By Susan Nero
Catherine Marshall, as a young pastor’s wife of 26; mother of a young son, and only 2 years serving with her husband at New York Presbyterian Church in Washington DC (Abraham Lincoln’s church). Catherine found herself diagnosed with tuberculosis. At that time in the 1940’s there was no antibiotic treatment available. She spent nearly three years recovering from the illness.
Confined to complete bed rest; and in spite of all the support of the prayers of her husband, family and church fellowship, she remained showing no improvement.
In her own words, she found herself “curious about what seemed to her a strange subject - the Holy Spirit.” There was nothing that caused her to focus on this subject, she had not heard a sermon, read a book, or been part of a discussion group about Him. However, her curiosity continued, so she decided to go to her Bible and with a concordance and a notebook began a summer looking up every reference to the Spirit in the Old and New Testament.
The result was a devotional published in 1945”s Today magazine. Those devotionals taken from the original summer long study form the core of her book “The Helper,” not published until 1978.
In 1978, soon after my marriage to my present husband, I became a born again believer. My pastor baptized me and a few months later, I asked to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was a wonderful experience, however, I don’t remember ever having gained a deeper relationship with Jesus or enjoying a true understanding of just who the Holy Spirit was or how much I needed Him to live my Christian life. I wanted to know more about Him. So…when I saw this new book about the “Helper” with the subtitle “He Will Meet Your Every Need”; I was eager to read it. I found it to be very encouraging, and answered so many of my questions. The result was a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Now, having read it again after more than 40 years, I found a new appreciation for the book. Although I had obtained a fuller understanding of the Spirit in 1978, like Catherine Marshall I found in 2019, a new desire to know even more about Him. I began looking up Scripture verses, checking out commentaries and taking notes just like Catherine had done so long ago. Almost every day, when I asked the Spirit, He would reveal more to me. I quickly realized my need to depend on His help instead of laboring over everything in my own efforts. He gave me a new perspective on the scripture verses, and a new ability to apply what the Lord had promised about the Holy Spirit to my life. I was able to let go of any misconceptions I had previously held. The result was the ability to come into a closer relationship than I had previously experienced and ultimately to this introduction of our study.
The last thought I want to share with you about this study is this: I think this study would be better described as a time of sharing and encouragement and increased fellowship, not only with each other, but with the Holy Spirit.
WHY DO I NEED HIM?
COULD ANYTHING BE BETTER THAN HIS PRESENCE?
To become more familiar with the Holy Spirit, I focused my attention on 4 chapters of John. New things were revealed to me.
The first verses were in John 14
“ If you love Me, keep My commandments.” This brought to my mind that apart from the Holy Spirit, the disciples could not keep His commandments, and of course, neither can we. We know that man could not keep the 10 Commandments and how God worked all that out for us by giving us “His only begotten Son” Jesus.
Jesus told His disciples that He would no longer be with them but promised them: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” Another just like Jesus, the Spirit of God had dwelt WITH the disciples in the Person of Jesus. Now He would dwell IN them. This helps us see that the Holy Spirit is a Person and is God. And with Jesus’ promise to His disciples and us, that the Spirit will be with us forever, means He is also eternal.
A.W. Tozer seems to have expressed it best: “He is indivisible from the Father and the Son, and because the indivisible Trinity is present, all that the Son is the Holy Spirit is, and all that the Father is, the Holy Spirit is, and the Spirit is in His Church.” Amen
Instead of allowing us to think we can treat the Spirit as a power for us to use to accomplish our own purposes we can now understand that He is here living in us so that we can call upon Him to help us
accomplish God’s purposes and will for our lives.
The second verses I studied (John 16:5-7) gives us a clearer picture of why Jesus told the disciples “that it was a better thing that He should return to God.”
“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me,
‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
The disciples were sad, they couldn’t get passed the fact that Jesus had said that He was going away. In spite of Jesus’ reassurances that they would be better off, it seemed to make no sense to them. It is perfectly understandable that they should react that way. His presence with them was all they knew; they could not see beyond their loss. How could it be better to trade a human Jesus for a Spirit they couldn’t physically see?
Today we can see that it was better for them to have the invisible Holy Spirit living in them. As long as Jesus was with them, He was limited by space and time in His material body.
Jesus’ promise to them and us was and is, that the Helper will be with us always, day and night, standing by for any protection we need and for every emergency. Our only part is to trust and recognize His Presence and to call upon Him in faith.
One writer had this to say and it’s worth repeating:
“Once this truth gets firmly imbedded in our minds and hearts, we don’t have to be afraid again, or lonely, or hopeless, or sorrowful orr helplessly inadequate. While God, the Father and God, the Son, are present and reigning in heaven, they are are invisibly here in the body of the believer by the indwelling God, the Holy Spirit.” (Tozer)
The third verses I studied (John 20:17-22) relate to us the first time Jesus came to the disciples after the resurrection:
17) Jesus said to Mary Magdalene: “Do not cling to Me for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”
18) Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
19) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them “PEACE BE WITH YOU.”
20) When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21) So Jesus said to them again “PEACE TO YOU! AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME, I ALSO SEND YOU.”
22) And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT.”
GENESIS 8 SAYS:
“Noah stretched forth his hand and grabbed the dove bringing it unto himself.”
C.H. SPURGEON comments that “when Noah did this it is an illustration of the active pursuit of the Spirit in a man’s life. Noah didn’t wait for the dove to land on him. No, Noah reached out his hand in faith and brought the dove in.”
JOHN COURSON fleshes out this picture by commenting: “The person who moves in the power of the Spirit is not one who sits passively with arms folded. Rather, he is one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and says, “I deeply desire the power of the Spirit upon my life. I’m going to reach out in faith and pursue all that God has for me. I’ll not be satisfied with a theology of the Spirit. I want the power of the Spirit upon my life and the gifts to flow through my life.”
HOWEVER: In John Chapter 21, we shall see that the disciples did not so quickly respond in this manner.
The 4th verses I studied are found in (Chapter 21).
As we saw in Chapter 20, the disciples were saved when the Lord breathed on them and told them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit was now living in them. However they had not as yet received the baptism of power to live out their new lives “in the Spirit.”
In Chapter 21:1-15 John teaches that there is a big difference in how we respond to the risen Christ before we receive power compared to how we respond to the Holy Spirit after we are imbued with power (Acts 2:1-4). Without power the disciples continued to live their lives in their own efforts.
“Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ ‘We’ll come too,’ they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who He was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”
“No, they replied.
Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
I’m sure you can see an example here to think about, I did. The disciples believed that they were doing God’s will, getting on with their lives, returning to their self-confident profession of successful fishermen. Instead they were serving “without direction.” Not until Jesus took over and directed their fishing and they responded and obeyed, were their efforts blessed.
This example is applicable to our lives and Christian walk as well. Like them, we are too often prone to forget the Lord’s warning, “For without Me, you can do nothing.” or His promise to send the Holy Spirit. Our Father wants to HELP His people fish for lost souls.
John 21:15-18 Jesus was outlining our ministries.
WE ARE TO BE SHEPHERDS
After breakfast Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed My lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love Me?”
“Yes Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of My sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed My sheep.”
FEED MY LAMBS: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…” 1 Peter 2:2
TAKE CARE OF MY SHEEP: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
FEED MY SHEEP: “So we tell others about Christ warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29
The picture Jesus is revealing to us is that we are to minister both as an evangelist, “catching the fish” a pastor, “shepherding the flock” and a disciple, “teaching other believers so that they might mature in the Lord and their
As we delve further into our study of the Holy Spirit, we shall see that the Holy Spirit equips people to evangelize (witness), shepherd (love one another) and disciple (teach and share the Word). Each of us has a gift or gifts from the Lord and we should use what He has given us to Help look after and encourage each other.
“If you love Me, obey My commandments. And I will ask the
Father, and He will give you another Helper, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:15-17a
WE ARE DISCIPLES “FOLLOW HIM”
Any who are committed to and serve the Lord must confront this matter of death. Primarily the ongoing death to “self” in our regeneration by the Spirit. To “put off the old life and put on the new life, we must continuously depend upon and have faith in the Holy Spirit.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus’ last statement to His disciples before He ascended to the Father is found in Acts 1:8
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has
come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the
end of the earth.”
Chuck Smith’s commentary on this passage leads us to the introduction of the HELPER/HOLY SPIRIT.
“The Book of Acts presents the continuation of Jesus’
ministry. His ministry did not end with His ascension!
Jesus continued to heal; Jesus continued to work.
Jesus continued to pour forth His grace, mercy, and
love. Only in Acts, He did it by the power of the
Holy Spirit through His apostles. In that sense the
Book of Acts is an open-ended book because the
Lord continues to work to the present day through
people filled with the Holy Spirit. The final chapter
of the book has not been written yet.”
Chuck Smith also commented that “The title in our Bibles is “The Acts of the Apostles” but it would probably be more accurate to entitle it “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.” And through Spirit filled believers today.