Jesus said, “I will be with you even until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
When I read Jesus’ statement my first thought was “then what?” What happens after the end of the age, but as interesting as it is that's another discussion? To delve into it would take us far astray from our question, “does Jesus make a difference.”
The second question that came to my mind was, “why was Jesus giving his disciples this promise?”
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-29.
This is called the everyday commission. It was Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples. They were to go out, find faithful men, and reproduce themselves. I would assume that the disciples were apprehensive. The ordeal of the cross, having lost Jesus once was probably weighing on their minds. He was asking a lot of them and then he was going to go; even secretive about his destination.
Maybe that's why he made his exit so dramatic. Seeing him ascend into heaven would have reminded them of his power and glory. And it was that same power that he wanted to give them. What did Jesus tell the disciples?
- But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8.
I would have been confused, and I think they were too. They went to the upper room in Jerusalem and waited and prayed. They ate and they prayed. They talked about Jesus and all that he said, and they prayed. Then it happened:
- And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:2-4.
The Holy Spirit that Jesus promised, came on them in such a mighty and dramatic way that they were compelled into the streets. They spoke in the languages of the visitors to Passover. They spoke of Jesus, and whatever fear they had disappeared in that mighty rushing wind.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is a promise to all new believers, when you place your faith in Jesus as your savior from sin, as the Lord of your life. How does it feel to be filled? Do Christians run around in the streets? How does the Holy Spirit affect our lives?
The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation; our stamp of approval. But that isn't all the Holy Spirit does. He guides us, gives insight, convicts of sin, he abides in us, and he leads us into all truth. If Jesus had remained with the disciples physically he would only be in one place at a time. But the Holy Spirit is able to indwell each believer at the same time. Now that is mind blowing.
As meaningful as it is to be filled with the Spirit, the gift is useless if we are not walking with him. ”But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” Gal. 5:16. Walking in the Spirit is a continual action, motion in step with another person. Walking in the Spirit takes initiative, concentration, and persistence. But it is the only way we can live as Jesus taught us. You see, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to put to death desires of the flesh.
Another way of understanding our relationship with the Holy Spirit is, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” 1 John 4:13. When we abide we are dwelling in a place with another person. Abiding has the sense of rest from the cares of the world. Abiding is being in the same house and experiencing contentment with another person without the need to talk.
When we abide this way with the Holy Spirit there is an ease with which we learn to trust in his promises. Doubt drifts away and faith burns brighter. No longer does the world loom larger than life, because the life in the Holy Spirit is greater than the world. Abiding in the Holy Spirit allows the believer to see the world in a completely different way. Instead of fear, there is confidence. Instead of anger, there is love. Instead of bitterness, there is forgiveness. Instead of despair, there is hope.
- To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27.
There is a mystery in following Jesus. Science, philosophy, and modernity would tell us that our faith is misplaced, that we are following a myth, that there is nothing beyond our senses. The mystery, that thing the non-believer seeks but can't find, is hope, and that hope is Christ in you. We live in freedom because we know that there is more than this life ahead. We are not shackled to sin, because Jesus set us free. We stand against the storm because we don't stand alone. That is our confidence, that we are not alone.
Tragedy is the great tester of the faith. When faced with troubling news or the loss of a loved one it is easy to feel alone, isolated, and helpless. But when we realize that the presence of Christ dwells inside of us, there is nothing that can strike us down.
When my nephew died I flew to Florida to give comfort to my brother. The constant question was, why? He was on drugs and ran into a busy street. The real question was, “why didn't God stop him?” They are not believers, so their questions would always end in despair. They have no hope, nothing to hold on to, but for the Christian, Jesus changes everything, and sorrow turns to dancing.
Jesus also said that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. How is that possible? How can fallible people do the extraordinary? It is achievable because the ability does not lie in our own strength but in the strength of Christ in us.
When you come to realize that God has not left you alone, that he has given you the Spirit to fight for you, that the mystery hidden for thousand of years has been made known to you, when you realize all of this how can you not rejoice! Jesus changes everything!