(1st Sunday after Pentecost) June 3, 2012
246, 245, 248, 243
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
[Jesus said], “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.”
In the name of Him who came from the Father and who sends His Spirit to dwell within us as Counselor and Guide, dear fellow Christians:
Early in the series of our pre-marriage classes I have the couple look at each other, and I tell them, “Do you know that the person you’re looking at is a stranger?” They usually indulge me and smile politely, even though they don’t believe it. They are sure they know one another well, otherwise, they wouldn’t be planning their wedding. They have been dating for many months and they were likely acquaintances long before. They know each other’s favorite colors and foods. They have met one another’s families. How could they not know each other?
Yet if they were to talk to their parents or others who have been married 25, 30 years or more, they would be told that getting to know one another is really just beginning at the time of marriage and that it continues throughout the years. The relationship grows as the husband and wife learn to recognize and understand facial expressions and body language. They anticipate what the spouse will say or do. There is a deeper level of communication and connection than just words. The “oneness” God intends for marriage becomes a growing reality.
How well do you know God? Most of us would answer, “Very well.” We have been baptized into His name. We talk to Him in prayer and read His Word. We come to His house regularly. We’ve been confirmed and receive the Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion.
The disciples, too, might have said much the same thing: “Yes, we know the Lord well. We have been Jesus’ constant companions for three years. We have heard His sermons and witnessed His miracles.” But the night before His death, Jesus told them, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” [v.12] He wanted their knowledge and relationship with Him to keep growing and become better all the time. He wants the same for us today.
To bring it about, God creates people with a built-in knowledge of Himself. “He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). Everyone knows that there is a higher being to whom we are accountable. “The requirements of the Law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:15 NIV).
Besides that, all of creation points to the God who made it. “Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4 NIV). “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1 NIV). In six days, step by step, the Father who is eternal and outside of time, created a perfect world in which every part was in harmony with everything else and also with Him. He did it all for the happiness and blessing of mankind!
The full extent of who God is, what He did, and why He did it is far beyond our comprehension. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Think of the mystery of the Trinity which we confessed in the Athanasian Creed. Our rational minds would conclude that either there are three gods working together or that there are just three different names which can be used interchangeably for the same God. But as the creed states, there is just one God, but three distinct Persons who are not interchangeable with one another.
Get to know God better, for the more we learn about Him the more amazed and awed we will be, and the stronger our relationship with Him will become. The way to do that is not to attempt understanding everything about God. If we try to do that we end up making God smaller than He is. If we could understand everything about Him, He would not be much of a God. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counselor?” Paul asks (Romans 11:34). How could an ant crawling on the kitchen counter possibly read or comprehend the recipe you’re preparing for dinner. The Lord doesn’t tell us to understand everything about Him. He tells us to trust what He says about Himself.
But since God is spirit and invisible to us, and His ways and thoughts are beyond our comprehension, how can we get to know Him better? Some say it’s impossible to know anything certain about Him and that one person’s ideas are just as good as anyone else’s. But God Himself reaches out to mankind and makes Himself known. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). To know God we need to know Jesus. “No one comes to the Father, except by Me,” Jesus says (John 14:6). In Jesus we see God, for He is the image of the invisible God (cf. Colossians 1:15). God did not just say to the world, “I love you.” He showed His love by coming here Himself. The Son became our brother to carry out the Father’s saving will in our behalf. For us He was under the Law and kept it perfectly. For us the God-Man allowed sinful men to nail Him to the cross so that He might suffer death and Hell to win for us forgiveness and eternal life.
Get to know God better by seeing Him in Jesus. When you read of Jesus talking to tax collectors and other outcasts, remember that this is God showing His love toward the most “unlovable” people. When He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28 NIV), it is the eternal, creator God inviting you to give Him all your anxieties and heartaches. When Jesus fed the hungry, healed the lepers, and cast out demons, it was God stepping into individual lives to give new hope and life. Get to know Jesus better as the loving Savior-God who wants to do the same for you. He promises: “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).
Jesus told the disciples that He still had many things to teach them, but He also said that He was leaving them. In less than 24 hours He would be crucified. They were filled with sorrow and fears. They had questions and doubts. What could they do? How could they survive? Yet Jesus wasn’t abandoning them. He would continue to teach them and be with them through the work of the Holy Spirit. “He will guide you into all truth.” [v.13] Just like a GPS system in your car guides you turn-by-turn through the most confusing city streets, so the Spirit would guide the apostles and keep them on the road of truth.
He would not be doing it on His own. He would speak what He heard from the Son, who in turn is one with the Father who sent the Son to redeem the world. Notice, too, how Jesus specifies what the Spirit will use to accomplish His work. He will “speak” and “tell you.” The Spirit uses the Word to teach and draw people closer to God. The Spirit is sometimes called the shy Person of the Trinity. We can see why because Jesus says that the Spirit’s work is to draw attention to Him as the Redeemer who paid the penalty for all sin.
Step by step, the Spirit led the apostles to a better understanding of Jesus’ work and kingdom so that they came to see that Jesus’ rule is not a visible one involving impressive power and earthly prestige, but is a matter of faith in the heart. The disciples and other Christians had questions about how to carry on mission work. What was their worship to be like? How should the church be organized, disciplined, and maintained? How was the church to relate to the government? Step by step the Spirit led them by His Word which He also caused them to write down for all subsequent generations. “All Scripture is God-breathed…Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21).
Books of the Bible like Romans and Galatians show how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled God’s Old Testament promises of a Savior. The pastoral letters such as those to Timothy speak of the qualifications and responsibilities of the public ministry. 1 Corinthians, offers priceless instruction on congregational life. Jesus’ Revelation to John tells of the last days and gives us an encouraging preview of our new life in Heaven. In their own way, all the books point to Christ and give glory to Him as the only Way, Truth, and Life. They remind, expand, illustrate, and apply Jesus’ teachings to us.
Do you ever feel confused, lonely, or fearful as the disciples did? It might happen when you’re faced with a change. You’re confirmed or you graduate or you have serious health concerns or a job change. Children are born or they move out or move back in. Just when you need God’s answers and help the most, it can seem as though He is not listening or speaking. But He always is. If you can’t hear Him, get closer. Dig deeper into the Word. God is the same now as He was when He first made the world. When He spoke, things happened. Darkness became light. What was confused and mixed up was put in its proper order, and God filled the creation with all kinds of living things.
The Holy Spirit does the same in our lives. By the Gospel Word He created the light of faith where before there had been only the darkest unbelief. Step by step the Spirit has guided us from knowing the basics of saving faith, that Jesus is the Son of God who died to reconcile us to God, forward to other truths which expand on and apply the Gospel to daily life. What was confused becomes clearer.
There is always more the Lord has to say to us. But He is not like a teacher or boss who piles on more things to remember and more assignments to complete. We have been brought into a close, loving relationship with Him. We don’t get tired of spending time with a good friend or our spouse. The more communication there is, the stronger the bond of love becomes. That is the kind of relationship the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens between us and the Lord. Imagine what would happen if you decided you were just too busy to listen to a friend, and all you ever did was give him a quick wave as you walked right by. How would your marriage fare if you spent six hours of every day in front of the TV or computer and only 20 seconds in conversation? Instead of growing, those relationships would quickly wither and die. The same is true of us and the Lord. If we don’t listen to Him and grow in faith and understanding, we will become strangers to Him. On the Last Day He would have to tell us: “I don’t know you. Depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (cf. Matthew 25:41).
The Lord does not want anyone to perish. Don’t brush off the Holy Spirit like a nuisance telemarketer. Listen to the Lord in personal Bible reading each day. Listen together as husband and wife or as a family in home devotions. Look forward to coming here to listen to Jesus and to receive His body and blood. All of these are opportunities to see into the heart of God. Through Jesus’ Word brought by the Holy Spirit we hear what the Almighty God thinks about us and what He has done and continues to do for our salvation.
Get to know God better in every situation. We hear familiar passages from Scripture sometimes dozens of times, and yet the Spirit gives new insights as He applies them to our present lives. We have often heard the passage: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). We know it and believe it, but it may well take on special significance when sin trips us up one day and we fall harder than ever before. That might be the one passage the Spirit uses to assure us that even that particular sin has been paid for and is forgiven.
“All things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). It’s easy to hear or say the passage without much thought when life flows smoothly along. But it may take on new meaning and be the lifeline the Spirit throws to you when suddenly you are faced with trouble greater than you have ever experienced before.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25). Those words of the Lord become personal and directed right at our hearts when we meet death or stand at the graveside of a loved one.
Getting to know someone over a long period of time and in many different circumstances leads to a strong, deep, heartfelt relationship which gets better over time. That is what God wants for us. That is why He makes Himself known. That is why He sent His Son to die in our behalf. That is why His Spirit is speaking to us today. Amen.
Let men with their united voice
Adore the eternal God
And spread His honors and their joys
Through nations far abroad.
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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.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.