NOOMANAUTICS — CONNECTING
by Pastor Mike Fortune
September 26, 2009
Introduction Video: Encounter Point
The Holy Spirit connects us to...
- The cross [John 17:1; 12:23; 12:31-32]
- Eternal life [John 17:3; John 3:5; Romans 10:13-15]
- Hope in heaven [John 17:4-5; Philippians 3:14]
Encounter Point is a poignant new documentary created by a team of Palestinian and Israeli women about a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian brother who risk their lives and public standing to promote a nonviolent end to the conflict taking place in the Middle East. It has recently been screened in more than 50 cities worldwide generating lively debate after every showing. I haven’t seen it yet, but I want to. Maybe we’ll add it to our Film Fest list of must see movies to discuss. It reminded me that the third role of the Holy Spirit as revealed in chapters 16-17 of John is connecting.
The Holy Spirit connects us to God and each other
Whether people of other faiths realize that is not the point. The point is God is all about connecting us. It’s one of the Spirit’s roles. In our fall sermon series Noomanautics, we’ve seen how the Holy Spirit convicts us of stuff. And converts us day by day. But a third role it plays is connecting us. Both to God and, as Encounter Point illustrates, with each other. The film’s producer, Joline Makhlouf, says it this way: “We watch the news, we hear about political developments and we witness the bloodshed almost daily. Our aim with this film was not to retell these stories since we are already familiar with them. Rather, we wanted to communicate how ordinary people can change and can confront their communities to do the same.”
And the good news this week is we don’t have to do that connecting on our own. God will help us. By showing us how Jesus stayed connected to the Father, we can with the Spirit’s help stay connected to God too. The first way the Spirit does that is by connecting us to the cross. This is point number one. See if you see this point as well while we read John 17:1-5.
“1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.’”
This prayer concludes Jesus’ parting counsel from the upper room. It is the longest of the prayers of Jesus on record in Scripture and is yet another example of Jesus actually praying with his eyes wide open. We saw him do this earlier in John 11:41 before Lazarus was resurrected from the dead. And he did it again in Mark 6:41 before multiplying the 5 loaves and 2 small fish to feed a ginormous crowd that included at least 5,000 men.
The Holy Spirit connects us to the cross
Maybe that should be a seventh prayer activity we set up on Wednesdays here in the sanctuary. Maybe we should pray eyes wide open. If you dragged a chair up here, you could stare up into the sky through this big window. Which you could do at home I suppose. But the benefit of coming to church on Wednesdays to do this between 10am and 9pm, is that we’ve got some really big crosses in here to stare up at too. To help you think about the time that Jesus came to die. Which is the thing the Holy Spirit does to connect you to God. To connect you to God, the Holy Spirit connects you to the cross.
What does verse 1 say? “1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Often the disciples missed point number one. And so do we. Even though careful readers of John can easily connect the dots because they know that “glorify your Son” is a reference to the cross. In John 12:23, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Then he tells a story about how unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Which I admit, isn’t exactly a specific reference to crucifixion. But what follows it is in John 12:31-32 is. “31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
And just in case people back then missed it like we might today, John adds this in John 12:33. “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” Being “lifted up” meant being lifted up on the cross to die. So how does the Spirit help us stay connected to God? By helping us remember that! By helping us stay near the cross! Near the cross O Lamb of God / Bring its scenes before me / Help me walk from day to day / With its shadows o'er me. This is point number one. The Holy Spirit connects us to the cross.
Jesus died to give all people eternal life
Moving on, Jesus says our heavenly Father, “Granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” Which is what Jesus did. He died on the cross to give all people eternal life. But it doesn’t say that all people have accepted his gift does it? No! That’s one reason the role of the Holy Spirit is so important today. Because many people haven’t accepted Jesus yet. If you ask them why not, they’ll say things like they don’t need to because God knows they’re a pretty good person. Try it! See what they say. But friends, pretty good isn’t good enough because God is holy and requires perfect obedience to his laws. If you only fall a little short of the glory of God, you’re still short of it and you need a Savior.
Which leads us to point number two: The Holy Spirit connects us to eternal life. And eternal life comes from knowing Jesus as your Savior. Jesus says it this way in verse 3. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” True, there is no salvation in knowledge alone. We should know this by now. Because Jesus said in John 5:39 talking to very religious churched people like us Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. [But] these are the Scriptures that testify about me.” So knowledge alone won’t save you. Even knowledge about salvation or God. Because it is an experiential relationship with God that saves you.
This is easier to understand when you know the Hebrew word for knowledge is yada. It means cognitive as well as experiential knowledge. But Hellenistic Greek thought dissected this yada into two parts. Gnosticism promulgated this division. And Christians systematized it into our modern theology classes and books. Resulting in churches full of Christians that rocket authors to the top of the charts that write about Jesus, but don’t know how to read their own Bibles for a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
But God was never meant to be dissected and separated and systematized. He cannot be put into a box and labeled and stuck on a shelf. You cannot worship only part of Him. In Hebrew thought, it can’t be done. So maybe we should stop trying. And simply embrace the inevitable tension a Trinity understanding of God brings. Maybe we need to humbly admit that God wants us to be both diligent students of the word and he also wants us to experience knowing Jesus. And I think we’ll know we’re doing both correctly when our study draws others around us closer to Jesus. If our study makes us more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, and long suffering, we can know we’re on the right track with yada. Because those are the normal fruits of the spirit [cf. Galations 5:22]. That’s the only fruit our systematized theology should grow. But if our study is making us impatient, apathetic, divisive, or unkind then I think we should seriously question our theology.
Why? Because the Holy Spirit is supposed to connect us to the cross. And that’s important because the cross is where we most clearly see the sinfulness of sin and the costliness of grace. When you stare long enough up at these crosses, you’ll come to the conclusion that there’s nothing cheap about grace! The Son of God died there. For you. For only you. If you were the only person still convinced you’re pretty good and don’t need a Savior, he would have still died just for you. Because God knows even if you don’t that pretty good isn’t good enough. Do you see why I never get tired of telling people that God loves them like crazy?!!
Yes, the sinfulness of sin is sobering. And the costliness of grace is staggering. But the staggering price was legally paid. Second century readers of the Gospel of John pick up on this before we did in our theories of atonement. They knew there was a legal component to Christ’s sacrifice because the context of John 15 and 16 that the Spirit’s teaching about Jesus is expressed in legal language. In John 15:18-25 and John 16:1-4, the Counselor testifies about Jesus in the context of the world’s hatred of Jesus and His disciples. Even the word John uses to express the Spirit’s unique role is an unusual legal word.
Previously, I told you how Leonard Sweet came up with the term Noomanautics to describe the Holy Spirit’s role in helping us navigate our lives. But in the Gospel of John, Jesus employs an unusual way of naming the Holy Spirit. He uses a Greek term that can be transliterated as “Paraclete.” But I went with Nooma [pneuma], the other word for Spirit, in this series called Noomanautics since Paracletautics sounded even more weird! The root meaning of the Greek word translated “counselor” in John 15 and 16 leading up to John 17 combines the Greek word for “call” [kaleo] with the Greek word for “alongside” [para]. So a paraclete then is a person who is called alongside to help or in the legal context of this chapter to defend.
The Holy Spirit helps us see the sinfulness of sin and the costliness of grace
The Holy Spirit connects you to the cross. So we can see the sinfulness of sin and the costliness of grace. Point number one. And the Holy Spirit also connects us to eternal life. And assures us that the transaction was legal and binding. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have know who is. You don’t even have to be pretty good. You just have to know you’re not. Satan will try to deceive you into thinking you’re good enough. Or that you need to obey better for the transaction to be legal and binding. But that is not true. And when we doubt that, the Holy Spirit will defend us by reminding us that because Jesus lived the perfect life for you, He’s on your side. He’s here to defend you. He claims to know you. You did not choose him. He chose you!
When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, he clearly linked the connecting role the Holy Spirit plays in the life of a believer who knows their needs of a Savior. John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Why? Because it’s the Spirit that connects us to the cross and to the Savior who died on it! He has the authority to convict and convert all people on earth. The question is has he convicted and converted you? Romans 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The sad thing is everybody isn’t calling. Not because they haven’t been given the chance. But because they’ve rejected it. So don’t reject it today!
And the beauty is we get to participate in the inviting! The rest of that passage in Romans 10 goes like this: “14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Just as the Father sent the Son, so the Son is sending you. Verse 5 concludes. “5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.’
The Holy Spirit connects us to our hope in heaven
Point number three is the Holy Spirit connects us to our hope in heaven. Just as Jesus longed to be reunited with our Father in heaven, so those who see the sinfulness of sin and costliness of grace long to be reunited with our Father in heaven as well. This family reunion is what motivated Jesus to go through Gethsemane. To by faith look beyond the cross [cf. Hebrews 12:2]. To the day when all those who have accepted his invitation to know Him will not just know him but see him. Face to face. Paul said he was pressing on toward that day. Phippians 3:14 says, “14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
So what is motivating you? If it’s not the love of Christ, may I suggest you open your eyes and stare up at these huge crosses. And think about the sinfulness of sin that cost Jesus his life. Think about the costliness of grace. Freely given and hopefully received. Think about the eternal difference knowing Jesus can make in your life. Fannie Crosby did that. Though blinded at six weeks of age, Fannie Crosby grew up and learned to play guitar and piano. Using nearly a hundred pseudonyms, she penned over 8,000 hymns. One of which, Near the Cross, has a 4th verse I like that goes like this: Near the cross I’ll watch and wait / Hoping, trusting ever / Till I reach the golden strand / Just beyond the river.
As deacons come forward to help us distribute these symbols of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, may we say yes to the connecting role of the Holy Spirit, present in all our lives. Who helps us stay connected to the cross and Jesus our Savior who died on it. Granting all people who know him eternal life now and hope for heaven.