Day 27, Chapter 27: The Advantage
“It is to your advantage that I leave,” Jesus told His disciples (John 16:7). Can you imagine a more ridiculous sounding statement? They had traveled with Him for three years, listening to Him expound on life, the ways of God, and the kingdom of heaven. His words carried such wisdom and authority that even His enemies said of Him, “Never has a man spoken in the way this man speaks” (John 7:46).
The disciples had watched Him cure blind eyes, open deaf ears, heal paralytics, cleanse lepers and raise the dead. Once when He needed money, He procured it from the mouth of a fish. On another occasion, when He needed to cross a lake and didn't have a boat handy, He simply walked on the water. And when storms tried to mess with Him, He knocked the wind out of them with the power of His words.
Then, He has the audacity to tell these men, “I'm going to leave you, and it's for your own good.” One can only imagine the shock and disbelief of the disciples. It wasn't completely unheard of for Him to shock them with His statements. "You'll have to eat My body and drink My blood," He said to a large crowd on one occasion. Keep in mind these people didn't go to church every week and partake of Communion. They had no idea what He was talking about, and several of His followers left Him over it.
A short while before this preposterous "it's better for you that I leave" statement, Jesus was at it again, telling them things they wouldn't understand until later. This time He was waxing eloquent about heaven:
In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. (John 14:2-4)
At this point in His homily, Thomas - thank God for Thomas - spoke up and said what they were all thinking: "We don't have the slightest idea what you're talkin' about" (v. 5, Sheets' paraphrase). Jesus didn't seem too bothered by it and carried on with His speech.
Not understanding the "heavenly homes" statement is one thing, the disciples probably thought, we'll just trust Him on that one. But this leaving business was different. Leaving? Better? I don't think so.
What did Christ mean when He said, "It is to your advantage that I go away"? Two understandings will help us. The first has to do with his choice of the word advantage, or as the King James Version says, "expedient". The Greek word is sumphero, which means "to bring together.” Since bringing right things or people together produces benefits or an advantage, the word was used for the concept of expediency or gaining an advantage.
Christ was telling His disciples, "My departure will cause a new connection to take place for you. This 'bringing together' will be of great benefit to you, more so than even My physical presence."
The second piece of information that brings enlightenment to Christ's words is an awareness of who He was going to connect the disciples with: Holy Spirit. Why would this relationship be so advantageous? Because Holy Spirit would be with them in spirit form, not in a flesh-and-blood body as Christ had been, and could be everywhere at once. He could actually be "in" them, not just "with" them (John 14:17).
I don't believe many people come anywhere close to grasping this revelation at its fullness. God is in us. Yahweh, the Almighty, Everlasting God, the I AM - that God is inside us. What might we be like if we could only receive a full revelation of this? Perhaps we would become "little Christs", which is the meaning of the word Christian. Could it be that Christ's own words concerning us doing the same things He did would be fulfilled? Would we be miracle workers, life transformers, fearless, completely unselfish, and always led by Holy Spirit? Would we walk in perfect love? As staggering as these things seem, I believe we would.
Read what two leading Christian voices of our day wrote concerning Holy Spirit. Jack Hayford says of Him:
“It is the Spirit who keeps the word alive, and progressively being ‘incarnated’ in me…
It is the Spirit who infuses prayer and praise with passion and begets vital faith for the supernatural.
It is the Spirit who teaches and instructs me so that the "mirror" of the word shines Jesus in and crowds sin out…
It is the Spirit who will bring love, graciousness, and a spirit of unity to my heart; so that I not only love the lost and want to see people brought to Christ, but I love all other Christians, and refuse to become an instrument of injury to Christ's body - the church.”1
The late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, states it this way:
“He guides us (John 1:13), empowers us (Micah 3:8), and makes us holy (Romans 15:16). He bears witness in our lives (Romans 8:16), comforts us (John 14:16-26), gives us joy (Romans 14:17)...
As our teacher of spiritual truths, the Holy Spirit illuminates our minds with insight into the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-13) and reveals to us the hidden things of God (Isaiah 40:13-14)...
As you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible becomes alive, prayer becomes vital, your witness becomes effective, and obedience becomes a joy. Then, as a result of your obedience in these areas, your faith grows and you become more mature in your spiritual life.” 2
Great stuff. Holy Spirit is all of this and more. He was Christ's Helper and He must be ours, as well. As a human, Jesus was filled with, led by, empowered by, and anointed by the Holy Spirit (see Luke 4). Acts 10:38 also tells us Christ derived His power and anointing from Holy Spirit. This very same Holy Spirit resides in us and wants to be our source of power and strength. But so often we don't make the connection, not allowing His power to flow.
In a seminary missions class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave his car running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years. Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting the power to work. 3
J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians 1:19-20, "How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God." When we make firm our connection with Holy Spirit, His life and power flow through us. Don't waste this amazing help.
Second Corinthians 13:14 says, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." The term “fellowship” is from koinonia and is rich with meaning, revealing some of what the Holy Spirit wants to be in our lives. The following English words are all translations of koinonia:
Fellowship - Holy Spirit wants to visit with us.
Communion - Holy Spirit wants to commune with us.
Sharing together - Holy Spirit wants to share his insights and power with us.
Participation in or with - Holy Spirit wants to participate in our efforts and activities.
Distribution - Holy Spirit wants to distribute revelation, gifts, anointings, and blessings to us.
Impart - Holy Spirit wants to impart God's nature and benefits to us.
Partaking - Holy Spirit wants us to partake of His anointing and life.
Partnership - Holy Spirit wants to partner with us.
Companionship - Holy Spirit wants the pleasure of your company.
"May the koinonia of the Holy Spirit be with you."
What a loaded statement. We are told in Proverbs that God wants an "intimate" relationship with us (3:32), not a superficial one. Psalm 25:14 says, "The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant." Secret and intimate are translated from the same Hebrew word, cowd, which means "couch, cushion, or pillow". The picture is one of two intimate friends seated on a couch; or perhaps a wife and husband sharing a pillow, enjoying the pleasure of one another's company.
Holy Spirit wants that kind of relationship with you - get to know Him!
Pray with me:
Thank you, Father, that after Your Son Jesus' time on earth, You sent us another Helper - Yourself in Holy Spirit form - to dwell not just among but within us. His indwelling was given to guide us as we steward the great victory that Jesus won.
Holy Spirit, we want to experience all of who You are and what You do. We don't simply want to know of You; we desire to have You alive and active in every part of our speech, actions, and thoughts. We want to manifest the empowerment for Christ-likeness and kingdom advancement You bring.
Holy Spirit, You're also the connection to sweet communion with the Father, further glimpses of God's depths, and doing greater works than Jesus did. Help us to receive a full revelation of how we can be led by You in every way. Open the scriptures and position our hearts to understand koinonia with You. We request the pleasure of Your company.
Watch prayer here:
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 227-234.
Jack W. Hayford, The Power and Blessing: Celebrating the Disciples of Spirit-Filled Living (Colorado Springs: Victor Books, 1994), p 21, quoted in Robert Heidler, Experiencing The Spirit (Ventura, CA: Renew Books, 1998), p 34.
Bill Bright, The Holy Spirit (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1980), p 116, p 121, quoted in Robert Heidler, Experiencing the Spirit (Ventura, CA: Renew Books, 1998), p 35.
Craig Brian Larson, Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), p 182.