Pentecost May 31, 1998
224, 234, 235, 46
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
But now I go away 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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. Here ends our text.
In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
If you had to choose one word to describe life in our world of today, I think the word might well be fast-paced. There are so many things going on in our lives that it sometimes seems like 24 hours is too short a day, and seven days is too short a week. One sociologist recently predicted that, in the next century, time will the most sought-after commodity in our society—it will become even more important than money.
I read a good example of this in a Christian magazine lately. A young mother, with three pre-school children, had written in to the editor complaining that she never had any free time. With all the feeding, cleaning and housekeeping, whole weeks would pass by without she and her husband ever having a moment away from home. The editor’s response surprised me—he said they should hire a helper. It wouldn’t need to be all that expensive, he said; it might be as easy as paying a high school student to clean house and take care of the kids one afternoon a week. After all, what price can you put on your peace of mind? The chores of home life can be a lot more tolerable, he said—if you know your helper will arrive eventually to take up the slack.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a helper? In our text for today, Jesus finds His disciples down and out, and depressed—and sadly in need of some kind of helper. They’re sad because He’s just told them that He’ll be leaving soon to return to His Father in heaven. How will they manage without Him, they wondered? What will become of the Kingdom work once He was gone? It seems like a very dark future, but Jesus tells them not to despair: He will lighten their burden, take some of the pressure off. He will send them a Helper. The Helper Jesus is referring to is the Holy Ghost, and His arrival is something the disciples can look forward to with joy. The work of the Helper is something that had great significance, not only for those disciples, but for us, too. Let’s find out why. Our theme today is:
Jesus said the Holy Ghost would be…
In a lot of ways, the Holy Ghost is the “silent partner” of the Trinity. We mention Him briefly when we say the Apostles’ Creed, and we might refer to Him in our prayers every now and then—but other than that, we really don’t pay much attention to Him. And that’s a shame, because His work is so important in our lives. It’s true that Jesus died to redeem us from our sins, but without the Holy Ghost, that redemption could never be ours! That’s because the Holy Ghost is the One who works faith in our hearts to believe in Jesus as our Savior.
Even besides that, though, the Helper’s work can be seen going on all around us. In what ways? Well in the first place, the work of the Holy Spirit serves as a convincing witness to the world, believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus said to His disciples, And when He (the Helper) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Did Jesus’ prediction come true? It certainly did! Today we celebrate the festival of Pentecost, the birthday of the New Testament Christian Church. On that day, the promised Helper arrived in force. It was on Pentecost that the disciples—those rude, uneducated men—were transformed by the Spirit’s power. They became eloquent preachers of the Gospel. They turned into powerful writers, through whose pens the Holy Ghost has given us the Bible. And ever since that day, the Holy Ghost has proven to be a convincing witness to the world—a very convincing witness, indeed!
Do you remember how the men in Jerusalem reacted to Peter’s Pentecost sermon? With the Holy Spirit speaking through his lips, Peter told them flat out that they were sinners; sinners who had committed the terrible crime of crucifying the innocent Son of God. “Know assuredly,” Peter said, “that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Acts 2:36-38.
Those men were convinced. In their hearts, the Holy Spirit had convicted them of their sin. And that powerful Word of God continues to convict the world to this day. Look around you—the world is filled with people who know they’re sinners, but don’t know what to do about it. Psychiatrists make a great living at trying to convince people they shouldn’t feel guilty. But even they themselves admit they don’t have much success. There’s only one sure cure for guilt, and that’s trusting in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
And the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God, testifies to the world that that righteousness is available to everybody. It’s there, free for the taking. Jesus’ death on the cross, says the Spirit, through the Apostle John, “…is the payment for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” I Jn 2:2. His rising from the tomb, and His ascension to the right hand of God is proof positive that Jesus’ life was a “mission accomplished.” This the Spirit proclaims through the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans: “Jesus our Lord…was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Rom 4:25. He did what He came to do; that is, He provided us poor sinners with a way out of the punishment of sin.
Finally, the Spirit is a convincing witness “…of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Just as the Lord predicted in the Garden of Eden, Jesus crushed the power of Satan with His triumphant death and resurrection. Yes, the devil is powerful; yes, he’s dangerous, and stalks about like a ferocious lion, looking for his prey. He still bends all his efforts on dragging the souls of sinners to hell. He’s condemned to spend eternity in torment there—and he’d like to take you with him. But Satan is no longer has absolute control. Because of Christ, we can beat him!
Are you a fan of old horror movies, like I am? Maybe you recall those old Dracula films that starred Bela Lugosi. I remember that the evil vampire was always trying to get at some innocent person, but he could never enter his victim’s house until he had been invited in. Well, that’s all nonsense and fairy tales, of course. But I’ll tell you what isn’t a fairy tale: the power of our adversary the devil. He is more cunning, more sinister and evil than anything that any writer of fiction can dream up. But since Jesus won His great victory on the cross, the only way Satan can reign in your heart—is if you invite him in.
Unfortunately, that’s just what a lot people in our world have done. They’ve rejected the forgiveness that the Lord offers through Christ. They’ve dedicated their lives to getting money, or power, or pleasure. They’ve refused to let Jesus be the King of their heart and have, in effect, invited Satan to reign there instead. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that these people have “…their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
“But,” he goes on, “you have not so learned Christ.” Eph 4:18-20. We’ve learned about Jesus, and the freedom from sin that is offered in His blood. We’ve acknowledged Jesus as our King, and we’ve vowed to struggle against the devil and his temptations all our lives long. But again—who is it who taught us about Jesus? The Holy Ghost! To the world at large, the Helper is a convincing witness of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. To us believers He is something more: the Helper is our guiding light.
Jesus said, “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.” These apostles Jesus was talking to had a important assignment to fulfill—many of them would serve as penmen for the Holy Spirit. They would later write down the very thoughts and the very words that the Holy Spirit breathed into them. These inspired words from God would eventually be gathered into the sacred book we know as the New Testament. And through those apostles and evangelists—through this Book—the Holy Ghost is still guiding us in all truth, right down to this very day.
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” the Psalmist once said. As a Christian, you can say that, too! You don’t have to be a victim of the aimless, frantic life of those we see rushing about us today. Because Jesus promised you a Helper. In the Holy Spirit’s inspired Word, you can find the answer for every problem that confronts you in life. Here is a guidebook on raising children—a manual on how to have a successful marriage—a clear, step-by-step blueprint about just what kind of life will make you a satisfied, fulfilled, happy person. But don’t take it from me—check it out for yourself! Use the guidance that the Holy Spirit offers in His Word. Get on a regular schedule of Bible reading in your home, if you’re not on one already. See if it doesn’t make a world of difference in your attitude and outlook.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.