John 16:5-15; James 1:16-21; Isaiah 12:1-6
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There is but one will, God’s will, and His will alone is good. Likewise, your enemy has but one goal, that you do not acknowledge, believe in, or follow God’s will, but that you recognize another will, your will, his will, instead of God’s. And, from the look of the world today, you may be convinced that he is winning, or that maybe he has already won. For, the only recognized good and truth today is tolerance – that is, tolerance of the many and varied wills of anyone and everyone in this fallen and broken world. However, the definition of tolerance has been changed, for it no longer means to bear with or to endure, which is God’s will, but today it means to accept and to bless as true and good. Therefore, you are no longer free to hold and practice God’s will and truth, because it does not tolerate, according to today’s usage, it does not accept or bless as true and good the will of another, the will of the flesh, the will of Satan. And, to be sure, following God’s will is going to put you at enmity with the world. It is going to separate you from the world and from the masses. It is going to divide friends and even families. For, to walk in accordance with God’s will, God’s Word, God’s Truth, is to consider all other wills, all other truths, and all other goods to be lies. And, I assure you, this will not go unnoticed by your enemy and the world.
Last week you heard Jesus’ teaching that you will suffer and mourn while the world will rejoice, and He wasn’t kidding. However, Jesus also taught you that it will be only a little while before your sorrow will be turned into joy, joy that no one can take from you. Therefore, so that you do not become too comfortable in this world, in this flesh, He has gone away. Jesus has ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven. And, though you may long that He were here with you now, thinking that it would be so much easier to believe and to persevere if only He were here, He says that it is to your advantage that He has gone away, that He might send you the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide you to Jesus, and to what is true, and to what is truly good – His Father’s will.
The Holy Spirit does this by convicting the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. But, that word convict needs some explanation. The word convict is a judicial term, most often heard in the setting of a courtroom. To convict someone in court requires the presentation of evidence, or testimony, from which the proof of a man’s guilt or innocence is established. Hence, it is often said that a person was convicted of a crime. The convicted man, as well as others, may maintain that he is not guilty, but the evidence of testimony tells what is really true. The word convict in this passage concerning the work of the Holy Spirit carries both the connotations of convincing and announcing a verdict. When it is said that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, both of those realities are meant. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convince the world by announcing the verdict of God concerning such things as sin, righteousness, and judgment. Even if no one in the world believes the testimony, it is no less true. (Lutheran Catechesis, Peter Bender)
Dear Christian, you must not make peace with the world. You must not simply go with the flow and accept what the world accepts and reject what the world rejects. Therefore, thankfully, this is precisely how the Holy Spirit can help you. For, the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word of Law and Gospel and the Holy Sacraments ever continues to preserve and to keep you in faith, trusting in God’s Word, exposing the teachings of the world as lies. Often you experience this as your conscience telling you what it right even if the worldly doctrine you are hearing sounds reasonable and good according to the wisdom of men.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, showing that the way of the world is the way of unbelief, making you uncomfortable in following its path. Now, you must understand that this will not always be pleasant. Holding to the Word and to the will of God will not increase your popularity among men. Your own flesh, reason, and wisdom, which are corrupted by sin, will war against you, being used by your enemy to deceive you into believing good to be evil and evil to be good. This is why St. James exhorts you saying, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” However, the Holy Spirit works through the vehicle of the Word of God. Therefore, you must hear that Word, and read that Word, and be in that Word regularly. If you distance yourself from the fellowship of the faithful, become neglectful in your prayer and study of the Scriptures, and entertain and accommodate the godless things of this world, then you will gradually find yourself on your own, with your only counsel being your own deluded thoughts and wisdom and the counsel of the enemy.
Likewise, the Holy Spirit also convicts the world concerning righteousness by showing that the righteousness of the world, which is works, and tolerance, and preaching “Peace, peace!” where there is no peace, is a lie, and that Jesus Christ crucified, died, risen, and ascended alone is true righteousness. It is necessary that men be turned in repentance to faith in Christ, for the world has been judged, guilty, and all men are guilty sinners judged righteous only through Christ, who’s sacrifice the Father has accepted as full atonement for the sins of all mankind so that Jesus is the righteousness before God by which men must be saved.
And, the Holy Spirit also convicts the world concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The judgment of God that the sinner is righteous for Christ’s sake sets men free from the judgment of the Law that the devil uses to condemn the world. Since God forgives us all sins and declares us righteous for Jesus’ sake as a gift of His grace, the devil cannot accuse us of sin or damn us to eternal death. (Lutheran Catechesis, Peter Bender)
However, while you must not make peace with this world, neither must you seek to Christianize the world by force, coercion, or political maneuvering. Your purpose in this world is as leaven, salt, and light. It is by your own love and obedience to God and His Word, and the love of God for you, poured out upon you in Jesus and overflowing out of you in love, mercy, grace, charity, and compassion towards your neighbor in word and in deed, that the Holy Spirit will open deaf ears and blind eyes, break up hardened hearts, and raise the dead to new and abundant life. Therefore, again, St. James exhorts you, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
This is to say, the best way to get people to love the Lord and His Word is for you to love the Lord and His Word by keeping it and doing it. And the best way to get people to honor marriage and sexuality is by you honoring marriage and sexuality as God’s Word has honored and blessed it. And the best way to get people to love true tolerance and peace is to live peaceably and with tolerance in humility, meekness, and selflessness in the world, but not of the world, in service to your neighbor, be he godly or ungodly. For, a little leaven will leaven the entire lump; a little salt will make savory the entire pot; and wherever there is light, there is no darkness at all.
Yes, it is to your advantage that Jesus has gone away, for He has sent you the Helper, His Holy Spirit, just as He had said. The Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith. He daily and richly forgives you all your sins. And, on the Last Day, He will raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Jesus told His disciples that He had much more to teach them, but that they could not bear it at that time. But, on Pentecost, Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon them, and they began to understand the inexhaustible fullness and depth of God’s Word and the mystery of faith so that they could not contain themselves, but bubbled over in joy and the desire to share this Good News and proclaim it to the ends of the earth. How is it that you come to learn the deeper mysteries of faith? Is it not through living in this world, but not of the world, through suffering, persevering against temptation, being subjected to mocking, ridicule, persecution, and even death? Through these things, the Holy Spirit is honing and sharpening you, carving you back into the image of God in which you were made – a work that will not be completed until the resurrection of your body on the Last Day. He is making you to be of one mind and one will – God’s will – that you may love what He has commanded and desire what He has promised, that among the many changes of this world, your hearts may be fixed where true joys are found.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.