Pentecost May 27, 2007

INI

The Convincing Counselor

John 16:5-11

Scripture Readings

Genesis 11:1-9
Acts 2:37-4

Hymns

229, 224, 371, 740 (TLH alt: 234)

[Jesus said], “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.”

Dear fellow Christians:

Some months ago a student at a local high school was shot and killed after a basketball game. When classes resumed counselors were on hand to talk with students and help them cope with the tragedy. They were there to comfort, support, and give them strength to go on.

When choosing what you want to do when you grow up seems hopeless because there are so many possibilities, a counselor might help by talking with you about your interests and talents.

A financial counselor can help unravel the complexities of buying a home or planning for retirement.

In times of crisis or confusion, or when we are looking for knowledge and understanding, a good counselor can make sense of the situation.

That is what the disciples needed. Jesus was leaving, and all they could think of was their loss. They did not ask “why?” or “where?” Nothing made sense to them. That is when Jesus promised to send them the finest counselor of all—the Holy Spirit. The fulfillment of that promise is the reason for our praise today, for the Spirit is our Counselor as well.

I.

Jesus calls Him the “Helper.” The Greek word means “Someone called to your side,” like a counselor who comes and sits down beside you to talk with you. His work, Jesus said, would be to “convict” the world. Here, too, the original language helps our understanding. The term does not mean only “convict” in the sense of convicting someone of wrongdoing, but also to “convince” someone of the truth. The Holy Spirit does that kind of convincing in three areas:

The first is sin. “He will convict the world of sin….because they do not believe in Me.[vv.8f] The Spirit did just that on Pentecost. He came with the tornado-like sound of rushing wind and tongues of fire and enabled the apostles to speak in different languages to all the people who had gathered to see what was going on. The apostles preached to the people about Jesus. They said, “God sent His Son to earth, and you are guilty of crucifying Him, but God raised Him again” (cf. Acts 2). It is not what the people wanted to hear, but the job of counselors is to say what needs to be heard.

The people listened to Peter and the others, but not because of their skill in speechmaking or their reputation. These were fishermen who some claimed were just drunk. But the people listened and many were convinced because their words were the Spirit’s. The people were cut to the heart. They knew they had sinned. They said, “What should we do?” Peter’s answer was, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven(Acts 2:38). Just as the Spirit convinced the people of their sin, so He convinced them that Jesus was their Savior. That day alone 3,000 souls were added to the Church!

We need the counsel of the Holy Spirit too, because at one time we were also part of the world and dead in sin. “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath(Ephesians 2:3 NIV). But then through the water and word of Baptism, the Holy Spirit convinced us. He convinced us that we were lost sinners and then He led us to see Jesus as our Savior. Even when we were infants, the Spirit did that work within us. Day-by-day we need the Spirit by our side as the divine Counselor because we sin every day.

Every sin is serious and condemns because it is an offense against the holy God. Worry is a sin because it is a lack of trust in God’s ability and promise to care for us. Greed is rejecting what God says about being content with what He gives. Going off our own way is telling God, “I don’t trust that You know what is best for my life.” All of this is true, but unless we are convinced of it, we won’t turn to the Lord in repentance. The Spirit convinces us that yes, without question, we are guilty sinners. But He doesn’t stop there. He comforts us by convincing us that, in spite of our worthlessness, God loves us and sent Jesus to save us from sin so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Having brought us to faith, the Spirit now works through us to convince others. Never underestimate the convincing power of the Spirit. Have you ever hesitated to speak to someone about the Lord because you felt that it was wasted effort? Was a person so hostile and stubborn that you thought it would do no good? Did the person have no respect for you? Don’t let those things stop you from speaking about Jesus. The power is not in us, but in the Spirit. He has convinced our hearts, and he can certainly convince the hearts of others too.

II.

Besides convincing of sin, the Spirit also counsels in regard to righteousness. Righteousness is the holiness or right-standing we need to be acceptable to God. The world needs convincing because it puts its trust in is own homemade righteousness. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time believed that by living exceptionally good lives they were sure to be welcomed by God into heaven. Today many believe they are good Christians if they work hard, are faithful to their spouse, attend church regularly, and are kind to others. All these are wonderful qualities which Christians want to cultivate, but they do not make anyone good in God’s eyes. What the world sees as righteousness will never work with God. The Spirit tells us, “All your righteous acts are like filthy rags… (Isaiah 64:6). Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven(Matthew 5:20). To stand before God with our own righteousness would be as foolish as sending a stack of Monopoly money to the IRS to pay your taxes. It would not do a thing except get you into deeper trouble.

Once our divine Counselor convinces us not to trust in our own goodness, He shows us the real thing. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known…This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe(Romans 3:21 NIV). There has been only one truly righteous person, the Lord Jesus. He lived up to God’s holy standards in every way. The Father proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased(Matthew 17:5). Jesus would leave the disciples to go to the cross carrying the crushing burden of the world’s sin. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God(2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Jesus took our guilt on Himself and put His righteousness on us. The Spirit convinces us that it is the only righteousness acceptable to God.

Now the Spirit helps us tell others about it. When someone says, “I think I’m doing OK with God. I try my best, and I’m sure God has bigger sins to worry about than my little faults,” use the Spirit’s words in Scripture to convince the person that his own righteousness is not nearly good enough for God and that only the One who died and rose again can give him the righteousness he needs.

III.

But if God loved and reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, why is there still so much evil and suffering? Why are there are shootings in schools, and hospitals filled with suffering people? Why do believers suffer the additional problems of persecution? And finally, why do we still die? Is Satan in control?

Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to help us by “convincing the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.[vv.8,11] In God’s Word the Spirit assures us that the Devil has been defeated. Jesus called out: “It is finished,(John 19:30) and it was! Jesus descended to Hell to prove it. He went up with a shout to heaven while Satan went down with a whimper. The Devil is still in the world, but his time is quickly coming to an end. The entire world is speeding toward destruction, like a car careening out of control down a steep mountain road toward a cliff. As Luther says, “He’s judged, the deed is done. One little word can fell him!” [TLH 262:3]

That being so, why doesn’t the Lord bring the end sooner? Why let the sinful world stagger on in agony any longer? Our Counselor tells us through Peter: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9 NIV).

Then it all makes sense. Jesus did not bring the world to an end after His resurrection because He wanted to call millions more into His kingdom by faith. He caused the sun to rise this morning, because there are still souls He wants to save. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he does not believe in the name of God’s one and only Son(John 3:18 NIV). The Devil has been judged. The verdict is final. The end of the world and the Lord’s return are on the way. The Counselor makes sense of what is happening around us and helps us cope.

More than that, He maps out a career path for us all. Whether we are young or old, in school, employed, or retired, our primary work in life is to let the light of the Gospel shine into dark lives. There are still many who do not have the peace and life Jesus earned for them on the cross. The apostles’ preaching and the 3,000 brought to faith on Pentecost were just the beginning. The Spirit now tells us, “Go and tell the good news to everyone!” (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).

We do not have to face life alone. We have a Counselor on hand, right beside us, whose Word is always true and reliable. Turn to Him more. He is always ready to help, to calm fears, to strengthen our faith, and to give us courage for the future. He convinces our hearts that sin condemns, that Christ freely gives us the perfect righteousness we need, and that by faith we share in His victory over death. May we gladly listen to our Counselor, and speak His message to the world! Amen.

Holy Spirit, ever living
As the Church’s very life,
Holy Spirit, ever striving
Through us in a ceaseless strife,
Holy Spirit, ever forming
In the Church the mind of Christ,
You we praise with endless worship
For Your gracious gifts unpriced.

[WS 739:2]

—Pastor Michael M. Eichstadt


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