Every piece of machinery comes with a user’s manual (or at least ideally). But even if you read a manual cover-to-cover you’re no master. You’re a beginner. You’re only a master once you’ve mastered the hands-on application of a tool.
So too with the Christian life; a merely theoretical or head knowledge is useful, but only for the purpose of getting started! If we’re not careful we can treat the Bible as the end-all and not as the introduction to the real deal: a discipling relationship with Jesus via the Holy Spirit!
Towards the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7).
The Word of God, Jesus, required the Spirit’s assistance in order to fully teach his disciples to abide in him. Knowing the Word alone was not adequate for the disciples. Even though they had been with Jesus for the entirety of his ministry, they still needed to become filled with the Spirit.
We are no different. Knowing the Word is not enough to abide in, much less become aware of, God’s presence! We need the Spirit’s help! Jesus says as much further on in the same chapter of John’s Gospel, he says: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:12-13).
You see, Jesus’ accomplishment in life, in death, and in being raised again was just the introduction for the real deal, a new, eternal relationship with God himself via the Holy Spirit!
But this Spirit doesn’t offer any corrections to Jesus’s ministry. Rather, it continues and affirms the very things that Jesus says, bringing them to mind in the right moment and with the right application. Jesus says as much: “He will not speak of his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13-14)
Reading the Word alone and without the Spirit’s help can mislead us in providing a merely theoretical knowledge of the things of the Bible. It’s when we allow the Spirit to lead us into a new life with Jesus that we learn the real nuances of following Jesus. Our lives become an adventure with God, as he teaches us how to become agents of the resurrection newness around us – the kind of resurrection newness that we read of in Scripture!
When we know something only in theory, we are ill-equipped for the real deal. But when we are shown something firsthand by God himself we have a fighting chance of becoming real followers of Him. Knowledge of the Word alone is not enough to cultivate awareness, let alone obedience, to God. The Spirit is needed in order to make us real masters of the Christian life. Without him, we will only be good students of the manual and not good students of Jesus.
Pastor Ryan Lunde
Young Adult Ministry