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Forgotten God

By Andy McQuitty

Last Sunday we kicked off our new sermon series Animate, where we are exploring who the Holy Spirit is and how he works in and through our lives.

If you were at IBC this Sunday, you heard me admit that the Holy Spirit is, as Francis Chan describes him, “the forgotten God” for many and especially for myself. I foolishly tend to ignore “the shy member of the Trinity” (as Michael Horton calls him). A friend describes this oversight as being like a football team famed for their passing game losing the Super Bowl because they only ran the ball! What’s behind my (our?) penchant to abandon our true source of strength and forget the third member of the Holy Trinity?

My default approach to life is one of self-sufficient, pull yourself up by the bootstraps independence. That worked OK until sixty years on the planet has taught me that I’m too dim for self-sufficiency, too weak to pull myself up, and too prone to wander for independence. I need help! And here’s the wisdom of experience: not only do I need help now—I always did (whether I realized it or not) and I always will! And dare I say it? So do you.

The good news is that God knows this about us. He doesn’t chide us for our weakness. But he graciously provides for it. As Jesus promised in John 14:15–16: "If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (emphasis added).

“Another advocate” (literally, “another of the same kind”) here translates the Greek word paraclete, a commonly understood name for the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel. That’s a tough word for English translators because it is capable of a large range of meaning from “Helper” and “Advocate” to “Comforter” and “Counselor.”

It was a tough word for the translators of the New Testament into the Karre language of equatorial Africa as well. How could they describe the Holy Spirit? One day the translators came across a group of porters going off into the bush carrying bundles on their heads. They noticed that in the line of porters there was always one who didn't carry anything, and they assumed he was the boss, there to make sure that the others did their work. However, they discovered he wasn't the boss; he had a special job. He was there should anyone fall over with exhaustion; he would come and pick up the man's load and carry it for him. This porter was known in the Karre language as "the one who falls down beside us." The translators had their word for paraclete (fr Ian Coffey, "Deep Impact," Keswick '99, OM Publishing).

To live my life for the Lord, I need help. We need help! And help, bless God, is what we have through the Holy Spirit who never leaves us and lives within us and fall down in our darkest valleys right beside us to lift us out again. Think on these words from Moltmann.

“GOD'S MISSION is nothing less than the sending of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son into this world, so that this world should not perish but live. ... The sending of the Holy Spirit is the revelation of God's indestructible affirmation of life and his marvelous joy in life.” Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life

So then, when the burden is too heavy, when the strain is too much, when the path is too long, when the sun is too hot, when we just feel like falling down, he is there to lift us up. Why take one more step on life’s path without leaning on the strength and imbibing the encouragement of your Paraclete?

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