“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:16,18 (NIV)
Our Lord spoke these words the night before He was crucified. Christ spent the evening with His disciples, eating the Last Supper, and sharing bread and wine as we will do in our communion service today.
They would have been spoken by Jesus either at the Last Supper or, more likely, as He was walking with the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ had already spoken to them about His death: “My children, I will be with you only a little longer” (John 13:33). Christ would be taken from them that night. His arrest, trial, flogging and crucifixion were now only hours away.
Christ had prophesied about His death before, but His disciples did not understand what He was saying. Now it was beginning to dawn on them. So now Christ speaks to them words that have brought comfort and strength to millions: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).
Three different promises
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” John 14:18
“If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
Three times Jesus tells His disciples about His death, and three times He tells them that He will come to them. These promises are fulfilled through His resurrection (v18), through the gift of the Holy Spirit (v23), and through Christ’s second coming (v3).
We’re looking at the last part of this chapter first because it relates to what we experience now—Christ is risen, and Christ is with us by His Holy Spirit. Next week, God willing, we will look at what lies ahead of us, in v3, where Christ promises to take us to be with Himself.
I hope that today’s message will help us to see that what Jesus promises is different from other brands of faith that people confuse with authentic Christianity.
I have coined a couple of phrases that I hope will be helpful. We’re going to look at what I’ll call “orphan faith” and the promise of the resurrection, and then at what I’ll call “non-invasive faith” and the promise of the Holy Spirit.
“Orphan Faith” and the Promise of the Resurrection
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
An orphan is a person who loses both parents through death. Jesus uses the picture of an orphan to describe what the disciples were about to experience. Christ had been like a father to them, referring to the disciples as “my children…” (John 13:33). Now He would be taken from them.
For the disciples, it must have seemed that their whole world was imploding. Three years ago they had heard Jesus’ call to “Follow me” (John 1:43). They left their nets, and during these three years Christ became the center of their world. He was the focus of their hope and their joy. Now Christ would be taken from them, and they would become like orphans.
That is what happened on Good Friday. Jesus died. They took his lifeless body down from the cross. They laid the corpse of Jesus in a stone-cold tomb. The disciples experienced life without Jesus.
What if it had ended there?
What if Jesus had left them as orphans? What would these men have had? What could they have done?
Great teaching—These men had the teaching of Jesus—the greatest teaching this world has ever heard. They had the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount. They had a pattern of life, an ethic to live by—that was greater than any other standard—that they could have shared with the world.
Great example—These men had the example of Jesus. They had observed the only perfect life in all of human history. They had been moved and inspired by His example.
They could have gone into the world and said “We want to tell you about Jesus. We call you to obey His teaching and follow His example.” With this great teaching and this great example, they had enough to construct a faith that drew from Jesus, but did not depend on Him actually being there.
I call this “orphan faith,” a faith that draws its inspiration from Jesus, but does not actually depend on Him being there. Orphan faith has massive appeal because anyone can buy into it. It is a personalized faith, custom built from selected words and actions of Jesus that seem meaningful to the individual today. You simply take what you find helpful in Christ’s teaching and example, and adopt it into your life.
Orphan faith does not need a living Christ. And if there is no living Christ, then there is no one to be obligated to. But orphan faith is not Christian faith. Jesus says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will not leave you to face the world armed only with my teaching and example. I will come to you. It will not end of Good Friday.” (John 14:18).
The presence that matters more than anything else
This is the promise of the resurrection. Christian faith rests on the living presence of Christ in your life. The message of the Christian faith is not “Follow my example and my teaching,” it’s “Follow me.” What you feel about orphan faith says a great deal about you.
Back in the Old Testament, God brought His people out of Egypt and gathered them at Mount Sinai to make a covenant with them. But while Moses was receiving the words of God at the top of the mountain, the people were rebelling against God in the desert below.
When Moses came down the mountain, he smashed the tablets of stone on which God had written. Then he went up the mountain to pray for the people, and he said these remarkable words: “Please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exodus 32:32).
God said to Moses “Go on up to the land I promised… I will send an angel before you… But I will not go with you” (Exodus 33:1-3). That’s quite an offer! God says “Look, here’s the deal: I’ll give you the land flowing with milk and honey—a life of prosperity, and an angel to watch over you and your family—I’ll throw in some protection.” Would you have settled for that?
God made that offer to His people, but Moses tells us “When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn” (Exodus 33:4). What were they mourning about? That God Himself would not be with them. It was the finest hour of the people of God. What mattered to them more than anything else was the presence of God.
John Piper has framed the question this way:
“If you could just have a good job, a good wife or husband, a couple of good kids, a nice car, long weekends, a few good friends, a fun retirement, a quick and easy death, and no hell… would you be satisfied?” 
No satisfaction without Him
The disciples of Jesus would not be satisfied. Jesus was about to be taken from them. They do not say “Jesus will soon be gone but we still have each other.” Or “Jesus is gone, but we can still have a good life.” They do not say “Jesus will soon be gone, but we can still change the world with the message of His teaching.”
The center of their joy is not in their fellowship or in their ministry, nor in what they can achieve in this life, but in Jesus Himself. They could not be satisfied without Him. Jesus says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Jesus doesn’t say “You will not be orphans.” He says “I will not leave you as orphans.”
This is the promise of the resurrection. Jesus says “I am going to die. You will go through the orphan experience. But it will not end there. I won’t leave you there. I will come to you.” The great promise of the gospel is Christ Himself: “I will come to you.”
When Christ was taken from them it made them orphans. Only Christ returning to them, being present with them, could restore what they lost. He does not say “You will go through the orphan experience, but you will have forgiveness, or ministry, or even heaven.” He says “You will have ME! I will come to you.”
All of our blessings are in Jesus Christ. If you have Him, you have all these, but if you don’t have Him, whatever you do have in the land of milk and honey is not the pearl of great price.
Jesus came to the disciples when he rose at Easter. But then He returned to His Father, ascending into heaven. So, how do we know the presence of Christ in our lives? In what way is He with us? How does He come to us? The promise of the resurrection (v18) is accompanied by the promise of the Spirit (v16)…
Jesus’ resurrection life comes to us by the Holy Spirit
“I will ask the Father… He will give you another Counselor” John 14:16
The disciples already had Jesus as their Counselor. But now Jesus is returning to the Father. When He says “another Counselor,” He indicates that this Counselor will be to the disciples what Jesus had been to them, and that He will do for them what He had done for them over the previous three years. This Counselor is “the Spirit of truth,” and Jesus says that He will be with you “forever.”
Notice these words Jesus says: “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching, My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Paul prayed that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17), and he talks about “Christ in you the hope of glory…” (Colossians 1:27).
Christ has ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. But He is present with us by His Holy Spirit. Christ says “I will come to you” through the resurrection, and He says “I will remain with you” through the Holy Spirit. The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit are central to the promise of Jesus. There is no true Christianity without them.
There are many folks who have been in church for years. They are familiar with the creed, they believe that Jesus was God and man and that he died and rose, but somehow it remains outside of them, this faith has never become life-changing for them. They have what I’m going to call a “non-invasive faith.”
Non-invasive Faith and the Promise of the Holy Spirit
I’m using this term “non-invasive faith” to try and describe a second brand of faith that some people confuse with authentic Christianity.
Suppose you go to the doctor, and he diagnoses some serious condition. He says to you “This will need treatment and there are two ways we can go about this: The first is surgery. But there is an alternative treatment that we do for this condition. It is non-invasive.”
I don’t know about you, but at that moment, I’m listening to the second option. I don’t like the idea of someone I don’t know knocking me out, and then taking a scalpel to cut me open and do surgery. If surgery is going to save my life, I will be grateful for it, but I will avoid it if I can. Give me the non-invasive, and if that’s not possible, give me the minimally-invasive option.
I want to suggest to you that by nature we think the same way about faith. Just as many people are drawn to “orphan faith” that takes inspiration from the example of Jesus without depending on him actually being there. Many others opt for a minimally-invasive faith.
They agree that Jesus rose from the dead, but somehow this faith remains outside of them.
Don’t settle for a non-invasive faith
If “orphan faith” is a faith that draws its inspiration from Jesus, but does not depend on Him actually being there, a “non-invasive faith” is a faith that affirms the truth about Jesus, but does not cut into the fiber of everyday life. There are thousands that have settled for a non-invasive faith. But James says “Even the demons believe that” (James 2:19). Non-invasive faith is not Christian faith.
Jesus says about the Holy Spirit: “You know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you…” (John 14:17). The Spirit of God will “live with you” and “be in you.” You cannot get more invasive than that! Christ lives with us in our home until He takes us to live with Him in His home.
What does a non-invasive faith do for you? Believing that there once was a man called Jesus, that He was God, and that He rose from the dead. How does that make a difference in your life? How can that comfort you in suffering? How can that give you strength to face the world today?
Listen to what Jesus says: “Here’s real Christianity—I will come to you. We will make our home with you. The Holy Spirit will be with you and in you. Because I live, you will live also.” Christ gave Himself for us on the cross. Christ gives Himself to us by the Holy Spirit
Sometimes people say, “If only I could see Jesus and actually talk to Him in the flesh…” What would that be like? If He was in Jerusalem, it would cost you thousands of dollars to get there. Most Christians could not afford to go, so they would never have the opportunity to see Him.
Now imagine that Jesus Christ located Himself right here in Arlington Heights. With a third of the world’s population professing some sort of faith in Jesus, can you imagine what this would be like?
O’Hare airport would have to be expanded. You could never travel the roads again—the traffic would be horrific. And you would stand in line, not for hours, but for days and weeks to catch a few moments with Jesus—which you would treasure for the rest of your life—but 99.9% of your life would be lived without the presence of Jesus.
Christ is With You and In You by the Holy Spirit
“I will come to you…” John 14:18 (promise of the resurrection)
“We will make our home with you…” (v23) (promise of the Spirit)
- You are never alone
There is no greater truth than this when you experience loneliness. Jesus does not say “I will visit you from time to time.” He says “I will make my home with you.” There is no situation you will ever face without His presence. Christ will be at home with you until you are at home with Him.
- You are called to obedience
The truth of God’s presence in your life is the greatest incentive to holiness. When Paul had to deal with some folks at Corinth who had opened the door to some flagrant sin in their lives, he said “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19), “therefore, honor God with your body” (v20). There is no place you can go, where you do not take God with you.
- You have strength for today
This is the truth that you need when you feel exhausted, when your own strength has gone. If God is for you, who can be against you? Christ is with you and in you. That’s the promise of the Gospel!
There’s an ancient prayer that goes back to the days of St. Patrick in Ireland—its called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Here’s the refrain:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friends and stranger. 
Will you bind yourself to Him today? Christ says “I will come to you. We will make our home with you.” This promise is for you. Come to Christ—crucified and risen, who gives His Spirit to be with you and in you, forever.
 John Piper, “Don’t Waste Your Life,” p. 45
 This poem is traditionally attributed to St. Patrick
© Colin S. Smith
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