|Cantate Sunday| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| May 18, 2014| St. John 16:5-15
“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for 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.” St. John 16:5-15
Jesus spoke to his disciples about leaving them. He was about to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified. He came into the world to save sinners. He was facing the cost he would pay for their salvation. He would suffer and die on the cross for the sin of the world. He was going away. If he did not go the way of the cross, there would be no forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit would not come to them. If he went to the cross he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Fifty days after his victory over sin and death he sent the Lord and giver of life to his church.
Some folks say that we neglect the Holy Spirit in our teaching and lay too much emphasis on Christ. If God is Triune, shouldn’t each person of the Holy Trinity be given equal time? But the Holy Spirit does not talk about himself. He talks about Christ. As Jesus says in our text:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for 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 speaks for Jesus. He takes what belongs to Jesus and reveals it to us. Everything that belongs to the Father belongs to the Son. Whenever the Holy Spirit reveals divine truth to us he reveals to us the Holy Trinity. God is not three separate beings. God is one and he is indivisible. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, reveals to us the Son. We know the Father by knowing the Son. We know the Son in his suffering for us. This is what the Spirit of truth reveals to us.
The Holy Spirit cannot be separated from Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. He takes what belongs to Christ and declares it to us. Truth and Christ go together. If it doesn’t have to do with Christ, it isn’t from the Holy Spirit. If you want a religion of health, wealth, and success in this world; if you want a religion of social justice, economic equality, and the elimination of poverty; if you want a religion of civic righteousness where the values of the church preserve the state; you can find these religions promoted by popular established churches across America. But don’t look for the Holy Spirit to teach you such things. He doesn’t. He teaches Christ. In teaching Christ he teaches us about sin, righteousness, and judgment. You do not understand sin, righteousness, and judgment unless you know Christ. Holy Spirit teaches Christ.
The world has its own ideas about sin, righteousness, and judgment. It regards sin as breaking the rules, righteousness as obeying the rules, and judgment as their right. When people of this world make Jesus a part of their religion they plug him into their preconceived notions about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The world is wrong. Its religion is wrong. Jesus must send to us the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit of truth to guide us into all truth we will surely adopt the false religion of the world and perish. The world is blinded by sin and so cannot see what sin is. The Holy Spirit must teach us or we will remain ignorant, blind, and headed toward eternal ruin.
You want to know what sin is? Look to the crucifixion of Jesus. This was the cost of sin. Damnation! The punishment of all sinners took place on Calvary. But sinners won’t see it! They think that sin is breaking the rules. Well, anyone can obey the rules! Every schoolboy knows that! Mom says so. The teacher says so. He knows so. He could obey them if he really wanted to. What’s his problem? He doesn’t want to! And everybody in the world is like that recalcitrant schoolboy. We don’t want to do what God says to do! And that’s sin!
Do you want to turn the other cheek when someone make you feel foolish and humiliates you? Do you want to speak well of the one who speaks ill of you? Are you willing to do your job when you are tired and feel unappreciated? Wives, do you want to submit to your husband? Husbands, do you want to put the needs of your wife above your own? Do you want what is best for others, even when they care nothing for you? Are you content with what you have? Do you want to forgive those who do you wrong and aren’t even sorry? Sin isn’t just what you do. It’s what you want. God gave us two commandments against coveting. It is a sin to want what we have no right to. Jesus calls lust adultery. St. John calls hate murder. St. Paul calls greed idolatry. Don’t think that you have kept yourself from sin because you’ve obeyed the rules. Your own conscience would condemn you if it were properly informed.
Jesus took away sin on the cross. He took it all away. He took it away by bearing it, by suffering for it, by being made to be sin for us. He did not suffer just for people breaking the rules. He suffered for lust, hatred, greed, and idolatrous desires. He suffered for every evil desire that has captured the affection of every sinner in the whole world. There is no sin so shameful or perverted that he didn’t suffer its penalty and guilt. By suffering for sin he took it away. He washed it away by his blood. All sins of all sinners of all time have been forgiven by Jesus suffering and dying on the cross. The gospel doesn’t tell us what we must do to get God to forgive us. The gospel is the good news about what Jesus has already done. He has already taken away the sin of the world.
But only those who believe in Jesus are personally forgiven. Faith is necessary, not to win forgiveness, but to receive the forgiveness that Jesus has already won. Only in Jesus is there forgiveness of sin. Only the Holy Spirit can convince you of this. So Jesus said, “He will convict the world of sin because they do not believe in me.” Jesus has taken away sin. Jesus made himself accountable for our sin by taking it upon himself and suffering and dying in our place. Unbelief is the only thing that keeps anyone from being forgiven of his sins and set free from their guilt and condemnation. As long as the world holds onto its notion that they are not sinners if they obey the rules, they will not believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin. But the world is wrong and the Holy Spirit is right.
The world’s view of righteousness is equally shallow and self-serving. If sin is disobeying rules, righteousness is obeying rules. And, of course, the rules are quite doable. In the world’s estimation, we need not repent of our sins and hunger and thirst for righteousness because we are just fine as we are. The world teaches the doctrine of self-esteem. It is so popular that many Christians think it is Christian teaching. It teaches that we obtain true righteousness by loving ourselves. When I love me, then I can love you. So I must love myself, and then I will find within myself the goodness that I can share with others.
The Holy Spirit says no. You’re wrong. You don’t know what righteousness is. Jesus alone is inherently righteous. Jesus alone has done and wanted and said all that God requires. He alone loved purely. Only his righteousness stands the test of God. Jesus offers his righteousness to God to replace the world’s sin. Then he dies for sin, rises from the dead, ascends into heaven, and is glorified at the right hand of God the Father where we can see him no more. The righteousness that the Holy Spirit gives us in the gospel is this righteousness of the God-man. It is the righteousness he achieved when he became a man and humbled himself in perfect obedience to God.
We need this righteousness. We don’t need self-esteem. We need Christ. We don’t need to love ourselves. We need the love of God revealed in Christ. We need to be covered by the impeccable righteousness of Christ who never thought an evil thought, did an evil deed, spoke an evil word, or wanted anything contrary to what was good, pure, and holy. This righteousness reveals all other righteousnesses to be but filth and pretense and shameful hypocrisy. When we are clothed in this righteousness, no evil can harm us.
And this brings us to the final area where the world’s religion is wrong and the Holy Spirit is right. The world is wrong about judgment. The world thinks that it can judge us Christians. We claim Christ as our Savior from sin. We say that we are covered in his righteousness. We say that only his righteousness avails before the judgment seat of God. The world attacks our faith and judges us. They love the works of their own flesh too much to admit their sin to God and confess their need for the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ. They would rather justify themselves than repent of their sin. So they judge us Christians! They speak as if for the devil himself, judging our hearts, our doctrine, and our faith.
Their judgment means nothing. The Bible says that those who believe in Jesus are not judged. They have passed from death to life. We are not judged. The prince of this world is judged. The Spirit of truth says so. The devil cannot burden our consciences with our past sins. He cannot control our affections or bind us to our sinful desires. The Spirit of truth lives in us. He gives us the forgiveness Jesus has won for us, clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, silences the devil’s false promises, fills us with holy desires, and enables us to live holy lives. When the prince of this world seeks to control us, the Spirit of truth frees us from the power of sin and comforts us with God’s love.