The Holy Spirit of truth… and dense Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 September

John 14.15-17.

Christians take for granted that we receive the Holy Spirit by virtue of being Christian: When we say the sinner’s prayer and claim Jesus as our individual savior, we individually, automatically get the Holy Spirit to indwell us and guarantee us an eternal place in God’s kingdom. Right?

Right. But the assumption Jesus makes when he says as much to his students in John, is his students don’t just passively believe in him. Don’t just passively believe all the correct things about him, and have the proper “faith”, and that’s what saves us. And once we die after a lifetime of taking God’s grace for granted, we get to use the Holy Spirit as our entry fee to heaven.

The Holy Spirit’s been granted to us to help us continue to follow Jesus.

John 14.15-17 KWL
15 “When you love me you’ll keep my commands,
16 and I’ll make a request of the Father, and he’ll give you another Assistant,
because he’ll be with you in this age: 17 The truthful Holy Spirit.
The world can’t comprehend him, because it neither sees nor knows him.
You know him, because he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

The Spirit has an active purpose in our lives. Not just a passive one.

Jesus calls him τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας/to néfma tis alitheías, “the truthful Spirit.” (Or the KJV’s “the Spirit of truth” works too.) He reveals truth, as opposed to various other spirits out there which aren’t truthful at all, which people prefer to follow ’cause these spirits tell ’em just what they wanna hear. The world isn’t looking for truth; just confirmation. Stuff that’ll stroke their egos. So of course the world can’t handle the Holy Spirit; he does truth!

When we first turn to Jesus, it’s with the realization we’re wrong and he’s right. Or should be. Too often, newbies come to Jesus with the idea they’re not wrong—because they are turning to Jesus after all. They were wrong. Now they’re not. And now that they’re Christian they’re especially not wrong. They’ve got the right religion, the right Lord, the right church, the best bible translation, and they’re voting for the right guy. And if any Spirit dares tell them they’re wrong about any of these things, it certainly can’t be the Holy Spirit… so they’re not gonna listen to him.


As for people like me who grew up Christian, who’ve always been Christian, too many of us simply assume we’ve always been right. Isn’t that what our friends tell us? Isn’t that what we tell them? And when we gather together as the church, we can create a great big echo chamber, confirming to one another that we needn’t change, needn’t grow, needn’t follow Jesus one step further because we’re already at our destination: We’re going to heaven. We’re in the kingdom. We’re good. We’re done.

But that’ll make us Christianists, not Christians, and put us in the very same boat as the rest of the world. We might have the Holy Spirit within us, but we’re not letting him lead us. We don’t really know him. Aren’t growing fruit. Aren’t even following Jesus anymore; like the Pharisee hypocrites Jesus regularly rebuked, we replaced all his teachings with loopholes and follow them instead.

Following the Holy Spirit means we start by following Jesus. We obey his commands. We study everything he taught and do that. And the Spirit’s here to help us do that. Not for nothing does Jesus call him another παράκλητον/parákliton, “Assistant,” like himself: No, not an assistant who works for us, but a tutor who puts us on the straight and narrow—provided we listen, and don’t assume we know better than he.

While Jesus atoned for our sins and sorted out our relationship with his Father (and himself, and the Spirit), he didn’t make us sinless. Like the bumper sticker says, we’re not perfect, just forgiven. But we’re not meant to be okay with that! We’re not meant to settle there. Yet too many do: We presume forgiveness is all Christianity is. That it’s not a lifestyle, not a religion; that nothing’s expected of us but to sit back and let God save us, and even that it’s right to do nothing.

And it’s absolutely not. Otherwise the Holy Spirit wouldn’t need to be in us—to guide, correct, convict, instruct, empower, and point us to the good works God laid out for us. Ep 2.10 The Spirit’s only purpose isn’t just to be our meal ticket. He’s trying to lead us to truth, and we’re just as dense as the rest of the world. Often denser: The world realizes something’s wrong! They won’t always recognize God has the answers… and they really won’t realize this when we Christians act like blind, ignorant, science-denying fools.

The path to following the Spirit, begins in following Jesus. So let’s start there.