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Christ\'s Spirit of Truth

John 16:5-15

Pastor Jason Zirbel

5th Sunday of Easter
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

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Sun, May 14, 2017 

The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.

Let me begin by wishing all of you moms a very happy and blessed Mother’s Day.  How do you rightly thank the woman who carried you and protected you for nine months; the woman who gave birth to you, nourished you, provided for you…loved you with a love that ONLY a mother can have, especially through the “terrible twos” and the even more terrible teen years?  Setting aside one day is nice, but it doesn’t come close.  Taking her out to eat; a nice card, some flowers, maybe some chocolates or something like that…it’s all good and nice and appreciated, but it just doesn’t really measure up in light of all the sacrificial, unconditional love that mom has poured out on us since the moment of conception, and even now all these years later.  Mom never stops being your mom.  She never stops loving you.  No matter how old you get, you’ll always be her little baby.  She’ll always love you unconditionally.

And that’s what got me thinking about today’s Gospel lesson, especially those words of Jesus regarding His sending of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of Truth.  Mom loves us unconditionally.  That’s basically a given.  God loves us unconditionally too.  God so loved the world—in spite of us; in spite of our wretched sinfulness—that He sent His only-begotten Son to die for us.  That’s love!  God never stops loving us.  No matter how far we may stray.  No matter how far we fall, God never stops loving us.  As long as we have air in our lungs, we have opportunity to repent and turn back to Him, turning back and turning around to find Him right there waiting for us, arms wide-open, ready to pick us up in His loving embrace and set our feet back on His way of Truth and Life and Peace.  Look no further than the thief on the cross. 

But…that does bring us to a very important point: God’s not like your mom when it comes to the Truth.  Mom’s truth isn’t like God's Truth.  Yes, moms do sometimes speak the hard truth to us, and it hurts us; it grieves us.  They love us enough to tell us the cold, hard truth…sometimes.  They don’t do it to hurt us or lord over us, but they do it precisely because they love us and they want what’s best for us.  However…can moms lie?  Sure.  Unconditional love can cause moms to lie.  It happens all the time.  After all, they don’t want to see their babies hurting, and the truth, as we all know, can hurt sometimes.  Call it whatever you want; dress it up however you want; justify it eight different ways from Sunday—it’s still a lie.  Can moms be blind to the truth?  Absolutely!  They say that love is blind.  Well…mom’s unconditional love can be as blind as a bat at times.  Ask any teacher.  “Not my little Johnny!  Not my little Susie!  They NEVER behave like that at home!” Yeah…right!  “Oh sweetie, that haircut is great.  That outfit is adorable on you!  Don’t listen to your friends.  They’re just jealous.” “I think you sing beautifully!  You have the most beautiful voice.  Everyone sheds tears when you sing!” Well…that last part might be true, but not in the way mom means it. 

God’s Truth isn’t like mom’s truth.  Why does Christ send His Holy Spirit?  To bring His disciples into Truth—His Truth.  And there are a couple of big points to be made here regarding God’s Truth.  For one, notice how God’s Truth is singular.  Contrary to our post-modern, cultural mindset, there aren’t multiple versions of the truth.  There aren’t multiple truths.  There is only His Truth.  That, in and of itself, can be very problematic for Old Adam’s ears.  We don’t like to hear that, at least, not when we’re on the wrong side of it; when our truth doesn’t match up with God’s Truth.  That’s when we like to do the old “Well, that’s your opinion.” As I often like to say, “I’m not going to let the facts get in the way of what I like and what I want to believe.” When confronted with the Truth that runs counter to our preferences, we default to the Old Adam, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.  We can both be right.” Score one for our pride and our ego, but scratch one for the faith.  We hear the Truth, but our pride just won’t let us repent, because such a turning to the Truth means that we also must turn from our lie, and no one ever likes to admit that they were wrong.  It’s far easier to blame than confess. 

Another big point: Notice how God’s Spirit of Truth proceeds forth and is sent forth from Christ.  “Well, duh!” Yes, I know you know, but there’s more to it than the mere VBS understanding.  Consider John’s own words regarding Jesus’ crucifixion, recorded for us only three chapters later.  Jesus tells us here (Maundy Thursday evening, at the Last Supper) that He will send His Spirit of Truth so they [the disciples] can understand.  They can’t understand right now.  They won’t.  But…Jesus will send His Holy Spirit of Truth later on, and then they will understand.  Three chapters later, and Jesus is hanging on the bloody cross, mere moments away from breathing His last.  John tells us that Jesus, knowing that all of the Father’s plan for salvation was now complete, each and every sin atoned for; the full wrath of the Father against sin for all time paid for in full, declares victoriously, “It is finished!” He then drinks the sour wine, and gives up the Spirit.  So often this is simply translated/understood as Jesus “gave up the ghost.” He breathed out His last breath.  End of story.  But…the way the Greek reads is that Jesus gives up and sends out/breathes out “the Spirit.”

I want you to think about that, because this is BIG.  The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—proceeds forth from Christ at the moment of His death on the cross; at that singular moment and nexus of our eternal, vicarious satisfaction.  Divine Truth—the Spirit of God’s condemning, life-giving Truth—flows forth from and finds its source at the cross of Jesus Christ.  Three days later the resurrected Jesus—the One who has completely conquered sin, death, and the devil for all time—stands among these same apostles and breathes on them.  “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven.  If you withhold forgiveness, it is withheld.” Here is Christ giving His Holy Spirit to the apostles, the very men who would be the first pastors of His New Testament Church.  Again, notice that this giving of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ’s Truth—is all about forgiveness of sin.  It’s all about the forgiveness that flows forth from and flows back to the crucified/resurrected Christ.  There is forgiveness of sin NOWHERE else!  This is the Truth! 

Now…did these guys fully understand all this?  No.  They wouldn’t (and didn’t) understand the necessity of the brutal death of Jesus.  They didn’t understand the necessity of the cross.  Easter Sunday?  They still didn’t get it.  They were hiding behind locked doors.  When they encountered the resurrected Christ, they were in disbelief.  They were joyous—yes—but St. Luke tells us that they “disbelieved for joy.” They couldn’t believe something so awesome and miraculous had taken place.  They didn’t get it.  Even forty days later, atop that ascension mount, they still didn’t get it.  Jesus is getting ready to ascend, and these yahoos are still thinking in terms of “worldly kingdom” and “earthly rule and power.” “Lord, are you now going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” They didn’t get it.  They didn’t understand what Jesus—His death, His resurrection, His victory, and His reign and rule—was all about.  Only the Holy Spirit could bring about that sort of faithful understanding… which He would do ten days later at Pentecost. 

Pentecost is when they FINALLY understood.  Through the working of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up in the midst of a huge mob of naysayers, doubters, and murderers, and boldly proclaims the Truth of Christ Jesus; the Truth of Life, death, sin, and salvation.  “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." And when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” He finally gets it!  He finally understands!  They all do!  Those faithful yahoos finally understand the Truth of Christ crucified and resurrected, and they boldly and unapologetically proclaim it to everyone, even as they suffer ultimately persecution and death for their faithful witness to Christ’s Truth. 

But here’s the thing: When Jesus speaks of giving the Holy Spirit of Truth, is He referring here to ONLY Pentecost?  Does this giving of the Spirit of Truth refer ONLY to a single day in the history of the Church?  In a word, no.  Case in point: Our Lord continually sends His Holy Spirit to work on us and in us so that we may understand and believe His Truth in faith.  It’s not a one-and-done sending, is it?  Every time Christ’s means of grace are proclaimed, distributed, and received, the Holy Spirit works in and through these means of grace to convict us in the Truth of God’s Law, and comfort us and assure us in the Truth of His Gospel promise that it is finished, once and for all.  Every time we hear the Truth of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit works in and through that Word to put to death the sin that still clings to us; the deadly lies of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, that all seek to deceive us and destroy us.  Through faith the Holy Spirit enables us and helps us to understand the Truth and reality of our sin.  He helps us to not try and argue our way out of it or attempt to justify ourselves and our sin.  “It’s different in my case.” No, its not!  It never is!  The Holy Spirit enables us to humbly confess the Truth; that is, to homologeo—to say the same thing as God.  We agree with His Truth.  We confess our sin.  We confess to the only One who can save us, and then we cleave to God’s Word and Promise that all our sin has been put to death in Christ. 

Folks: It is ONLY through the working of the Holy Spirit, who works in and through these life-giving means of grace, that we are able to look here [the crucifix] and see victory, life, and forgiveness.  It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s holy Word and Sacraments that we are able to look here and have a peace and a joy that surpasses all understanding; a confident, joyous peace that knows that we are forgiven, in Christ alone and because of Christ alone; a Christ-centered joyous peace that rejoices in all circumstances, all places, and all times.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Christ Jesus is the Truth; the ONLY Truth.  Does your “truth” match up?  God knows the Truth, and His Truth will set you free.

May you ever and always be founded and grounded in the Truth of Christ crucified and resurrected for you.  May your faith, your confession—your Truth—ever and always flow forth from Christ and flow back to and lead to Christ and His unconditional manifestations of His love—His means of grace.  May His Truth be your unashamed, unfailing, and unconditional Truth, now and into all eternity. 

To Him alone be all glory, all honor, and all praise.  AMEN

Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people.

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