God’s Promise: I Am With You
Lesson Eight: God with Us as the Holy Spirit
Primary Scripture: John 14:16–20
Lesson Eight brings God’s promise of presence solidly into our present. In Jesus’ farewell discourse in the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that he will continue to be with them.
Because you and I today are heirs of that precious promise, it is worth reading again:
“. . . And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you (Jn. 14:16–20).”
The end of verse 17 intrigues me. Jesus says, “You know [the Holy Spirit], because [the Holy Spirit] abides with you, and [the Holy Spirit] will be in you.” The suggestion here is that we will come to know the Holy Spirit personally, intimately even. You see, we aren’t invited simply to know about the Holy Spirit, but to experience the Holy Spirit, abiding with us, alive in us.
How would you describe the difference between knowing about something and experiencing something?
Knowing about something and experiencing something are two entirely different things. I invite you to experience the Holy Spirit of God—alive and working in your life, in you. I invite you not just to seek that experience, thinking you haven’t had it, but, perhaps primarily, I invite you to recognize that experience as it already is. It may be that you think you’re not that holy of a person and therefore don’t really experience the Holy Spirit. Or maybe you think, “I’m really more of a thinker than a feeler. And this experiencing-the-Holy Spirit-stuff sounds a little touchy-feely to me.” Or maybe you think experiencing the Holy Spirit is more for Pentecostals than for Presbyterians. Maybe you’ve already decided to settle for simply knowing about the Holy Spirit and not experiencing it.
All of this would be fine except that it’s less than God intended. Remember that Jesus said, “you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you (Jn. 14:19b–20).” God-with-us-as-the-Holy-Spirit-in-us is intended to be an experience.
What if we learned to recognize it—to name the Holy Spirit at work? What would that be like? When the ordinary everyday of your life fills you with deep gratitude and contentment—that’s the Holy Spirit. When beautiful music or other artistic expression tightens your throat and lifts your spirit, that’s the Holy Spirit. When you feel at home, welcomed and known among friends, for the first time in a long time, that’s the Holy Spirit. When your heart breaks for the pain of the world, of a neighbor, of a loved one—that’s the Holy Spirit. When a scripture passage speaks truth to your doubts or speaks challenge to your certainty—that’s the Holy Spirit. When you experience peace and assurance in the midst of, and in spite of, difficult life circumstances—that’s the Holy Spirit. When a sermon or a prayer speaks directly to you, as if the preacher or the pray-er has read your mind—that’s the Holy Spirit. When healing comes after years of hurting—that’s the Holy Spirit. When you say what must be said with wisdom or courage that’s not your own—that’s the Holy Spirit. When you not only have but use your unique and impressive gifts to serve and bless others—that’s the Holy Spirit. When joy so fills you that you feel like dancing (even if you don’t actually dance)—that’s the Holy Spirit. When people of completely different views and radically different life experiences stick together in the same church family through thick and thin—that’s the Holy Spirit. When faith is planted and endures for a lifetime long—that’s the Holy Spirit. When you are convinced of hope and life beyond what can be seen and touched—that’s the Holy Spirit.
God dwelling in you, forever, that’s the Holy Spirit.
Amy Poling Sutherlun
Author of the 2018–2019 PW/Horizons Bible Study
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