Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sermon -- Holy Trinity (June 16, 2019)

JOHN 16:12-15


In the name + of Jesus.

     For as much noise as atheists make, there really are not many of them.  Most people believe in some sort of god.  Most people are religious.  God designed man to have a relationship with him—that God would love and bless man, and that man would love and serve God.  Even though man has rebelled against God with his sins, he still longs to know God and to be loved and accepted by God.  That's why even in places where they've never seen a Bible, people still bow to some kind of god.
     So, how is it that all people know something about God?  And why are there so many similarities among such different religions when each speaks of the characteristics of God?  St. Paul gives an answer: “(God) did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)  By his creation, God has revealed himself as kind, powerful, eternal, and imaginative—giving us a world of abundance, beauty, and variety.
     God also make himself known by your conscience.  God has set a standard of right and wrong, and everyone has at least some notion of that.  When you do wrong, you feel guilty.  If you feel guilty, you realize you are accountable for what you have done wrong.  If you are accountable, you must be accountable to the one whose standard you have violated.
     Because all religions say similar things about God, people think that any version of God is valid.  This is not true.  After we make observations from creation and conscience, we still are left guessing at who God is and what he wants.  When people try to probe the mind of God, they end up turning to their own thoughts and feelings for answers.  They tell God what he must be like instead of letting God speak for himself.  The result is confusion, doubt, and fear.  People are still plagued by questions such as: “How do I address my guilt?  What shall I do about death?  How do I get right with God?  How do I gain his good pleasure?”  When people take guesses at these, we end up with different religions and different views of God.
     God's perfect revelation of himself is in Jesus of Nazareth.  He is not merely a prophet who preaches God's word.  He is not merely a teacher who talks about God.  Jesus is God in the flesh.  While there are many proofs of this, the greatest proof is that Jesus announced he would be crucified and three days later rise from the dead.  And then he did as he said.  It had all been foretold by God centuries before Jesus came, and then Jesus did what had been foretold.  Therefore, if you want to know God, pay attention to Jesus.  If you want to hear God's word, listen to Jesus.  If you long to know that you are loved and accepted by God, cling to Jesus.
     What does Jesus tell us?  Jesus tells you that you have a triune God who desires your salvation.  He declared that God the Father so loved the world he had created that he desired to redeem it.  The Father sent his Son, Jesus, to rescue sinners from their guilt and from the grave.  And Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to reveal in sacred writings the words and promises of God so that sinners can have both the comfort and the confidence that they are, indeed, loved and accepted and saved by God.  The triune God is united for your salvation.
     Jesus preached God's good news, but Jesus never wrote anything down.  Jesus spent three years teaching his apostles, but he never told them to take dictation.  Jesus' apostles recorded what Jesus did and taught after Jesus ascended into heaven.  To assure us that the apostles did truly give us the very words of God, Jesus promised, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)  
     The triune God is united for our salvation.  All that belongs to the Father also belongs to Jesus.  Jesus has revealed these things to us in his word.  The Holy Spirit worked through the apostles to give us the very words of God.  Therefore, we study the Scriptures to be sure of who God is or what he wants.
     Many people say that they believe in a god, but they have no idea how to address the burden of their guilt or to take away the fear of death.  Based on their natural knowledge of God, they know that God must be appeased somehow.  Different religions give different answers.  But they all share this in common: Man must do something to earn God's favor.  But who knows how much is enough?  And who knows if you did the right works?  And who knows if God is finally appeased with your sacrifices and pleased with you?  The triune God does not leave you guessing.  The triune God is united for your salvation.
     Jesus reveals to us that we have a good and merciful Father who desires our salvation.  This is what Jesus meant when he told the apostles, “[The Spirit of truth] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14)  The glory of Jesus is that he takes away your guilt.  He is God who has become man in order to take away the sins of all mankind.  God is not only united in his desire to save us, God even united himself to us in order to save us.  By becoming man, Jesus took the place of all mankind before his Father.  He took up our sins.  He absorbed the punishment we deserve.  He received the due penalty and the damning sentence for you.  Thanks to Jesus, your sins have been removed.  God has no reason to be angry with you.  Thanks to Jesus, God's favor does rest upon you.  You are children of the heavenly Father.  And the man who took your place at the cross has also conquered the grave for you.  Man has defeated death, and assures you that you, too, will be raised from the grave to live with God forever.  The Holy Spirit was given to the apostles to guide them in all the truth so that you can be sure of it.  The triune God is united in this effort to save you.
     Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, ... he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak.  ... He will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speak with one voice.  For this is one God, and he is united for your salvation.  And since he is the Savior, he does all the work.  He not only did all the work to provide your forgiveness, to overcome death, and to open the gates of heaven, he also has done to work to deliver these benefits to you.  All other religions instruct you about how you must get to God, reach up to him, do work to communicate with him, and take from him or at least strike a bargain with him—your obedience for his favor.  But our Lord has acted to bring us into his family.
     When you were baptized, the triune God put his name on you.  For, you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  He has claimed you as his own.  It is just like when you were young and put your name on your school work, a baseball glove, or a toy.  You marked it as yours.  And if anyone tried to say it was theirs, your name made any other claims null and void.  And so it is with you.  Your baptism marks you as God's own.  By it, he silences any claims from the devil that you are too great a sinner and should perish for your sins.  God renders all such claims null and void.  The Father loves you.  The Son has redeemed you.  The Holy Spirit dwells in you.  That is because the triune God is united in his saving work for you.  He does not simply want you to live, he wants you to live with him.  He wants to be with you.  For the Triune God loves you.  He accepts you.  He calls you his own.  And he gives you what is his so that you will be his forevermore.

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

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