that we stand? Do you have an increase of appetite but a collapse of function? Do you have a yearning for something deeper but do not see where to go? There is one, even Christ Jesus that can speak to your condition. Let us now seek that intimacy with God as we enter into this time of holy expectancy and open worship. Let the Spirit of Truth intercede and counsel you in the ways of Christ and let us experience the love of God so that we can then become the living testimony of his commandments.