As I was sitting in my car on a ferry trip to Vancouver two weeks ago, I thought about a conversation I’d had a few nights before with beloved family members who are on a spiritual journey and don’t yet know the Lord Jesus Christ. I mulled over my participation in our discussion and wished I had remembered Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14 through 16, which might have helped them understand what it means to follow Jesus, and what sets Christianity apart from other religions.
During our discussion, I was asked in a somewhat disparaging way, to give a reason for the multitude of church denominations. We discussed this at some length, but I said that, ultimately, church denominations do not matter. I shared that I myself have attended churches belonging to several different denominations over the past ten years, but do not identify myself as a person who belongs to any particular denomination; I am a person who belongs to God and who follows Jesus. And that what matters most to me when I am looking for a church in which to belong (to God through Jesus), is the presence of the Holy Spirit. I want to belong to a church where I sense Life, the life of the Spirit.
What I wish I had remembered and said to them however, is that what sets Christianity apart from the rest of the world’s religions is that we have been given a Helper, the Holy Spirit. A Helper sent to us from God. This Helper teaches us how to live. He teaches us how to live as a Christian, and enables us to love God and love others as the first and greatest commandment – which Jesus quoted in Matthew 22:38 – instructs.
But what really sets Christianity apart from other spiritual paths is that this Helper that God sends to us is not really given to us for us. This Helper is given to us for others. He is sent to teach us to be more like Christ – but in order to make us a blessing to others, not to make us pious pillars of righteousness, or gleaming trophies of salvation for God’s display case. He is given to us so that we can represent Jesus – the only One through whom a person can come to know God the Father and experience His love. This wonderful Helper even gives us the words to speak when we share the good news or witness to others about what God has done for us and prays through us for others. The Helper helps us to allow the Father to love others through us.
Without this Helper, like all of the other spiritual paths in the world, all we have is religion: human thoughts and ideas about God and practices to help us reach Him. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can truly know – in our hearts, not just in our minds – that we are God’s beloved children. And it is only with the help of the Holy Spirit we are able to love God in return.
As you read through Jesus’ teachings about the Helper and His ministry to us in John 14 through 16, it is clear that what God intended for us when he sent Jesus, was not just that we be set free from and able to overcome sin or that we be saved and able to enter God’s presence. That is all true. But according to Jesus there is so much more! Once we are saved and set free, then we are sent into the world to help others to find and come to know the One True God, and we are given all we need to accomplish this mission through the power and ministry of the Helper, the very Spirit of God! Sadly, there are many people in the church who have not received this incredible gift and who do not know the Helper – or the love of Father God.
It is mind-boggling to try to take this in, and perhaps, beyond some people’s ability to believe or comprehend – but isn’t that the very nature of God? His word reminds us that His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. This is how much He loves us – all of us! Even when He’s not on our spiritual radar, we are on His. He loves us so much that He cleans us up, equips us by filling us with His very own Spirit, and then sends us out – His spiritual children – in order that we can lead others whom He loves home to Him.
Is there any other world religion that comes even close to that kind of love and grace? I searched most of my life before coming home to God the Father, but I never found one that came even remotely close.
Thank You, Father, for sending Your children to lead me home. I pray that You would use me daily to do the same.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
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 go, I will send him to you. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:7;13)