Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sermon -- 5th Sunday of Easter (May 18, 2014)

JOHN 16:5-15

In the name + of Jesus.

     Today, two teens will be asked a question that is not often laid upon people.  Today, Alyssa and Caleb, you will be asked this question: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? (Rite of Confirmation)  For the past number of years, you have studied and memorized and prayed so that you can give your answer with confidence: I do so intend, with the help of God.” 
     It is not a question asked lightly, and even more so, answered.  You also ought to be warned that around half of the people who have so vowed have not lived up to their intentions.  They have been led away by other interests.  Those interests may have been innocent enough, but if they led people away from Jesus, they have to be evil.  While people may insist that their ambitions and accomplishments have been noble, if they are in place of Jesus, then God cannot be pleased no matter how many people were helped.  Only through Jesus Christ will you find God’s favor and salvation.  Even if you should have to suffer death rather than fall away from him, you have really lost nothing.  You will not even have lost your life, for at death your life in God’s presence begins. 
     When Jesus spoke with his apostles on Maundy Thursday, they all vowed their undying allegiance to Jesus.  You may recall Peter proclaiming something that sounds similar to a confirmation vow.  Peter said to (Jesus), “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.”  And all the disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:35)  Of course, such fire and zeal will not save you.  Within hours, all the disciples fled from Jesus.  Likewise, your confirmation vow will not save you.  Good intentions and solemn vows never save you, just as they did not save Peter from denying his Lord.  It is not your word to God which saves, but God’s word to you.  That is what you and I must cling to every day of our life.
     The apostles boldly confessed their faithfulness to Jesus, but boldness turned to sadness when Jesus declared, “Now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  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 go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:5-7)  The apostles were sad because they wanted Jesus to stay with them.  They wanted to keep seeing miracles by him.  They wanted to continue feasting with him.  Life would be better if Jesus did not depart.  Jesus acknowledged, “Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away….” (John 16:6-7) 
     Jesus sends his Spirit for your advantage.  It is better for you that Jesus not be physically in one place on the earth.  If he were, then you would never get near Jesus, and he could not be with you.  But now he has ascended to heaven.  Jesus has gone so that rather than being in one place, Jesus is now in all places.  Jesus sends his Holy Spirit who comes to all people wherever the word is preached and the sacraments are administered.  By giving you his Holy Spirit, Jesus marks you as his own redeemed brother or sister.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you, making you the very temple of God.  And what is the temple?  It is where God dwells with his people.  So far from having abandoned you, Jesus is with you always, to the very end of the age.  And if Jesus’ Spirit is with you, so are Jesus’ mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.  So it is for your advantage that Jesus sends his Spirit.
     “And when he comes,” Jesus says, “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8-11)
     Jesus sends his Spirit for your benefit.  It is to your benefit to know what sin really is.  Most will limit sins to crimes—murder, rape, the kidnapping of Nigerian children, or a Sudanese woman sentenced to hanging for being a Christian.  Some will add that it is a sin to be against some social cause or group.  But Jesus tells you that the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin “because they do not believe in me.” (John 16:9)  All people are sinful.  Sin is not limited to crimes and misdemeanors.  The very heart of man is corrupt, so that even the good things he does are corrupted.  Man wants his reward from God, which betrays that man always thinks he can earn something by his works.  He does not want a Savior; he wants credit.  He does not crave mercy, but praise.  In short, man does not believe in Jesus, for he does not think he needs to be saved. 
     The Holy Spirit also convicts concerning righteousness, as Jesus says, “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer…” (John 16:10)  Again, man does not know what righteousness is.  He thinks because he refrains from crimes and writes a check for a charity that he is righteous.  But no man is pure.  Everyone works with ulterior motives.  We do not crave righteousness from Jesus because we think that we’ve got it pretty well covered.  We may credit Jesus for dying for sins, but then we assume that we are getting the works done that would please God.  We do not seek comfort in Jesus interceding for us before the throne of God because we don’t think such intercession is necessary.  Jesus is out of sight, out of mind.  We think our righteousness comes from a place we can see, such as our own words and deeds. 
     Jesus sends his Spirit for your advantage so that you will recognize sin for what it is and so that you will know where righteousness can only be found.  Jesus came to rescue us from our sinful condition.  He knows that we are sinners.  He knows that we cannot stop it.  So he bled under the curse for all sin.  He completely covers us in that sacred blood.  Jesus supplies all righteousness.  Jesus has paid for all sins and provides full forgiveness.  Sins do not damn any longer; for Jesus has endured that.  Therefore, unbelief is the only thing which damns.  The Spirit convicts the world of this.  Whoever believes and his baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be damned. (Mark 16:16) 
     It is for your advantage that Jesus has gone into heaven.  Jesus has ascended into heaven so that he can give his gifts to his people in all the world.  So, if you seek righteousness, come where Jesus gives it—in the word preached, in absolution applied, in the Lord’s Supper where you commune with Jesus and he with you.  Through these, Jesus gives his Spirit, his mercy, and his salvation. 
     It is for your advantage that Jesus gives you his Spirit.  The Spirit dwells in you so that God will be with you and you will be with him forever.  He has sent his Spirit to you so that you will be preserved by his truth to the day you die.  You will likely not be martyred for the Christian faith, but the question you are asked will apply to you one day: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? (Rite of Confirmation)  The day will come when you will suffer death.  But fear not.  Jesus has not abandoned you.  Even in death he does not abandon you.  Jesus has saved you so that you will follow where he has gone.  Jesus sent his Holy Spirit who lives in you so that you will not die but live.  The Holy Spirit he has given you marks you as an heir of the resurrection to eternal life.  This is for your advantage, and your salvation.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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