Easter4 (Cantate) - St. John 16:5-15 - May 3, 2015

Order of Holy Communion (pg.15)
Opening Hymn #231 "We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost"
Sermon Hymn # 387 "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice"
Closing Hymn #195 "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands"

Readings
Isaiah 12:1-6
James 1:16-21
St. John 16:5-15


Collect of the Day
O God, Who makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Thy people that they may love what Thou commandest and desire what Thou dost promise, that among the manifold changes of this world our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.


Sermon

1)         During the Easter season the Lord teaches us about the benefits of His death and resurrection which He desires to give to us. The Lord has taught us about the forgiveness of sins that He has earned with His wounds and the peace that He speaks directly to us through His Office of the Holy Ministry first given to the Apostles. The Lord comforts us in our distress when He teaches us that He is our Good Shepherd, laying down His life for the sheep and taking it back up again, so that He can always be gathering us into the sheepfold of His church and feeding us in the green pastures of His Holy Word. Then our Lord teaches us comfort in our own trials and crosses in life by promising that they will last only a little while as His trial and cross lasted only a brief time. Today Jesus teaches us about another wonderful benefit He procures for us in His death and resurrection. Jesus says, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) Jesus’ death and resurrection is advantageous for us in many ways but today Christ teaches us especially about the gift of the Helper. The King James translates the word “Comforter,” which I like better. In Greek, Jesus calls this gift the Paraclete, which means helper, comforter, advocate, or intercessor. Generally speaking it is someone who appears in another’s behalf to give aid. The Paraclete is God the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Paraclete, God the Holy Ghost, is the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection of which Jesus wants to teach us today, for He is given to be our Helper, our Comforter and our Advocate.

2)         The Paraclete, when He comes, will do three things. It is important that we understand these three works of the Holy Ghost, especially in our day when the charismatic heresy has become so prevalent. Jesus says, “When He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:8-9) The task the Holy Ghost will undertake is that of convicting, or reproving, the world about these three things. First, the world must be convicted of sin, chiefly the sin of unbelief, “because they do not believe in Me.” The world is full of unbelief. Unbelief is the root of all other sins. It is the soil from which every sin arises in our own hearts. When we are tempted to sin a sin against the second table of the Law and we fulfill our wicked desire, are we not disbelieving what St. Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8, “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” When we are tempted to sin with our eyes in lust do we not think little of the words of Jesus, that lust is adultery that takes place within the heart? When we are tempted to think hateful thoughts about our neighbors, our family members, and those around us that displease us or make our lives more difficult, we do not believe that Jesus called hateful words and thoughts murder which makes us liable for the fire of Hell. When we entertain covetous thoughts about the things and lives of others we are not believing that the Lord is good and gracious and gives us “every good gift and every perfect gift” that St. James tells us of this morning. Unbelief is the root of the world’s wickedness. Unbelief in God’s threats in His law is the cause of our society’s putrid plunge into immorality. Unbelief is what makes each us the sinners we still are and will be until we breathe our final breath. When we sin we do so because we do not believe God and His Word. The first work of the Holy Ghost must be to convict us of our unbelief and show us just how unrighteous we truly are, not just in thought, word, and deed, but in the heart.

3)         The world will fight this reproving and claim its own righteousness all day long against the preaching of the Holy Ghost. The world revels in its unbelief as a pig loves the mud. But not so with you. The Christian doesn’t fight the conviction of unbelief and sin when it happens. The Christian welcomes this work of the Holy Ghost. The Christian does not hold up his own righteousness and alleged good works to God and say, “I’m not unbelieving. I go to church. I tithe. I do my best!” The Christ accepts this conviction the Holy Ghost brings and grieves his sin, laments his iniquity and sorrows over his transgression. The Holy Ghost uses the Law as a hammer to smash our own righteousness to pieces and powder so that we might repent of our sins and confess them to God. Then the Holy Ghost does His second task, to convict the world of righteousness. Jesus says, “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” (John 16:10) The Holy Ghost convicts us of this: that our righteousness is worthless, like filthy rags and unable to earn us anything before God except punishment.

4)         But He also reproves us concerning where true righteousness is to be found. That is in Jesus and His “going to the Father.” When Jesus speaks of “going to His Father” He speaks of His suffering and death. After His resurrection it means His ascension into heaven to rule the all things as God and Man. All of it is His work done on our behalf. Christ assumes human flesh to bear our sins. Christ becomes man so that He can live our life under the full weight of the Mosaic Law. Christ lives righteously on our behalf. He dies on our behalf, bearing the sins of the world. In His perfect life and His spotless death He earns for all men a righteousness that avails before God, so that all who believe in Christ will have that righteousness imputed to them. Faith receives what Christ earns and believes that because of Christ we have a gracious God who receives us into favor, not for the sake of our own righteousness and our own good works, but because of Christ’s righteousness earned for us in His life and death. This is the second work of the Holy Ghost, our Paraclete, who comforts us with the Gospel, that Christ gives us His own righteousness and covers us with it whenever we confess our sin to Him.

5)         The final work of the Holy Ghost is to convict the world of Judgment, “of judgment,” Jesus says, “Because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11) This work is simultaneously terrifying while offering the utmost comfort. The fact that the ruler of this world is judged will terrify the impenitent, those who align themselves with the world and its lusts and desires. The world does not want its ruler judged and condemned because that means all who disbelieve face the same fate as their ruler. This is why the world hates the true church and its doctrine, for they belong to Christ, the One who has judged the Devil and all his angels. The world persecutes the faithful, sometimes with violence of words, sometimes with violence of force, all because it cannot bear the verdict that God the Holy Ghost brings through the Law and Gospel of Christ. But to the baptized faithful, this word of conviction is the highest comfort. The ruler of this world is Satan. Satan is a liar and murderer, Jesus says. In Revelation 12:10 a voice from heaven calls Satan, “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” In Zechariah 3, Satan stands at the right hand of Joshua the High Priest to oppose Him in God’s heavenly court and point out to everyone Joshua’s defiled garments, which were a symbol of Joshua’s sin and the defilement He had brought to the priesthood. This is what Satan does. That is what Satan means in Hebrew, “accuser.” It is the Devil who is continually pointing to our sins, not so that we repent, that is the duty of the Holy Ghost, but so that we despair about our sins and fret over them with an evil conscience. Satan can only bring up past sins which have been absolved already. Then He lies about them, telling you that they are not really absolved, that they are not really removed, and that God still holds wrath over you for those sins. Otherwise He accuses you saying, “How can you call yourself a Christian if you have done such awful things?” so that you eventually learn to despair of Christ’s mercy to all sinners, even to those who consider themselves chief.

6)         Against the accusations of the Evil One stands the Paraclete, the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate, the one who comes forth to bring us aid and consolation. He is given to us so that He might fortify our faith in the midst of such accusations. He strengthens us in the midst of an evil conscience by convicting us that the ruler of this world has been judged. The accuser stands accused and convicted. The ones he accused stand acquitted because Christ’s righteousness is their own by faith. This is the work of God the Holy Ghost in the world and in us. The world sees His work as Law, as condemnation, because that’s what it is. The world unbelieves Christ. The world wants to have its righteousness and good works count for something. The world wants to uphold its ruler. But these things are all condemned by the Law and the Gospel. But for the Christian, the work of God the Holy Ghost is a helping work, bringing us to repentance. His work is a comforting work in the time of distress and a helping work in the time of despair of an evil conscience. For the world, He is not a Paraclete, a helper or comforter. For the Christian He is all these things.

7)         He brings us the help and comfort that Jesus earns for us in His perfect life and His bitter sufferings and death. He brings us the only help and comfort that will suffice in this world, which is the comfort and help of the Holy Gospel. That is why Jesus says that the Spirit, when He comes, will guide us into all truth, not new truths, but into all truth, which is Jesus, for He is the only way, the complete truth, and true life. That is also why Jesus says, “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.” (John 16:14-15) The Holy Ghost will only and ever speak to you of Jesus and help you with His Gospel. He leads us into holy living and good works but even those proceed from faith and joy in the Gospel of Jesus. This is what makes Him our true helper, our true comforter, our true advocate, our faithful Paraclete. Amen.

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