Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen. In the name of Jesus, who promised and fulfilled the promise to send the Holy Spirit, dear friends in Christ,
A classic and well-loved set of novels for children are the Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. It’s based on the life events of Laura’s family as they lived and moved around in the Midwest during the 1800s. Through the books you gain a certain appreciation and amazement for how they lived simply and through some very difficult times where you worked hard just to survive. Well, at my house my wife has been reading through the Laura Ingalls books to our children during their reading time and I will sometimes be in and out and catch bits and pieces. I remember hearing one sad event that took place when there were swarms of locusts that came and ate all their crops and laid eggs so that the following year they were even worse. Well, in such conditions, Pa, the father, had to go to extreme measures to provide for his family. So, one summer he had to walk some 200 miles away in order to find work and provide for his family. Leaving a wife and young children behind was certainly not easy and must have been extremely difficult. Andy you can imagine what’s going through the children’s minds as he’s leaving, “Pa is leaving??! And his leaving is for our good?! How can this be?”
Well, Jesus said something similar to his disciples in our text. First, we need to rewind ourselves a bit to understand the context of what Jesus says here. It’s Maundy Thursday evening, the evening before Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples don’t know or understand what’s all going to take place in the next 24 hours. Jesus, however, knows. Jesus knows that He is about to complete His work of winning salvation for the human race. He knows that soon He will die, and then rise, and then ascend to the Father’s right hand in all power and glory and majesty. So He told the disciples, “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” Jesus has already told them that He’s leaving and He’s ready to give them comfort about His leaving to fill them with joy, peace, and confidence, He’s ready to answer their questions…but…instead of asking questions, they’re just immediately filled with grief and sorrow. Remember that they had been with Jesus for the past 3 years, seen him do wonderful things, they had watched as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but now, he’s leaving??
But then Jesus even goes further: “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you.” It’s actually a good thing that Jesus was going away?? Yes, because Jesus’ going away would mean that He has completed the most important work of all time, He has done what is most important – it is completed and finished. And once Jesus’ work of winning salvation for the human race is completed He will then send the Counselor. So who is the “Counselor?” The Greek word that is translated “Counselor” is actually a pretty interesting word. It’s literally someone who is called to help, summoned to give assistance and from that it became used for someone who would be an advocate in court, who would testify and speak up for someone else in court – even pleading their case for them. Here, this Counselor, Advocate, Helper is the Holy Spirit.
So, let’s review, who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God. He’s just as powerful as God the Father and God the Son, He’s everywhere (just like the Father and the Son), He knows all things (just like the Father and the Son.) Sometimes the Holy Spirit is called “the quiet member of the Trinity,” because the Holy Spirit’s job is to point away from Himself, and to point us to Jesus. In short, we generally credit God the Holy Spirit for working faith in our hearts.
And that’s why the Holy Spirit is so important for you and for me! God says, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the HS.” If you are sitting here today because you believe in Jesus, that’s proof positive that you’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But unfortunately there’s a lot of different ideas in the world about what it means to have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Some say that when you get the Holy Spirit you can really feel it. And maybe you think, “Hmm, I don’t think I’ve really felt anything special, do I really have the Holy Spirit?” Or some people will say that if you have the Holy Spirit you’ll be able to do some crazy things like speak in tongues or something. And maybe you think, “Hmm, I’ve never done that, do I really have the Holy Spirit?”
But here in our text Jesus focuses us on what the Holy Spirit actually does for people and for us. And He focuses on three things the Holy Spirit does. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will “convict” the world. What does that mean? Well, there’s actually a bit better of a translation than the word “convict.” When we hear the word convict we’re immediately drawn to a courtroom. When a criminal is convicted of a crime it means that it has been proven from evidence that he or she did the crime. And so convict, even in English, can mean something like “expose” or “prove” or “demonstrate by evidence” or “convince.” And, really, here “convince” would probably fit better. So what does the Holy Spirit convince the world?
First, He convinces the world of guilt in regard to sin. In many ways the world in which we live is a very tolerant world. The moral principles of our world haven’t evolved over a long period of time, the difference between right and wrong isn’t a moveable line depending on the majority opinion, you can’t determine moral principles by a majority vote. God has established the difference between right and wrong- he’s written it in the hearts of all people and written it clearly in His Word. I heard of a pastor who was preaching at a funeral that happened to be very large and there we many visitors at this funeral and he spoke a simply about death being the wages of sin and how all people are sinful and there were people in the service who were shaking their heads angrily “No.”
You see, part of the depravity of our sinful condition is that in spite of the clear and obvious reality of sin in the world, we sinful humans don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to admit that those words that we speak are wrong and sinful. We don’t want to admit that those thoughts that we think are wrong and sinful. We don’t want to admit that those things that the world laughs at and even encourages are wrong and sinful and damning. We want to think that God’s perfectly ok with our sinful behaviors, we want to think that God just smiles at us like an old Grandfather who won’t hold anyone accountable for their sinful actions. We want to think that we’re generally good people, we want to think that the human race is improving, that we’re masters of our own destiny.
So what do we need? We need the Holy Spirit to convict us, to convince us, to expose our sins. And He does. He convinces us that the words we speak are NOT ok, that our thoughts are NOT good, that our actions are NOT pleasing to God. And when He does, it doesn’t create a nice ooey-gooey feeling inside of us, it produces guilt. Just like what happened at Pentecost when Peter told the people: God made this Jesus, whom YOU crucified, both Lord and Christ. When the people heard this they were cut to the heart.
And that leads to the 2nd thing the Holy Spirit does. He convicts, convinces the world of righteousness. God’s standard is 100% perfection, complete righteousness to get to heaven. And what do we humans do? We think we can do it ourselves! We hear it all over the place in the world – “there’s nothing you can’t do,” “the sky is the limit,” “never say never,” “never say impossible.” Certainly God wants us to use our talents and abilities to the best of our abilities, but there is something that’s impossible. When it comes the spiritual and eternal stuff, if we were left on our own, we’d be doomed. Because we can’t please God, we can’t do what God demands, we can’t be perfect. And the Holy Spirit convicts us of that.
But it’s also vitally necessary, because when we see our weakness, see the utter impossibility of our own efforts to please God, it’s then that we’re ready to hear that in the Gospel a righteousness is revealed which is by faith from first to last! In other words, when I throw up my hands in despair, I’m then ready to hear, “But God has saved you!” When I realize that I CAN’T do it on my own, it’s then that I’m ready to hear, “Jesus has lived the perfect life which you need. And, He’s proven that it worked, because – look! – He’s gone back to the Father, who has welcomed Him in!” And so the very fact that we CAN’T see Jesus becomes wonderful encouragement for us, because it tells us that the righteousness which we need HE has won for US!
And that leads to the final thing the Holy Spirit convicts us of: judgment because the prince of this world has been condemned. When Jesus died and rose the devil was defeated. Jesus showed that when He descended into hell to proclaim His victory over the devil and parade through hell and the devil couldn’t touch him. Our #1 enemy in life has been defeated. And that gives us security and confidence. When we consider the final judgment when Jesus will come we need not fear for Jesus died and rose for us and since He did we know God has forgiven us and has opened heaven for us and we are God’s own children.
So, do you believe all those things? Do you believe that you are sinful and need a Savior? Do you believe that you fail to meet God’s righteous demands of perfection? Do you believe that Jesus has met all those demands and proven it by completing His work on earth and going to the Father? Do you believe that Jesus has defeated the devil and the devil has been judged? If so, then you have the fullness of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit has done in you exactly what God has promised! You don’t need an ooey-gooey feeling or being able to do some crazy thing.
Some have described the Holy Spirit like God’s engagement ring to you. You have been engaged to your God. The Holy Spirit living in you is God’s seal that He WILL make good on His promise to return to take you to be with him forever at the marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven. Yes, we don’t see Jesus physically, but He has given us something even better: the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Advocate, who lives in us, strengthens us, empowers us, motivates us and assures us that one day when Jesus will return to take us home with Him forever. That’s even better! Amen.