“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].
— John 16:7 AMP
A CHILD’S WISH
The other night as I was putting my ten-year-old daughter to bed she asked, “Dad, is a person who is born with autism or down syndrome born that way because of something bad the parents did? Is it the parents’ fault that their kids ended up that way? “
I was quickly reminded about the teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples on a similar subject in John 9:1-3:
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?” “No, it wasn’t!” Jesus answered. “But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him.”
And shortly thereafter, Jesus miraculously healed the man who was blind and his vision was completely restored that very day.
In Jewish culture during the days of Jesus, it was common place to believe that whatever was happening to you in your life was a direct result of your actions–you were either being rewarded for good behavior, or punished for bad behavior. So, if life was going well for you, God must be blessing you for the good/moral/just behavior of yourself and/or your family. And conversely, if things were going bad you were being punished for some type of personal or family sin.
And as we see from the disciple’s question in John Chapter nine, they too were following the same line of thinking when they encountered this blind man. They thought:
This person is going through suffering, so naturally someone must have sinned. Who is responsible?
Jesus’s response to His disciples must have seemed profound. He put to death the false notion that physical illnesses are always a result of divine punishment on the basis of individual or generational sins. This would have cut straight across the traditional way of Jewish thinking.
As I shared this story with my daughter and recounted the teachings of Jesus I told her, “No, honey, when a person is born with a deformity or medical condition, it is almost always not the parents fault (fetal alcohol syndrome being one of the caveats of course)—The parents could not have done anything to prevent the child from being born with the disease.”
I then asked her, “What do you think Jesus would do if He was here with us now on earth? What would He do if He found someone with a disease or illness like that?”
She said, “He would heal them!”
I said, “Yup, I think so too!”
Then she turned over on her side, rolled herself up in her blankets and snuggled her panda bear and said, “I wish Jesus was here right now.”
I replied, “Me too.”
A PARENTS CONVICTION
As I left the room and closed the door behind me, there were two things that were present in my mind.
One, that I was so very thankful that my daughter had come to understand a small taste of the awesome goodness of God as revealed in Jesus. She is light-years ahead compared to what I understood about the goodness of God at her age. With all the unintended mistakes parents make in raising children, I was happy to experience a moment of joy as I left her room. I thought, “I’m sure I’ve screwed other things up in raising her, but at least she is solid in her understanding of God’s love for us.”
But then I was also reminded of a second thing.
Another verse from the gospel of John came into my mind:
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. – John 16:7 AMP
When I think about the wondrous and miraculous works that Jesus did while He was on the earth, I too find myself coming to the same response as my daughter–Jesus! I wish you were here now! And when the Apostle Paul closed the letter that we now call I Corinthians, he followed suit and wrote this phrase in chapter 16, verse 22, “Maranatha!.” We translate this from the Greek language as, “Come Lord!”.
Who can disagree with the need for Jesus to return and fix everything?
Nevertheless, when Jesus walked the earth, He actually taught something that goes against what we normally think as the need for the tangible presence of God.
Jesus told His disciples that it wasn’t good that He should remain among them. He taught that it would be better if he left us, not stayed.
Now, many Christian fundamentalists will say this about John 16:7:
What Jesus was actually talking about, when He said it was better from Him to leave than to stay, was in regard to His soon coming atonement: that is, his death and suffering on the cross. Jesus going to the cross, suffering and paying the consequence for our sins, so as to leave the earth to go back to the Father to testify to this completed work insomuch that we don’t go to a burning hell is solely what Jesus meant when said it would be better to leave than to stay. Because, only through the atoning and redemptive work of Jesus are we finally able to be freed from the eternal flames of God anger and doom.
And thus, it is presented to us that the reason why it was better that Jesus left rather than remain here with us in the flesh is primarily so that we don’t burn in hell forever.
But this is not what Jesus is recorded to have said in John 16:7.
Jesus said that it was better that He should go and go back to the Father for one purpose–so that the Holy Spirit could be sent into US. And more specifically, so that He could send the Holy Spirit to empower and indwell ANYBODY who would later come to believe in Him (John 7:38-39, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:37-39, Romans 8:9).
In what may be hard for some of us to grasp, Jesus was telling us that the Holy Spirit’s presence and power within us would be even better than His manifest incarnate presence among us! Or simply said, having the Holy Spirit with us each personally would be better than having Jesus with us all in person.
What???? That can’t be right. Seriously?
There is ALOT to unpack from Jesus’s statement. But let’s explore Jesus words, and in doing so try to recognize the significance of the Holy Spirit living in us.
THE SPIRIT’S SIGNIFICANCE
Not only do we receive the forgiveness of our sins and receive the promise of eternal life when we come to believe and put our faith in Jesus, but perhaps what is even more significant is that Jesus offers us baptism and immersion in the Holy Spirit. When we receive His baptism of the Spirit, God’s Spirit (yes, even His own very presence) takes up residence in us. It becomes one with our Spirit and the two are joined together forever. And it is through the presence of His Spirit that we can enter into deep fellowship, worship, intimacy, and relationship.
Furthermore, the apostle Paul describes the potential that we have with the Spirit’s indwelling in Romans 8:11.
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”
The Holy Spirit that lives within us contains the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. God’s power to overcome the world, sin, disease, sickness, and everything else that is in opposition to His kingdom, has already, past tense, been placed in us. The need to call down power from heaven to accomplish God’s will on earth has been eliminated. And the life-giving refreshing water from God that we all so desperately desire is already in us. So great within us that it has the potential to burst out and overflow:
“Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him… John 7:38:39 CEV
There is no better place than the book of Acts to catch a glimpse of what the power and presence of the Spirit can potentially do when one is operating in cooperation, revelation, and fullness of this present reality.
Starting in Mark 16, Jesus says the those who were to follow him would exhibit powerful signs, such as casting out demons and healing the sick through the laying on of hands. And what do we see written in the book of Acts? Exactly that.
We see demons being cast out when Philip preached Jesus to Samaria in chapter 8. We see people crowding the streets of Jerusalem just so that the shadow of Peter would in hopes fall on them and physically heal them in chapter 5. And, we see people being healed of illnesses just by touching a handkerchief that the Apostle Paul anointed in Acts chapter 19.
The power and presence of God that was manifested in the book of Acts through the Holy Spirit exhibits the potential that we all have as believers in Jesus who have received of His Spirit. There is enormous potential to those who believe.
Jesus said something even more audacious in John 14:12:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Greater works even that Jesus? This seems like a page out of radical Pentecostalism or the faith healers that we’ve seen on those so-called “Christian cable television networks”. But those guys (and of course there is always very few women represented, right?) are usually pretty nuts. Both examples have definitely done a lot of harm to the Christian witness.
However, the words of Jesus, His promises made to His future followers, and the works recorded in the book of Acts, are what they are. Even if those works are misrepresented by what we see on TV sometimes we should not discount Jesus’s works and the testimony left behind from the first century church that followed Him.
And, perhaps it is not how educated we are spiritually, or how often we go to church, or how much we put in the offering basket, that the Lord measures before He chooses to work though us. Perhaps it is the acknowledgement, intimacy, and close communion with the Spirit, that is already within those that believe, that releases the wonderful grace and mercy of God to the world and those around us.
WHY IS IT BETTER?
So then, let us return to the thing that conflicted me after leaving my daughter’s bedroom.
Jesus said it would be better if He left.
What then makes His absence better?
I believe that what Jesus meant is this: it would be better for Him to leave the earth because in doing so it would enable Him to send His Spirit into us. And, in doing so it would multiply the effectiveness of ministering, releasing, and restoring God’s will and desire on earth.
No longer would God’s loving goodness be physically limited to exuding from one only person, Jesus that is. But rather, God’s healing power would be multiplied exponentially to ALL of those who believe with the new reality of the indwelling of His Spirit.
No longer would hordes of people need to run to Jerusalem or Capernaum to find Jesus so that God could work through Him alone, but Jesus would now indwell His followers with the same very power and presence that raised Him from the dead so that His life-giving nature could impact the entire world rather than only one geographical location. Now, in this new reality of the Spirit’s indwelling, there wouldn’t be just ONE person on earth who could function as a life-giver. There would be the potential for thousands and millions more life-givers all walking the earth going around bringing about the Kingdom of God.
Some of you reading this post might find what I’ve said hard to believe. You might think that if what I say were really the case, then we would be seeing a lot more things happening among the believers today as they were recorded in the New Testament. I don’t have time in this blog to speak to all the reasons why I believe we are not seeing as much of Jesus’s life permeating into our present life in comparison to what the New Testament testifies to.
Regardless, something deep inside is convinced and is continuing to convince me that there is a far more dynamic experience available to us, as made possible through His Spirit, that the majority of us have not yet tapped into. Some type of transformative dynamic experience that emanates from an intimacy with God’s Spirit. An intimacy that certainly the first century church was experiencing to a more recognizable degree than us.
I believe that we are sitting on a vast wealth of unrealized potential. Similarly as someone who may have land as a farmer, but yet doesn’t realize that he is sitting on the largest gold seam in the world. Or someone who unknowingly continues to make little penny-like withdraws from a bank account when it actually has trillions of dollars in it.
Is it possible that this is the same case for us? It is possible that many of the solutions to the things that plague us most in the world are not something held up in heaven waiting to be pleaded, begged, or appeased for? Perhaps it is something that already exists within us that just needs to be discovered, cultivated, and let loose.
If the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us through the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then yes, let us then draw near to God and ask Him to help us unlock the vast greatness that waits us. Let us pray and seek God with the same heart that the Apostle Paul spoke of in Ephesians:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…“
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!