What Enters Your Mind When You Think About the Holy Spirit?

Stained glass image of a dove.
No doubt confusion and contention abound across the diverse body of Christ regarding the Holy Spirit. However, I believe how we answer this question will not only determine the direction of our disposition but will also be a primary marker of our Christian maturity.

What comes into your mind when you think about the Holy Spirit? I wonder what sorts of diverse opinions and perspectives would ensue if this question was polled among the average churchgoer. No doubt confusion and contention abound across the diverse body of Christ regarding the Holy Spirit. However, I believe how we answer this question will not only determine the direction of our disposition but will also be a primary marker of our Christian maturity.

In order to respond rightly to this key question let’s go back to the roots of some of the most extensive teaching Jesus did on the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. Interestingly, Jesus waited until the night before His crucifixion to give these vital instructions to His confused and troubled disciples. And during His most extensive teaching on the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel He chooses to refer to Him as “the Helper.” In fact, there are only five total times that this unique word is used in the New Testament, all of which are from the Apostle John. Four of the five occurrences appear in John 14-16.

Our Holy Help

The word translated “Helper” as a distinct title of the Holy Spirit is the Greek word paraklete, which can also be interpreted as one who appears on another’s behalf as a mediator or intercessor.[1] Other translations offer the words “comforter” or “advocate,” to further expound upon the rich meaning of this word. Given the context of Jesus preparing His disciples for His imminent departure, all of these translations are fitting and relevant. Yet as we look at each of these occurrences in Jesus’ final discourse, the wonderful meaning and application of our Holy Helper is revealed with increasing depth and significance.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Love and Obey

In John 14:16, Jesus first speaks of the Holy Spirit as our Helper right on the heels of declaring, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The Holy Spirit is given as a response to Jesus asking the Father to help the disciples do just that: to lovingly obey. Herein lies the true mark of a disciple; yet obedience driven and motivated by love requires supernatural aid. The demands of love are too difficult for any human will or effort to realize, thus Jesus promises here that our Holy Helper will be present not occasionally, but will be “with you forever.” When Jesus refers to “another Helper,” this signifies that Jesus is saying the Father will give another just like Christ, or One that is of the same essence. In other words, this is also a passage that reveals the deity of the Holy Spirit!

Jesus goes on to say that our Helper is also the “Spirit of truth” who is the One to not only be with us, but also indwell us. Thus the Holy Spirit, as a member of the Triune Godhead, is a Person who can be known, and personally helps us to love and obey Jesus so as to reflect and make Him known to others.

The Holy Spirit, as a member of the Triune Godhead, is a Person who can be known, and personally helps us to love and obey Jesus so as to reflect and make Him known to others.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Know and Remember Truth

Just a few passages later, Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit again as the One who the Father will send who would also be our teacher. Jesus had been with the disciples as their Teacher for the previous three years, but now the Holy Spirit as the One who will be in them will take the primary role of helping the disciples discern truth. A key part of knowing truth is remembering what Jesus has said. The disciples were likely in a state of shock as this vital revelation flowed from Jesus’ mouth. But Jesus assures them their feeble minds will be quickened and enabled to remember not just this current sermon, but all that He had taught them. For knowing and remembering truth would become the source of combating fear and fueling the faith of Jesus’ disciples. The same is true for us today.

Knowing and remembering truth would become the source of combating fear and fueling the faith of Jesus’ disciples. The same is true for us today.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Bear Witness to Christ

The idea of bearing witness to something is directly connected to having first-hand personal knowledge or experience. There is no one more qualified to do this for Jesus than the Holy Spirit. In John 15:26, Jesus declares this is exactly what the Helper will do when He is sent from the Father in the name of Christ. But then Jesus told His disciples, “You also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). The Holy Spirit is the One who has been with Jesus from eternity past. The disciples were the ones who had been with Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry. If you are reading this as a born-again follower of Jesus, than you and I are ones who are continually and forever with Jesus because of our indwelling Helper. Thus, as it stands today, there is no one more qualified and empowered to make Jesus known than you. Despite all of our insecurities and deficiencies, Jesus has chosen His body, the Church, as the vessel of the Holy Spirit to put the glory of Christ on display so as to call the nations into discipleship.

As it stands today, there is no one more qualified and empowered to make Jesus known than you. Despite all of our insecurities and deficiencies, Jesus has chosen His body, the Church, as the vessel of the Holy Spirit to put the glory of Christ on display so as to call the nations into discipleship.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Continue Jesus’ Ministry to Completion

Jesus makes an astounding claim in John 16:7 by saying it is actually to our “advantage” that He goes away, otherwise our Divine Helper will not be sent to us. Now, it’s not as if Jesus and the Holy Spirit cannot be equally present. Indeed, the Father, Son, and Spirit are all God and thus omnipresent. But Jesus is speaking of His going away through His death, resurrection, and ascension, which inaugurates the sending of the Spirit to continue the work Jesus began towards completion. The opening line of the book of Acts makes this point clear when Luke writes of all “Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).

As one commentator aptly points out, “The ministry of the Spirit is accordingly not a vague impartation of spiritual energy, but the specific ministry of proclaiming, and applying to the disciple community, the triumphant procession of Jesus through death and resurrection to the right hand of the Father.” [2] This is also why one author and pastor wrote a book entitled Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You.[3]

The Key to Accessing the Holy Spirit’s Help

So what do these four passages all have in common? Quite simply, we need and are completely dependent on the Holy Spirit! Yet how do we access our divine Helper that Jesus has promised and that the Father has already sent? I find this quote from Christian writer Ole Hallesby to be a sufficient answer:

Listen, my friend! Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness.” [4]

I find myself confessing my helplessness more and more these days and praying, “Holy Spirit, help me!” Beloved, how would this week look different if we acknowledged and surrendered to the Holy Spirit as our personal and divine Helper who indwells, counsels, comforts, and advocates for us? May we be the ones who quickly and often confess our helplessness, trusting that we will freshly experience our gracious Helper empowering us to love and obey, to know and remember truth, and to powerfully bear witness to Christ towards the completion of His mission throughout the world.

Copyright © 2022 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved

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[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 766.

[2] Bruce Milne, The Message of John: Here Is Your King!: With Study Guide, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 229.

[3] Greear, J.D., Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You. Zondervan. 2014.

[4] Hallesby, Ole, Prayer. Fortress Press. 1994.

Justin Jeppesen

Justin serves as the National Director for Strategic Renewal where he oversees the ministry development to “saints in the pew.” Justin and his wife of 10 years, Maddy, have three kids and live in St. Paul where they get to experience all the wonderful seasons God has created!

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