Sermon – Pentecost, 2015

Jesus’ Testimony about the Holy Spirit’s Work
An Example of the Holy Spirit at Work in the Book of Acts
The Work and Operation of the Holy Spirit Today (analogy to the events of Ezekiel)
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Introduction –
Memorial Day – Tomorrow our nation celebrates a day of remembrance. We call it “Memorial Day” We set aside this day to remember those who gave their lives in service to their country. The brave men and women we remember died fighting tyrrany and oppression. We set aside a day each year to remember – – – so that we will not forget. As we gather today, we are grateful for their sacrifice and we thank and praise God for their bravery. And because they served as His instruments to preserved this world so that the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit can continue, I can think of no better way to honor their memory than to exercise the freedoms they died to protect and preserve. Therefore, let us turn to God’s Word and learn from Him the truths of our faith as we hear about the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today.
Pentecost – It’s rather interesting this year that as the great sacrifice of those brave men and women is remembered – we are being taught about the work of the Holy Spirit. Memorial Day recognizes the brokenness of the world that causes our loved ones to die in the battle to protect peace. PENTECOST is the day we remember that our Lord poured out His Holy Spirit upon mankind in order that we who were dead and lifeless – in a certain sense, casualties in the Devil’s war against God – would be resurrected and have God’s Spirit enliven us to a true and living faith in Christ – giving us new life that will last forever.
This is the Holy Spirit’s work is – connecting us to eternal life in Jesus by bearing witness to Christ – Jn 15:26 – Jesus said: “When the Holy Spirit Comes He shall bear witness of me.” This is merely a repetition of what Jesus said a few verses earlier when He said “The Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” The Apostle John thought it so important to be clear about the work and purpose of the Holy Spirit, that in these few verses, He mentions several times that the work of the Spirit is to point to Jesus. And sandwiched between these statements that the work of the Spirit is to point to Jesus – we have Jesus telling us that He is the vine and we are the branches – urging us to remain in Him – and telling us to keep and treasure His Word and that through keeping and treasuring His Word, we remain in Him and His Love remains in us. Do you see the pattern? Everything revolves around this one thing – the Word handed over by Christ – it is to Jesus that the Holy Spirit testifies and witnesses – And it is through the Word of Christ delivered to us by the Apostles that the Holy Spirit is active in the World raising up our dry-lifeless bones by creating and sustaining faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

It is the Spirit’s work to bring about faith and trust in the salvation worked by Jesus. But He doesn’t accomplish this by zapping us with his power – or beaming down into our hearts. NO! And he doesn’t do it through our emotions or our feelings either – they come later – after the work of the Holy Spirit is already begun within us. It’s not emotional manipulation – it’s not a divine mystical experiencee that the Holy Spirit uses – Rather, the Holy Spirit uses the plain, simple testimony and witness of the Apostles. Those who saw and heard Jesus first hand as He walked the earth teaching and performing all kinds of signs and wonders. Those that Jesus sent to declare His deeds among men. Their testimony declares that this man, Jesus, is the incarnate son of God who had come into the world to fulfill God’s promises made long ago. His promise to overthrow the tyranny and oppression of sin and the devil. In our readings this morning, we see the special role that the Apostles have in God’s plan as they testify to God’s work of salvation in Christ. It is because of their testimony – handed down through time to us – that the Holy Spirit has come to us and worked faith in us to believe and trust what God has accomplished in Christ.
The Holy Spirit to caused the Apostles to remember what they saw and heard Jesus do and say. By the power of the Holy Spirit – they were led into full knowledge of who Jesus is, what He did, and what it means for us. As the Apostles preach and teach – even as they preach to us and teach us today through their words recorded for us in the New Testament – they are speaking with words taught to them by the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul, the Apostle, says, “We have received the spirit which is of God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us from God. These things we also speak, not in the words that mans wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches;” Therefore, as the Apostles speak, they speak the very word of God – taught to them by the Holy Spirit. And as the word of the Apostles goes into the world, it is the very Word of God that goes into the world.

The Effect of That Word on an Unbelieving World

But that is not a Word that the unbelieving world wants to hear. St. Paul says that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit (1 cor 2:14). And Jesus, in our text, tells us what the effect of the work of the Holy Spirit has on the unbelieving world. In John 16:8 we see 3 effects: The Holy Spirit convicts the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

CONVICTION = to bring to a knowledge of objective truth. This is why the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. He brings forward the objective indisputable evidence which leads to an inescapable conclusion – and it’s not a conclusion that the world wants to hear. The Holy Spirit testifies to the truth that there is a God who loves and cares for us – who wants to bestow on us His mercy and grace.

But the world rebells against this idea – even though we are believers, we find that we struggle with this.

[1-Church full of hypocrites – always room for one more]
[Simon the Zealot and the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume – He who is forgiven much loves much]
[2-If we truly believed who Christ is and what He has done for us, we would have no further need for forgiveness after we come to faith. But this isn’t true – and we know it. This is why the Holy Spirit’s work must continue today]

We need Him to work in us so that we set aside our own desires and our own goals and plans and purposes and submit to the will of God trusting Him to work all things together for our good – even when we don’t feel it or see it or understand it. That is what true faith and trust in God is.

As the Holy Spirit works, He shines the light of truth on unbelief. He shows us that the root of all our sinful thoughts, words and deeds is the fact that we don’t believe and trust God as we ought. As The Spirit witnesses to Jesus and points to Him, He convicts us all of the fact that without Jesus, we have no hope of righteousness.

This is why Jesus said the Holy Spirit convicts the World on account of Righteousness. Last week we heard that Jesus was hidden from view by the clouds as He ascended into heaven. Without the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, we would not know of God’s mighty deeds to save mankind. But because Christ sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and through their witness, the Holy Spirit Himself witnesses to the world, we have come to know of the mercy and grace of God in Christ. This is the blessing of Pentecost – and it is the very reason that God instituted His church in the world – so that the work of the Holy Spirit would continue as the Word of the Apostles goes forth throughout the world. That Word whether alone – or attached to the water of Holy baptism or the bread and wine of Holy Communion – accomplishes great things – that Word and the Witness of the Holy Spirit saves from death and hell – because it delivers Jesus to us. It points to Him and His saving work for mankind – and through it, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we may know and trust that our God is a loving God – a faithful God who accomplishes what He promises {ACTS 2}.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit recreating us, we are like those dry bones spoken to by Ezekiel. {EZEKIEL}

Because the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us – because He continues to work to recreate us even as we live in the dry and arid valley of this life, we learn more and more to trust in God as our loving and merciful Father. And by the faith given us by the Holy Spirit we have strength to see every situation is in His loving and capable hands. We don’t need to fret or worry – we don’t need to be afraid – because we know Jesus and because the Holy Spirit has given us to trust in Him, we also know that God is a gracious and merciful God who is able to keep and sustain us in faith no matter what adversity or trial comes our way. We aren’t promised easy or comfortable lives – in fact, if you look at the verses of John 16 that we skipped, we’re told the opposite. But because of the Holy Spirit, we are promised the strength and faith to endure through the adversities of this life so that when we reach its end, we have the assurance of eternal life of bliss and comfort in Christ. — Besides, would you really want to live forever in this world? Never seeing Christ – always waiting for something better? In Christ, we have the promise of something better – and so we have the freedom to live here and now – giving selflessly to one another – not holding our sins and failures against one another but loving and cherishing one another as gifts from God.

This is far different from how unbelievers react when they hear the Word. The more that the Holy Spirit proclaims Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life – showing how through His miracles as well as His resurrection from the dead, He proved to be the very Son of God sent into the world to save us from sin and death, the more the unbelieving world attempts to silence that message and destroy the messengers who bring it. They do this because they are convicted of the truth – since they refuse to trust in Jesus, there truly is no hope for them.

Because they are still held under the sway of the ruler of this world, they are judged and condemned just as He is.

But those in Christ – those, like you, whom the Holy Spirit has touched and come to – those who, like you, have been give new life through Spirit’s testimony about Jesus – testimony delivered to through the Apostolic witnesses – all who have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that Christ has saved them from sin, death and everlasting condemnation have hope – because they have Jesus. This is why Jesus is so adament about “remaining in Him” as we have heard in the last several weeks. There are many things in this world that are hostile to Jesus and would strip us away – to cause us to feel “cut off” and as lifeless as dry bones on the valley floor. But Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to pull us out of the world – to bring us to Himself. And as we continue to hear and cherish the Word that He sent forth, we continue to be assured of all that He has done and continues to do for us – as we continue to hear, we remain, because in them the Holy Spirit remains active and living.

We have been washed by the Spirit in the Water. And all that Christ has is ours – As flesh and skin covered over the dry bones in the valley, God has sent His Word to us so that Christ’s righteousness and His holiness covers over us. The Spirit takes what is Christ’s and gives it to us so that as we grow in faith and trust in God. And as we do, we also grow in our ability to show Christ’s love and mercy and grace to others. We can never truly “BE JESUS” to others – because we ourselves needed Jesus to save us – and we cannot save others by dying in their place as Jesus did for us – but we can show others the love and mercy of God by pointing them to the source of perfection and Holiness. And as we do, as we witness to God’s love and mercy in Christ – the Holy Spirit is active witnessing and convicting and convincing – so that others come to a knowledge of the truth – the truth that we have a loving and merciful God who sent His Son to save us from death and hell and because of Him, we shall have everlasting life.

On this Pentecost then, we celebrate a different MEMORIAL DAY as we remember all Christ has done – and we remember because He has sent us His Holy Spirit to bring it to our remembrance – so that we will never forget. That is the work of the Spirit – to testify to the work of Christ – point us to Him so that we will receive eternal life – He does so through the Word, through our Baptism and through the supper of our Lord. And in and through these things, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guards and keeps us in the one true faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.

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