This is the seventh study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:
Purpose: To learn to identify the means God uses to direct us.
It is very easy for us to confuse our wishes with God’s leading. Is it possible to be certain that it is God who has spoken and not our hearts playing tricks on us?
Be creative as you work together in making a list of “Top Ten Ways to Know God Has Spoken.”
How would your life be different if every decision you made was based solely on the feelings of your heart?
Just before going to the cross, Jesus spoke to his confused disciples and assured them that he would continue to lead and guide them. He said that he would give them two signs to show them that they were going in the right direction: love and the Spirit. Read John 14:15-27.
1. What promise in this passage gives you the greatest sense of assurance?
2. How will we recognize our love for God and his love for us?
Leon Morris suggests: Obedience is the mark of true love. The man who truly loves Christ in this way will be loved of the Father. It might be possible to understand from this that the Father’s love is thus merited. But this is not the thought of the passage. Jesus is saying in the first place, that love to Him is not a thing of words. If it is real it is shown in deeds. The lover keeps the commandments of the loved one. He is also saying that the Father is not indifferent to the attitude men take to the Son. This does not mean that He hands out rewards on the basis of merit. It means rather that love calls to love. Not only will the Father love such a man, but Jesus also will love Him. He further says, that He will “manifest” Himself to them. He does not explain what this means. He simply says that in some undefined way He will reveal Himself to the man who loves Him.” (The Gospel According to John [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1971], p. 653)
3. Looking back at your last major decision, how did it demonstrate your love for Christ?
4. What facts are given about the identity of the Spirit?
The Spirit is given the names Counselor (John 14:16), Spirit of Truth (John 14:17) and Holy Spirit (John 14:26). These names reflect his character.
- His origin is revealed in the phrase, “whom the Father will send in my name” (John 14:26).
- His location is given in the words, “he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).
- His purpose is declared in these words, “will teach you all things” (John 14:26) and “will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).
5. What is Jesus’ purpose in having the Spirit sent to us?
Leon Morris focuses on the importance of the Spirit as teacher: “All things” is comprehensive and probably means “all that you will need to know.” The Spirit is to be the guide and teacher of the church. In addition to this he will bring back to the disciples’ memory all the things that Jesus had told them. John has made it clear that the disciples did not grasp the significance of a good deal that their Master taught them. It seems likely that they let slip some of the things they did not understand. . . . Jesus is now saying that the Holy Spirit will supply their lack. (Gospel According to John, pp 656-57).
6. What help can we expect from the Holy Spirit in making decisions?
Sometimes the Holy Spirit will tell a person exactly what they should do. Many people can tell about a time when guidance has been clear and specific. However, even when we are not given such specific answers, the Holy Spirit will at least teach us everything that God wants us to know in making a decision and will remind us of the knowledge we already have that bears on our decision.
7. Describe a time when you have known that the Holy Spirit was counseling you.
8. How does Jesus answer Judas’s question, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22)?
Judas asks this question with the expectation that the Messiah was supposed to reveal himself in a glorious way to all humankind. Jesus’ statements were causing him to fear that something had happened to disrupt God’s plan. The answer to Judas’ question is that love is the method of seeing. Those who love Jesus will continually be able to see him and those who do not love him will never be able to see him. The problem is NOT that Jesus has not been revealed, but that some do not have the eyes to see him.
9. Describe the special relationship you have with Christ. What has he shown you (How have you felt his love)?
10. What kind of peace is Jesus talking about in John 14:27? How does it differ from the world’s version of peace?
“The peace of which he speaks is NOT dependent on any outward circumstances, as any peace the world can give must necessarily be. Because He gives men such a peace Jesus can instruct them not to be troubled in heart nor cowardly. A Christ-given serenity excludes both. It is worth noting that in the Bible peace is given a wider and deeper meaning than in other Greek writings. For the Greeks (as for us) peace was essentially negative, the absence of war. But for the Hebrews it meant positive blessing, especially a right relationship with God” (Morris, Gospel According to John, p. 658).
11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for his faith, said, “Peace is the opposite of security.” What does it mean to have peace about a decision you have made?
12. What have Jesus’ words in this passage taught you about identifying God’s voice?
Pray for the ability to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Now or Later
Moses had trouble believing that it was really God who was telling him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Read about Moses’ call in Exodus 3:1-12.
- If you had been Moses, how would you have reacted to the sign of authenticity that God gave in verse 12?
- When have you received God’s after-the-fact assurance regarding a decision you have made?
- Read Exodus 4:1-17. What additional signs of assurance does God give to Moses?
- Why do you think Moses had so much trouble believing God?
- What can you learn from Moses’ struggle?
John 14:15 The Lord Jesus was about to leave His disciples, and they would be filled with sorrow. How would they be able to express their love to Him? The answer was by keeping His commandments. Not by tears, but by obedience. The commandments of the Lord are the instructions which He has given us in the Gospels, as well as the rest of the NT.
John 14:16 The word translated pray that is used here of our Lord is NOT the same word used to describe an inferior praying to a superior, but of one making request of his equal. The Lord would pray the Father to send another Helper. The word Helper (Paraclete) means one called to the side of another to help. It is also translated Advocate (1 John 2:1). The Lord Jesus is our Advocate or Helper, and the Holy Spirit is another Helper—not another of a different kind, but another of similar nature. The Holy Spirit would abide with believers forever. In the OT, the Holy Spirit came upon men at various times, but often left them. Now He would come to remain forever.
John 14:17 The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth because His teaching is true and He glorifies Christ who is the truth. The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it cannot see Him. Unbelievers want to see before they will believe—although they believe in wind and electricity, and yet they cannot see them. The unsaved do not know or understand the Holy Spirit. He may convict them of sin, and yet they do not know that it is He. The disciples knew the Holy Spirit. They had known Him to work in their own lives and had seen Him working through the Lord Jesus.
“He dwells with you, and will be in you.” Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon men and dwelt with them. But since Pentecost, when a man believes on the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in that man’s life forever. The prayer of David, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me,” would not be suitable today. The Holy Spirit is never taken from a believer, although He may be grieved, or quenched, or hindered.
John 14:18 The Lord would NOT leave His disciples as orphans, or desolate. He would come to them again. In one sense, He came to them after His resurrection, but it is doubtful if that is what is meant. In another sense, He came to them in the Person of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This spiritual coming is the true meaning here. “There was something about Pentecost which made it a coming of Jesus.” In a third sense, He will literally come to them again at the end of this age, when He will take His chosen ones home to heaven.
John 14:19 No unbeliever saw the Lord Jesus after His burial. After He was raised, He was seen only by those who loved Him. But even after His Ascension, His disciples continued to see Him by faith. This is doubtless meant by the words “but you will see Me.” After the world could no longer see Him, His disciples would continue to see Him. “Because I live, you will live also.” Here He was looking forward to His resurrection life. It would be the pledge of life for all who trusted Him. Even if they should die, they would be raised again to die no more.
John 14:20 “At that day” probably refers again to the descent of the Holy Spirit. He would instruct believers in the truth that just as there was a vital link between the Son and the Father, so there would be a marvelous union of life and interests between Christ and His saints. It is difficult to explain how Christ is in the believer, and the believer is in Christ at the same time. The usual illustration is of a poker in the fire. Not only is the poker in the fire, but the fire is in the poker. But this does not tell the full story. Christ is in the believer in the sense that His life is communicated to him. He actually dwells in the believer through the Holy Spirit. The believer is in Christ in the sense that he stands before God in all the merit of the Person and work of Christ.
John 14:21 The real proof of one’s love to the Lord is obedience to His commandments. It is useless to talk about loving Him if we do not want to obey Him. In one sense, the Father loves all the world. But He has a special love for those who love His Son. Those are also loved by Christ, and He makes Himself known to them in a special way. The more we love the Savior, the better we shall know Him.
John 14:22 The Judas mentioned here had the misfortune to have the same name as the traitor. But the Spirit of God kindly distinguished him from Iscariot. He could not understand how the Lord could appear to the disciples without also being seen by the world. Doubtless He thought of the Savior’s coming as that of a conquering King or popular Hero. He did NOT understand that the Lord would manifest Himself to His own in a spiritual manner. They would see Him by faith through the Word of God.
By the Spirit of God, we can actually know Christ better today than the disciples knew Him when He was on earth. When He was here, those in the front of the crowd were closer to Him than those in the rear. But today, by faith, each of us can enjoy the closest of fellowship with Him. Christ’s answer to Judas’ question shows that the promised manifestations to His individual followers is connected with the Word of God. Obedience to the Word will result in the coming and abiding of the Father and the Son.
John 14:23 If a person truly loves the Lord, he will want to keep all of His teachings, not just isolated commandments. The Father loves those who are willing to obey His Son without questions or reservations. Both Father and Son are especially near to such loving and obedient hearts.
John 14:24 On the other hand, those who do not love Him do not keep His sayings. And they are not only refusing the words of Christ, but those of the Father as well.
John 14:25 While He was with them, our Lord taught His disciples up to a certain point. He could not reveal more truth to them because they could not have taken it in.
John 14:26 But the Holy Spirit would reveal more. He was sent by the Father in the name of Christ on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit came in Christ’s name in the sense that He came to represent Christ’s interests on earth. He did not come to glorify Himself but to draw men and women to the Savior. “He will teach you all things,” said the Lord. He did this first of all through the spoken ministry of the apostles; then through the written Word of God which we have today. The Holy Spirit brings to remembrance all the things which the Savior had taught. Actually, the Lord Jesus seems to have presented in germ form all the teaching which is developed by the Holy Spirit in the rest of the NT.
John 14:27 A person who is about to die usually writes a last will and testament in which he leaves his possessions to his loved ones. Here the Lord Jesus was doing that very thing. However, He did not bequeath material things but something that money could not buy—peace, inward peace of conscience that arises from a sense of pardoned sin and of reconciliation with God. Christ can GIVE it because He PURCHASED it with His own blood at Calvary. It is not given as the world gives—sparingly, selfishly, and for a short time. His gift of peace is forever. Why then should a Christian be troubled or afraid?
No wonder the disciples were troubled (John 14:1, 27): Jesus was going to leave them, one of them would betray Him, and Peter would deny Him. Jesus encouraged them by telling them about Himself and the Father.
Jesus takes us to the Father (John 14:1–6). We have a home in heaven when life is over, and we shall meet Jesus and the Father. James M. Gray wrote, “Who could mind the journey when the road leads home?” Blessed assurance!
Jesus reveals the Father (John 14:7–11). In what He said (John 7:16) and did (John 5:19) during His earthly ministry, Jesus revealed the Father: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). How can we not love the Father when He is like Jesus?
Jesus glorifies the Father (John 14:12–18). He does it through His people as they do God’s works and keep His commandments. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer, we could never glorify the Lord.
Jesus and the Father dwell with us (John 14:19–31). It is one thing for us to go to heaven and quite something else for heaven to come to us! There is a deeper fellowship with the Son and the Father for those who love Him, seek Him, and obey Him. We experience His peace as we commune with the Father and the Son in love.
Jesus is the way to the Father; He reveals the truth about the Father; and He shares the life of the Father with us. Why should our hearts be troubled?