Caught and Taught by the Spirit

Sermon Series: Caught By the Spirit

Caught and Taught by the Spirit

April 26, 2012 - April 29, 2012

Ezekiel 36:24-28; John 14:15-18, 25-26

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Harry Heintz

Listen to this Sermon

A woman arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up her car.  She was told the keys had been locked in it.  She went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver’s side door. As she watched from the passenger side, she instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked.  She said to the technician, “Hey, this door is open!”  He replied:  “I know. I already did that side.  Now I am doing the driver’s door.”  We might call that a case of knowledge without wisdom.  Like when you’re at the airport going through security and you are asked:   “Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?”  These things really happen.  There is a lot of knowledge in our world that is untethered to wisdom.


As this series on the ministry of the Holy Spirit is unfolding, we are hearing the words wisdom and knowledge used frequently.  We heard them last week in Isaiah 11:2:

“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him--The Spirit of wisdom and understanding . . . the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”  We will hear them more next week in looking at ways the Holy Spirits gifts us for service, looking at 1 Corinthians 12, where both wisdom and knowledge are listed as gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit.


There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Both are good and both are needed, but there is a difference.  Knowledge has to do with gathering information.  It is much of what formal education is about, gathering information.  Wisdom has more to do with rightly using information.  Knowledge can lead to better living, but not automatically.  There are a lot of people with knowledge lacking wisdom.  If we had to choose between knowledge and wisdom I expect most of us would readily choose wisdom.  It is far better to live wisely without all the world’s information than to live foolishly with lots of trivial information.  But we don’t have to make that choice.  The Holy Spirit comes to give us knowledge and wisdom.  The Spirit comes to fill our heads with God’s truth and make our hearts warm and alive to God.


Ezekiel said it this way:  “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  (Ezekiel 36:27.)  The Spirit does not come to lead us to lawless and foolish living, but to align our lives with God’s wisdom.  Here is how Jesus said it:  “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.)  The Spirit’s ministry is anchored to God’s word.  The Holy Spirit is God.  He does not freelance.  Triune God—ever living as Father, Son, and Spirit—is one God.  Each member of the Trinity will act consistently with the other two members.  This is one God.


“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.”  (John 14:16-17a.)  The advocate.  There is no one way to translate the word Jesus used.  It takes a handful of words to give a fuller picture.  The Greek word is paraklete, which as a seminary professor of mine liked to say, is not to be confused with a parakeet.  Paraklete comes from two Greek words, meaning “one called alongside another.”  Six descriptions will give us a fuller picture of the ministry of the Spirit.



Advocate.  This is the choice of the NIV, which we commonly use.  Advocate carries the sense of one going to bat for us, presenting our case in the best way, making sure we get our rights.


Counselor.  This is a closely related word to advocate.  A good counselor gives us good advice, helpful counsel.


Lawyer.  In a day in which lawyer jokes are rampant, we need to be reminded of the good roles lawyers play, helping people in a host of ways.  We have some outstanding lawyers in this congregation, people of high integrity that seek to help others understand the law and get fair treatment.

Notice that these three fit together nicely.  But Jesus’ first frame of reference in using paraklete was not the courtroom.  It was daily life.  In our daily living we often need good advocates, good counselors, and good lawyers.  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come alongside us so that we can live in God-honoring ways.  Now I use three other words that have a very different feel, but catch more of the meaning of paraklete.


Friend.  Eugene Peterson used this in “The Message.”  At first it may sound too light, but not if we understand friendship as a deep bond, rather than a casual acquaintance.  A true friend stands alongside us when we are in need.


Presence.  When Gordon Fee finished his exhaustive book on every reference to the Holy Spirit in the Apostle Paul’s letters, he named the book “God’s Empowering Presence.” Jesus said that the Spirit would live with us and in us.  We spent some time last Sunday considering how the Spirit manifests God’s presence.  Though unseen, he is God present with us.


Mentor/teacher.  In the two words above I did some name-dropping.  Eugene Peterson and Gordon Fee have both mentored and taught me.  I have spent time in their presence (much longer in Gordon Fee’s).  I have received their teaching and been greatly enriched by them.  They have pointed me to Jesus and continue to do so.  They have served as spiritual guides to me, even as they were guided by the Spirit.


“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.)  Henrietta Mears was a Christian educator at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood CA for a long stretch in the 20th century.  She influenced countless people to love and serve Jesus.  Some went on to have global ministries, like Bill Bright, who founded Campus Crusade for Christ.  She was passionate about her educational calling.  She said: “What is a teacher? A teacher is God's person, in God's place, doing God's work, in God's way, for God's glory.”  She was borrowing (and I expect she knew it) from what Jesus said about the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.  An old adage says, “Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.”  Not true! Wrong!  The Holy Spirit comes to teach us, to remind us of all that Jesus said.


There are ways to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry.  I hold up two.  One, develop a regular daily pattern of Bible reading.  We provide help for that, making available Scripture Union’s two daily guides free of charge.  We also provide study Bibles, which add helpful notes for Bible reading.  Two, we recommend getting in a group study.  You have an insert in today’s worship guide with a listing of some of the summer studies coming.  One of the most pulled out of context verses in the Bible is John 8:32:  “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  It is etched on the entrance to great libraries.  What we need to know is what Jesus said immediately before that:  “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples . . . and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  (NRSV.)  Continuing in God’s word cooperates with the Spirit’s teaching ministry.


Ezekiel described a Spirit ministered heart transplant:  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  (Ezekiel 36:26.)  A few years ago I had some heart abnormalities.  My heartbeat was lower than the norm and I would sometimes pass out.  I went to a cardiologist and he had a monitor implanted in my chest to read my heart activities around the clock.  A year later I went in so he could read my heart activity for a year.  He stood next to me (another kind of paraklete!) and used a computer monitor to read my heart.  He is a very calm man with a soft voice.  I watched him as he silently read my heart activity, wondering what he was seeing.  He stopped at one point, looked at me, and asked, “What were you doing on June 12?”  It came back to me instantly.  “That was the day my daughter and I hiked the Bright Angel trail from the base of the Colorado River to the south rim of Grand Canyon (a four-plus-hour hike taking us up one full mile on dusty trails in the Arizona sun).”  He looked back at the monitor and said, “Good.  That explains that.”  I want my heart to be as alive and vulnerable to God’s Spirit as it was to that monitor.  I don’t want to have a heart of stone, but a heart of Spirit indwelt flesh, warm and pulsating with God’s life in me.


Jesus said, 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.”  (John 14:16.)  He would send another advocate/counselor/lawyer/friend/presence/mentor-teacher.  We have a team on our side.  Jesus and the Spirit are advocating for us.  Last Sunday I said that the Holy Spirit whispers in our ears:  God is with you.  He does.  But there is more to his message.  He also whispers what is obvious if that is true, but what we need to hear:  You are not alone.  God is with you; you are not alone.  Jesus did not leave us as orphans.  He sent another advocate, the Spirit of the living God.  God is with us; we are not alone.

To contact Harry Heintz about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180