Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our loving Savior.
But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.
- We’ve all had things happen in our lives that at the time seemed bad but looking back we realize it was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. We see this same thing in our Gospel lesson. Jesus had just told His disciples He was leaving. But He explained that His departure was actually a good thing. They were going to gain much more than they would lose. From their perspective it was difficult to understand how this could be. Jesus had been their strength and comfort. They depended on Him for everything. But now He was going away. They would never see Him on earth again. But when He went away Jesus promised to send the Comforter to them. The word Comforter means Helper. It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. The Helper would make everything work. The gift of the Holy Spirit was actually the presence of God Himself in the Church. The Spirit was the fruit of Christ’s death on the cross. His sacrifice for sins reconciled God and man and earned the special presence of God for His people. The gift of the Holy Spirit was the New Covenant. God would write His Law upon the hearts of His people by the new birth of the Spirit. The presence of Christ’s Spirit in the Church would be much better than His bodily presence while He was on earth. His Spirit is everywhere in all places, at all times, wherever two or three are gathered together in His Name. Let’s examine the work of the Spirit in the world and the church.
- The Spirit’s Work in the world! The Comforter was going to work in the world. The first work of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart is to convict him of sin. The word convict means to convince or reprove. Before a man can be saved he must understand his sins. Man is a sinner not just because he sins, he sins because he is a sinner. We are born in sin. Man’s sinful condition began at his conception. When Adam sinned we all sinned with him. His guilt was passed down to all of his descendents. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This is the one reality that unites every person on earth. The people of the world are profoundly different from one another but in one respect they are all the same. Every person ever born into this world was born under the condemnation of the Law. We entered this world deserving to go to hell. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). But people today don’t want to hear this. If you don’t believe me, the next you’re at a party turn to the person next to you and start talking about sin and see how fast you clear the room. Man is deceived about his true condition. He wants to think well of himself. His self esteem is on the line. But until he accepts the fact that he is a sinner and confesses his sins to God he will be never be saved. Sinful man cannot do this in his own strength. The Holy Spirit has to open his eyes to his true condition. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men.
- No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn. 6:44). What is the Holy Spirit’s work? And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). This seemed impossible. How could such a small group of disciples ever hope to take the message of the Gospel to the entire world? Jesus assured them that they were not going to be alone. The Holy Spirit would go with them. He would make their words successful. The Spirit would convince the world of their need of Christ. First the Spirit would convict men of sin, because they believe not on me. The greatest sin in the world, the one sin that God will never forgive, is the sin of unbelief. Every other sin flows from man’s refusal to believe on Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and trust in Him. Now that Jesus has paid the price for our sins the only thing that remains to convict anyone of is unbelief. We are all guilty of unbelief before God. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts not even Christians would believe the Gospel. Our natural state is unbelief. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit that is given to us through the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
- When the church wanders away from the truth; when it abandons the simple and pure Gospel it will soon lose everything. Today there are pastors who no longer believe in the Incarnation of Christ, the atonement, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the doctrine of hell and their need for forgiveness. It won’t be long before they embrace the doctrine of universalism that everyone will be saved and then they will deny the existence of God entirely. When a person departs from any doctrine in the Word of God you are on a slippery slope toward unbelief. Men do not understand the reality of this sin. To modern man it doesn’t matter if you believe on God or not or even which deity you choose to worship. One’s as good as another. But they are quick to recognize certain sins. I read about a United Methodist conference that was held recently in Tampa, Florida where the entire denomination repented for the sins of America against Native Americans. Liberals love to confess everyone’s sins except their own. The Religious Left likes to “repent” for other peoples’ sins, preferably the sins of dead white persons who left this world centuries ago while supposedly bequeathing only a shameful legacy of colonialist repression. In Religious Left mythology, the earth is essentially a kind place, besmirched only by Western imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy (Front page). These same liberals reject the authority and inerrancy of Scripture; they endorse sodomy, fornication, socialism, and every perverted lifestyle in the world.
- But these sins are not important what really matter is what I imagine my great grandfather did or thought 100 years ago. What we are seeing in many churches is simple unbelief. The content of the Christian faith has been lost. The Spirit of God convicts the sinner of unbelief. Secondly, the Spirit was going to convince the world of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more. This is the main work of the Holy Spirit. As the people of God proclaim the Gospel in the world the Spirit brings sinners to faith in Christ. He shows men that they cannot save themselves that they are in need of righteousness that only God can give them. This righteousness is a gift from God a gift by faith apart from our works. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). The righteousness of God is not our work it is the work of God. Jesus accomplished this righteousness by living a perfect life for us and laying down His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. His resurrection from the dead proved to the world that God the Father had accepted His redemption. At His ascension Christ entered into Heaven to present His sacrifice for us. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:13). Finally, the Helper sent from Heaven will convict the world of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
- The Holy Spirit places all of our righteousness on the scales of divine justice and condemns it. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ judged and condemned Satan the Prince of this world, and silenced all of his accusations, guilt, and fear. The devil is the father of lies. The Spirit of God through the Word condemns all false doctrine. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment by refuting the wisdom of this world with the forgiveness of sins and changing our hearts by the new birth. The world judges from the outside but God bestows grace and changes the hearts and lives of men and women from the inside. Christ is stronger than Satan. His death and resurrection crushed the serpents head. The prince of this world is the master of deception. His authority and power have been broken. God by His grace has translated us out of the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:14). Sin, death, and hell no longer reign over us. We do not fear death or the future. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb. 2:14-15). The prince of this world has been judged and His kingdom overthrown. On the Day of Judgment His kingdom will be finally destroyed along with all of Christ’s enemies.
- The Spirit’s work in the church! The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ and the Spirit also works in the church. Jesus promised the Comforter would guide the Apostles into all truth and He would glorify Christ. The Spirit of God guided the Apostles as they wrote the Bible to safeguard the Scriptures from any error. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (Jn. 17:17). For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (I Thess. 2:13). God has chosen to bring sinners to Himself through His written Word that was revealed to the Apostles and Prophets in the Old and New Testaments. Through the Word God has given the church everything we need for life and godliness. We do not need special revelations. We reject the fantasies of Joseph Smith and every other cult in the world. We value tradition, the wisdom of the past, but we do not place man’s opinion on the same level as the Word. The Word of God is complete. It is all we need to be saved and to live our lives according to godly wisdom. The Spirit of God led the Apostles into all truth as they preached the Word of God and later when they wrote the Bible. He Holy Spirit also guides us into all truth through the knowledge and experience of the Word.
- When the Holy Spirit leads us into God’s truth it is more than mere head knowledge. It is an experiential knowledge, an intimate acquaintance with the truth in our heart. Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is increasing in Christian knowledge and practical experience. It is one thing to know in our minds that God has promised to supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19), but it is quite another to actually see God answering our prayers, providing our needs, healing us, and saving our loved ones. The first is head knowledge, the second is Christian experience. Our growth in grace will take a lifetime. We will always be a student in the school of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God teaches us each day about God, our sins, our Savior, and what it means to walk by faith in obedience to His Word through His power. The Spirit through the Word teaches us and leads us to Christ who is the way the truth and the life. The Spirit was not sent to glorify Himself but to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ. He will give us everything that is necessary for us. We desperately need the Spirit of truth in a world filled with lies. As the knowledge of God’s Word decreases in the churches and in our culture the lies and deceptions increase. Jesus said: If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (Jn. 8:31-32).
- The lies, half truths, and distortions always grow worse in an election year. Our people desperately need the ministry of the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth from error, right from wrong, and morality from immorality. This is the work the Comforter was sent to do. He shows us our sins and our need of forgiveness. He leads us to Christ through the means of grace and grants faith to receive what God offers us in His Word. We hear the Words of absolution and believe by the power of the Holy Spirit and we are forgiven. We hear the Word of Institution in the Lord’s Supper and we believe by the power of the Holy Spirit and receive the forgiveness of our sins. We confess the Word of God in the church and among friends and family and the Holy Spirit is able to make the Word successful in their hearts. Jesus said: He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. The Spirit takes what Christ Jesus has earned for us on the cross and pours it out to us in His Word and Sacrament. He brings all glory to the Father by glorifying Christ in everything. Christ had to leave and go to the Father in order to send His Spirit to help us, to teach us and give us divine understanding of sin, righteousness, and judgment. When Christ died the ruler of this world was judged, our sins were punished, and we were redeemed, set free from death unto eternal life. May God grant this to us for Christ’s sake; Amen!