This Christmas . . . Don’t Forget about the Holy Spirit

At this time of the year we sing songs with words like, “O come let us adore him,” or “Joyful, Joyful, we adore Thee!”

But what does it mean to adore? C. S. Lewis, in his book Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, draws a distinction between gratitude and adoration. He said that gratitude exclaims, “How good of God to give me this!” But adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being who would bless me like this? What kind of God would give me this?”

To get specific, what kind of God would create beautiful mountains for us to enjoy? What kind of God would allow us to experience and taste good food? What kind of God would grant his image-bearers the talents to compose a great piece of music, or to write a magnificent book or poem?

What kind of God would send his own Son to redeem sinful human beings? Answer: Our God; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was God the Father’s plan to send a redeemer. The apostle Paul says he sent him “at the right time,” or, in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4). This is what Christmas is about. We’re celebrating the incarnation—God coming in human form.

Think about C. S. Lewis’s question here: What kind of God would do this for his people? What kind of God would make these promises and then fulfill them?

Surely a God who is glorious in his faithfulness; surely it is a God whose love is unfathomable; surely it is a God who is, at his very core, “other-centered.”[1]

But there’s more: How does this kind of God show himself to be at work in our lives? Remember this first and foremost: Our God is triune. The Father planned salvation; the Son accomplished our salvation; and the Holy Spirit applied our salvation (Eph. 1:3-14).

Also, remember Jesus’ words from John 16: 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 (V. 7). Although at Christmastime we celebrate the coming of Christ, let’s not separate the work of the Holy Spirit from the person of Christ. The Christ who came for us, is the same Christ working in us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

What does this reveal to us about the God who is working in us?

What kind of God would do this? A God who loves to comfort his people. Remember John 16:7. Jesus said “If I do not go away from you, the Helper will not come to you.” The Holy Spirit is called the “helper,” the “counselor,” or the “comforter.” He’s the Paraclete, the one who comes alongside. But also remember Jesus’ words in John 14:17: “he dwells with you and will be in you” (emphasis mine).

In 2 Cor. 1:3-4: God the Father is called the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” This is who our God is.[2]

I have often been comforted the most, when I was going through some kind of suffering, some kind of guilt or shame. In those moments God has been near to me like never before. I’m sure you have had a similar experience. We can testify to the truthfulness of the Psalmist’s word in Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

He is our comforter. And because God loves to comfort his people, his Holy Spirit also convicts his people (John 16:8-9). If you’re convicted of your sin, it’s a sign that you’re one of his children! Remember, the Holy Spirit is the guarantee or down payment of future fellowship with him (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). Which leads to another way the Holy Spirit comforts us: He gives us assurance of salvation.

Listen: Your God is so committed to your growth in grace that he will not stop convicting you of your sin. He will not relent. He will not stop. He’s working in your life to make you more like his Son, Immanuel, Jesus Christ. Praise him.

So, when you’re about to tell a lie, or when you’re about to fudge a little bit at work, or when you’re about to gossip about someone else, or someone accuses you of doing something that you know you haven’t done and you want to give them a piece of your mind (all in love, of course), and you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, rather than getting frustrated, pause and thank God, saying, “Thank you Father, for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for loving me right now. Thank you for not allowing me to violate my conscience. Thank you that you love me this much. Thank you for being more committed to my sanctification than I say I am.”

He comforts us. He convicts us. And I want to suggest that the way God does this is through his Spirit-inspired Scriptures, the Word of God. 2 Tim. 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

God is so committed to your growth in grace that he revealed himself to you in the Bible, not only to inform you, but to transform you into his likeness. And every portion of Scripture is designed to come to our rescue, where we can see our helplessness and then run to Christ for life, and hope, and forgiveness.

And how do you come to understand God’s Word? By the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us understand the Bible. In 1 Cor. 2:12 Paul tell us, Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

God has not left us by ourselves; he hasn’t left us to our own devices. He’s here. He is with us; he is for us; he’s working on the inside of us.

If you’re God’s child today, know that his grace is form-fitted for your life, for your struggles, for your trials, for your own unique personal and relational challenges. So this Christmas season, as you think of the baby in the manger, remember that the Christ child grew up, he lived a life of perfect obedience, and he went to the cross, and he bore the weight of your sin and of my sin, and he rose again victoriously. He sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and guide. And he’s at the right hand of the Father now interceding for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).

That’s how committed he is to you. He’s praying for you NOW! He’s our comforter; he’s the one who convicts us because he’s committed to us. And he speaks to us as we read his Word.

What kind of God would do that for us? A God who is awesome in power, amazing in his love, and abundant in his kindness.

 

[1] Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (NY: Dutton, 2014), 68.

[2] The Holy Spirit is our comforter but so also is God the Father. I take this to be a reference to the undivided work of God. This is expressed in the Latin axiom opera ad extra Trinitas sunt indivisa, a reference to the inseparable operation of God. See e.g., Keith E. Johnson, “Penal Substitution as an Undivided Work of the Triune God,” Trinity Journal 36 (2015): 51-67. See esp. 54-55.

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