Let us pray: O Comforter from on high, through Your holy power we live, move, and have our very being. In You and because of You we have been given all the gifts, the grace, and the spiritual power that Christ won on the cross. You freely seek to distribute them to us. Today, remind us not to forget about You or Your wonderful work. Yes, energize us with Your power for the benefit of Christ’s kingdom and lost souls in need of salvation. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST AND THE SPIRIT FROM ON HIGH
TEXT: John 16: 5-11
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
When was the last time you prayed directly to the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you invoked His name at the beginning of your prayer and addressed Him one-on-one? Try it. It works! Pentecost is the Spirit’s Day. It is about Christ’s promise outlined in our lesson being directly kept by God Almighty. It is about the Spirit’s awesome power being flooded upon the disciples, whistling through the gathered crowd, and ultimately even resting upon us today. And what does that power consist of? It consists of Godly power to convict people of their sins, to lay before them forgiveness for their evil desires and deeds, for them to pick it up, for God placing that power into their hearts and souls, and for a new life, a holy life filled with inner peace to follow.
Here’s a 3-fold way of describing Christianity. Salvation won, salvation distributed, and salvation received. All are part of God the Father’s ultimate plan for humans. First, He sent Christ to win our salvation on the cross by giving up His life as a sacrifice for ours. Second, the benefits of such grace are distributed to us via God’s means of grace, or absolution, baptism, and the Holy Supper. And finally, we receive such peace of soul via faith which the Spirit works within us. The partially known God, as the Spirit is sometimes referred to, was with Christ at His baptism in that dove form. He was with Christ on the cross. He was active through Christ when miracles were wrought and Lazarus was raised from the dead. And now, as Jesus promises in our lesson, He will be with us after Christ’s ascension into glory. With Jesus physically absent from earth, now it is the Spirit’s time to shine and be especially active.
So, when was the last time you prayed to the Spirit? I must confess that I don’t pray to Him directly every day. Like you, my primary focus is directed to Christ. But, last Wednesday I prayed to Him. And whenever I challenge Him to open new hearts, or send new people my way, I’m always amazed at how quickly it occurs. And with it comes added responsibility, but also a profound inner peace. By praying to Him you give Him honor. And He responds with glorious power. So, today let’s examine that power under the heading:
PRAY TO THE SPIRIT IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES!
Christ is now physically absent from this earth. Yet, He promises, right before the Ascension, to remain always with His disciples. How? Is it via His omnipresence? Yes, although that manner of presence is a bit generalized. No, the loving Christ is especially with us via the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has now been given free range over everything. King David writes of that fact in Ps. 139: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” He sees all. Hears all. He knows all when it comes to you and all those you meet. Later David wrote in Ps. 143 of this fact and of the proper work of the Spirit: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” David prays right here to the Holy Spirit. David was blest. Go and do likewise and you’ll be blest, too.
Christ is in the Upper Room, or perhaps on the way to Gethsemane with His disciples the night before His great Passion. He’s telling them about the future, both their human reaction to everything and God’s reaction when it came to their faith. “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Comforter) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
That, my friends, is Jesus’ promise of Pentecost. It was for their own good, and ours, that Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sins. It was for our own good that He arose from the grave. It was for our own good that He won eternal salvation for us. Human sadness would be their natural reaction to it all. But after that would come comfort, certainty and joy. All that comes via the Spirit, the Comforter from on high.
Next come some intriguing words. “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
All of us envision the Spirit as the gentle dove at Christ’s baptism. We imagine Him as a peace-filled pacifist without a physical body. Not totally true! Better to think of Him as a wise, all-powerful judge who isn’t afraid to invoke the death penalty, but does everything in His power to help reform the guilty defendant first. The Spirit doesn’t cringe at being tough with human beings. He doesn’t shy away from reading us His “riot act.” He isn’t afraid to send hardened sinners to hell. Nonetheless, He doesn’t want to do any of that. He wants to hand out and apply Christ’s “Not guilty” verdict to each of us through faith. He wants to reform us first, and then check up on us daily to make sure we haven’t fallen off the wagon into the ditch of despair, doubt, and spiritual death. We call that: sanctification, or the life of holiness before God.
So, first comes the work of the tough Judge—convicting the world of guilt in regard to sin. Every time someone points out a sin you’re playing with and your conscience is tweaked, that’s the Spirit’s doing. Every time you hear a commandment referred to and your inner self is pinged—that’s the Spirit’s power. It’s Him reminding you: “The soul that sins, it shall die.” To be sure, people can scoff Him away and continue on. But in love the Judge warns us first, doesn’t He? He also convicts people in regard to righteousness. Rightness with God was won for us by Christ on the cross. He freely seeks to hand out God’s grace, or forgiveness, to all of us. But when people slap Him in the face through unbelief and spit in His face via apathy, the Judge will judge with perfect justice. He will condemn to hell for such hellish behavior. This is also called the “unforgivable sin,” or the Sin against the Holy Spirit.—Without Christ in our hearts, no one can be saved. And finally, the Judge will convict such people who are under Satan’s thrall because their leader, the devil, is already condemned, judged, and vanquished by Christ and His Easter victory.
Human justice is haphazard and imperfect. God’s justice isn’t. It is perfect and backed by perfect, unfathomable love. He punished the innocent, Christ, for the guilty, us. He seeks to apply such love directly to us by the gift of faith. He also wants to continually work at strengthening us and keeping us out of hellish trouble. All that effort belongs to the Spirit. And unless we actively block it, we literally cannot be kept out of heaven and cannot have anything other than a very blest life here on earth. So, I urge you to pray to the Holy Spirit in all circumstances. Pray directly for Godly justice to roll on like a mighty river. Pray directly that that river will cover evil while floating repentant souls to safety—much like the ark of Noah. Pray that the Spirit will continue to make your heart receptive to Christ’s love and to bless your own efforts to spread and share that love. Pray to the Spirit weekly. And then we won’t have to imagine the results, we’ll be living them. Amen