What the Holy Spirit Does

John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15

November 18, 2023 | Brian Bill

One of the action steps from the message last weekend was to look for and listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit.  When the Spirit prompts us and pushes us, we were challenged to practice immediate obedience.  

Over the past couple months, I’ve had a couple brief conversations with two guys who meet together at a coffee shop on Wednesday mornings.  I often wear an hat with our church logo, so they know I’m a pastor.  This week, I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to walk by their table.  When I did, one of them stopped me and asked, “Where in the Bible does it say God helps those who help themselves?”  I smiled and told them that phrase doesn’t come from the Bible but originated in Aesop’s Fables and was popularized by Benjamin Franklin.  They both had surprised looks on their faces.  I don’t think they believed me.  

Then, the other guy stepped up to the plate and asked, “Where in the Bible does it say cleanliness is next to godliness?”  I smiled and replied, “Strike two.  That statement is not in Scripture either.  It probably came from a mom trying to get her kids to clean their rooms.”  I could tell my answer was unsatisfactory because they both looked skeptical.  They probably thought I didn’t know my Bible very well.

Then, the other guy asked a third question: “Doesn’t it say somewhere that the Pharisees focused on having clean dishes while having dirty hearts?  Where’s that verse?”  I told him that is in the Bible.  I went over to my table, picked up my Bible, came back and read Matthew 23:25-26 out loud in the middle of a busy coffeehouse: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”  

This led to a discussion about our unholy hearts and how Jesus came to wash away our sins.  I mentioned how many of us feel we need to clean ourselves up on the outside but only Jesus can clean us up on the inside.  Because the Holy Spirit had opened this door, I was able to give each of them a gospel pamphlet and invite them to church.  This prompting from the Holy Spirit was very subtle.  I sensed He wanted me to walk by their table and He did the rest.  I’m glad I obeyed.

Would you rather have Jesus right next to you or have the Holy Spirit within you? 

Here’s a good question to ponder.  Would you rather have Jesus right next to you or have the Holy Spirit within you?  One pastor puts it like this: “When Jesus was on earth, His miraculous work was contained to wherever He was at the moment.  Now that He is in us, His power is wherever we are.  The Spirit inside us is better than Jesus beside us.”

In John 16:7, Jesus said it would be to our benefit for Him to go away so the Spirit could dwell inside us: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you.”  

The word “nevertheless” is used as a contrast or antithesis to what the disciples were feeling.  Then, Jesus said something to get their full attention: “I tell you the truth…”  Jesus always told the truth but it’s as if He’s saying, “Listen up guys.  This is extremely important.”

What He said next was shocking: “it is to your advantage that I go away…”  This word means, “useful, profitable or beneficial.”  There was no way the disciples were thinking it was a good thing for Jesus to leave them.  How could it be to their advantage to have Jesus go away?   Of what benefit would it be for Jesus to be gone from them?  How could anything be better than having Jesus right next to them?

Jesus proceeded to tell them why His departure would be profitable for them: “for if I do not go away, the Helper [there’s that word again], will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you.”  Jesus used the word, “go” three times to help the disciples understand He was really going to leave them.  His going would be essential to the sending of the Spirit.  To “send” means, “to dispatch and thrust out.”  

That leads to our main idea: The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

While Jesus could not physically be everywhere geographically at once, the Holy Spirt is everywhere present at the same time.  If you’ve been born of the Spirit, the Spirit indwells you, He walks with you, and He prompts you in your culture and in your context.

We’re continuing in our series on the Holy Spirt we’re calling, “Our Holy Helper.”  Last weekend, we focused on who the Holy Spirit is by unpacking John 14:16-17.  We celebrated this truth: If you’ve been born of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is your holy Helper, who will always be with you while doing His work within you.

We learned seven vital truths about the identity of the Holy Spirit.

  • The Holy Spirit is God and the third member of the Trinity.
  • The Holy Spirit is like Jesus and takes His place on earth.  
  • The Holy Spirit is our Helper.  
  • The Helper will never leave us.  
  • The Helper is the Spirit of truth.  
  • The Holy Spirit is knowable for believers.  
  • The Holy Spirit dwells within believers.  

As we continue in John 14-16, we’ll move from the Holy Spirit’s identity to His activity, from who He is to what He does.  I see six main activities in this section of Scripture.

1. Teaching. 

Consider the first half of John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things…”  We see again how the Holy Spirit is called, “Helper.”  Notice how all three members of the Trinity are involved – the Father sends the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.  Incidentally, this is the only time the name “Holy Spirit” is found in the farewell discourse.  In the original, it literally read like this, “The Spirit, the holy one.” This puts the stress on how the Holy Spirit is uniquely set apart as holy.

The Holy Spirit instructs in at least two ways.

  • The Holy Spirit teaches believers through the inspiration of the Scriptures. We see this in 2 Peter 1:21: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  
  • The Spirit also does His work of illumination so we can understand the Scriptures when we read them.  As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, we can only understand and discern the Scriptures “through the Spirit.”  The Spirit of God will always point us to the Word of God as the source of all truth according to Ephesians 1:17-18: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”
The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

Through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we become aware of who God is, who we are, how we can be saved from our sins, and sanctified for service.  It’s imperative that we spend time in the inspired Word of God, seeking the Spirit’s illumination and understanding.  It’s also important for us to gather with God’s people in a local church so we can grow as our Holy Helper equips us through those who have the spiritual gifts of pastoring and teaching.

The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

2. Reminding. 

The Helper teaches us, and He also reminds us of things we already know according to the last part of verse 26: “…and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  It’s one thing to be taught something new, but another to remember what we have already learned.  Jennifer Wilkin says, “We do not need new truths.  We need to be reminded of old truths recently forgotten.”

The word “remembrance” means, “to put into one’s mind, to call to mind, to recollect.”  Specifically, the Holy Spirit made sure the disciples didn’t forget all that Jesus taught them.  It’s clear from many gospel passages that the disciples didn’t understand the full meaning of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, so they needed the Holy Spirit to teach them and to remind them.

We need to be reminded as well.  While it’s certainly good to be taught brand new things from the Scriptures, for most of us, we simply need to be reminded of what we already know.  To say it another way, the Holy Spirit does not bring new revelation to believers today but does bring to remembrance the things we have forgotten.

Listen to what 2 Peter 1:12-13 says, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.  I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder.”  2 Peter 3:1 continues this theme: “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.  In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.”  

In the Bible, “remembering” is not just bringing something back to mind; it implies a change of behavior, so our lives line up with what we’ve been reminded of.  Remembering is not a passive attitude; it’s a proactive activity which leads to action.  We’re to ponder and then put into practice.  We’re called to remember so we can recalibrate our lives according to what’s being remembered.

One of the results of living in a fallen world is forgetfulness.  That’s why we need the Holy Spirit to help us remember.  One pastor puts it poignantly: “Most Christians are educated way beyond the level of their obedience already.  We don’t need to know more; we need to do more.”

The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

3. Witnessing. 

Turn now to John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me.”

Again, we see the Trinity working together as Jesus will send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father.  The Nicene Creed, written in A.D. 325, as a response to those who denied the divinity of Christ, was revised in 381 in reaction to a heresy that denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  No doubt they had this verse in mind when these words were formulated: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.  With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified…”

The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus.  To “bear witness” means, “to testify to the truth of what one has seen, heard, or experienced.”  The Helper doesn’t promote Himself but loves to point people to Christ.  We see this in the Book of Acts as the Holy Spirit shows up 59 times, more than twice per chapter.

The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus and we’re to do the same according to verse 27: “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”  The Spirit, and those born of the Spirit, testify to the truth of the good news of the gospel.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to bear witness by being witnesses to our neighbors and to the nations.  We see this in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  

The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

4. Convicting. 

This is another courtroom term and was used of a judge condemning those who are guilty.  This role is spelled out in John 16:8-11: “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

The word “convict” means to prove one is wrong.  Our holy Helper does His convicting work in three main areas.

  • Sin.  We’re all self-centered and selfish sinners.
  • Righteousness.  We are unholy and unrighteous.
  • Judgment.  Where sin and unrighteousness meet, judgment follows.  If you do not believe in and receive Jesus Christ, you will be judged forever in a place called Hell.

We don’t need to convince people they are unrighteous sinners headed to judgment because we are not prosecutors or judges.  We are witnesses who tell people about sin, righteousness, and judgment, and leave the convicting up to our Holy Helper.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ paid the price for all of your sins and when you repent of your sins, and receive Jesus into your life, you will be declared righteous and will avoid the eternal judgment you deserve.  

The Bible says there are at least two ways we can short-circuit the Holy Spirit’s convicting work in our lives.

  • We can grieve the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 4:30-31: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”  To “grieve” means, “to make sad or sorry.”  We grieve the Holy Spirit by holding on to gross stuff in our lives and by allowing relational grievances which foment bitterness in our lives.  

Pastor Rich Kraft writes: “When we submit to the Holy Spirit every moment of every day, the awesome power of God at work in our lives is overwhelming.  When we fail to surrender ourselves, we not only grieve the Holy Spirit, but we miss out on this great, intended blessing that comes from God.  Why would anyone want to do that?”

  • We can quench the Holy Spirit1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not quench the Spirit.”  To “quench” means, “to put out a fire, to put a damper on.”  When we ignore the Holy Spirit by continuosly compromising our morals and biblical convictions, the fire of the Holy Spirit can be reduced to smoldering embers.

This command is similar to what Timothy was told in 2 Timothy 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God.”  Another translation puts it like this: “Keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you.”  Got Questions says it like this: “The Lord’s presence is often described as ‘a consuming fire.’  Fire represents zeal, passion, enthusiasm, power, illumination, and purity.  The fire of God’s presence exists in every Christian through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”  That’s why we must be careful not to quench Him.

One of the best ways to make sure we’re not grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit is by keeping short accounts with God and with others.  When you mess up, own it.  When you sin, confess it.  When you’ve wronged someone, make it right.  

One of my pastor friends says it better than I can: “Unconfessed sin in the life of the believer is like an open wound that rots progressively and fills the air with such a pungent odor that God’s presence is repelled.  He waits to restore relationship…until the believer has asked him to forgive the sin, cleanse the wound, heal it, and restore the fullness of relationship.”

The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

5. Guiding. 

Another role of the Holy Spirit is to guide believers into truth.  We see this in John 16:13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are yet to come.”  The word “guide” means, “to lead the way as the leader.”  

Everything the Holy Spirit does and says is true.  He will never lead us to do something contrary to the Word of God.  In a world filled with error and heresy, the propagation and protection of truth is one of the main ministries of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of truth guides all disciples into all truth.

Warren Wiersbe says the Spirit guides us into the truth of “Jesus’ teaching” through the GOSPELS; He guides us into “all the truth” through the EPISTLES; and He declares the things that are “yet to come” in the BOOK OF REVELATION.

Since the Spirit is committed to lead us, we must commit to follow Him.  Psalm 143:10 is a great prayer to pray: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!  Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”

As we mentioned last weekend, the Holy Spirit also prompts and prods us to accomplish specific tasks and assignments.  I think of Acts 8:26-40 when the Holy Spirit nudged Philip to help the Ethiopian eunuch understand a passage he was reading: “And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’  So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet…”

The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.  

6. Glorifying. 

The final role of the Holy Spirit of the Holy Spirit from the Gospel of John is found in John 16:14: “He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  To “glorify” is emphatic and means, “to honor, praise, prize, and esteem.”  We could say it like this: “The Son reveals and glorifies the Father, and the Spirit reveals and glorifies the Son.”  The Holy Spirit brings glory to Jesus Christ, not to Himself, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:3: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

In short, the Holy Spirit has been sent to showcase the Son, to shine the spotlight on His words and His work of redemption.  2 Corinthians 3:17-18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

I want to point something out.  The phrase “He will” is repeated 7 times in verses 13-15 to show the absolute certainty of what the Holy Spirit will do.  Listen for the words “He will” as I read: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Before wrapping up, the Bible mentions at least 11 other roles of the Holy Spirit.  I’ll mention them briefly for the sake of time.

    1. The Holy Spirit will give us words to say when we don’t know what to say.  Luke 12:11-12: “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
    2. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to put to death the deeds of the body.   Romans 8:2: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
    3. He gives us the Spirit of adoption as children.  Romans 8:15-16: “…But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
    4. The Holy Spirit gives us hope in hopeless situations.  Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
    5. The Holy Spirit produces holiness within us.  Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
    6. He gives us spiritual gifts to be used in His service in order to build up the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:4, 7, 11: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…all these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.”  More about this next weekend.
    7. The Holy Spirit calls some to be missionaries by setting them apart “for the work to which He called them” (Acts 13:2).
    8. The Holy Spirit produces God’s love in our hearts.  Romans 5:5: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
    9. The Holy Spirit prays for us.  Romans 8:26-27: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
    10. The Holy Spirit causes the Fruit of the Spirit to ripen in our lives.  Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
    11. The main work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us through the new birth. John 3:8 says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit changes us from sinners to saints, from being enemies of God to becoming friends of God, from those who are spiritually dead to those who are now spiritually alive.  Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

I close with some questions.

  1. Have you been born of the Spirit? If not, it’s time to repent of your sins and receive the free gift of salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
  2. Is Christianity more a set of beliefs to which you adhere and a lifestyle to which you conform, or is it a dynamic relationship in which you walk by the Spirit and move in His power? Galatians 3:3 asks some probing questions: “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Valley of Vision Prayer

Join me as I pray an excerpt of a prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers.

“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 thee. Vain are all divine purposes of love and the redemption wrought by Jesus except thou work within, regenerating by thy power, giving me eyes to see Jesus, showing me the realities of the unseen world. Give me thyself without measure, as an unimpaired fountain, as inexhaustible riches. I bewail my coldness, poverty, emptiness, imperfect vision, languid service, prayerless prayers, praiseless praises. Suffer me not to grieve or resist thee…magnify to me thy glory by being magnified in me and make me redolent of thy fragrance.  In Jesus’ Name.”

May the Holy Spirit enable us to give off the sweet fragrance of Jesus everywhere we go today to the glory of God the Father.

Closing Doxology

As a way to give praise to our Triune God for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will still do, let’s stand and sing the Doxology.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?