18 May 2014
Text: John 16:5-15
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Our Lord Jesus Christ is full of surprises!
When everyone thought He was going to overthrow the Romans and establish a worldly kingdom, He surprised them by going to the cross. When they thought He was dead and gone, He surprised them by rising from the dead. And when they thought He would remain with them after the resurrection the same way forever, He surprised them by going away to the Father who sent Him. And when they felt that He had left them, He surprised them by sending them the Holy Spirit, to transform them, to mold the church into an eternal kingdom that was to actually overthrow the Romans and conquer the world, to inspire and oversee the preaching of the Gospel, and to “call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth.”
That is why our Lord had previously told them, “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.”
It’s a little like children in the process of growing up. Mom and Dad simply have to be less and less in control of the children, and let the children experience life for themselves. Of course, our Lord is always with us, even to the end of the age. And by no means does He leave us as orphans to fend for ourselves. But He does allow us to grow, dear friends. And this growth is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
In going to the Father, the Son allows the Holy Spirit to produce growth of the church – not necessarily growth in numbers, but growth in maturity. The Lord has forgiven us all our sins by shedding His blood on the cross, and now, under the cross and by the cross, through the Holy Spirit, we grow in our faith and in the Gospel. It is not that we ever outgrow the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, but rather we grow up into that reality that the Lord has established us to be active in the kingdom.
Instead of growing up into the world, the Holy Spirit enables us to grow away from the world. For look at what the Holy Spirit means to the unbelieving world, according to our Lord Jesus Christ: “When He” (the Holy Spirit) “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.”
In our growth, in our sanctification by the Spirit, we become holier. And that doesn’t mean we somehow become better by trying harder. For we are only forgiven sinners, nothing more, nothing less. But, dear friends, to grow in holiness is to become less and less enamored of the world, less influenced by Satan, and less tossed about by our own sinful flesh.
And without the Holy Spirit’s work in our midst, we can’t grow, and we can’t grow up. For there is more to salvation than simply not going to hell. The Lord has saved us, called us to Himself to eternity, for a purpose. He has rescued us according to His will and plan for the universe. He loves us and has work for us to do in the kingdom, and that kingdom is the special work of the Holy Spirit.
But how are we to know? How are we to figure out what God the Holy Spirit wants us to do? Our Lord promises: “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.”
Dear friends, we can trust the Holy Spirit because He is God; He is the Spirit of Truth; He has been sent into the world to convict the world of sin and to convict the Church of the truth of the Gospel! “He will glorify Me,” says our Lord Jesus Christ, “for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, has gifts for us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, He has come blazing into our world like tongues of fire to overcome every impediment to the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit gives us life, eternal life, forgiven life, life in Christ and life made full by the blood of Christ. For the life is in the blood.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to make us “spiritual” in the sense of eastern mystics and western philosophers. He comes to fill us with the spirit of truth, to make us whole by leading us to the body and blood of Christ, and to give us that physical union with Him in His resurrected flesh according to His Word.
The greatest surprise of all, dear friends, is the good news that by the cross and through the resurrection, our sins are completely forgiven and blotted out forever, and that because of this, we have communion with the Father, through the sacrifice of the Son, by means of the calling of the Holy Spirit.
We have this “advantage” as the Lord calls it, of everlasting life, not because we are good, but because He is good; not because we are worthy, but because He is worthy; and not because we are spiritual, but because His Spirit is true and it has been given to us as a free gift.
And it is truly a gift, dear friends, as our Lord says: “He” (the Holy Spirit) “will take what is mine and declare it to you.” He does not sell it to us. He does not loan it to us. He does not dangle it in front of us like a carrot before a donkey. No, indeed, dear friends. He “declares” it to us. Just as He declared, “Let there be light” and there was light, He declares all that belongs to Him by virtue of His Sonship of the Father, and He shares it all with us as an inheritance. For listen to the promise of Jesus: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”
This is the gracious will of the Father. This is the glorious work of the Son. And this is the life-giving declaration of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom is ours, dear brothers and sisters, dear forgiven sinners, dear citizens of a new and better country that has no end, an eternal kingdom that continues to surprise us, even while we still live here in time.
Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heavn’ly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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