Jesus, Continued...: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You

Jesus, Continued...: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You

by J.D. Greear
Jesus, Continued...: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You

Jesus, Continued...: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You

by J.D. Greear


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Encounter the dynamic presence of God as you learn from pastor and author J. D. Greear how to more fully experience the Holy Spirit within you.

Jesus gave his disciples the audacious promise that the Spirit he would send to live inside them would be even better than if he himself remained beside them. Yet how many of us consider our connection to the Holy Spirit so strong that we would call his presence in us better than Jesus himself walking by our side?

J. D. Greear was the pastor of a rapidly growing church who still felt like he didn't know how to relate to God personally. Though he knew a lot about God, he wasn't as sure about how to walk with God. Furthermore, he felt overwhelmed by the size of the mission Jesus had left for his church. In a world of so much need, what difference could he possibly make? Learning how God dwells in us and empowers us in the Holy Spirit redefined his life and ministry. Ministry became less about working for God and more about letting God work through him. Drudgery was replaced by delight; helplessness was replaced by empowerment.

In Jesus, Continued... Greear explores—in clear and practical language—questions such as:

  • What does it mean to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit?
  • How can we tell when the Spirit is speaking to us?
  • What do you do when God feels absent?

If you are longing to know God in a vibrant way, Jesus, Continued... has good news for you: That's exactly what God wants for you too. His Spirit stands ready to guide you, empower you, and use you.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310337768
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 11/04/2014
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 654,239
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and the 62nd president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Summit Church has been ranked by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States, with a weekly attendance of over 10,000. Greear has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of many books, including Gaining by Losing, Jesus Continued, and Not God Enough. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Veronica, and their four children.

Read an Excerpt

Jesus, Continued

By J. D. Greear


Copyright © 2014 J. D. Greear
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33776-8


A False Dilemma

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." —John 16:7 ESV

... Religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building. —Bono

I have a friend—I'll call him Brennan—who served for several years as a leader in our church. A bright young college senior, Brennan was well-spoken, well-regarded, and a leader both on his college campus and in our church. But Brennan had a dark secret he had shared with no one. He had a same-sex attraction that led him into pornography and eventually to a string of hook-ups with random guys he met in Internet chat rooms.

By the time Brennan finally confessed his sin to his campus leader and me, he was a broken young man. He had already desperately tried everything he could think of to fix himself. He had memorized Scripture, made vows, and even gotten rid of his Internet connection. Yet his "problem" was getting worse. So together, we plotted out a course of recovery that involved professional counseling, more Scripture, and high accountability. Brennan progressed a little, and for brief seasons it looked as if he was gaining victory ... only to fall back down into the same dark valleys. Eventually he checked himself into an intensive ministry that helps believers get control of the lusts of their flesh.

Brennan showed up at my house eight months later, noticeably different in his demeanor. I asked him what he had learned. "I didn't learn anything new," he said. "I learned to lean on the Holy Spirit. I always knew he was in there, but I didn't know how to relate to him." Brennan told me he had been surprised at how frequently the counselors at this ministry, all of whom had come through their own struggles and sexual addictions, referred to the Holy Spirit. They talked about him like he was real, like someone they met with daily. For them, the Spirit was not a theological concept, but a Person with whom they interacted and on whom they depended.

Brennan, who had grown up in Baptist and Reformed circles, knew all about the Holy Spirit. He knew the Holy Spirit came into his heart when he trusted Christ and that he was in there, helping out somehow in the sanctification process. But never, he said, had he been taught to seek the Holy Spirit like these believers did. They sought his presence as if their lives depended on him. Brennan began to understand that he needed more than "right beliefs" to subdue these lusts of his flesh. He needed power. Resurrection power. And a constant Companion who would always be there to help.

"And this discovery," he said, "marked a turning point in the struggle with my sin." He added, "These temptations are still with me, and I suppose always will be. But I have found in the Spirit of God a power more potent than the lusts of my flesh. Being filled with God the Holy Spirit has done more for me than all the seminars I sat through or coping techniques I mastered."

Do you know the Holy Spirit in this way?

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his disciples, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18, emphasis mine). At the ascension Jesus did not become an absentee God. He, as God, simply came to his disciples as a different Person. The mystery of the Trinity is that only one God exists in three Persons. Each person is distinct from the other two, but in experiencing one, you experience the one God who is them all. (If your mind feels as if it just exploded, that's okay. Christian theologians have been wrestling with that for centuries!)

In the same way that he could tell his followers, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father," so it would be true for him to say, "When you hear from the Spirit, you hear from me." And, remarkably, he told his disciples that his presence in them would be even better than his presence beside them. Wow. Think about that.

This Spirit, he said, would bring to their minds all that he had said and taught. In other words, he would make the Word of God come alive in their hearts, applying that Word to their questions and doubts. The Spirit would lead them through the Word, and they would gain the ability to obey that Word by his power.

An Eternal Partnership

In Scripture, the word of the gospel and the power of the Spirit always go together. The Word is God's revelation to us, profitable for rebuke, for correction, for training and instruction in righteous ness, capable of making us complete, sufficient for any and all good works (2 Tim. 3:16–17). But only through the ministry of the Spirit, Jesus said, could we ever understand or obey that Word:

"When the Advocate comes ... he will testify about me." (John 15:26)

"He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you." (John 16:14)

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteous ness and judgment." (John 16:8)

"Apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

The Spirit makes the living Word come alive in us. He brings it to our remembrance at the times we need it. He explains it to us. He gives us spiritual eyes to see God's beauty in it. He empowers us to obey it. He shows us specific ways we are to apply it.

Paul believed the study of the Word without this illumination was useless. That's why after expounding the gospel in great detail in the first three chapters of Ephesians, he stops explaining and starts praying that the Spirit would enable the Ephesian believers "to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ ... that surpasses knowledge" (Eph. 3:18–19). Do you catch his play on words? He prays they would understand something that is beyond all knowledge. Isn't that a contradiction?

Not at all. We arrive at certain kinds of "knowledge" not through the accumulation of more cognitive facts, but personal experience. There are two words for "knowledge" in Greek. Oida refers to facts, data, and cognitive pieces. Ginosko refers to an internalized knowledge gained through experience. In asking God to help believers know the love of Christ, he used ginosko. Paul wants us to have a knowledge of the love of God that we experience deep within our soul.

It's like the "knowledge" of color that comes into blind eyes opened for the first time, or the "knowledge" of sweetness that comes with a tongue's first taste of honey. It is the knowledge of a lover who cannot only tell you about her beloved, but knows the joy of his presence and the warmth of his embrace.

When we know God's love this way, Paul says, we will be "filled with all the fullness of God" (see Eph. 3:18–21 ESV; see also Rom. 5:6–8). The Spirit of God takes the revelation of God in his Word and consumes our hearts with it, so that "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts" and we overflow with it (Rom. 5:5 KJV), our hearts burning with its warmth.

Two Extremes

Christians, you say, tend to gravitate toward one of two extremes regarding the third person of the Trinity. Some pursue experience in the Spirit apart from the Word. They listen for voices in their hearts or seek "signs" from God in the heavens. They always seem to be talking about what God "said to them" through a stirring in their spirit or in a strange confluence of circumstances.

Others, however, seek to know and obey the Word without any interaction with, or real dependence on, the Spirit. These Christians might know who the Holy Spirit is and that he floats around in their hearts somewhere. They might even know that he produces "spiritual fruit" in their lives, but they relate to him in ways similar to how I relate to my pituitary gland: I know it's in there somewhere, and that it's necessary somehow for bodily growth and life, but I have no real "interaction" with it. I've never spoken to or heard from my pituitary gland. Its work remains invisible and undetected, even though I know it's essential.

Once, as Paul taught on the Christian life to a group of new disciples at Ephesus, he mentioned the importance of the Holy Spirit. They immediately interrupted him: "Wait ... who? We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit!" (Acts 19:2, my paraphrase).

Many Christians might well still be in the same place, functionally speaking. Though they have heard of the Holy Spirit in a doctrinal sense, they have no real interaction with or dependence on him. Functionally, they live in ways "unaware" that there is a living, moving Holy Spirit. These Christians have all but excised the Holy Spirit from the Trinity; instead, they believe (functionally speaking) in "Father, Son, and Holy Bible."

But the Spirit and the Word work inseparably. One without the other leads to a dysfunctional Christianity. Just as a toaster without a plug is useless, biblical knowledge apart from the Spirit is impotent.

The Floodlight Ministry of the Spirit

Let's talk first about how walking with the Spirit depends on knowing the Word.

We cannot know the Spirit apart from the revealed Word. That Word, Jesus said, was all about him (John 5:39). The Spirit points to Jesus' words and works, not his own (John 16:14). In fact, there is a certain irony in how the Spirit operates; whenever he is really present, you are not thinking about him, you're thinking about Jesus. The Spirit's work is to direct you to notice something else.

If you've ever driven into Washington, DC, on Interstate 395 late at night, you've seen the magnificent splendor of the Washington Monument like a shining ivory needle illuminated against the night sky. Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of lights shine directly on the stone pillar, memorializing the father of our country. Yet I doubt you have ever noticed, or maybe even thought about, those expensive, brilliant lights. That's because they are there to illuminate something else. If they are doing their job, you're not thinking about them; you're thinking about the Washington Monument.

The same is true of the Spirit of God. His purpose is to illuminate the gospel and bring glory to Jesus. J. I. Packer calls the work of the Spirit a "floodlight" ministry, quietly turning everyone's attention away from himself and to the Savior. Theologian Dale Bruner calls him, in fact, the "shy member of the Trinity," because he doesn't like attention on himself!

This means that when someone claims to be filled with the Spirit and yet spends most of his time talking about his own experiences with the Spirit, you have reason to doubt whether he really is filled with the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit speaks through someone, you tend to forget about the person speaking. You don't even really think about the Holy Spirit. You find yourself thinking about Jesus.

As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, the fullness of the Spirit comes as we plumb the depths, heights, widths, and lengths of God's love as revealed in the gospel. The more he comes into us, the more we know his love; and the more of his love we know, the more of his fullness grows within us (Eph. 3:17–19). The Spirit moves us in the Word. The Spirit moves us to go deeper into that Word.

So do you want more of the Spirit? If so, then seek greater knowledge of God's love through the Word of his gospel. As you do, Paul promises, you'll experience the "fullness of God."

Where the gospel is not cherished, the Spirit will not be experienced. And, on the flip side, where the Spirit is not sought, there will be no deep, experiential knowledge of the gospel. The two always go hand in hand. Jesus said, "The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life" (John 6:63, emphasis mine). Spirit and Word, inseparably united.

Seeking experiences with the Spirit apart from the Word leads not only to confusion, but to disaster. Leviticus 10 records a chilling event involving Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron the High Priest. These two men offered "strange fire" before the Lord. God had prescribed a certain way to offer sacrifices, but Nadab and Abihu thought they had discovered an alternative way. Their new fire burned just like the old fire, and it seemed to accomplish the same purpose ... but God killed them for their presumption. God's not looking for a "new thing." God has laid out very clearly how his presence is to be sought and experienced. If we want to experience the fire of God's presence, then we must seek it in exactly the way he has appointed.

We Cannot Fulfill the Word Apart from the Spirit

Just as there is no real experience with the Spirit apart from the Word, so there can be no true obedience to the Word apart from the Spirit. "Apart from me," Jesus said, "you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Nothing is a big word, and I'm sure Jesus chose it intentionally. Without his divine presence living inside of us, we cannot truly accomplish even the first word of his commands. This means we cannot overcome sin without his presence. We cannot love others. We cannot win others to Christ. We cannot raise our children. We are like an appliance unplugged from the socket. We can do nothing.

Jesus told his disciples that if they truly understand that the Holy Spirit was so essential to their lives and would be such a help to them, they would be glad Jesus was returning to heaven, because only then would the Holy Spirit come:

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7 ESV)

Think for a moment about how absurd this idea must have sounded to those first disciples. It would be to their advantage for Jesus to go away? What would it have been like to walk around with the all-knowing, miracle-working, God of the universe—and then to have him tell you that you shouldn't feel sad over his departure because it was to your advantage?


Apparently so.

"For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)

Jesus claimed that having the Holy Spirit in them would be better than having him beside them. Wow. Let that sink in for a moment. I mean it. Go back and read that sentence again.

Now, be honest with yourself: Is your experience with the Holy Spirit like that? Do you feel as though your relationship with the Holy Spirit is better than if you had Jesus for a personal companion? Is the Spirit's presence inside you really preferable than having Jesus beside you?

I said, "Be honest."

Or, to raise the stakes a bit: Does your experience with the Holy Spirit validate Jesus' promise—that it is to our advantage that he go away, if it means we get the Holy Spirit? And if not, doesn't that mean you are missing something ... and likely, something important?

Jesus believed that the Holy Spirit would be a better teacher than even he was. That may sound hard to believe, but the Spirit, Jesus explained, could apply the Word more powerfully than he did, because he could speak it into the deep recesses of our heart at just the right moments (John 14:25–26; 16:5–14; 1 John 2:27–28).

Only through the Holy Spirit can we live victoriously over sin. In Romans 8, Paul's great chapter on how to live the victorious life, he refers to the Spirit twenty-two times. (To put that in perspective, he mentions the Holy Spirit only ten other times throughout the other fifteen chapters of Romans!) The implication is clear: If we want victory over our sinful flesh, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit! Paul cannot conceive of victory over sin without him. Apart from him, we have no hope against our "wretched body of death." But with him, we are more than conquerors (Rom. 7:24; 8:37; cf. John 15:5).


Excerpted from Jesus, Continued by J. D. Greear. Copyright © 2014 J. D. Greear. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 11

Part 1 The Missing Spirit

1 A False Dilemma 19

2 Mystery and Clarity 35

3 The Mighty, Rushing Wind 47

4 Greater 62

5 God Doesn't Need You 75

6 God Steers Moving Ships 87

Part 2 Experiencing the Holy Spirit

7 Experiencing the Holy Spirit…In the Gospel 101

8 Experiencing the Holy Spirit…In the Word of God 111

9 Experiencing the Holy Spirit…In Our Giftings 120

10 Experiencing the Holy Spirit…In the Church 134

11 Experiencing the Holy Spirit…In Our Spirit 150

12 Experiencing the Holy Spirit…In Our Circumstances 165

Part 3 Seeking The Holy Spirit

13 When You Can't Feel God 181

14 Revival: When the Holy Spirit Moves in Power 192

15 You Have Not Because You Ask Not 205

16 The Way Up Is the Way Down 216

Appendix: A Word to Pastors 225

Acknowledgments 228

Bible Versions 230

Notes 231

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