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Sermon – John 16.5-15 (Easter 5 – 2019)
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, through Your Son You promised us Your Holy Spirit, that He should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: We beseech You, enlighten our hearts, that we may confess our sins, through faith in Christ obtain everlasting righteousness, and in all our trials and temptations retain this consolation: that Christ is Lord over the devil and death and all things, and that He will graciously deliver us out of all our afflictions, and make us forever partakers of eternal salvation; through the same, Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
5 "But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me,`Where are You going?'
6 "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
7 "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 depart, I will send Him to you.
8 "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 "of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 "of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11 "of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 "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.
14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
15 "All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.
The Holy Spirit Must Convict Us
Dear fellow redeemed,
A simple way to look at the Bible is this: The Old Testament books are written by the prophets pointing forward to the coming Christ who would save the world. The Gospels tell us about Jesus and His work as the fulfillment of those Old Testament prophesies. The epistles are written by the apostles and they expound on what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean for us.
It’s a pretty simple way to look at it, but when we consider the content of Scripture, that is Jesus, His work of salvation for us, and the new life that we have in Him, it is truly remarkable. The essence of this truth is so simple that a child can understand and believe in it, yet we can never finish mining the depths of the truths and significance we find in Scripture! It is so simple that the wise of the world scoff at it, yet it so transcendent, so far above their reason and understanding that they cannot comprehend it.
We’ll consider today the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and also the fact that we need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand and believe.
The disciples probably knew the Old Testament well. They were witnesses of Jesus ministry. They saw Jesus preach and heal, and tell them the events that will occur. When Jesus spoke the words of our gospel reading to the disciples, they were only hours away from His betrayal and the events of His death and resurrection.
This was going to be a lot for them to comprehend. Too much for them. What is the meaning behind His suffering and death, and His resurrection?
Jesus wasn’t going to reveal it all to them at this time. On a future date, the Holy Spirit will come to them, and give them an understanding of these spiritual truths and the faith to believe in them. At this point in time when Jesus was speaking to His disciples, they lacked knowledge and understanding, but when the Holy Spirit would come, they would understand and be equipped to preach and teach and to write the New Testament, of course, being led by the Holy Spirit.
But consider what their understanding had to overcome. Their religious practices consisted of sacrifices, cleansings, festivals, sabbaths, food restrictions and so on. All these pointed forward to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. And now Christ has come, all those Old Testament requirements were unnecessary. This isn’t a new religion, but a switch from promise to fulfillment, and this makes for a drastic change in their religious practices!
And then there was the popular theology taught by the Pharisees which said that God’s favor was obtained by doing good works, by following the Law. As it is at every period of time and in every place, this is a problem. This is our continual battle. This is a hurdle for our reason, knowledge and understanding. It even has a Latin name, the opinio legis. The opinion of the law. It is the idea that since we got into a mess with God because of our sinful works, we then need to fix the mess with good works. This is the default religion of man. Every other religion in the world other than Christianity is based on this concept. It’s up to you to appease God, to ascend to Him, and to earn your reward.
We wrestle against this no matter how mature in the faith we are. Most of us have grown up in the faith. You’re all at different stages of learning the faith, whether you are digesting the meat of Scripture, or whether you are still drinking milk, learning the basic things of the faith, or whether you are somewhere in between. Nonetheless, we are all in the constant practice of overcoming the opinio legis, for it continues to plague us. We have a fallen sinful will that desires us to view our salvation as dependent upon what we do.
The thoughts cross our mind that we must clean up our act and get our life right before we are worthy of being in God’s presence, before entering into the Father’s house. We doubt His word of forgiveness thinking that we need to earn just a little bit of it first.
When we have done some good works the devil uses those good works against you, tempting you to pat yourself on the back, and to think God must be pretty happy with you, you’ve earned some brownie points with Him. Or the devil uses those good works to lead you to be self-righteous, comparing yourself with others, looking down your nose at them who have more sins, and think that God must be more pleased with you than with them.
Or we are tempted to adopt the participation award mentality of the culture, that as long as we don’t be like Hitler, we’re good enough in God’s sight, and we are rewarded by God simply for playing the game of life without killing millions of people.
And so there is this opinio legis, this works-righteousness, that is the mind of the fallen Adam in us. And the life, death, and resurrection of Christ completely contradicts that theology. The doctrine of grace is directly opposed to our natural religion. And the truth is is that we don’t have the capability to know and understand even this most basic truth of Christianity about God’s grace and our salvation.
We must be convicted by the Holy Spirit. In a devotion this week by Pastor Scott Murray, he was talking about one-upmanship. When you are in the midst of trouble, and tell someone else about it, you don’t want to hear them say, “You think that is bad, let me tell you about what I had to deal with.” That or the saying, “It could be worse,” don’t offer any comfort, and don’t lessen the weight of the trouble. But God does this in a way. When it comes to the trouble of our sin, He piles it on. You think you have it bad, you have it worse than you think. He says through Paul, “By one man’s offense many died.” This is not talking about sins committed, but about our original sin, our sinful nature, that it alone makes us worthy of condemnation. Don’t you think that when the disciples reflected on Jesus hanging on the cross, that they got a fuller understanding of their sin. Yeah, that’s how bad it is. That’s how sinful we are and how serious it is.
The Holy Spirit must teach us this and convict us of this truth, for we do not have the capability to do so.
And so in this way the Holy Spirit teaches us to look outside of ourselves, to look to the one who did hang on the cross to bear our sins, Christ Jesus. There Jesus received the judgment of guilty by the Father, that we might be judged righteous.
And our works have nothing to do with this. God doesn’t wait for some spark of goodness in humanity to make this race worthy of redeeming by sending His Son. He would still be waiting. His love, His salvation is completely undeserved. That love is unfathomable. Nothing in us would cause Him to love us, even in the slightest bit, but yet He loves this world of fallen people, so much so that He even gives up His only begotten Son unto a bitter death. How great is that love, there we see it in the words of Jesus to those who hated Him, were mocking Him, beating Him, and crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.”
By Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death and triumphant resurrection righteousness is won for us, for all people! And it is ours through faith, and again works are excluded. It’s not “faith and…” Just faith. Not, faith and an ounce of worthiness. Not faith and a little bit of penance, not faith and a life committed to Jesus, not faith and a genuine enough and sufficiently felt repentance, just faith, just believing that this forgiveness and salvation that you need is fully won by Christ and is free for you.
The righteousness that saves, that makes innocent before God is the righteousness Christ achieved by His perfect life and innocent death. And He goes to the Father to intercede now on our behalf, and to send His Holy Spirit to convict us of these things.
And now because we through faith have this righteousness of Christ, and because Christ is risen, and we are joined to His resurrection by baptism, we walk in newness of life. And how different this is. We no longer look at works as means to be righteous before God. Our righteousness before God is already taken care of by Christ, and it is perfect. But we now look at works as something we are freed to do. We love the law, and desire to keep it in love for God and in love for neighbor. It is good. And by doing the law, we conduct ourselves according to who we have already been made in Christ. How could we ever come to such understanding about the law and the new life we have in Christ by our own reason? But the Holy Spirit has led us to this understanding, and to this new life.
And so may the Holy Spirit continue to convict us and lead us to know and understand our sin and the righteousness of Christ which is ours by faith. It’s a simple thing to say, and we understand it. But I urge you to never stop exploring the depths of this truth in Scripture, for it is a mine filled with inexhaustible treasures of God’s grace. Read, study God’s Word praying to the Holy Spirit that He would guide you into its truth. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.