“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
Before Christopher Columbus, the Spanish flag bore the motto, “No More Beyond.” Spain was a mighty empire rich in art, religion, commerce and science. And as a sign of pride in their accomplishments the Spaniards took on the motto, “No More Beyond.” They were quite certain that Spain and the western world were all there was. Then came the year 1492 and Christopher Columbus’ encounter of the new world. Suddenly a vast new continent opened up and the Spanish motto was changed to agree with the facts. Instead of the “No More Beyond” slogan, their motto became, “More Beyond!” Today, the Scripture is saying the same thing to the church of Jesus Christ. “There is more! More beyond!”
No Know-it-alls Yet!
The first part of the text tells us that none of us knows it all yet. Jesus looked at His disciples, as He is looking at us today, and He said, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” His saying must have hurt the original disciples deeply. They had given up everything to follow Him. For three years they had been His students. They had walked with Him, eaten with Him, prayed with Him, questioned Him, and hoped with Him. All this, and Jesus was saying “There’s a lot more beyond! But you’re not ready for it yet.”
Which of us has been as close to Jesus as one of the twelve apostles? Have you given up everything to follow Him? Where is the church member today who has been there when Jesus preached, healed, prayed, died, and rose? Certainly none of us can boast such a relationship with Christ. So if Jesus could say what He said to the twelve apostles how much more can he say it to each of us today. “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
Christians that really know the Lord have always readily admitted their spiritual ignorance. It is only those young or immature in the faith that act like know-it-alls. St. Paul, as wise in the he ways of the Lord as he was, said of his faith, “Now we see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12). Job, in his wisdom, admitted, “Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways, but the thunder of His power, who can understand?” (Job 26:14).
Christians are like a group of blind children that regularly visit the Louvre Museum in Paris. Their teacher takes them there on an educational outing each week. Whenever they stand before some art treasure, the teacher takes each child and guides his fingers over it and describes its appearance. Can you imagine a blind, thin, spindly-legged little child reaching out to feel the statue of the famous “Gladiator” sculpture? There is the blind and weak reaching out to embrace the likeness in marble of perfect physical manhood! We Christians are like those blind students touring the Louvre. We do not see it all. We do not know it all. Yet regularly our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, guides us to Jesus Christ, the Perfect Person, the Maximum Man. And there as we glimpse Him through a glass darkly, as we grope our way to Him and feel His presence, we learn something more of His nature.
Viewing ourselves like blind children touring the Louvre is a humbling experience, is it not? But to see ourselves as such is to see ourselves as we truly are. Did not Jesus say, “Unless you humble yourselves and become as a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God”? (Mk. 10:15). Jesus said this so that none of us would become puffed up with self-importance. He wanted us to see that even the world’s most educated man has no reason for vain conceit. “Be like a child,” Jesus said. A child is humble. He is inquisitive. He is most of all, teachable.
Are you teachable as a little child? Or are you like a Pharisee, unteachable and a know-it-all? To the church today Jesus says as He said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
We Have a Teacher
Next, the Scriptures brings us a word of good news. God does not leave us in our blind ignorance. He gradually educates us. He gradually opens our eyes. Christ said, “I have yet many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” Here, the Lord is promising that the Holy Spirit will come to us and teach us what we do not yet know.
Notice that the text says, “He will guide you into all the truth.” The phrase, “He will guide you,” reveals that this will take place over a period of time. It is a process. In other words it does not happen all at once.
Have you ever been stumbling around in your house in the dark when suddenly your wife turns the lights on? Your eyes, accustomed to darkness, struggle in flutters against the light. Truth is like that too. If God were to enlighten us all at once we would be unable to bear it. Too much light too soon would be overwhelming! Emily Dickinson wrote, “The truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind.” How true! And did you know that God dazzles us gradually with His truth? The texts indicates that our enlightenment from God by the Holy Spirit comes as a process over a period of time. It doesn’t say, “He has zapped you with all the truth.” It says, “He will guide you into all the truth.” I like the way the psalmist puts it. He said, “The unfolding of Thy words give light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130). Elsewhere the psalmist says, “Light dawns for the righteous” (Ps. 97:11).
A generous businessman decided to give ten thousand dollars to a poor aspiring art student. Thinking that much money received at one time might overwhelm the man, he wisely decided to give it to him little by little over a period of time. So the businessman forwarded $100 with a note which read, “More to follow!” After a week he sent a similar check with the same message. At regular intervals he dispatched a third, then a fourth, and a fifth— all accompanied by the same promise, “More to follow!” This went on for several years until the entire gift had finally been received by the fellow. God’s truth comes to us like that as well. He doesn’t all at once dump it into our laps. That would overwhelm us. It would crush us. Like Jesus said, “We cannot bear it now.” God sends us His truth in pieces. He says, “I will freely forgive you— but there is more to follow. I will guide you with my eye— but there is more to follow. Love your neighbor— but that’s not all of the gospel. Love yourself— but more follows. Love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. More to follow! I will uphold you in the hour of death. More to follow! In my Father’s house are many mansions. More to follow!” And so, as the prophet Isaiah predicted, “The word of the Lord will be to us precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Is. 28:13).
The Whole Truth and Nothing But . . .
So, the text has told us two things so far. God has said that none of us knows it all yet. He has said that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to gradually enlighten us. And now the text tells us that we shall eventually be fully enlightened with truth. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of Truth comes He will guide you into all the truth.” Notice that the text does not say, “He might guide you into all the truth.” It says, “He will!” Notice also that the text does not say, “He will guide you into some of the truth or into your favorite parts of the truth.” It says, “He will guide you into all of the truth.” If it were left up to us I’m quite sure we’d only want God to lead us into the easy parts of His truth. Show us only the parts of Thy truth that pat us on the back, O God,” we’d pray. Christians have, and probably always will have, the bad habit of wanting God on their own terms. Rather than accepting God on His terms we accept Him on our terms. And a big conflict occurs. But the Holy Spirit is here to teach us God’s truth. He is here to teach us all of God’s truth about the Bible, prayer, evangelism, holiness, love an so much more.
If you study the New Testament you can follow the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry in the lives of apostles. All His life Jesus taught Peter to put God first in His life. Then at the arrest, trial and conviction Peter denied Christ three times and went back to the fishing boats. But Jesus wouldn’t let him alone. Resurrected and standing on the beach Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter said, “Master, you know I love you!” Again Jesus asked him of his love for God. And still a third time he inquired. Three times, one for every denial, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. You might say Peter was a bit slow like us. We have to have things repeated to us again and again.
Look also at Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Not once, but three times the Holy Spirit gave Peter the vision of a sheet being let down from heaven full of all kinds of wild animals. Three times the Spirit said, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” The Holy Spirit was teaching Peter the truth about racism. “No man is unclean,” He said. Jesus had taught this during His ministry. He ate with tax collectors, harlots, and Samaritans. He was the friend of all. And He died for all. But the lesson of loving all people equally went unlearned by the apostles. After the resurrection they still refused to eat with anyone except Jews. Their gospel was only for Israel. So the Holy Spirit had to teach and reteach what Jesus had already taught. Thus Peter was given the vision. And because, like us, he was slow to accept the truth, the vision was repeated three times.
Right here we find clearly one of the functions of the Holy Spirit. He is our teacher. He teaches us again and again the things of Jesus until we accept them and obey Him. He teaches us to pray. He teaches us to tithe. He teaches us not to hate but to love. He teaches us to forgive, to worship regularly, to witness. He teaches us to love God completely.
In the days ahead you will discover the Holy Spirit guiding you into more and more of God’s truth. He will not overwhelm you, but little by little, line upon line, He will educate you in God’s ways. He will do this as you study the Bible. Things you’ve never seen before will come to light! He will teach you in your experience of trial and effort. As you attempt to learn prayer He will show you how. He will point out new truth in sermons. Sometimes the truth will hurt. Sometimes you will not want to believe it. But God wants you to know and do all of His truth, so bear with it. Lou H. Evans said that “The purpose of a preacher is to irritate the comfortable and comfort the irritated.” So bear with your irritations that you may be comforted! God will also let the Holy Spirit teach you through your parents, through books, your Bible study group, and Sunday School. Your job is to go where the Spirit is teaching. Be humble. Be eager to learn. Be teachable as a little child. God still has so much more to say to us!
A warning here is in order. The Holy Spirit is at work to enlighten you with God’s truth. When you receive the light and obey it, you receive more light. But when you reject the light of God’s truth and turn away you grieve your teacher, the Holy Spirit. And that leads to dankness. Jesus said that it was possible to reject God’s truth so habitually that one becomes blind. He said, “The people have ears to hear but do not hear. They have eyes to see but do not see” (Mt. 13:13-17). Do take this warning to heart unless you want to become blind to truth. Light from the Holy Spirit accepted and obeyed brings more light. But light rejected brings darkness.
Will You Be a Learner?
Some years ago I was flying to the island of Haiti. I asked the pilot of the AirFrance jet if I might sit in the cockpit with him and watch him land. He allowed me to sit in the jump seat and observe. After a few moments of high flight the pilot turned to me and said we were about to fly through the worst thunderhead he’d ever seen. When he tightened his seat belt I tightened mine too. Within minutes we were bumping and jolting through clouds so thick you couldn’t see the tip of the wings. Thunder and lightning groaned and hissed all around us. The pilot said we’d have to land by radar and orders from the control tower. A voice over the radio crackled, “You’re now 150 miles from touchdown. Descend to 6,000 feet and come two degrees left.” Our pilot obeyed the course corrections. The moments dragged by. Again the voice crackled, “Fifty miles from touchdown. Descend to 1,500 feet. One degree left. You are fifty miles from touchdown.” Still the ground was invisible. There was only the fog. I looked at the pilot and he was sweating. I started to sweat too. Finally the voice over the radio ordered again, “Descend to 500 feet. Cut your air speed to 150 knots. Come one degree right.” Moments passed when suddenly through the clouds the airport runway lights became visible and within minutes the aircraft had nestled safely on the ground. We had made a perfect instrument landing. The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives like that too. We have been blinded by sin and God is giving us directions through the Holy Spirit and Scripture so that we can find our way back to Him. In this life He teaches us. He modifies our beliefs. He corrects our course. He speeds us up. He slows us down. Jesus said, “Straight is the gate, narrow is the way, and few are there that enter in” (Mt. 7:13). But if we listen to the Holy Spirit and obey His truth we will find our way. We will land safely. We will be right on schedule, right on target with truth.
Jesus said, “Come unto me . . . take my yoke . . . learn from me!” (Mt. 11:28). The church is a place to learn. No, you cannot be just as good a Christian without going to church as you can be by going any more than a man can be a doctor without going to medical school. You must learn the things of God. And one place this is being taught is in church. The Holy Spirit is our tutor. And you ain’t seen nothing yet! That might be poor English but it is good theology. We’re all still in the school of the Holy Spirit. It is an educational system from which we never graduate. Here we learn and relearn the ways of God in Christ Jesus.
Albert Schweitzer, in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, wrote about our relationship with Christ, “He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old by the lakeside He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word, ‘Follow thou me,’ and sets us to tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the suffering which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who He is.”
God bless you with faith and obedience as in the school of the Holy Spirit you learn who Jesus really is.
Restore unto me, O God, the pure, eager, teachable heart of a child. By your Spirit make me a student in the school of Christ. Let me learn of the faith, be a student of prayer. Let me hear from the Spirit all about justice, but most of all, dear Lord, teach me about love. For Christ’s sake. Amen.