The Apostles’ Creed: I believe in the Holy Spirit – new default settings

Do you ever feel alone, abandoned, outnumbered?

On the night Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples that He was leaving, but He gave them a command and a promise.

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. John 14:15-17.

We saw last time that this description highlighted a major difference between Jesus in the last 3 years and the work of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus’ followers to benefit from Jesus’ wisdom, they needed to be physically where He was so they could ask Him questions and listen for His answers. However, the Holy Spirit would live inside them.

Probably computers give a good explanation. A computer has an operating system. It has default settings. For Jesus followers, the Holy Spirit is their operating system. The Holy Spirit gives them new default settings. Where before they reacted with anger, for example, the Holy Spirit is able to create a default setting of patience.

Paul of Tarsus explained it like this:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:19-25, New Living Translation 1996.

How do you respond to that contrast between the old self-directed default settings and the Holy Spirit-empowered default settings?

Perhaps your first reaction is, “I know some Jesus followers who were not very kind or gentle or patient with me.”

Yes, I can well imagine. The problem is that all too often, we choose to allow the old default settings to operate – and we’re not proud of it.

Paul of Tarsus wrote about this too:

I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing Romans 7:19.

He goes on, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25.

Jesus followers fail a lot. But as they again and again ask Jesus’ forgiveness and the forgiveness of those they hurt, the Holy Spirit again takes control. It’s a long, slow journey. Jesus followers (at their best) lovingly critique and challenge one another as they together follow Jesus, surrendering themselves again and again to the Holy Spirit’s new default settings that will empower them to live lives of greater emotional, relational and spiritual health.

Looking back, it’s sometimes possible for the Jesus follower to see the results of those new default settings in the individual life.

How are your default settings working for you?

The Apostles’ Creed: I believe in the Holy Spirit

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hades;

The third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty

From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,…

Do you ever get tired of failure?

Sure, you can try harder, but you’re trying already, and sometimes it’s very discouraging.

Jesus has a solution for that. No, He doesn’t have an app for that. An app is something for your cell phone. He has something much better, because if your cell phone is lost or loses power (as happened to people without electricity in last week’s Manitoba snow storm), then what do you do?

Jesus described that solution in His final conversation with His followers before His arrest and execution. He told them that He was leaving.

My Father’s house has many rooms;…I am going there to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). Jesus’ purpose in this conversation was to prepare them for His departure and to let them know how He would guide them when He was no longer physically around to tell them what to do next.

A. You have to start with recognizing Jesus of Nazareth as the centre of the universe:

i) Jesus said, ‘I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me’ (John 14:6, The Message).

As the only path to God, as truth, as the source of life, there really is no other show in town.

ii) Three verses later, Jesus explains:

‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9).

In other words, Jesus is God in human form.

B. The next step follows logically.

‘If you love me, keep my commands’ (John 14:15).

Doesn’t it make sense to follow the directives of the Creator of the universe?

C. There’s a benefit package for those who choose to follow Jesus.

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 (John 14:16-17).

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, would live inside Jesus followers.

Do you see where this is going?

As long as Jesus was with His followers, they would find out from Him what they should do next and learn from Him how to react in whatever situation they faced. In order to get that insight, they had to be physically in the place where Jesus was, watching, listening, taking note.

But after Jesus’ departure, wherever on the planet they found themselves, Jesus followers would have God’s Spirit inside them, guiding their minds, their reactions, their words, thus reducing their chances of getting it wrong (as long, of course, as they were listening instead of letting ego get in the way – a constant challenge!).

D. In this final address, Jesus told His followers 5 things the Holy Spirit would do.

We’ll get into that next time.

For now, think about this.

If you in fact are tired of getting it wrong, why not consider Jesus, who offers you the Spirit of the Creator God inside you to help you traverse the challenges of your life?

Yes, that means you lose control of your life to Him, but how successful is your life the way you’re living it on your own?

And remember that the One who wants to run your life already died for you as an expression of His love for you. Besides independence, what do you have to lose?

Apostles’ Creed: Jesus the judge

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hades;

The third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty

From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

Judgment. How does that sound to you?

Perhaps it depends. If you look at a dreadful crime someone committed, you might want legal consequences for the perpetrator.

But if it’s about myself, perhaps I want a break.

Here’s what Jesus said about Himself as the judge of humanity.

Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself;

and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out-those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:25-29, New Revised Standard Version

When we talk about Jesus the judge, it’s important to begin by remembering that Jesus is God in human form, that He lived among humans and died in their place, taking on Himself all the pain and brokenness that each of us has caused to others. He died so that humans don’t have to die.

But like any gift you receive for your birthday, it’s only yours if you accept it. Here it is, in Jesus’ own words.

For only I, the Son of Man, have come to earth and will return to heaven again.

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so I, the Son of man, must be lifted up on a pole, so that everyone who believes in me will have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:13-16, New Living Translation, 1996).

In this famous saying, “believes in” means trusts in, clings to, relies on John 3:16, Amplified Bible. In other words, to believe in means to build your life on and around Jesus, and not on anything else, such as the good deeds you do, your family connections, your wealth or power. Only one thing can get that eternal life for us, and that is building our lives on Jesus, trusting that His death for us was enough to save us from the consequences of all the pain we’ve caused in life.

Jesus went on:

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God.

Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil (John 3:17-19, New Living Translation).

No matter how much good we try to do, it’s not enough. And then there’s the problem that some of the good we try to do ends up causing pain. But the main thing is that God says our good deeds can’t save us. That’s the whole point of Jesus coming to earth to die in our place. If we could be good enough on our own, it was a wasted effort. God knew that we couldn’t save ourselves, and for that reason He became a human and died in our place. If we then say, “Never mind, God, I can save myself” well, Jesus says that’s a problem because we’re self-deceived.

How does that connect with you?

Apostles’ Creed; From there He shall come

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hades;

The third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty

From there He shall come…

[Jesus] said to [His followers]:

‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;

And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

The were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ Acts 1:7-11.

There you have it. Jesus of Nazareth, God in human form, died and risen back to life on the third day to rescue humans from their own brokenness and rebellion, physically departed, is returning visibly one day.

What questions do you have? How about these:

When?

What are we supposed to do while we wait?

Thankfully, Jesus answered those questions:

1. When?

A few days before His arrest, Jesus told His followers, ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’ Matthew 24:42-44

How do you prepare for the arrival of someone at a time you don’t expect? By living every moment of every day as though that person were returning in that moment.

2. What are we supposed to do while we wait?

a) encourage each other to act lovingly, doing good deeds, getting together regularly with other Jesus followers

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25, New Living Translation, 1996).

b) comfort those who are sad by reminding them of the coming reunion with departed loved ones

And now, brothers and sister, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.

I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, New Living Translation).

c) tell people everywhere about Jesus

Jesus told them,… ‘And the Good News about the kingdom will be preached through the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then, finally, the end will come.’ (Matthew 24:14, New Living Translation 1996)

Jesus, Creator, ruler of the universe, is coming back at a time you don’t expect. What do you want Him to find you doing when He returns?

Apostles’ Creed: Jesus at the right hand of God the Father Almighty

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hades;

The third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty

What does it mean that Jesus sits at God’s right hand?

First of all, Jesus predicted this. At His trial, Luke records the following dialogue:

If you are the Messiah,’ they said, ‘tell us.’

Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.’

They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’

He replied, ‘You say that I am.’ Luke 22:67-70

The first meaning is, then, that Jesus is in a relationship with God that no one else has. He’s God’s Son.

What does He do there?

Here’s part of Paul of Tarsus’ answer:

Christ Jesus who died- more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

If you’re a Jesus follower, Jesus prays for you. If you have Jesus, God’s Son, seated at Almighty God’s right hand, praying for you, what else do you need?

You don’t need magic.

You don’t need any other power, any other force on earth or in the universe.

You’re in the best possible hands. (Which doesn’t mean there’s no need for Jesus followers to pray for each other. God likes to work in partnership with us, responding to our prayer.)

While the picture is usually of Jesus sitting at God’s right hand, William Barclay observes that there’s one story where Jesus was seen standing there. The scenario is that Stephen, a deacon, was on trial for talking about Jesus. At the end of the trial, as he was about to be executed

Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him Acts 7:55-58).

Barclay writes, “Certain commentators have…thought that the picture may be of the Christ at God’s right hand rising to come to the help and assisstance and comfort of his own, when they are suffering for his name’s sake” (The Apostles’ Creed Westminster John Knox 1998, 146).

The point here is that Jesus, Creator of the universe, stands ready to help us when we suffer injustice. Down here it may look like we’re alone when we suffer, but from a cosmic perspective, that is not true for Jesus followers. Jesus is standing, ready to empower us for the suffering ahead.

Another picture tells us that because Jesus is at God’s right hand, we have hope. Whatever the trouble you face, as a Jesus follower you have a bright future.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded wth light so that you can undersand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people.

I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in the world to come. And God has put all things under the authority of Christ…. (Ephesians 1:18-22, New Living Translation 1996).

Jesus at God’s right hand is the ruler of the entire universe. He uses that power to accomplish His purposes in the lives of those who follow Him. It’s a safe and friendly universe, no matter how unsafe and unfriendly things feel as you look around.

The Apostles’ Creed: He ascended into heaven

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hades;

The third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven…

Do you wonder why Jesus had to leave? Why couldn’t He stay, continuing to show His power by healing, raising people from the dead and so on?

The answer requires a trip back into the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel (chapter 36) gave a message from God that described God’s people’s failure to live by the commands He had given them. There had been great injustice as a result, and God had to respond with punishment.

Then Ezekiel went on to God’s solution:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;

I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

And I will put my Spirit in you

and move you to follow my decrees

and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

God’s solution for people’s inability to keep His laws was to put His own Spirit inside His followers so that they would have the ability to live God’s way.

When would that happen?

Jesus repeated the promise in His final address to His followers before His arrest and execution:

If you love me, keep my commands.

And I will ask the Father, and

he wil 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 wil be in you (John 14:15-17).

In the same conversation, Jesus answered the question, “When, Jesus?”

…you are filled with grief because I have said these things.

But very truly I tell you,

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 16:6-7).

Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus repeated the promise of the Holy Spirit’s imminent arrival.

On one occasion, whle he was eating with them, he gave them this comand:

‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1:4-5).

And then He departed. Ten days later the Holy Spirit arrived. Acts 2 tells the story of the Spirit’s arrival and the instant empowering effect on Jesus’ followers, giving them new boldness, joy and power. The chapters that follow describe what happened through the efforts of these ordinary, uneducated people empowered by God’s Spirit.

That power is present in every Jesus follower:

But you do not live as your human nature tells you to;

instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to – if, in fact, God’s Spirit lives in you.

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God,

even though your bodies are going to die becaue of sin.

If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you,

then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies

by the presence of his Spirit in you (Romans 8:9-11, Good News Translation).

When Jesus ascended from earth, the Holy Spirit came.

The Holy Spirit now lives in every Jesus follower, giving them the power to live a life of love and integrity as Jesus’ representatives in the places where they are. This power transforms their lives.

And when their bodies get frail and die, their spirits go through a door to meet Jesus face to face, continuing their life with Him.

In other words, it took God becoming a human, dying on a Roman cross for human failure, rising again and asending back to heaven to make Ezekiel’s promise come true.

Apostles” Creed: on the third day Jesus rose again from the dead

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hades;

The third day He rose again from the dead…

Three times in the Gospel of Mark Jesus predicted His violent death (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). This is itself remarkable because Jesus was not a violent person.

However, each time Jesus also predicted His resurrection three days later. Here’s the third of those predictions:

Again [Jesus] took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’ Mark 10:32-34

Here’s the opening line of Mark: The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). An important part of that Good News is that Jesus came to defeat the power of death.

“There are [no passion predictions]…in Mark; there are only passion-resurrection predictions….His Gospel is entitled good news…Never is death the final word.” Geddert, Believers Church Bible Commentary: Mark Herald 2001, 202-3

Accordingly, it’s important to see how proof of resurrection is made.

First, we saw in the August 8 blog entry the stress on the fact of Jesus’ physical death – you can’t have a resurrection from the dead if there was no death!

Second, William Barclay observes, “It must at once be admitted that it is not possible to demonstrate the fact of the Resurrection as one would demonstrate the truth of a theorem in geometry…this is why…witness is so important in the early Church.” The Apostles’ Creed John Knox 1998, 110-119.

a) It therefore comes as no surprise to see the emphasis Paul placed on eye witnesses in his teaching and writing about Jesus’ resurrection:

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters,[a] of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it.2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.[b]

3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.5 He was seen by Peter[c] and then by the Twelve.6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers[d]at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, New Living Translation)

At the time of writing, Paul says that the majority of the group of 500 eye witnesses of one post-resurrection appearance are still alive, and presumably available for interview.

b) In the April 25, 2019 blog entry, there was mention of Jesus’ continuing appearances in the twenty-first century.

What difference does Jesus’ resurrection make?

Jesus told his friend Martha the significance of His rising from the dead.

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:25-26). Those who live their lives with Jesus as their leader will experience physical death as a door to an existence with Jesus – an existence of endless life, with God and with those who made Jesus their leaders.

And I heard a loud cry from the throne saying,

‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21:3-4).

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is very important, because for Jesus followers it’s a message of the hope of defeating death. How does it seem to you?