Cantate—5th Sunday of Easter
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 16:5-15
April 24, 2016
“Not of This World”
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Now to my Father I depart
From earth to heav’n ascending
And heav’nly wisdom to impart
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you. –Martin Luther (LSB 556, st. 9)
“I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus says. It is to the advantage of the disciples and it is to our advantage. First, because when Jesus goes to the Father He is taking human nature, our nature, to the highest place, to the throne of God. When Jesus does this, it is not for Himself only. He does it so that everyone who shares His nature, human nature, will also sit with Him at the right hand of the Father. When Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, the One who has taken away our sins will be present before the Father continually. When we see our sins and fear God’s wrath, we should remember that our righteousness is before the face of the Father. Jesus is “the Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6?). He stands before God as the One who has atoned for our sins and made us righteous before Him. And He stands before the Father and daily speaks to Him on our behalf.
Secondly, when Jesus goes to the Father, He will also send the Helper to dwell in His disciples. He will send His Holy Spirit to live in us. The Helper is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the third person of the Godhead. When creation began, the Helper was “hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1). In the Old Testament, the Helper came upon the prophets and opened their mouth to speak the words of the living God. He dwelt among the people of Israel in the tabernacle and then the temple. When Jesus ascends to God’s throne, He sends this all-powerful Helper to all of His disciples. We become a new creation. We become prophets who know and speak the words of the living God. We become temples in which God lives.
Jesus sends this Helper as a down payment on our future redemption. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the testimony that our sins have been blotted out before God—because the Holy God will not live in an unholy place. The Holy Spirit is also the Helper who will lead us into the truth and bring us where Jesus is.
Jesus is not of this world. That’s why, after appearing for a little while in it, He returned to the Father.
Christians are also not of this world. We live in this world, but we do not belong to it. We look and feel like ordinary people, but we are not. We were not baptized in order to live an ordinary life, where you do what you have to do and enjoy what you can, and then die and hope that God will reward you for your good works. We were baptized into a new life; we died with Christ in Baptism and were raised with Him to live, as He does, in freedom, in the favor of God, in His presence.
But many who are baptized do not live this new life. Some resist the Spirit of God and set their hearts on this world, and the bodies that were baptized to be temples of the Holy Spirit become desolate. This may happen through obvious sins against the ten commandments, when a person does them knowingly, lives in them, and doesn’t repent. Or it may be a hidden sin instead of an obvious moral transgression. They desire honor in the world and seek it instead of the glory of sitting at the right hand of God, to which Jesus calls us. Then the Holy Spirit departs, and wicked spirits enter in, and they become worse than if they had never been baptized. And if they continue to resist the Holy Spirit who convicts them of sin in the preaching of the Word of God, they will perish with the world.
Others of us are like the disciples. We believe in Christ, and yet even while we believe in Him our hearts are weighed down by the desires and cares of this life. The wisdom of the flesh fights against the wisdom of God. And while the Holy Spirit leads us out of this world, we continue to hope for the glory of God to appear for us in this present age. That’s the reason why even true Christians are so often worried, anxious, and fearful when earthly troubles come, or when the Church is rejected, mocked, or threatened.
But dear Christians, you are not of this world. You have been separated from this world and made holy to God by Jesus. He paid for your transgressions and blotted out the record of them with His red blood. You were cleansed from them when You were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then He sent you the Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Helper is the pledge that you are a new creation and a dwelling place for God Himself, that you belong to Christ and your home is where He is, with His Father at the right hand of glory.
Since we are not of this world, we have received the Spirit who is not of this world. He created the world and gave it life. But He does not dwell in those who belong to the world because they are unholy and unclean. They remain in their sins and do not receive the testimony of Jesus, that He alone takes away the sins of the world.
The Holy Spirit does not dwell in the people who belong to the world, but the Holy Spirit still remains in the world and speaks to it. He will do this until the world ends, because it is the will of God that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. But the Holy Spirit bears witness to the world through the Church—that is, through you who are baptized into Christ and continue to trust in Him.
We are in the world for the same reason that Jesus was in the world, even though He did not belong to it. He was in the world to bring people to His Father. He did that by dying for our sins and rising from the dead, but also by preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
You are in the world for the same reason. Your home is at the Father’s right hand, with Jesus your Savior, exalted above all the angels. But the same Helper who assures you of that through the preaching of the Gospel also bears witness to the world through you. Through you He confesses the true faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through you He calls men to proclaim the word of Christ, to baptize and administer the Lord’s body and blood. And through you He also speaks to the world and convicts it. He convicts the world that everyone who does not believe in Jesus is dead in sin, that Jesus alone gives righteousness before God, and that the prince of this world, the devil, is condemned along with all who belong to him, and his kingdom is awaiting its final destruction.
This is not a popular message. Who wants to be convicted of sin and damnation? But Jesus’ message was not received well either. The world hated Him. So we should not be surprised if the world hates the witness of the Holy Spirit through us, or simply doesn’t respond to it.
But the Helper does the work. He convicts the world and pierces their hearts with the knowledge that the Word we preach is the truth, even when they resist it. He also strengthens us so that we don’t run away and give up our confession when we receive trouble because of it.
He also remains with us. If we fall into sin, He convicts us until we return with humble repentance and believe in the Gospel that saves us. If we are weak, He sighs to the Father from within us that He would not let us fall. He keeps us in the faith until we come into the glory that Jesus came into after He had suffered a little while—the glory of being seated at the Father’s right hand and reigning with Him. The Helper testifies that that glory is already ours, and that in a little while we and all the world will see it.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Soli Deo Gloria
Cantate—The Fifth Sunday of Easter
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 16:5-15
May 3, 2015
“The Conviction of the Holy Spirit”
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.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Soli Deo Gloria
St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet
St. John 16:5-15
May 18, 2014
Conviction and Consolation
Beloved in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Conviction and consolation. Those are two works of the Helper Jesus promises in the Gospel for today.
The Gospel begins with anguish in the hearts of the disciples. Jesus is talking with them after they have left the upper room where they have eaten the Sacrament of Jesus body and blood for the first time.
“Now I am going to the one who sent Me,” Jesus is saying. “But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” This is a happy time, Jesus is saying, even though I won’t be with you visibly anymore.
But if I was one of them I’m sure I wouldn’t have felt happy. Even if I could get my head around the thought that Jesus was going to the Father. I get sad just thinking about what it must have been like for the disciples.
And then when one remembers what they had to see later, it’s even worse. After falling asleep when they were supposed to be praying with Him, they wake up to see an armed mob coming to take Him away. Then one of his own disciples, Judas, comes and gives Jesus a kiss and they grab him and drag him off with clubs and weapons to try Him in front of His enemies and put Him to a bloody death.
But besides the grief, there would also be fear.
What are we going to do if Jesus is not with us?
And isn’t that just how we feel in the church now whenever things aren’t going so well? If only we could see Jesus and be assured that He still loves us and is protecting us and that we didn’t forsake Him somewhere back in the journey!
But Jesus says to the 11 who are scared and heavy with grief, “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.”
I think I have probably met very few Christians who believe very firmly what Jesus says here—that it’s better for us now than if Jesus was visibly present like He was with His disciples. It’s hard for me not to think it would be better to have Jesus’ visible presence than to have what we do have—the Holy Spirit present in the Word and Sacraments, and dwelling within us.
But Jesus says what we have now is better. So the thought that Jesus’ visible presence is better than the Spirit’s presence in Word and Sacrament and in the bodies of believers is not a thought that comes from Jesus. It is not from the Spirit of Truth but the spirit of the world, the spirit of lies.
It is very understandable that we are tempted to believe that having Jesus visible presence would be better—or some other visible proof of His presence, like a big congregation or plenty of money in the bank, or miracles, even, or just “the feeling” that God is at work among us.
It’s understandable that we feel that way, but it is nonetheless the reasoning of our sinful flesh which opposes the wisdom of God. Here we have in plain English Jesus telling us that it is better for us if He goes away and sends the Holy Spirit who comes to us in the word and Sacraments, but we say, “No, Jesus is mistaken. We need some visible proof that He is with us.”
Repent. You don’t know better than Jesus.
“When He comes,” says our Lord, “He will convict the world.” “He will guide you into all the truth.” “He will declare what is to come.”
The Holy Spirit will bring conviction and consolation. He will do what no visible proofs of Jesus’ presence can do—He will bring conviction to the world—summon it to court and declare a verdict on it—through the Church.
And He will console us. He will take from what is Christ’s—all things—and declare it to us, because what is Christ’s is ours. And He will declare what is to come to us. We will not be left blind orphans. The Holy Spirit will comfort us by leading us into all truth.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 16:5-15
April 28, 2013
“A Good Report From the Promised Land”
After the Lord brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and through the sea, He led them to Mount Sinai and spoke the Ten Commandments in their hearing from the fire. Then after a little while He led them to the edge of the land that He had promised to their ancestors—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that He would give the land of Canaan to their descendants.
And the Israelites sent 12 men into the land that had been promised. It was a good land, full of milk and honey. The spies cut a cluster of grapes and brought them back with figs and pomegranates to the congregation of the people, so they could see how good the land was.
But at the same time, ten of the twelve spies brought back a “bad report”(Numbers 13:32) of the land. They said, “Yes, it is a good land. But the inhabitants of the land are stronger than us. We won’t be able to take it.” With that report they caused the people of Israel to lose heart; they started to panic and accuse Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to die.
The result was that the Lord did for them as they believed; everyone who was over 20 would die in the desert before the people of Israel entered the land that God had promised them. It wasn’t that long a journey from Egypt to Canaan, even by foot. But they spent 40 years wandering in circles in the Sinai desert because they did not believe that the Lord had saved them from Egypt and that He would give them what He had promised.
The story about Israel’s exodus is really our story. We are Abraham’s offspring. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ, writes the apostle in the third chapter of Galatians. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, than you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Our inheritance is not a physical piece of real estate in the Middle East. It is a spiritual inheritance.
And Jesus is the spy who has gone into the inheritance that has been promised us. He brings back a report from the kingdom He has gone to see, just like the spy from the people of Israel who shared His name—Joshua. He brings back from His expedition a little of the fruit of the land, so that we can taste and see what the Lord has prepared for us—so that we can taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8).
The grapes and figs and pomegranates—the fruit of the land—is the Holy Spirit, which was the blessing promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:14).
In the Gospel reading Jesus is just about to go on this journey to spy out the land that the Lord has promised to Abraham and his descendants.
Prayer on the Sunday of Cantate (5th Sunday of Easter)
O Lord God, heavenly Father! Through Your Son You promised us the Holy Spirit, that He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment. We beseech You, enlighten our hearts, so that we recognize our sins, and through faith in Christ attain the righteousness which endures forever. In every sorrow and distress, whenever the devil mounts his charge against us, let us seize hold of this comfort—that Christ is the Lord over the devil, death, and all things, and that He will in the end will deliver us from every evil and give us everlasting blessedness. Amen. Johannes Eichorn, 1511-1564
- Prayer on Palm Sunday. Gebets-Schatz. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Lutheran Prayer-Treasury: Thursday Morning-Blessing (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- A husband’s prayer after his wife has delivered a stillborn child (1752) (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Prayer to overcome addictions (smoking, sex, pornography, alcohol, drugs or gambling) (bummyla.wordpress.com)