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The Holy Spirit’s Mighty Work–Pentecost 2015

May 24, 2015 3 comments

Pentecost

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 14:23-31

May 24, 2015

“The Holy Spirit’s Mighty Work”

Iesu Iuva

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you. St. John 14:26

 

Christians aren’t followers of a philosophy or special religious principles or morality. Christians are believers in Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus is God in human flesh, that He came to earth, preached the Gospel, died for our sins, and rose again on the third day. What is unique about Christians is that we believe in Jesus. We believe Jesus is God. We believe His words to be the true words of God.

But what happens when those who are called Christians no longer believe and teach Jesus’ word? That is a tragic situation. Because among such people Jesus is no longer the authority, the Teacher, the Lord, even though they are called by His name. Instead the world’s wisdom reigns among them, and they have deserted their Lord. The only way we have Jesus is through His Word. Jesus teaches us this in the Gospel reading. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

On this festival day of Pentecost we rejoice and give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus poured out on His believers after He ascended to the right hand of God. The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life, the third person of the Holy Trinity, equal in divine majesty and power to the Father and the son. He comes to the church to do a mighty miracle, although it is not one the world or our flesh regard as great. We think the Holy Spirit’s great miracles are like the ones He did on Pentecost, when He came with the sound of a mighty wind and appeared in tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles. We think it is a great miracle that the Holy Spirit made the apostles speak in various languages, or when, later in the book of Acts, He enabled people to prophesy or picked up the deacon Philip in one town and carried him miraculously to another. Those are indeed great miracles, but these are not the main work of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord tells us the Holy Spirit’s great work in the Gospel reading: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

 

The Holy Spirit’s great work is to bring the words of Jesus to remembrance. That may seem like a small thing but it is not. The Holy Spirit keeps alive Jesus’ words in this world. He calls and gathers the Christian Church so that we hold fast to Jesus’ word and not the wisdom of the world. And through the word of Jesus the Holy Spirit gives us communion with the Father and the Son.

First of all we need to remember that the devil, the world, and our flesh do not want the words of Jesus to be remembered. The devil, world, and flesh—all the powers of this age—want Jesus’ word and teaching to be buried, just like they wanted Jesus to be buried. Why are they so opposed to Jesus’ word? Because Jesus’ words are powerful. They are not merely human words but the words of Almighty God. They have power to create and power to destroy. They have the power to bring death and the power to give life. When you hear the Scripture read you are not receiving ancient dead letters from a page, but the word of the Lord who created the universe by speaking. The devil, the world, and the flesh want Jesus words to be forgotten and not heard because these words destroy this present age and bring in a new world. The devil, the world, and the flesh do not want this present age to be destroyed so that a new world can come in. So if they could help it they would try to make Jesus’ words be forgotten.

But the Holy Spirit does not allow this to happen. He causes Jesus’ words to be remembered. He brought to the apostles’ minds everything Jesus had said to them, and He inspired them to write the words of Jesus in the New Testament scriptures. Since then He has caused Jesus’ words to be taught and preached and read in all the world. When Jesus’ words had largely been buried in the church under the traditions of men, the Holy Spirit caused the pure Gospel to be proclaimed again from the Scripture alone by Martin Luther. And in our day when the world wants to edit the words of Jesus so that He says nothing politically incorrect, the Holy Spirit causes the words of Jesus to be remembered and proclaimed in churches that are faithful to His Word. But if the Holy Spirit had not been given to the church, Jesus’ words would have been forgotten—not because they are not powerful, but because our human nature is too weak to keep the word of Jesus without the Holy Spirit.

Because the Holy Spirit causes Jesus’ word to be remembered He also gathers Jesus’ church and keeps it in the one true faith. By nature human beings are in darkness. They know there is a God but do not know how they can be at peace with Him. They know there is a God but they do not know how to become free of their sins so that they may have God’s favor. But Jesus came into the world to give knowledge of salvation and eternal life. He says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). And Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” Wherever Jesus’ word goes, the Holy Spirit causes a little flock to be gathered that believes Jesus’ word and holds on to it. Through the words of Jesus the Holy Spirit convicts us that we are by nature sinful and unclean, that our hearts are full of evil thoughts, murder, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matthew 15:19). Through the words of Jesus the Holy Spirit convinces us that Jesus died and atoned for those sins on the cross. He gathers a church that believes in Jesus and listens to His Word and confesses it before the world. Without the Holy Spirit the words of Jesus would not be remembered and there would be no church, because the church lives by Jesus’ word, is called into being by Jesus’ word, and is preserved in the faith by Jesus’ word.

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) This brings us to the final point about the work of the Holy Spirit and its greatness. The Holy Spirit causes Jesus’ word to be remembered. He gathers a little community that believes Jesus’ word and keeps it. And where He does that, the Holy Spirit creates a little community of people who are the dwelling-place of the Father and the Son.

Think about what an amazing, awesome thing it is to have God make His home with you. Is that something that happens for everyone? Not at all. God is not dwelling with the person who does not believe in Jesus, no matter how good that person mighty appear in our eyes. But God the Father and God the Son do dwell with the person who holds on to Jesus’ word. They make their home with him. God, whose throne is on high and who is attended by host upon host of angels, dwells with the person who holds Jesus’ words. In these frail bodies, doomed to die, stricken by sin, the all-glorious Father and Son are pleased to make their abode. All this happens because the Holy Spirit causes Jesus’ words to be remembered. He caused the apostle John to remember and write Jesus’ saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) He causes preachers to preach that word, and assure sinners that on Jesus’ authority their sins are forgiven. He causes them to hold on to that word and to continue in that word.

When we receive Jesus’ word and hold on to it, god the Father and the Son come to dwell with us. In the midst of suffering and temptation we have the assurance that God is pleased with us and not angry with us. When our sins accuse us we have the assurance that God has not forsaken us in anger but is dwelling with us and making everything work for our blessing. How do we have this assurance? Not in our feelings, but in the words of Jesus, which the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance. He assures us with the name of the Triune God put on us in our Baptism. He assures us with the words of absolution which are spoken to us in Christ’s name; “I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He assures us by bringing to remembrance Jesus’ words in the Holy Supper: “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” With the words of Jesus the Holy Spirit brings us into communion with the Holy Trinity, who dwells with us. He dwells with us because through the Holy Spirit we receive His grace; we believe the good news that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ blood.

So the mighty work of the Holy Spirit is not that He makes people speak in other tongues or heal, or do other mighty signs. He may distribute those gifts as He wills. But the truly mighty work of the Holy Spirit is that He causes Jesus’ words to be remembered. These are the words of the living God that set us free from sin and death’s power. They are the rock on which is built a certain hope of salvation and everlasting life. Through these words of Jesus the Holy Spirit bears witness to the world of sin’s power and our salvation from it. Through the words of Jesus He gathers the church and keeps it in His word to everlasting life. And through the word of Jesus the Holy Spirit gives us communion with the entire Trinity. The Triune God makes His dwelling place with each one who believes in Christ and comforts us in every tribulation until we come to everlasting life. For this work of the Holy Spirit in bringing Jesus’ words to remembrance we give thanks on this festival of Pentecost, because through the Spirit’s work we have become Christ’s church and each individually the dwelling place of God.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Categories: Pentecost Tags: ,

The Good News for Parents

May 20, 2015 1 comment

The Gospel for parents who fail.

http://www.mbird.com/2015/05/absolved-parenthood/

Better to Struggle With the Fear of God’s Wrath–Luther

MartinLutherIt is exceedingly difficult for the human heart to expect with certainty everything good of God and to appreciate all grace and mercy. Indeed, it is altogether impossible except through Christ the mediator. Coarse and impious hearts may be very strong and haughty at this point, bearing themselves hard in much conceit, and thinking that what they do is all very precious in the sight of God. Yes, they may do this until they come upon the peril and terror of death, brought about through the clear revelation of the Law; then there are upon all the earth no people more dejected and despairing. When their hour has come, they go down suddenly and no one can raise them up again.

36. Much better and safer and more comforting, therefore, is the state of those who are constantly striving and struggling with terror and fear of God’s wrath, and who are so afraid that when they hear the name of God mentioned the world becomes too strait for them. Just for these has this comfort been uttered; yes, for their sakes God has at all times declared the promise of his grace and of the forgivness of sins, and to that end has given his Son and all the good in the whole world, overwhelming it with blessings, in order that they, by all means, may learn to know his grace and goodness which, as Psalms 52 and 36 say, endureth continually, and reacheth unto the skies. The fact that a Christian lives and that he possesses a sound member is due solely to the visible grace and help of God. For the devil, in whose kingdom the Christians are, here upon earth, is such a wicked, malicious spirit that he aims at nothing else, day and night, than to murder and destroy them.

37. But however great, both in word and deed, God’s promise of grace is toward those that fear him, yet they cannot lift up their hearts and joyfully look upon God. They are still constantly harassed with anxiety and fear lest God may be angry with them on account of their unworthiness and the weakness which is theirs. If they hear an angry word from God, or recall or learn of some fearful example of God’s wrath and punishment, then they tremble and fear lest it strike them. The other class, on the contrary, who indeed should tremble before God, stiffly and proudly despise these things in their security, and comfort themselves with the carnal notion that God cannot be angry with them. Very difficult is it for the human heart to so balance itself that it will not become secure in success and prosperity, but remain humble, and again, in times of fear and misfortune, enjoy comfort and confidence toward God.

Martin Luther, Sermon on the Gospel for Pentecost, Church Postil

When Jesus Dies in Us–Jubilate Sunday 2015

Jubilate—The Fourth Sunday of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 16:16-22

April 26, 2015

“When Jesus Dies in Us”

Iesu Iuva

The Gospel reading today deals with Christ’s death and resurrection. This is what our Lord is talking about when He tells the disciples, “A little while and you will see me no more, and again a little while and you will see Me.” The little while where the disciples will not see Him is the time He is lying in the grave. This is easy even for children to figure out because we confess in the creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified, died, and was buried, and the third day He rose again from the dead.” We may wonder how the disciples had such a hard time understanding this.

But it is one thing to understand that Jesus died and rose again in theory and in words, and it is another thing to believe that Jesus will rise again when you see Him dead. The disciples were told by Jesus that He would die and rise again on the third day, but it was one thing to be told it and another to believe it when He was dead and taken from them.

It wasn’t simply that Jesus was taken away from them physically that caused the disciples great sorrow. It is indeed difficult to lose someone you love and not have their bodily presence, and the disciples loved Jesus. But it is a greater sorrow to lose someone spiritually, where you have no hope of ever seeing them again. And this is how the disciples felt when Jesus had died. It wasn’t just Jesus who had died. It seemed that their faith in Him had died as well. Because they had believed—rightly—that Jesus was the Son of God. But they thought that mean that He was going to set up a kingdom on earth and make them rulers together with Him. And when He was crucified and died without setting up any earthly kingdom, it appeared to them that their faith had proven false. Then it was not just a matter of losing Jesus bodily. They had (it seemed) lost the One they put their trust in. It appeared that the One they called Lord was no Lord at all. So they had not only lost Jesus their friend and teacher but Jesus the Son of God. This was a great, horrible trial for them. All at once they were plunged into hell and despair because in losing Jesus they had lost their God.

This same trial happens to Christians now. We know that Jesus rose from the dead after He was crucified. So we do not, like the disciples, mourn on Good Friday as though we had lost God. We know that Easter is coming. But when sorrow comes to us and Christ seems to be dead and taken away from us, then we are often slow to believe that an Easter will come.

Sorrow comes to us in many forms. Sometimes we lose our health or our wealth or our loved ones die and we are overtaken by sorrow. More rarely, we suffer the loss of our good name or property or even our lives for the sake of Christ. But all of these are only bodily sorrows, as great as they may be. The great suffering comes when we believe or feel that Jesus has been taken away from us. In Romans chapter 8 it says, “Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If we lose loved ones, property, or reputation, but our hearts are still assured that we have not lost Jesus, we are “more than conquerors,” as Paul writes. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8) If we lose wealth or reputation or loved ones but we still have Jesus, we still have the One who has given us all these gifts, and He is able to restore to us more than we have lost. In fact we have His assurance that He will restore to us more than we lose in this life.

But if we lose Jesus, we have lost everything. Then there is no comfort for us. Not even God can comfort us, because if we lose Jesus we lose God.

But how can we lose Jesus? When we no longer feel the assurance from God’s Word that our sins are forgiven for His sake. When we feel that He is no longer with u—that we are forsaken by Him. When we begin to doubt if the Word of God is true. When these things happen it loos to us like Christ has been taken away from us, just like it looked to the disciples when Jesus was dead and buried that He had been taken away from them. Then it looked like they had lost Jesus forever and that their hope was in vain. We know that Jesus would rise again from the dead, but they didn’t know that, couldn’t see or feel that. The only way they could have known was by faith in His Word, that their loss of Jesus would only be for a little while.

So that we may learn not only to say that Jesus died and rose again, but so that we also learn to believe it with our whole being, God allows us to experience sorrow, even at times to experience that we have lost Jesus. When that happens to you He is teaching you to believe in His death and resurrection not only in a historical way, but that it also happens for you and in you. He is teaching you to learn to put your trust in what He says in this Gospel: “A little while and you will not see Me, and again a little while and you will see Me.” When we do not see Jesus and our faith in Him appears to be dead, that is serious grief. Then it appears that we have lost everything. It is a spiritual suffering that only Christians experience, the experience of desiring and hungering to have Jesus but feeling as though He has been taken away forever.

Then Jesus wants us to hold on to these words. “A little while,” He says. It will only be a little while that I am taken away from you. Then you will see Me against and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy away from you. This happens in this life when Jesus seems to be taken away from us and then, after the little time of trial is over, He comforts us again. But it will finally and perfectly happen when Jesus returns visibly and we see Him not only by the assurance of faith but with our eyes. Then we will experience the fullness of joy. But when we pass through times where Jesus seems to be gone from us and then He comforts us again, these are only little sips or bites from the feast of joy that is to be ours when we see Jesus again.

Meanwhile, we should recognize that the world also has its spiritual joy, and that is the joy in seeing Christ taken out of the way, put out of its sight so that He cannot be seen or heard from again. The chief priests rejoiced when the apostles lamented. They wanted nothing more than for Christ to be a fake and a fraud and have Him taken away bodily and spiritually. They wanted Him to be killed and silenced so that they would no longer hear His voice convicting them of sin and proclaiming that forgiveness of sins was through Him alone. When Jesus seemed to be taken away, the world rejoiced while His disciples mourned. And it is the same today. The world wants Jesus taken away. He is no longer visibly present, but He is present in His word and sacraments and mystically present in His Church, which is His body. So the world rejoices at nothing more than seeing Christ silenced and taken away in the silencing and destruction of His Church.

So while we weep and lament, the world rejoices. When it seems that Christ is gone and the faith of Christians is dying, the world rejoices, because it is looking for any excuse not to have to listen to Christ that He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. And Christians are walking testimonies to Christ. So we shouldn’t be surprised when the world rejoices at our suffering. Right now we are watching as our society goes on a crusade to root out and humiliate people who still believe in the sixth commandment—You shall not commit adultery. And the voices pushing for the legitimization of sexual immorality seem to be winning, while Christians seem to be unable to stop the bleeding of their members off into the ranks of those who profess no religious affiliation.

To this too Jesus says, “A little while and you will see Me no more, and again a little while and you will see Me.” The world rejoices and we lament. The world seems to be winning and we seem to be dying, and Jesus seems to have forsaken us. But He says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

The disciples’ hour was when Jesus died and they appeared to have lost Him forever. We individually experience times when we seem to have lost Jesus. Perhaps now, when the Church in our country seems to be in full retreat, to be dying, perhaps now is our hour. But Jesus says it is only for a little while, and then we will no longer remember the anguish for joy. Our sorrow will turn into joy.

When Jesus dies in us it is to teach us to hope in Him that He will also rise from the dead in us. So let us learn to judge rightly—not by our feelings, but by Christ’s Word. When we appear to have lost Christ it does not feel like a little while. It feels like an eternity, because we have lost not a temporary good but the eternal good, the source of every blessing. But He says it is not forever that we have lost Him but just “a little while.” So in a little while He will comfort us again. A little while after He was crucified and buried He rose from the dead and showed Himself to the disciples and gave them joy. A little while we suffer the hell of seeming to have lost Christ, a little while He seems to have died in us, but He will rise3 from the dead in us. A little while we go on living in this world of death even though we have already died with Him in Baptism. But soon enough we will be raised with Him. A little while the church suffers and is weak but she will not remain this way, because her head has risen from the dead. A little while we have sorrow in the Church and do not see our Lord, but He gives us death and resurrection in His body and blood. And soon the death will be over and we will be raised up and know the fullness of joy.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Categories: Easter Tags: , ,

The Conviction of the Holy Spirit–Cantate 2015

Cantate—The Fifth Sunday of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 16:5-15

May 3, 2015

“The Conviction of the Holy Spirit”

Iesu Iuva

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

The disciples were afraid when Jesus told them he was going away and they would have to bear witness to Him and the world would hate them.  They aren’t the only ones who are afraid.  We are also often afraid of carrying out the mission Christ has given to us.  Our mission is to bear witness to Christ, to testify to Him in this world.  We are afraid that we will mess up, that we will do it wrong.  We are afraid that no one will listen to us and we will fail.

Today Jesus gives His Church comfort and courage as we go forth into the mission of testifying to Him in the world.  He gives us courage even though He is no longer going to be visibly present with His Church on earth.  He says, “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.  And when He comes He will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.”  Jesus says we are not going to be alone in witnessing to Him.  He will send us the Helper, that is, an advocate who speaks for us.  And this Helper is so great that it is even to our advantage that Jesus goes away.

It’s hard to imagine anything so great that it could replace Jesus’ visible presence with us, but Jesus tells us that is what will happen.  Who is this Helper?  It is “the Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit.  He is the third person of the godhead, equal in majesty and power to the Father and the Son.  He will not only live in the midst of us, as Jesus visibly lived with His disciples.  He will live and dwell in us.  He will rest upon us the way the Spirit of God rested upon the prophets like Moses in the Old Testament.  And He will be in us and with us to convict the world.

This means the Church will have mighty force and authority.  That seemed totally impossible to those disciples who were gathered around Jesus in the upper room.  How could that little band of twelve men convict the world and all that was mighty and great in it of “sin and righteousness and judgment”?  How could they do that without Jesus’ visible presence with them?  And we feel the same way about the Church today.  How can this little band of ordinary people we call “church”—“St. Peter Lutheran Church”—convict the world?  “Convict” means “to prove guilty” or “to awaken a sense of sin.”  How are we going to do that?

We won’t.  Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world.  How will He convict the world?  Jesus says, “Of sin, and righteousness, and judgment—of sin, that they do not believe in Me, of righteousness, that I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

First of all the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.

 

We live in an age that rejects the idea that there is such a thing as sin—that is, transgression against God.  People today are concerned about whether they are considered to be decent people before others, but the term “sin” is hardly ever used anymore.  People make mistakes, bad choices, but they don’t commit sins. Much less does our society believe that there is such a thing as original sin, that we are born guilty and corrupt before God and are unable to escape from His righteous anger.  Against all of this explaining sin away and excusing it, the Holy Spirit calls the world to account and convicts it that it is all, from top to bottom, corrupted by sin.  It’s not just the obvious vices that are sins against God, such as our society’s rampant sexual immorality or its killing of the unborn.  The Holy Spirit convicts the world that even its best works are corrupted by sin—its humanitarian work, its moral and religious leaders, its upstanding citizens.  All are sinners.  They are not merely people who make bad choices, but transgressors against God, even when they have made “good choices.”

Why does the Holy Spirit convict the whole world of sin?  Jesus says, “Because they do not believe in Me.”  Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  He is the One who takes away our offenses against God.  Our offenses against God are our real trouble, not just the moral lapses and failures that make us look bad in front of other people.  And we have offended God not merely with our actions, but also with our words and thoughts that are against His commandments.  But all of these offenses Jesus came to remove.  Thus there is really only one sin in the world.  That is not to believe in Jesus.  If a person believes in Jesus, that He is true God and true man, and that He paid for our offenses on the cross, none of his sins are counted to him.  Your sins are forgiven if you believe that on account of Jesus’ suffering and death God is pleased with you.

But the world does not believe in Jesus.  It believes that Jesus was a good man, a teacher.  Some of the world even believes that Jesus is God.  But the world does not believe that simply on account of Him and His suffering on the cross God receives us as righteous and forgives our sins.  The world trusts in other ways to get right with God besides Jesus and what He has done.  The world believes that everyone goes to heaven not because of what Jesus has done but simply because God overlooks sin and is satisfied with less than perfect obedience to His law.  The world believes that it is basically good and therefore God is already pleased with us.  The world doesn’t believe that God is angry with it because of sin.  Therefore the Holy Spirit corrects this false belief and convicts the world of sin.  Apart from Jesus God is angry with you, says the Holy Spirit, for you have not loved God with all your heart.  You have misused His name, failed to pray, ignored His Word, disobeyed your parents, been hateful and vengeful and lustful, that is, committed murder and adultery.  You have stolen and wasted the property and time God has given you.  You have spoken evil of your neighbor, coveted his property and his wife, family, and workers.  You are guilty and displeasing to God and bound for hell because of your sins, says the Holy Spirit.  Why does He convict the world this way?  Because the world does not believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners.  It must first be convicted that it is sinful before it can believe in Jesus the Savior of sinners.

What is true of the whole world is also true of individuals, even individuals who go to church.  The Holy Spirit must convict us that we are sinners under God’s wrath apart from Jesus.  And He must go on convicting us of this so that we flee from our fleshly false security and our self-righteousness to Jesus who alone takes away and covers our sins.

Second, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of “righteousness, that I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer.”  What does Jesus going to the Father have to do with righteousness?  That’s not the way the world thinks about righteousness.  The word “righteousness” is as seldom used in our society as the word “sin.”  When we think of righteousness, we always think about works—maybe Mother Theresa caring for orphans in India.  Some people probably think of the Dalai Lama with his peaceful, enlightened attitude.  Others think of Martin Luther King or Gandhi, crusading for justice.  The Holy Spirit convicts the world that none of these men and women have one enough for God to regard them as righteous, however impressive their deeds may be to us.  Instead the Holy Spirit convicts the world that righteousness is this—Jesus going to the Father.

How is that righteousness?  It is the righteousness that God accomplished so that sinners could be accounted righteous before God.  For since the world is convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, it follows that no one can become righteous before God by his deeds, no matter how good that person is.  To be righteous before God a person would have to keep the ten commandments in thoughts and emotions as well as deeds.  He would have to have a pure heart.  But the Scripture teaches us that no one has a clean heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” says Psalm 51.  God has to create a clean heart in us because by nature our hearts are full of rebellion against God, unbelief, idolatry, anger, lust, and all other kinds of sin.  With hearts like these, how can God regard us as righteous?

That is what the Holy Spirit convicts the world about.  “Of righteousness,” says Jesus, “that I go to the Father.”  How does Jesus go to the Father?  He goes offering Himself up as a sacrifice to atone for our sins.  He goes to the Father offering Himself as the spotless lamb, whose sinless life is given as an offering to turn away God’s displeasure at all our sins.  Jesus goes to the cross as the propitiation for our sins, the sacrifice that atones for all our uncleanness, that turns away the Father’s wrath and turns His face toward us in love.  Jesus’ suffering and death under God’s wrath is the righteousness God provides for sinners that they may take hold of it by faith and wrap themselves up in it.  He goes to the Father on the cross to make satisfaction for our sins.  Then He rises from the dead and ascends to the Father, where He forever stands to make intercession for us.  If the Father ever could forget that we have been justified, counted righteous, and that His anger toward us had been turned away, He would only have to look to His right hand and see Jesus standing there in the same flesh and blood that we have.  And Jesus would remind the Father, “See, You have declared them to be righteous on My account, because I paid for all their sins with my suffering and death.”

See, the Holy Spirit convicts the world not only of sin, but that righteousness has been accomplished for it by Jesus.  He brought our sins before the Father on His own head.  He received the just judgment of God for them in our place.  Then He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father as our forerunner.  He lives at God’s right hand to pray for us, to stand in our defense.  The Holy Spirit convicts us and the world that this is so.  For us it is our great comfort.  We are often convicted in our conscience of our sins and we struggle to believe that God is pleased with us when we still have so much sin.  But through the preaching of the Gospel the Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness—He convicts us that we are righteous in God’s sight because by offering Himself for our sins Jesus brought our sins to an end.  In His resurrection God declared all men righteous.

Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment.  This is an amazing work since the world is so dead-set on asserting that it is righteous by itself.  The Holy Spirit convicts the world that God’s judgment is upon it because tis ruler is already judged.  This is a terrifying conviction.  But you can see that the Holy Spirit has done this work and is still doing it.  It’s hard to understand any earthly reason why the powerful people of the world should have such hostility toward Christians.  The powerful and influential of the world consider Christians to be hillbillies and know-nothings.  And yet they have such hostility against Christians that every last remaining scrap of Christian influence has to be purged from our society.  If a Christian doesn’t want to make a cake for a homosexual legal union, they have to be hounded out of business.  Why is there this level of hostility against a group of know-nothing hillbillies?  Because the world is convinced that judgment is upon it.  Its ruler has already been judged.

Satan was judged when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  There all his power was torn from him.  Before Jesus died Satan could reign over men as their god and king. He could keep human beings on a treadmill of trying to save themselves by their good works.  Satan could lie and say, “Just keep on trying to keep God’s commandments and maybe one day you will have some assurance that your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life.” He could torment those who believed God’s promise of a Savior with the requirements and threats of God’s law.  But on the cross Satan was judged.  He lost all power to condemn and enslave human beings.  He lost all power to condemn and enslave you.  Because once and for all on the cross all your sin was atoned for.  Once and for all God’s wrath was turned away and the human race was justified, and you with it.  And Satan was cast down. He has no power to threaten us with the wrath of God and death.  He was judged when Jesus died and rose again.

And now in the preaching of the Gospel the Holy Spirit convicts the world of this judgment.  The ruler of this world, Satan, stands condemned.  This overturns the whole order of the world.  All of Satan’s lies are unmasked.  We don’t enter into paradise or escape death by gaining the whole world or by striving to do good works.  Eternal life and paradise is the free gift of God through the death of Jesus Christ His Son alone.  The Holy Spirit convicts the world of this through the preaching of the Gospel.  He convicts us that Satan is judged and has no right to condemn us.  He convicts us that this age and its pleasures and glories are passing away.  For Christians this results in joy and hope, because the day is coming soon when persecution, suffering, sin and death will be finished forever.

For the world, this conviction results in misery and terror, because the world is convicted that it and the present order of things will soon be ending.  Soon the world’s pomp and pride and power and wealth and everything it gloried in will all be gone.  Soon it will have no power to inflict pain on Christ’s Church.  Soon the world will no longer even have power over our bodies, because the old order of things will have passed away.  It is already passing away, because the ruler of this world is judged.  He is not the lord and god of this world as he pretends to be.  He is vanquished by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And the Holy Spirit convicts the world that this is so, even though the devil and the world rage and do their utmost to silence the Holy Spirit and kill believers in Christ or make them fall away from their Lord.  But the devil and the world will not succeed.  The Holy Spirit will convict the world and lead the Church in all truth.  He will do this by preaching Jesus’ death and resurrection, and even if Satan closes down one church and kills all the members of another, the Holy Spirit will raise up other witnesses in their place, until Jesus returns and pronounces final judgment on the world.

So we do not need to be afraid as we bear witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.  He has given us the Helper who speaks on our behalf, the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world.  Jesus alone has ended our sins and our alienation from God by His death on the cross, and the Holy Spirit bears witness through us.  He testifies to the world’s helplessness in sin, to the righteousness God has accomplished for sinners by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and to the judgment of this world’s ruler, the devil.  We rely on this conviction of the Holy Spirit to uphold our faith and to bring sinners to repentance and faith in Christ.  And we will not be put to shame in our reliance on the Holy Spirit.  He will keep the Church alive by His testimony to Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Soli Deo Gloria

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