Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Peace - May 19, 2013 - Pentecost Sunday - Text: John 14:23-31
Today we celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promise while He was with His disciples was that after His death and resurrection, He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that helped the disciples to put together all the pieces of what they were missing from Jesus teaching while He was with them. It was not that Jesus was missing something in His teaching, it was that they did not understand because of their own human sinfulness and failings. This morning in our text we have another word from Jesus to His disciples with His promise to send the Holy Spirit and we have a word about the work of the Holy Spirit.
Last week we heard Jesus’ words of prayer for us. Jesus prays for us that we might grow in our faith and as we heard, we grow in our faith through prayer, meditation and affliction. We grow in our faith as we have an urgency about making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, an urgency about reading our Bible, having personal and family devotions, being in Divine Service and Bible Class as often as offered. We grow in our faith as we are in prayer and communion with Jesus. And we grow in our faith through our clinging to our Lord in times of affliction. It is this urgency which flows out of our hearts as a response to the faith our Lord has first given to us, always pointing to Jesus.
It is Jesus who first loves us and He shows His love for us in the giving of His life for ours. We are raised to believe that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. David reminds us in Psalm 5:5 “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” David reminds us that not only does God hate the sin and He even hates the sinner. So, how can this be we might ask? This is one of those great paradoxes that we have to leave in tension and live with it. God hates the sinner. Jesus loves us and gave His life for us, the sinner. God loves us only because of Jesus’ work for us, the giving of His life for ours. Jesus and God are one, so how can this be? As always, thanks be to God that there is no test and that we do not have to fully understand Him in order to have access to eternal life. And even though we might not fully understand how this works, when we remember that God does not live in time as we do, but that God sees all things at the same time, then we can begin to get an understanding that God loves us because Jesus died for us and at the same time, Jesus died for us because God loves us. Again, with the pointing to Jesus.
God is the prime mover. God created the world. Mankind brought sin into the world. God promised to send a Redeemer. God gives us, each one of us life at conception. God gives us new life through Holy Baptism and His Word. God gives us forgiveness as He gives His only Son on the cross. Jesus gives Himself. Following His resurrection and ascension, He gives us the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Comforter, the Counselor.
Today we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is to give faith. Jesus tells us this by saying, “26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (v. 26). The Holy Spirit will and has, given the apostles and writers of Holy Scripture the Words to write so that we might have them for ourselves, that is, He has given us the inspired Word of God. It is through this Word as a means that He comes to us to give us faith. As always, we remember that God’s Word is a Word with power. God’s Word does what it says. When God speaks to us in His Word, that is what happens. When God says we are given faith, we are given faith. When He says we are forgiven, we are forgiven. Thus, the work of the Holy Spirit is to give faith.
Further, the work of the Holy Spirit is to strengthen faith. Here we are reminded of our need to make regular and diligent use of these means through which the Holy Spirit comes to give us His good gifts and blessings. Just as we would not stay away from the grocery store or the farmers market, but make regular trips so that we might have physical food to eat, so we are to make regular trips to the Lord’s Word, to His Holy Supper, and remembering His putting His name on us at Holy Baptism, that we are His, because He has claimed us. Through these means and through our making regular (and when I say regular I mean every day and every Sunday) and diligent, meaning often, use of these means the Holy Spirit strengthens us in faith and keeps us in faith.
The Holy Spirit also stirs in us, that is He motivates us to obedience and works of service. We do good works only because the Holy Spirit works good works in and through us and it is these good works which show the faith we have in our hearts. Jesus says it this way in our text, “23If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (v. 23b-24). Our faith or lack of faith shows in our actions. But let me caution you here, let us not confuse social good works with what are truly good works in God’s eyes. Social good works are those works which flow from guilt or from a belief that God needs us to do something for Him. True good works in God’s eyes are those that, very often we do without even realizing it.
And the Holy Spirit gives us peace. The peace that the Holy Spirit gives is not simply an earthly peace, it is not a peace of a quiet day or a quiet evening with all the kids out of the house or in bed asleep. No, the peace that the Holy Spirit gives is a peace that passes all understanding, it is that peace Jesus won for us on the cross. It is the peace of knowing our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life with Him in heaven.
Jesus is accused of a lot of things in our world. He is accused especially by those who fail to read and listen to His Word. Jesus is accused of not claiming to be God; of not claiming to be the Messiah; of not being anything more than a mere human being who was a good man and a good teacher. The fact of the matter is, if you read His Word, Jesus made sure that we would see that He is God and the Messiah. He always made His promises before fulfilling them, so that we would know that what He says is true. He made a promise to send the Holy Spirit. And He did send the Holy Spirit.
Again, He made sure we knew it was going to happen before it happened so that we might believe it when it did happen. He promised that He would take care of our sins. He promised that He would suffer and die on the cross. He promised that He would rise again. And all these things that He promised came about just as He had promised. This is what He meant when He explained, “29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” (v. 29).
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with suggestions that we are to do something and here I am speaking mostly in spiritual terms. Listen to the preachers of the so called successful churches, those churches that have given in to the sociological suggestions of how the church should be, modeled after our entertainment world. There are those which would have us believe that we can be the people God’s wants us to be, when in reality our sinful nature keeps us from being right before God. There are those who would challenge us to be about living a life of purpose. We are asked to make a decision for Jesus; to commit our lives to Him, to make Him Lord of our lives, and so forth. What all these suggestions boil down to is that the world tells us we are to actively work for our salvation, in other words, they all point us to ourselves.
The challenges is always, were is the focus? When we focus in on ourselves, all we find is our sinful nature rearing up its ugly head. We try, but we fail. We simply cannot be the people God would have us to be, or for that matter, the people the world would have us to be. Left to ourselves and our own devices, we would be eternally lost. Thanks be to God, thanks be to Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves me to respond in faith. Thus, we turn the focus where it needs to be, where it will give us the greatest comfort and peace. We turn the focus back to Jesus.
Because Jesus loves me He died for me. He died for me so that I might not suffer eternal spiritual death, but so that I might have eternal life. He did this, not because I am deserving, but because of His great love for me. A love that comes from the fact that His death alone makes me lovable. And here again we get back to that paradox of earlier.
Because He loves me Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us to work and strengthen faith in us and to give us peace. Certainly we have some peace of mind, that is, some earthly peace, but even more important, the Holy Spirit gives us true spiritual peace, the peace of knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life.
Because Jesus loves me, by the work and power of the Holy Spirit I am obedient to Him and I do works of service for Him. Notice how important our focus is and where it is. Our focus is always on Christ, always on God, always on our triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We human beings are fickle and we can and we do get it wrong. We get it wrong when we depend on our emotions. We get it wrong when we think we can save ourselves or for that matter, when we think we can do anything ourselves. We get it right, however, when we focus on our Lord. Jesus gets it right. He always has gotten it right and He always will get it right. He is never wrong, thus we are never wrong when we put our focus on Him, and on Him alone.
Just how important is this focus? Our lives depend on it. Do you remember as a child, out on the playground, usually two children would be chosen to be captains and to pick teams. Do you remember when your best friend was picking and you wanted so bad to be on their team. As a matter of fact, you actually chose in your heart to be on their team. Unfortunately, the other captain picked you. So, it really did not matter who you chose, only who chose you. In the same way, it does not matter if we choose Jesus, or if we think we are choosing Him. What matters is that He has chosen us and He has. At our Baptism He shows His choosing us by putting His name on us. Notice, the focus is not on me, but on Him. I could get it wrong, but He always gets it right. How eternally safe and secure I am, knowing that God has done everything for me. And now, He continues to send me His Holy Spirit to work in me so that I might do those things that bring glory to Him. Certainly we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.