“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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.” (John 16:12-15 ESV)
There are many great memories I have of elementary school. While I enjoyed recess and playing kick-ball or walking on stilts, I truly enjoyed learning and reading. I’m still an avid reader and would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. I have an insatiable curiosity about certain topics and a vivid imagination. When I read a fiction work I always see the story and character’s actions play out like a movie in my mind. But, one thing I have realized about learning is that it takes time and has prerequisites.
For example, you can’t learn or understand higher mathematical concepts until you have a good strong grasp on the underlying concepts. I couldn’t really begin to learn algebra until I understood addition, subtraction, multiplication and division quite well. I suspect that one of the reasons I still don’t grasp some of these higher mathematical concepts is because I still struggle with advanced algebra. I’m just not there, yet.
Jesus tells the disciples in this passage that He has many more things to tell them but they cannot handle them, yet. They are missing some details, experiences, maturity and faith prerequisites. They aren’t ready. They can’t bear them now. However, that doesn’t mean this knowledge will be left out of their spiritual education, just delayed in its delivery. While it is really easy to run right past this statement and jump to the next, I want you to pause and consider the implications of what Jesus said.
If the disciples weren’t spiritually ready for certain lessons and Jesus delayed them until they were ready, won’t He do the same for/in us? Now, don’t misunderstand the implications of this truth. This doesn’t mean that Jesus will avoid a lesson because it is difficult or challenging, but only that He will delay it until we are able to “bear it.” The idea is that we must be capable of picking it up and carrying it.
I’ve often heard Christians talk about whether or not they would pray for patience because of James’ admonition that “the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3 KJV) They approach the fulfillment of this verse as if it were optional or a lesson that only occurs when we seek it or pray for it. They don’t want to face any trials or troubles, so they simply won’t seek or pray for patience. I don’t find any biblical support for that faulty notion. God’s desire is to prepare you to become more like Jesus each day of your life. When that is not occurring then God enacts discipline in our lives to bring us back to obedience and fellowship (see Heb. 12:3-13). If you’re not being patient, then expect trials and troubles because God desires the character of Christ in you.
Now, here’s the part I want you to get… His lessons will be appropriate to you, your needs/challenges and your spiritual maturity. Some think God will never give us more than we can personally handle, but He won’t give us more than we can bear. I think those things are very different.
When we are capable of handling an issue then we seldom look to anyone else for assistance. Sort of a “step back, I’ve got this” attitude or approach. But we are often faced with challenges which we have no ability to resolve or handle and that forces us to rely on God, to learn to trust His heart and goodness. God will often put us in circumstances that stretch and develop our faith, but He won’t try and teach us a lesson or take us through a trial that we are are too spiritually immature to understand or bear. In other words, He won’t walk away and leave you drowning in your spiritual immaturity. Perhaps an illustration will help…
I have two young grandsons. I’m a very proud papa and love spending time with each of them. However, one is twelve and one is two. The things I attempt to teach the twelve year old are very different than the things I attempt to teach the two year old. For example, I spent some time with the twelve year old and his dad the other day and he was making a wood base for a project he had built. His dad and I spent 30-45 minutes teaching him how to properly use a power saw to cut the base to the needed dimensions. We started by teaching him safety lessons about the saw, then measurement and cutting tips. In the end, he cut the wood base himself with our supervision. I would NEVER attempt that with the two year old. He still has play tools that only make sounds that sound real. He’s not able to bear those lessons, yet. Our Father is SO much wiser than we are and understands our limitations and needs.
Guide Us To Truth:
But, when the Spirit of Truth comes the disciples will be guided into “all the truth.” The Word John uses here indicates that it is each individual piece, one at a time, that makes up the totality of truth. So, the words recorded for us by the Apostles are the very truths of God as revealed by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. I want you to notice the contrast between the words of truth as spoken by the Holy Spirit and those lies spoken by Satan…
“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” (John 8:43-45 ESV)
When the Holy Spirit speaks, He is speaking only what He hears from the Father and it IS all of the truth. But when the devil speaks, he does not stand in the truth but speaks from his own character and in his own authority and it IS only lies. Now, the problem is that while we have the image of God in us, we also have the brokenness of sin in us and what comes out is often a mixture of truth and lies. Sometimes, we get it right and we see the goodness in man’s heart and actions. But, we often get it wrong and then we see the selfishness or outright evil that can erupt from our hearts and be expressed in our actions.
Today, we are often told to look inside us for what’s good and holy and to “just follow our hearts.” This is the message of of our age, but it is a lie from the Devil. If you want to find the truth, you need to listen to the Word of God as the Holy Spirit guided the Apostles into all the truth. As I said, sometimes we get it right and the things we do are good and holy but we often get it wrong. How can you tell the difference? The Psalmist puts it this way…
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105 ESV)
The prophet Isaiah records God’s view of our thoughts and actions this way…
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
So, the Apostles are NOT told to simply look inside themselves and they would find the truth they would need for teaching and leading the fledgling church, but to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit who would reveal all the truth of God to them. In fact, Jesus specifically ordered them to “wait for the promise of the Father…” (Acts 1:4 ESV)
If these guys needed the Holy Spirit’s guidance into all the truth and were ordered to wait until He arrived before they began ministry, why should we think we can think and act in accordance with the truth on our own? We desperately need this same truth and power in our lives and churches, today!
One Focus, One Purpose:
One last thing I want you to notice in this passage is the focus of the Holy Spirit’s mission, Jesus’ glory and message. His entire aim will be to bring glory to God through Jesus. How will that be accomplished? By focusing the message and mission of the church on Jesus, not us. Let me state this very clearly so that there’s no misunderstanding… the focus of the church is NOT you, it’s not me, it’s not even the homeless and the lost of our society. The focus of the church is to be the glory of God through Jesus Christ!
The reason we see so little of the Holy Spirit’s true power and presence in the church of America today is not because God has stopped working, but because we’ve shifted our focus off of the glory of God through Jesus Christ and onto ourselves. When we put that focus back where it belongs and begin to live and act in the reality of that truth then, and only then, will we begin to see true revival, Spirit empowered revival, in our churches. We don’t need bigger buildings or budgets. We don’t need the right music style or worship band/leader. We don’t even need the most gifted speaker, preacher or evangelist. What we need is to fall on our faces before a Holy God and to refuse to budge until our hearts are right and our focus is directed towards Him.
When the only person we are aware of during worship is Jesus then we will begin to see what God desires to do through us. Oh, and it won’t be to build a new building. By the way, do we need to “wait in Jerusalem until the promise (Holy Spirit) comes”? He has come and is waiting on us… get on your face before God and get your heart and focus right. Then get up and get busy doing what He guides you into in accordance with the truth as revealed in His Word.