GRACE, MERCY and PEACE are YOURS this day from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
I am going 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 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 concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:5-11)
In the NAME of JESUS – Amen.
The need for the lambs of Christ’s Flock to hear and understand these words of our Lord Jesus grows and increases each and every day. If we are to understand the world in which we live today, we must clearly know and understand these words of our Lord Jesus. They are direct. They are clear.
For the believer, these words should bring peace and comfort to our heart – for they clearly show how our loving Lord Jesus knows even these times in which we live. They show how He lovingly provides for us and just how it is that He would have us be comforted and preserved in these difficult times.
We live in a time of great temptation to avoid struggle and strife and to just get along with the world as it further devolves into chaos and depravity.
But St. James, the Apostle says it is an adulterous people who doesn’t know that friendship with the world and it’s ways means enmity against God. He says, “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
These are difficult words for us to hear. They are even more difficult words for us to live in these days.
Part of the reason is that we live in a culture that does not understand or accept that loving and caring for another person does not mean that you uphold, promote and support their every thought, word and deed. We are now told that loving someone means fully accepting them – and refusing to judge them for their lifestyle choices.
Speaking out for truth – even saying what just a few short months ago would have been considered common sense – will get you hate and derision – will have you shouted down and shut out of the conversation.
And many of us who grew up in a different time are in shock and dismay at the path and direction of our country and our society. We wonder how all of this happened so fast and what it all means. Worse, we are tempted to simply give into the thought that we should just get along and go along with the spirit of our age in order to keep peace and harmony.
But this morning, our Lord Jesus pulls us closer to Himself and speaks into our ears words that explain the chaos around us and encourage us and give us hope as we live through the difficult and turbulent times that surround us.
Have you ever wondered how or why you can see so clearly how messed up and confused society is, but others cannot? Why is it that in this over-sexed and permissive culture; a culture that has devolved to a point that murdering unborn children by the thousands, a culture that doesn’t know that men and women should not expose themselves to one another in locker rooms and restrooms, why is it that you cling to the idea that whether you are male or female is something determined by your genetic code and the way you were knit together in your mother’s womb, not how you happen to feel? Why do we maintain what the world considers outdated notions that marriage should be the LIFE LONG union of husband and wife, that only a man and a woman should be married, and that those who are unmarried should not share their life and their bodies as if they were married?
Dear friends in Christ Jesus – as much as the world will try to convince you otherwise – You do not only believe these things because it is what you were taught when you were younger. It is not because you are some stick in the mud who is too old, or too conservative, or to stuck in their ways to get with the times. In fact, for most of us, I would venture to say – there is this inward desire to not worry about it – to simply give in so that we can get along with others. But there is something that holds us back. There is something that prevents us from turning our back on the truth and embracing the lies around us.
And there is. We see it in our text as Jesus tells the Apostles, “I will send to you a helper.”
It is because we have this gift of the Holy Spirit – delivered to us by God, sent by Christ Jesus, to help us in these dangerous and difficult times. Dwelling in our hearts, the Holy Spirit actively fights against that desire to give in, He judges what is true and what is false. He keeps us holding firmly to what God has revealed in His Word – what was written by the prophets and the Apostles. Jesus has sent us this helper to keep and preserve us in the faith – so that even though we love and are deeply concerned about those around us, we will not accept the lies and deceits of the devil and be swept away with the multitude of unbelievers.
The ruler of this world – that is the devil – is judged, says Jesus. He’s condemned and doomed and along with him, everything that is not of God’s kingdom are likewise condemned and doomed. Even we believers will only barely escape destruction – and that – only because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
For as long as we live, we still have flesh and blood – and it is there, in our bones, that sin is rooted. This is why St. Peter says, “For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God.”
We will never be completely subject to the Holy Spirit until that day when our soul and body are separated. Until then, we must acknowledge that we, too, are and remain sinners. This is why believers who possess the Holy Spirit are resigned to suffer the misery and anxiety and trials and tribulations of this life – because we know we deserve all of it and much more for our sin. If the sinless Son of God suffered so greatly in this world, we dare not think that we poor sinners will fare any better.
So, indeed, when we experience trial and trouble, we ought to look carefully at our life – measure ourselves against what God says is true and right and seek to amend our ways. To do otherwise is to resist the work of the Holy Spirit who seeks to help us in our weaknesses.
But Even though God works in us to put down our sinful urges so that outwardly we are made to appear more righteous in comparison to others, we know the truth – we are and remain damnable sinners who, without Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit, would be lost and condemned with the rest of the world. We know that deep down inside, we are no more righteous or holy in ourselves than anyone else. Instead, we trust and believe that true righteousness comes from outside of us – from Christ Jesus – who freely gives us His righteousness and holiness through the faith and trust that we have in Him.
This is a fact that the unbelieving world cannot accept and in no way understands. The world thinks of righteousness as outward virtue – how a person measures up to some objective scale of right and wrong. But when we measure ourselves against God’s Holy Law, all of us come up wanting. There is no hope or escape. The Christian appears more like Christ not because of who he is, but because of what Christ has done for Him and what the Holy Spirit, the helper sent by Christ, has done IN Him.
Noah was found to be a righteous man. Likewise Job. Elizabeth and Zechariah were said to be upright and righteous as well. However, the Scriptures do not say this because of their strict morals or their perfectly obedient life. So also with David and all the great men of faith in the Scriptures. Besides Jesus, Himself, there is only one man in all of Scripture whose life story is not pock-marked and pitted with moral failure, and that’s Joseph, the son of Jacob. But it’s not because he was without moral failing, Rather, the history of his life is to point us to the sinless Son of God who rescued the world and was exulted on high.
Just consider how many times Abraham followed his own thoughts and beliefs about God’s plan for his life and you see that even this great pillar in the history of salvation was not righteous in Himself. But what do the Scriptures say about Abraham, “He believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness.” Likewise Noah, who found grace and favor, love and mercy in the eyes of God when all the world saw God only as an unloving tyrant bent on being a cosmic killjoy. So also with Job who we are told was “an upright man that feared God and turned away from evil.”
All these were righteous – and even outwardly grew in virtue and honor – but only because of their faith and trust in the God who has given to us the righteousness of Christ.
This righteousness comes to all who believe that Christ Jesus has ascended to the Father – that He is equal to God and he possesses equal glory and honor and power – and that as a man, He became Lord and ruler over all things through His sinless passion and obedient death for sinners – making peace between God and us through the shedding of His blood.
The one who believes this is holy and righteous before God. And just as the Holy Spirit works in us to keep our sin in bounds so that we grow in virtue – so that we bring our lives more and more in line with what God says is good and right and true – so also, the Holy Spirit works in us faith and trust in all that Christ Jesus has done to make us righteous and holy in the sight of God.
This is where faith and good works come together. Christ Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit into the world to work faith in our hearts. This same Holy Spirit is at work within us to subdue our flesh so that we make a beginning here and now in doing the good that God would have us to do.
And here we see why it is that we as Christian believers in Christ see that the world has gone mad and crumbles into chaos and disarray around us without even realizing it.
The Holy Spirit convicts and condemns the world because of sin – because they do not believe on Christ Jesus. Their unbelief keeps them blind and confused and deluded. Their lack of faith in Christ leaves them subject only to the lies and deceits of the devil. They reject marriage – they reject the reality of the biological differences between male and female – they refuse to acknowledge as wrong and to be avoided those things that God prohibits. They insist on being affirmed, accepted, applauded and lifted up – and they reject any expression of true love that seeks what is truly best for them as hateful, bigotted and spiteful all because they do not know and do not believe what God in Christ has done for them.
It is not sufficient for them merely to acknowledge that there is a god or even that Christ lives and reigns with God. True faith is knowing that God is gracious to you – that Jesus has taken your sin upon Himself and reconciled you to the Father. True faith is knowing that your sins, no matter how great, have been given to Jesus and that His righteousness has been given to you. True faith in Christ is the knowledge that Jesus, the very son of God, born of the virgin Mary, has exchanged His perfect righteousness and holiness for your sin and that all your sin has been swallowed up and removed from you by His holiness and righteousness.
No sin can remain upon Christ. And true faith in Him is the only thing that makes you pure and acceptable to God the Father.
And for this reason, Jesus ascended into heaven, so that He could send to you the Holy Spirit – so that working through the Word of the Scriptures and the Sacraments instituted by Christ Jesus, Himself, He could bring you to this faith and so that He would keep and preserve you in this faith throughout this life, so that you will not be swept away with the multitude of unbelievers. Instead, because of the salvation that Christ has worked for you and because of the faith that the Holy Spirit has work in you, you will inherit eternity and dwell in peace with God forever.
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.