"Convicted and Forgiven by the Holy Spirit"
The Day of Pentecost
St. John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
June 4, 2006
(Baptism of Lauren Kayann Adams)
IN NOMINE JESU
In the Nicene Creed, we confess our belief "in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets." This same Spirit moved prophets, apostles, and evangelists to write the Holy Scriptures. This Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and enabled them to preach the Gospel in different languages. We celebrate this great event today, the day of Pentecost. Pentecost literally means "fifty," and this day took place on the fiftieth day of Easter. The Apostles and those who heard their message were gathered together, Matthias now numbered among the Apostles, having been called to this ministry by the casting of lots. The risen Lord ascended into heaven ten days earlier, seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and now Matthias was chosen to take the office Judas vacated. The time had come for the Holy Spirit to come and fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of His love.
Even without the coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost was a high and holy feast for the Jews, for Pentecost, known as the Feast of Weeks, marked the end of the harvest and was a commemoration of the giving of the Law and the establishment of the Old Testament people of God, that is, the Jewish faith community. But one Pentecost day was extra special, for the Holy Spirit came that day and established the New Testament people of God, that is, the one, holy Christian, and apostolic Church, the communion of saints. And in this Christian church, Pentecost also marks our celebration of the fruits of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). Today we celebrate and praise the Holy Spirit, who has brought us to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the same Spirit of God who hovered over the waters of the earth at its creation. Today, even more so than usual, we thank and praise the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity as well as the most misunderstood Person of the same Godhead.
The Lord, in His last catechesis session with His disciples prior to His crucifixion, promised them the Holy Spirit. But for the Holy Spirit to come, the Son had to go back to the Father so that the Father and the Son would send the Spirit. The Holy Sprit, the Helper, would come after Jesus left them. The Spirit is indeed the Helper; He is our Helper, our Comforter. He helps us when we need the words to speak in prayer or in witness, and He comforts us in our afflictions, strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This is the main work of the Holy Spirit, to bring us to faith in Christ and to preserve us in this same faith. What Jesus was promising in our text would revolutionize the world. He promised that the Holy Spirit would come to them and guide them into all the truth, the truth this same Spirit would move them to proclaim to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit would not tell them just anything. No, He told them what He, the Father, and the Son wanted to make known. There is no competition among the Persons of the Trinity; the will of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one. All that the Father has belongs to the Son, and the Holy Spirit would take this and declare it to the disciples at Pentecost. Jesus could not tell them everything they needed to know at that moment. When Jesus spoke these words, it was Maundy Thursday evening, and He had instituted His holy Supper, which we celebrate today, and the disciples' hearts were heavy, for the thought of their Teacher leaving them was in itself almost too much for them to bear. But the Spirit, whom He promised, would give them all that they needed to know and to proclaim. Their lives were about to change.
We do not see the Holy Spirit come in like a rushing wind today, nor do we see Him rest on people as tongues of fire. Neither do we see Him descend as a dove. The Holy Spirit operates and moves in much less conspicuous ways. He operates through means, namely, through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, as He works and sustains in us saving faith in Jesus Christ. This is His proper work, that which He would much rather do. He also performs what is called His alien work, that which He would rather not do but will if He must, and that is to convict the world, and He does so through the proclamation of the Law, convicting the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. He convicts us, for we are most certainly in the world. He convicts us of sin, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. Sin is nothing more than acting out of unbelief, our constant breaking of the First Commandment and, therefore, all Ten Commandments. By our many sins we show that we do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things, as He has commanded. Yet, we say, we do many good works, works we think should count for something. Now hear the words of the blessed Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, from one of his sermons on this text:
Wherefore, it is ever great blindness that a man does not see what sin is, nor know what good works are, but accepts sin for good works. When the Holy Spirit comes, He convicts the people and says: the works which you have done, as well as those which you are still doing, are nothing but sin; therefore, it is all in vain that you attempt to make satisfaction for your sin according to your ability. Then they feel compelled to say: Behold, this I did not know. Then says He: For this purpose I am here, in order to tell you this. If you had known it, it would not have been necessary for Me to come and make it known. What will you do now in order to be helped? This you must do: Believe on the Savior, the Lord Christ, that He has taken away your sin. If you believe this, He is yours and your sins will disappear; if not, then you will never get rid of sin, but will always fall into it deeper and deeper. 
Good works done apart from faith in Christ are nothing more than sin. Sin is nothing more than unbelief, regardless of which commandment we break. Unbelief is nothing less than rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to bring us to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord tells us in His inerrant Word that many sins will be forgiven. However, He also says, "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" (Mk. 3:28-29). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to openly reject His work and the gifts He offers, namely, the forgiveness of sins won on the cross by Jesus Christ. It is this sin against the Holy Spirit that not only convicts us...it also condemns us. Scripture also tells us, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
We are constantly in this struggle with sin, for the devil is forever tempting us, luring us toward that which God forbids and away from what He requires. As the people of God, we are certainly not immune from this struggle, and we sin out of weakness. We sin not because we are human but because we are sinners, for we are by nature sinful and unclean. We are poor, miserable sinners. We stand convicted before the Law, for the Spirit has convicted us. Look at the Ten Commandments. We are guilty as charged on all counts of breaking all the commandments countless times. According to God's Law, we deserve eternal death, an eternal separation from God. Thus the Holy Spirit performs His alien work.
Having brought us to our knees in contrition, the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to perform His proper work. He has brought us from contrition to repentance, confessing to our heavenly Father all our sins and iniquities. This same Spirit moves us to be heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them. The Lutheran Hymnal does not move us to repentance. The words we pray on page 16 do not cause us to confess our sins. It is the Holy Spirit, and Him alone, who operates through His Word to bring about repentance in us. Here in the Lord's house, among the New Testament people of God, through the preaching of the Word and the pronouncement of Holy Absolution does the Holy Spirit bring about the forgiveness of your sins. As Luther teaches us in his explanation of the Third Article, "In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers." This gift is offered to all people but is grasped only through faith by those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, that He bled and died to win this forgiveness. We who believe are the ones who receive the fullness of this gift, for the Holy Spirit has brought us to faith. He has led us to the waters of Holy Baptism, where He entered our hearts. He has led us to hear the Word, to be convicted by the Law and forgiven by the Gospel. He has led us to receive the gifts of God's grace, for we cannot grasp these gifts as our own on our own. We cannot believe in Jesus on our own. Listen to the words of Luther, who again teaches us the Third Article:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified, and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
You see, faith is a gift from God. It is a work of God. Jesus Himself says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). More specifically, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, that we believe in Jesus and cling to Him, craving His body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. Saint Paul writes, "Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3). This is the Holy Spirit's proper work; this is what He gladly does, for He, as well as the Father and the Son, wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, and the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth, the truth found only in the Holy Scriptures. He guides us into this central truth: Jesus suffered and died for you so that you would be forgiven, and rose so that you would, through faith, live with Him forever. God has sent His Holy Spirit into your heart, that you may live in the forgiveness of sins and, as His forgiven child, that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, which Christ has won for you and with which the Holy Spirit enlightens you, even as He calls you by the Gospel. Today He calls young Lauren, that she would receive this heavenly prize as well, and it is my hope and prayer that you, George and Leigh, her parents, would continue bringing her here, as you have promised before God and this congregation, that she may hear the Word of the Lord and grow in faith and one day come to the Lord's Table to receive His gifts that Christ offers in His body and blood.
On this high and holy day of Pentecost, we thank the Holy Spirit for what He has done and continues to do for us. He still guides us into all the truth. He still calls us by the Gospel. He still enlightens us with His gifts. He still sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. He still daily and richly forgives our sins. And, and St. Paul writes, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:26-27). We also thank Him for what He will do for us, as Luther also teaches us, "On the Last Day [the Holy Spirit] will raise [us] and all the dead, and give eternal life to [us] and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true." We have this assurance, for the Holy Spirit speaks to us today through the preaching of the Word, just as He moved the Apostles to do on that first Pentecost, just as He calls pastors to proclaim today. And now, moved by the Spirit, we respond to the read and proclaimed Word of God by asking our Lord to create in us clean hearts and renew a right spirit within us, to not cast us away from His presence and to not take His Holy Spirit from us. We implore Him to restore to us the joy of His salvation and uphold us with His free Spirit.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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