Cantate Sunday Sermon
ďThe Central TruthĒ St. John 16:5-15
April 24, 2005
This past week I enjoyed watching TV and reading
the newspaper to see the reactions to the election of Cardinal Ratzinger
as the new pope. Ratzinger
is one of the best theologians in the Roman Catholic Church today.
Those who know him speak well of him.
But he has come under sharp criticism, criticism that is duly
reported by the print and television media.
Is he being criticized for the extravagant claims
of the papacy that have no basis in the Holy Scriptures? No. Is he being
criticized for denying the central truth of Godís Word that a lost and
condemned sinner is fully forgiven of all his sins and justified by God
through faith alone in Christ the Savior and Mediator?
No. He is being
criticized for insisting that there is such a thing as truth that will
not change from one generation to another.
Now it is fine and even necessary to disagree with
the new pope where he is wrong. But
it is precisely when the pope stands up for the truth and rejects what
he calls the ďtyranny of relativismĒ that he receives the harshest
criticism! And why is that? It is because our generation doesnít believe in the truth.
This is because our generation does not understand
Jesus, the Father who sent Him, or the Holy Spirit whom He sends.
Jesus identified Himself as the way, the truth, and the life and
the only way to the Father. How often does Jesus say, ďI tell you the truthĒ?
Before ascending to the Father He promised to send the Comforter
whom He also called the Spirit of truth. Christianity
is all about truth. Truth
doesnít change. The
popular ideas of this world change with the winds of fashion.
Godís truth is permanent and unchanging.
As Jesus said, ďHeaven and earth shall pass away but my words
will not pass away.Ē
But it is not enough to know that truth exists and
that it will never change. We
must also know what it is. Our
Lord Jesus tells us of a threefold truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to
us. It is the truth concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The Holy Spirit revealed this threefold truth to the apostles and
led them to write the New Testament, which serves as the standard for
the churchís teaching. Let
us then consider the truth the Holy Spirit reveals about sin,
righteousness, and judgment.
The first thing we need to know about this truth is
that it is centered in Jesus. When
Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will guide the apostles into all
truth, He adds:
He will not speak on His
own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you
things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and
declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I
said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ. He takes what belongs to Christ and makes it known to us.
He does not speak of Himself.
He speaks of Christ. This
is vital to know if we are to know the truth.
The truth is not centered in morality, as important
as morality is. At a time
of moral relativism we might be tempted to set aside the truth about
Jesus and how He is our Savior in order to unite with likeminded people
who support traditional morality. There
are many people of goodwill in our country who agree with us about such
matters as the sanctity of human life, the lifelong union of a man and a
woman in marriage, and the binding authority of the Ten Commandments.
We might be tempted to look at such agreement as if it
constitutes spiritual unity. When
religion becomes the topic of conversation it is usually centered on
questions of right and wrong.
But Jesus did not come into this world merely as a
new lawgiver who had more demanding standards than Moses. He came to testify to the truth.
And the Spirit of truth, whom Jesus sends to us from the Father,
is not primarily a teacher of virtue.
He is a teacher of Christ.
In teaching us about Christ, the Holy Spirit
convicts the world of three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Why is the world wrong about sin?
What is it about the worldís view of sin that makes it false
and why must the Holy Spirit show this to the world?
Jesus states it simply: ďBecause they do not believe in Me.Ē
The Holy Spirit does not convict the world of sinning against the
Ten Commandments even though the Ten Commandments stand as Godís holy
law, written by the finger of God on Mount Sinai.
The Holy Spirit doesnít convict the world of murder, lying,
stealing, or adultery. He convicts of the world of not believing in Jesus.
That is the sin that condemns sinners.
Jesus has taken away the sin of the world.
We sing, ďO Christ the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of
the world, have mercy upon us.Ē Why do we confess in our singing that Jesus is the Lamb of
God who takes away the sin of the world?
Because He is! The
Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us as this Lamb.
Faith receives Jesus and the forgiveness that He has won for us
all. To persist in unbelief
is the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Every other sin can be forgiven, but when Jesus is rejected the
forgiveness of sins is being rejected.
There is salvation in no other name than in the name of Jesus.
The world cannot understand sin because it doesnít know Jesus.
Only when we, through faith in Jesus, receive the forgiveness of
all our sins do we understand the true nature of sin.
It is as the Holy Spirit sets you free from the burden and guilt
of sin that you learn what sin really is.
It doesnít consist in violating outward rules of conduct.
Sin is a turning away from God to worship ourselves and the
things we make and do. The
Holy Spirit shows us what sin in as He shows us how Jesus, the Lamb of
God, bears all our sin away.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of
righteousness. That is, He
shows that the world is wrong in what it thinks about righteousness.
This is shown by the fact that Jesus goes to the Father where we
donít see Him anymore. At
the right hand of the Father Jesus displays His righteousness.
This righteousness of Jesus is His obedience to Godís law that
He rendered for us all. It
is His suffering the penalty we had brought upon ourselves for our
disobedience to the law. Christís
righteousness was won by His obedience.
His obedience was active as He actively did all that Godís law
commanded us to do. His
obedience was passive as He suffered all that we, by our sins, deserved
to suffer. This
righteousness of Jesus won the approval of the Father.
Jesus says, ďI go to my Father and you see Me no
more.Ē Jesus goes to the
Father. You canít see
Him, but the Father can. The
Father looks at Jesusí righteousness.
He looks at the righteousness of the world.
The righteousness of this world cannot possibly stand beside the
righteousness of Jesus. The
world is wrong in what it teaches about righteousness.
It teaches that people can make themselves righteous by doing
righteous things. But you
cannot become good by doing good things.
The only way a sinner can become righteous is by having God
reckon to him the righteousness of Christ.
Here is what the Holy Spirit says to those who are
trying to earn a place with God in heaven by their own works of
righteousness. Do you think
that your works are better than Jesusí works?
Do you love more purely? Do
you submit more patiently? Do
you serve more dutifully? Do
you speak more truthfully? Do
you think that your works of righteousness can compare to Jesusí works
of righteousness? Are you
willing to stand before God clothed in your own good deeds?
What will God see? How
will He respond?
The Holy Spirit urges this world to toss aside all
reliance on its own works and to trust instead in Christís works.
His works constitute a righteousness that is flawless.
God sees what Jesus did in our stead as He lived and died for us.
The Father takes pleasure in the righteousness of His only
begotten Son. He sees His
Sonís righteousness and it meets with His approval.
And if you want to find approval from God you must have
Christís righteousness. You
must have Christ. If you
donít have Christ through faith you arenít righteous before God and
you stand under Godís judgment.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment
because the ruler of this world is judged.
Satan is called the ruler of this world.
He rules the hearts of those who donít know Christ. He rules over those who trust in their own righteousness.
He rules over people by means of his false teaching and all of
the devilís false teaching boils down to the religion of works
righteousness, that we become righteous before God by doing good works.
Christians confess that their own righteousness is, as the prophet says, like filthy rags. We lay claim to Christís righteousness. This is how we can confidently claim heaven as our home. Nothing can keep us away from God. Not our sin because it is forgiven for Christís sake. Not our lack of righteousness because we have Christís righteousness that meets with the full approval of our Father in heaven. Not Godís judgment because it is the devil who is judged. We are not judged. We have eternal life right now through faith in Christ. This simple truth is at the very heart of Christianity. It is the central truth of our holy faith. All righteousness by our works is vain. But we have Christ. The Spirit of truth says so. This is the truth in which we can live with confidence and die in peace.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus