From John 14 this article shows the work of the Holy Spirit in being the Paraclete and bringing the believer to communion with God.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 2010. 3 pages.

Not Alone Jesus' going means God's People will Never be Deserted

We seem fated to be alone. Ironically in the 21st century, with more peo­ple on the planet and more ways to connect, we are more alone than ever. Our loneliness is heightened by our claim for autonomy. We have turned existence into an individual affair. We are who we make our­selves to be and we refuse to let others define us. We choose our own values and even our own destiny as much as we choose our hair styles. The modern city represents our culture an aggregation of profoundly lonely self-defined people. In the city we make our own identities and don't know the name of our next door neighbour.

We talk about community a great deal. That is because we do not have the genuine product. The community we do have is simply what we create on the basis of autonomy. We choose our communities — whether our club or our Facebook friends, but we can opt out as easily as we opt in.

Christians can suffer the same affliction. We feel isolated in our culture, lonely voices trying to sing God's praise yet drowned out by a cacophony of other sounds. Our response is to draw in close to each other so at least we can hear some friendly voices. We throw ourselves into creating a sense of community in our churches, trying to compensate for what is missing in modern cul­ture. Regularly our churches fail our expectations and are no more satisfying than what we find around us. It is important that churches live as real communities, but unless our commu­nity goes deeper than our attempts to create connections they will offer no more than is found in a myriad of other self-created communities.

Jesus' words to His disciples in John 14 tell us about a real community and the final answer to loneliness (all the references in this article come from John's gospel). He looked ahead knowing that He was about to leave His disci­ples and His words must have been shocking. When He said "do not let your hearts be troubled" (14:1), there was obviously good reason that was likely, just as the instruction "do not panic" inevitably announces a good reason to do just that. Jesus goes on to warn them that the world will hate them (15:19-21) and people will want to kill them (16:2). He also tells them that they are filled with grief (16:6), though it seems they remain more confused than grieving (16:16-18).

We know more clearly what Jesus was talking about. In just a few hours He would be arrested, put on trial and executed. Then the disciples' world would fall apart. They would be bereft and their lives would be under threat. Even after His resurrection His departure would continue as He returned to glory with the Father.

What could the disciples expect? At the very least they could expect to be thrown out of the synagogues, rejected by their own people. It is no surprise that after Jesus' death the disciples met in closed rooms. Yet the frightened hud­dle is not what Jesus planned for His followers. He had called them to be His church, a city on a hill and light to the world. How could they be that? What was Jesus' answer to their loneliness?

Jesus' teaching addresses life after He leaves. He tells His disciples that, despite appearances, after He goes they will not be alone. In fact they will have closer and deeper fellowship with God, because life after He leaves is life by the Spirit. Jesus says that He will ask the Father and the Father will give them the Spirit (14:16, 26). The gift of the Spirit depends on Jesus' return to the Father, and He even tells the disciples that He goes away for their good because only then will the Spirit come (16:7). Jesus' departure looks like a disaster, but is, in fact, a great turning point in God's plan. Just as everything changed when Jesus the promised Messiah came, everything changed again when the Spirit came.

Jesus promised "another Counsellor". The word He used — paraclete — is a legal word. It doesn't mean a psychologist or even merely an adviser but an advocate who defends a case in court. He stands beside the accused and helps them through. The Spirit is "another" Counsellor, though Jesus is never called a counsellor in John's gospel. The parallel is probably His description of Himself as the Good Shepherd who cares for and defends and feeds His flock, and even gives His life for them. The Holy Spirit fills a similar role: He is with the disciples to care for them and guide them. Indeed the Spirit will be closer to them than Jesus had been. They had lived with Jesus, but now the Spirit would live in them (14:17).

Jesus' promise is a stunning answer to the fear of loneliness for all God's people. The Old Testament prophets expected a New Age when God's Spirit would be among His people. Jesus' promise declares that His going brings the coming of this age. So we do not live alone. God indwells us by His Spirit. No matter how isolated you might feel at times, the reality of living as a Christian is that you are never abandoned. God is present, so present that He says that His Spirit is "in" you.

Knowing that may not stop you feel­ing lonely in one step. Living and grow­ing as a Christian means trusting that we have the Spirit and resting in Him and learning to enjoy fellowship with Him. Like all of the Christian life we slowly grow into the reality that is already ours. Even as we grow in that fellowship — the reality is already true.

Jesus does not stop with the promise of the Spirit, He has more to say. Although He is going away, He Himself will return to them and they will live because He lives (14:18-19). Christian readers who know about Jesus' "second coming" are tempted to think that He is speaking about that, but in fact He is still talking about the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and He is present in and with the Spirit. When He 'goes' life is not locked away. Just the oppo­site, when Jesus goes away physically, He returns with the Spirit so that the life of God which He has now fills His disciples.

Even that is not all Jesus has to say about life in the Spirit, for the pres­ence of the Spirit also brings the Father into our lives. When Jesus says "we will come ... and make our home", He is speaking for Himself and His Father (14:23). You can see why John 14 is so important for the doctrine of the Trinity — here Jesus teaches that to have the Spirit is to have the Father and Son make their home with us.

Yet Jesus' point is not to teach about the doctrine of the Trinity, but to explain to the disciples that when He goes they will not be alone. In fact He must go, so that the Spirit may come. That is the full answer to loneliness by the presence of the Spirit who comes from the Father and the Son we are brought into the Triune fellowship. We truly are not alone.

Through John's gospel Jesus talks about giving "eternal life". Eternal life is not merely this life extended infinitely, rather it is living in fellowship with God and His life shared with us. Jesus lives in perfect harmony with His Father, and the Father and Son are fully present in the Spirit, so when we receive His Spirit we share in the glorious, loving life of God. The presence of the Spirit means eternal life starts now, because when He comes we share in communion with God.

We won't see that reality until Jesus returns, yet it is true for us now. We live because the Triune God lives in us.

The gift of the Spirit gives us com­munion with the Triune God, and that is His greatest and most wonderful work. In the rest of Jesus' words in John 14-17 He says that the Spirit will teach His followers the truth, enable them to witness in the world and fill them with joy. Those works of the Spirit are the conse­quence of the great reality of commu­nion, which is not just something the Spirit does but rests on who He is.

The Bible tells us about the fruit of the Spirit as we are transformed to be more like Christ, and the gifts of the Spirit which enable us to serve God and each other. It recounts wonderful miracles done by the power of the Spirit and incredible acts of service. Impressive as all of those are, they pale in comparison to the most splendid truth — the pres­ence of the Spirit gives us communion with the Father and Son.

That, it seems to me, is the truth which answers all our loneliness. Jesus would leave, but the disciples would not be alone because His going was the basis for His coming! And so it is for us. This truth is also the deep basis of Christian community. We are not together because we choose to join one another, but because we are united together in Spirit. We don't create community, we enjoy a fellowship which is based out­side us and our choices and preferences. This can be a far from comfortable arrangement — but the discomfort is one of the signs of its reality.

On the basis of our communion with the Triune God, the disciples did not remain huddled in fear. By the Spirit the church is able to be God's witness in the world. Jesus sends us and gives us his Spirit (20:21-22). If you want to under­stand the mission of the church or the dynamics of the Christian life, then the key to understanding is the presence of the Holy Spirit. More important than understanding, the reality of life with God is communion with His Spirit.

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