Expository Sermon on John 14 and Romans 8
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 6/1/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch

(To see the video for this sermon, click the YouTube link just below. You can view the entire service if you wish. The sermon begins at the 54:53:00 mark.)

Please open your Bibles to John chapter 14.

Last Sabbath I preached what I thought was going to be the final sermon in my “Bible Sidekicks” series. It was on Barnabas, who traveled with Paul on at least one missionary journey.

Like I said, I’d planned that that would be the last Bible Sidekicks sermon. But then I thought about the Holy Spirit. However, I think it could be irreverent to call Him a “sidekick,” so instead I’ve called this sermon “Your Closest Companion.”

Because that’s who the Holy Spirit is. And since the He has pretty much always taken roles where He works in the background rather than walks out visibly on the stage, we can’t really conjure up an image of what He looks like

We get a glimpse of what Jesus probably looks like now, from the brilliant, dramatic description in Revelation chapter 1, but He’s almost too bright to look at.

And of course since the Bible says that no one has seen God at any time except Jesus, we don’t really know what God looks like. But Genesis says that since we were created in God’s image, there must be some sort of resemblance.

But even though at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and later took the form of tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost, we are assuming that those are not the Spirit’s natural appearance. So it’s not easy to picture Him.

But from the very first few verses of the Bible to the very last few verses, the Holy Spirit is active. In Genesis 1, He is present at creation. In Genesis 6, He is striving mightily for the hearts of the wicked pre-flood people. In Exodus 31, the Spirit enters the heart and life of Bezalel, the man the Lord has chosen to supervise the construction project of the wilderness Tabernacle tent.

Occasionally the Spirit will take possession of Bible people, such as King Saul, the prophet Baalam, and various other prophets in the Old and New Testaments. Once in a while a verse will say, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon [so-and-so],” and then some dramatic things start to happen.
In Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit gives both power and linguistic ability to scores of disciples, so that they can present the gospel in the native tongues of people who’ve come from all over Europe and Asia and Africa to celebrate the Passover and feast of Pentecost.

In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, a few verses from the end, the Spirit helps give the invitation to those who need to accept Jesus and His gospel.

And those are just some of the roles the Holy Spirit has played. If we take some time to read through His Bible resume, we discover that the Holy Spirit can do pretty much anything, which means that you and I need Him in our lives.

So let’s enter John 14 right at the top, and pretty soon we’ll discover why the Holy Spirit is needed so badly. As I studied about the Holy Spirit the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered that John 14 is one of two Bible chapters which go into His work in depth. (The other is Romans 8, but we won’t have time for that this morning.)

Now if somebody mentions “John 14,” to me, I automatically think of Jesus’ promise to go back to heaven to prepare a place for us. But John 14 has far more to say about the Holy Spirit than about the mansions Jesus has gone to prepare.

But first we need to remember this chapter’s context. It’s on a Thursday evening that Jesus speaks the words in John 14. He has just led out in a service which He has changed from the Passover to the Lord’s Supper, the communion service, which we will be celebrating this coming Sabbath during the worship service.

Watch what happens.

John 14:1 – 3 [NKJV]: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

So there we are. There are those very familiar verses which most of us learned by heart when we were younger. But if we stop there, we totally miss the point of most of the rest of the chapter. Sure, it’s important to know that Jesus will go to prepare a place for us, and that He will return, but what follows is at least as important as what we’ve just heard. And it has totally to do with the Holy Spirit.

Verses 3 – 5: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

And over the next few verses, we discover that the idea of Jesus leaving them is a puzzling and terrifying one to His disciples. Because if Jesus leaves, they’ll be dreadfully alone, more alone than they’d feel if anybody else left. It’s something like when a favorite teacher decides not to return in the fall.
Glance down at verse 15.

Verses 15 – 18: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—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.

Do you see what Jesus is saying here? He is promising that the Holy Spirit can be your very closest companion. If you’re taking notes, here comes what you could call Sermon Point One. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our minds, what is one important thing He can do for us?

With my permission, the Holy Spirit fills my loneliness.

Yesterday as I was driving, I heard a radio interview with someone who mentioned that there is a growing epidemic of suicide among white middle-aged males. And the person went on to say that a large part of the problem is loneliness.

Life can get lonely. Last night Shelley and I attended a very delightful consecration service featuring the Puget Sound Adventist Academy seniors. One of the kids had produced a very heartfelt slideshow which featured a lot of what the Class of 2019 had been involved in throughout the past four years, including pictures from the first and last day of the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Finally, a picture flashed on the screen with the caption “The last day of our senior year,” probably taken the day before. And the seniors all uttered a mournful “Ahhhh.” Because they knew that without the love and the fun and the support of their friends, there’s the chance they’d be lonely.

But Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit can fill that loneliness. Sure, the Class of 2019 will go on to college, or vocational school, or wherever else their education takes them, and they’ll make new friends, just the way they did that first day of their freshman class. But there will come times of loneliness. They’ll break up with somebody, or somebody will break up with them, and life will be a dreary desert for a while.

But Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to fill that loneliness, especially the lonelinesses for our Creator and Savior.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence is not automatic. Back in verse 17, Jesus said that worldly people can’t receive the Spirit, because they are clueless about who He is. But then He told his disciples that the Holy Spirit lived in them, His followers.

But as I say, this isn’t automatic. If the world can’t receive the Holy Spirit, how can you and I make sure that we are not worldly? Is there anything we can do to make the Holy Spirit welcome within us?

Glance back at verse 15.

Verses 15 – 16: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

Do you see what Jesus is saying? He is directly tying keeping His commandments with receiving the Holy Spirit. And He repeats this idea a couple of verses later.

Verse 21: 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.”

The word “manifest” means “reveal.” The NIV says, “I too will love him and show myself to him.”

And the disciple Judas—not the betrayer but another disciple with that same name—asks a puzzled question:

Verses 22 – 26: Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” 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. 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. “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

So how do you make room in your life in your mind for the Holy Spirit? First, learn to fall in love with Jesus. And then, taking Jesus’ sayings very seriously. Remember that when somebody asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He said there were two commandments – love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor the way you love yourself.

I was in a pastors meeting when someone introduced us to the idea that Jesus’ first commandment, loving God, is spelled out in more detail in the first four of the 10 Commandments. When it comes to the second commandment, loving your neighbor is spelled out in the last six.

And anybody who’s still wondering whether or not Jesus’ words which we are supposed to keep are different from the 10 Commandments just needs to go to First John 5:3, where John, who wrote John 14 and who on that Thursday evening was one of the disciples listening very carefully to the Savior, writes in First John 5:2 and 3: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments . . . .”

So what both Jesus and one of His closest disciples say is that to prepare our hearts for the Holy Spirit, we need to get acquainted with Jesus’ love for us, and we need to love Him in return.

Last night at the Academy seniors’ consecration service, the kids in their pictorial slideshows again and again told their parents that they loved them. They also gave examples of how selfless and caring and nurturing their parents were. These young men and women had seen and felt the love that was given to them, and they poured out their love in return.

And that’s all Jesus is saying here. To receive the Holy Spirit, the one who will comfort us in our loneliness, the one who will help us not feel like orphans anymore, we need to allow our love for Jesus to grow. And this means doing what He says to do, and avoiding what he says to avoid.

And when the Holy Spirit enters your life, He makes things happen. In other words, He’s not just a placeholder, not a prize you win, not a graduation diploma you receive. Several years ago I wrote a series of kids books which were actually Seventh-day Adventist Christian mystery stories. The kids in the books would go along trying to solve the story’s main mystery, and while they were doing that, I was able to bring out some spiritual points that the editor had asked me to get across in that book.

Well, since I had written what were actually little mystery books, I thought, “Hey, why don’t I join the Mystery Writers of America?” So I found out how to join, and sent in my dues of $80, and pretty soon in the mail I got a little card that said I was a member.

There were two kinds of membership – the associate member, and the active member. The associate members had not actually written mystery books, but the active ones had. I had to send them proof that I had actually written these books, and when I did, back came that little “active member” card. And I put that card in my billfold and carried it around. I never once pulled it out to show to anybody, but I knew it was there in my billfold. And when I thought of that card, I swaggered a little bit because I was a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

But after a year, when they sent me a notice that it was time to renew my membership, and that the dues had gone up, I started thinking, “Why am I doing this? What benefits am I getting out of this aside from being able to carry around that little card?” Actually, the Mystery Writers association had sent me a tiny list of benefits – I think you could get a discount at a bookstore in New York, and maybe at a restaurant in Los Angeles or somewhere, and I don’t remember what else, but because of where I was living, I could not take advantage of any of those discounts.

So the next year (or maybe after a couple of years, come to think of it) I resigned my membership in the Mystery Writers of America, and never signed up again.

Well, it’s not that way with the Holy Spirit. Notice two benefits Jesus mentions that the Holy Spirit will bring.

Verses 25 – 26: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

In fact, we might as well call that Sermon Point Two.

With my permission, the Holy Spirit not only fills my loneliness, but teaches and reminds me about Jesus.

This is a key point to remember—the Holy Spirit is a teacher and reminder. In fact, we cannot understand spiritual things without Him.

Paul knew this very well, because in 1 Corinthians 2:13 – 14, he said, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Paul knew this from personal experience. As a young man, he knew his Bible better than you or I ever will, but he was clueless about the Holy Spirit.
So if you and I are following Jesus’ advice and treasuring Jesus’ words and commands, and following through on them, then the Holy Spirit will find a warm welcome in our hearts. And He will help us understand those words, and see important meanings in those commandments, and help us live them out.

Last night as I was finalizing this sermon, I took a break and went down to the kitchen. Shelley had just bought a fairly large container of hummus at the store. Earlier, she had put that hummus container on the dining room table as we were eating our meal, and I had spread some of it on some vegetables she had prepared, and it tasted good.

So during my break in my sermon work, I got that hummus out, and took some Triscuits and one by one dip them into that hummus. And it tasted wonderful.

Years ago, when I was first introduced to hummus, I looked at it with great suspicion, the way one looks at okra when introduced to it. Or salted seaweed. I tasted a little bit of hummus, and didn’t think much of it. And it was a long time before I even tried it again.

But over the years I have learned to use it, and appreciate it. And the hummus Shelley bought yesterday looked so good. She could tell you what other ingredients were in it – olive oil, and some red kind of spice, – but when I dug that Triscuit into it, and bit down on the result, it was amazing.

Isn’t that kind of like what happens when the Holy Spirit is allowed into your life? Remember, you and I give Him permission to enter our lives when we show by our words and actions that we respect Jesus and His words, and His commands. And also that we respect His Father’s commands.

But if we have shown the Holy Spirit that He truly is welcome, interesting things will happen when He arrives. We won’t all start bursting out in foreign languages, because that happened in Acts 2 when the gospel had to be spread simultaneously to people in many languages, and it later happened in other parts of Acts to confirm that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit just as well as Jews could.

I’ll tell you something that happened to me which must’ve been the Holy Spirit’s work. Back right around the time Shelley and I were married, and I was teaching college English in Nebraska, I suddenly got something I never had before – a hunger, almost a lust, to read the Bible. I had a little serviceman’s edition of the King James Bible, and I would carry that around, and when I had a break, I would open it and read from it. It just felt so warm and comfortable to open those pages and see what they had to say.

That special hunger lasted for several months, right around the time when I began to feel the call to the ministry, which I’m sure was also from the same Holy Spirit.

And I’ve discovered that when the Holy Spirit is given permission to work in the life, the results are very satisfying. I’m just so thankful to the Lord for providing this really undeserved gift to us, to comfort us in what can often seem like a lonely world, in which there are not a lot of people like us.
How about you? Would you like to take steps to allow the Holy Spirit to work more strongly and wonderfully in your life? Would you like to raise your hand if that is your wish?