If God’s people in the Old Testament were so unsuccessful in keeping the 10 Commandments, how can we, as Jesus’ disciples, expect to succeed where they failed? The short answer is this: not on our own, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. How exactly does the Spirit empower us to obey Jesus? There are many ways, but today we look at three that emerge from the phrase “another Helper” in John 14:15-17.
When Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) he then explains how they can do this when he says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth […]. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17, italics added). Following are three ways the Helper empowers believers like you and me to keep Jesus’ commands.
- The Spirit strengthens, encourages, and helps the believer.
Jesus introduces the Spirit here using the Greek word paracletos. This is a difficult word to translate into English. Literally, it means “one who is called alongside.” In the ancient world, a paraclete would have come to someone’s help in the way a defense attorney advocated for a defendant. Yet the word isn’t limited to court. The idea extends to someone who gives aid or who strengthens and encourages.
For example, we might think of people who have been through a hurricane and are in trouble. They are hungry, thirsty, tired, in need of medical attention. Then a truck rumbles in carrying water and food and blankets and doctors and kind people who begin to help, encourage, and care for those in need so that they can go out and work and play and live the lives they hope to. That’s the kind of “come alongside” comfort, encouragement, and strengthening the Holy Spirit brings to Jesus’ people.
When you feel weak, when you know you don’t have what you need to do what you need to do, when you’re tempted to sin, when you’re not sure of the way, these are the times the “come alongside” help of the Holy Spirit is available to all who are in Christ.
- The Spirit stays with the believer forever.
When Jesus introduces the Spirit as “another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:15), he’s speaking to disciples who are confused and anxious about his departure. What are they going to do without him? Can you imagine having Jesus as a friend and teacher and leader, and then having him disappear forever? Yet Jesus promises that the Spirit will be to them what he has been to them, and the Spirit will never leave.
Whatever comes your way, you will never be alone. How can we keep God’s commands when everyone around us disregards them? How can we live for Christ when we’re discouraged, lonely, or weary? We can’t on our own, but we have the Helper who will be with us and in us to strengthen us and encourage us and provide us all we need to love and obey and follow Christ.
- The Spirit keeps pointing us to Jesus.
The Spirit is not only another Helper, like Jesus, he’s also a witness who keeps pointing us to Jesus. “He will bear witness about me,” Jesus promises in John 15:26. He will remind us of how Christ has removed our guilt so we have access to God’s throne of grace. He will remind us of all that the Bible teaches us. He will stir our hearts to love Christ and desire to honor him. He will help us keep our eyes fixed on Christ so we can run our race well, fight the good fight, and finish the race with faith.
The Spirit is the key to Jesus’ disciples – both the ones he spoke to face-to-face and those today – being able to keep Jesus’ commandments. We can’t do it without him! He strengthens us, is always with us, and helps us keep our eyes on Christ. Honoring and remembering and depending upon the Holy Spirit is a crucial part of discipleship. One way I’ve found helpful to stir up faith for the Spirit’s ministry is to pray for it. Here’s a prayer I’ve greatly appreciated. It’s adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.
O Holy Spirit,
As the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water,
Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of you.
Vain are all divine purposes of love
and the redemption won by Jesus
unless you work within,
regenerating by your power,
giving me eyes to see Jesus,
showing me the realities of the unseen world.
Give me yourself without measure,
as an unimpaired fountain,
as inexhaustible riches.
I lament my coldness, poverty, emptiness,
imperfect vision, listless service,
prayerless prayers, praiseless praises.
Let me not grieve or resist you.
Come as power,
to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme
and keep me yours;
Come as teacher,
leading me into all truth, filling me with
Come as love,
that I may adore the Father, and love him
as my all;
Come as joy,
to dwell in me, move in me, energize me;
Come as light,
illuminating the Scripture, shaping me
in its laws;
Come as sanctifier,
my body, soul and spirit completely yours;
Come as helper,
with strength to bless and keep, directing my
Come as beautifier,
bringing order out of confusion, loveliness
out of chaos.
Magnify to me your glory by being magnified in me,
and make me fragrant with your aroma.