“We Believe In The Holy Spirit”
John 14:15-31; Nicene Creed
We’ve come to the end of the Nicene Creed. This statement of faith crafted in the fourth century by some of the first leaders in the church. In this creed they cover what they see as the essential basics of what it means to call yourself a Christian.
First up was to believe in God the Father, the creator of all things. This is a relative easy one to accept. Even a lot of people who don’t go to church at all believe in a creator God. Or mayve they at least hope there is one should they need to cover themselves when their time on this earth has passed.
The second, longest and most important section is to believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This belief is important because Jesus is God among us, coming to show us how God intended us to be in creation. Jesus came to show us how God acts in the world, how we are also to act, and also to heal the broken relationship with God our creator.
Which brings us to today. Today we look at what is probably the least understood part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
This section of the Creed states,
“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.”
The work of the Holy Spirit is described in various ways in the church now. But it’s source we cannot question when we hear the words of Jesus like we did this morning, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus sends the Spirit of God to those who believe, follow, and keep his commandments.
The word ‘helper’ has also been translated into ‘advocate’ or ‘counsellor’. We’ve also called the Holy Spirit things like ‘guide’, ‘companion’ and ‘comforter’. All of these terms refer to someone accompanying us on a journey.
One of the questions we might have is why do we need it? We’ve heard about God, we’ve heard what Jesus has done, isn’t that enough?
Not quite. Look at the disciples. Look how they acted when they were with Jesus in person. Once in a while it looked like they had it figured out, but then they’d do something to prove they had no idea who they were with. I mean, after three years Judas still felt compelled to betray him to the authorities. Three years of walking with Jesus, watching him do they things he did, all those miracles, listening to the stories he told, watching how he helped people, and still Judas turned him in.
If the disciples don’t get it, what hope do we have then?
We have hope because of what happened later on. When Jesus died, rose again and went to live with the Father, he fulfilled his promise.
Remember what happened to the disciples as they were hiding away in a house on the day of Pentecost. Remember how the Spirit came upon them and they were changed forever. They finally got it. They finally understood who Jesus was and what he was teaching. It finally all made sense to them.
It was the Holy Spirit that did this. It was the promised gift, the advocate, the helper, the counsellor, the companion, the comforter, the guide. It finally came and opened their eyes, their ears, their hearts, their minds to what the Lord was showing them.
In that moment, when the Spirit was unleashed onto the world, the church was born. The disciples went out and preached, they went out and shared the stories of Jesus Christ, they went out and began a movement to introduce this gift of the Holy Spirit to the masses, just as Jesus had instructed them to do just before he ascended to be with God.
The Creed says,
“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
The writers of the Creed brought it all together to show they were united in their beliefs. We are one church, we are the church of Jesus Christ in the world when we believe the statements they put forward.
One thing to keep in mind is that there were already a number of branches of the Christian church by the 4th century. The statement of faith was used to weed out the pretenders, the one’s who were not “true” Christians, the heretics as they labeled them. The one’s who did not believe in these basics, they obviously could not agree with the Creed, and therefore were not included in the church as it emerged, grew and became more organized.
We can learn a lot from the early founders of the church. If these are the founding statements, the basic rights that they all found necessary in being able to call yourself a Christian or a church, there is something we can learn from keeping it simple.
One thing I’m noticing about the church today is that it often appears to be softening the definition to make it easier for people to come to agreement and inclusion in the definition of who is a Christian.
Some people have taken this to extremes and I’m not convinced the church is better for it. Scripture tells us Jesus is the head of the church, that Jesus built this church, and that he would send the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, to continue in the ways he taught us. The church cannot exist without Jesus Christ.
When we went through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians earlier this fall we learned the church is the bride of Jesus Christ. As the groom Jesus put his own life before the life of the church. He gave himself for us. And as part of his will, so to speak, we have inherited this wonderful gift of the Spirit to carry us on, to keep us from being alone, to keep us, the children, from being orphaned, as we read in John’s gospel.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is our continued connection to Jesus Christ. As it said in the Creed, it has moved the hearts of the prophets to speak, it continues to work our hearts today to move us to believe in the risen Christ, the head of the church, the Son of our Father in heaven.
It is when we accept the Word of God, that Jesus Christ is his only begotten Son who has come to heal us and reconcile us to the Father, to bring us back into the love and grace we can only find in Him. It is when we do these things we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus has promised us.
The Creed ends with these words,
“We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
We await the return of Jesus Christ. He told us he will return. The Nicene Creed captures those various verses in scripture. We look forward to the day when we join in with the great resurrection, when all who believe in our Lord will be called home to our God. When we will all be reunited in the kingdom promised to those who believe.
So while the Nicene Creed is a statement of faith crafted by committee. While it’s simple in form and substance. While it was written by imperfect human hands. The Creed is a reflection of what it means to call yourself a child of God, a member of Christ’s church.
We believe in one God, the Father almighty.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, sent from God the Father, and the Son, the giver of life.
These are the three key beliefs we hold dear to our hearts when we call ourselves children of God.