The Spirit and the World
Pentecost celebrates the ascended Jesus pouring out His Spirit on the Church in the world. This event impacts your life very much, but you might not see how.
Just where is the Holy Spirit in the world? Based on Scriptures He could be many places. The Spirit came on Samson to give him great strength. The Spirit filled Bezalel with craftsmanship to build the tabernacle. The Spirit came on Saul and he prophesied. The Spirit came on Elijah and Elisha and they did miracles. The Spirit came on the apostles and they spoke languages they didn't know. Does this mean wherever in the world we find feats of strength, miracles, craftsmanship, prophesy and tongues we're sure to find the Spirit? No, for Jesus warns, as does Paul, that the Devil too comes with signs and wonders.
The once place in the world we know for sure the Spirit is, is in God's Word and Sacraments. Jesus says in John 6 that His Words are Spirit and life. In Acts 2 Peter promises, "Be baptizedand you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us He will send us the Spirit who will testify about Him. In Jesus words about Communion, "This is My Body; this is My Blood," because they are Spirit and life, we have the Spirit testifying to us that Jesus forgives our sins. In Communion the Spirit does what Jesus promises He'll do, "Take of Mine, and give to you."
The Spirit in the world could be many places, but the only place we can be sure He is, is where He promises always to be: God's Word and Sacraments. Where these are we're sure the Spirit is. The Spirit may or may not be in that funny dream, that intuitive feeling, that unexplainable event, but for sure He is in the Words of God whereby your sins are sent away. For sure the Spirit is in the 3 handfuls of water poured on your head. For sure, the Spirit is in the Meal where Jesus is present on earth today.
What's the Spirit doing in the world today? The same thing He has always done. Testifying about Jesus. The Holy Spirit doesn't draw attention to Himself but to Jesus. At weddings in India, torchbearers accompany the groom as he goes to get his bride. They carry torches to illuminate the groom not themselves. Thus the Holy Spirit spotlights Christ crucified not Himself. When people trumpet how they are filled with the Spirit, on fire with the Spirit, Spirit-led, etc, they're missing the point. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. If you're truly filled with the Spirit, you're filled with Jesus. You speak not about having the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, or even being led by the Spirit; you speak about Jesus. The Holy Spirit has been compared to a pharmacist and Jesus the medicine. When you go to a pharmacist he doesn't speak about himself but about the medicine.
The Spirit is in the world testifying about Jesus, and He is here comforting Christians. Twice the text calls the Holy Spirit "the Counselor"; the King James translates "the Comforter" both times. It could be translated either way, but I need a Comforter more than a Counselor. But how in the world can I be comforted by a Spirit whose main job here is convicting? Because neither I nor you are of the world and it is the world the Spirit convicts.
No one likes to be convicted. You wonder why people of the world rage against Jesus? Because the Spirit convicts them that there is no way they can be forgiven for their sins apart from believing in Jesus. Do as much good as they can; suffer much in this life; be regarded by all the world as good, noble, righteous, but without Jesus they're going to hell.
The only righteousness that avails before God; the only thing in all the universe that God regards as righteous is Jesus. Everything else is stinking rags to Him. To the world, the Spirit is like an overbearing, evil, parent before whom the child can do nothing right. The world paints a beautiful picture with good works, serving the poor, giving big dollars to help the needy and offers it as righteousness to God, and the Spirit says, "That the best you can do? That stinks; that's ugly." How mad do you get when someone holds you to an impossible standard? That's how the world sees the Spirit of Jesus.
They world is convicted by the Spirit in regard to sin, in regard to righteousness and in regard to judgment. The world likes to think there's an unending battle between good and evil, between God and Satan. It's all up in the air who will win, but the Spirit preaches here every Sunday that the world's prince has lost. Life truly is hopeless if you're on his side.
The same Spirit that's in the world to convict it is in your Baptism, in these Words, and on that Altar to comfort you in the face of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
In regard to sin the Spirit comforts you, because you do believe Jesus is the answer; you don't plead excuses or promise to do better next time. You plead Jesus. When the Law accuses you of unbelief, greed, pride, lust, and worry, you don't say, "I'm not guilty because of this or that," or, "Give me another chance; I'll do better next time." No, you say, "I'm guilty, but Jesus did what I can never do. He always believed, never lusted, worried, was proud or greedy. And He took my sins and paid for them, suffered and died for them, covered them with His blood, so that not even God can see any of them."
You are comforted in regard to your sins because you believe in Jesus, and you are comforted in regard to righteousness because you believe Jesus went to the Father. As we sing in a hymn, we are only unrighteousness, but now we have the Righteous One in heaven with the Father. He stands between us and the Father. Jesus is the rose colored glasses, blood red actually, through which the Father sees the world. Though we see no righteous in us, the Father through the Son sees us this way. We believe this and are comforted.
What's the Spirit doing in the world? He's comforting you. You are comforted not convicted in regard to judgment because the prince of this world stands condemned. God's own immutable Word gave Satan license to own you body and soul. God had promised that the soul that sin dies; only the righteous could live. So Satan stood before God, prosecuting his case against you using these simple facts. You daily sin. You don't think, speak, or act rightly ever. God promised that sinners like you were to be separated from Him forever. "Keep your promises," Satan badgered God. "You saw what he did; you heard what she said; you know their thoughts. Their sins prove they're mine."
God could not condemn the prince of this world for his rebellion unless he condemned you for yours. But God loved you too much to do that, so He sent Jesus to keep His Law perfectly in your behalf and to stand under the condemnation of the Law. Jesus did, so in Him there is no condemnation. Hear how beautifully Paul puts it; see how he relates the Spirit to Jesus and to your forgiveness. "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."
The Spirit and the world interact. The Spirit convicts the world, and the world is angered. What do you think this means for people in the world with the Spirit? I think you know what it means. It means the world hates you.
Picture a science fiction movie where a planet becomes alive. It takes on a hideous face as it tries to devour the space explorers. This is you and the world. You're prince is none other than Jesus Christ the Righteous One. The world's prince is Satan. The world is at war with you. Jesus says that there are those of the world who think they serve God by killing you. This real world hatred is the context for our text. In the verses right before ours, 6 times Jesus uses the word "hated" when speaking of our relationship to the world.
You can't overestimate this hatred. Children of God, of light, of heaven, are irritating, painful thorns in the flesh of children of Satan, of darkness, of the world. Those saved from this world can only be strangers and nomads in this world. Strangers and nomads in a country don't put down roots. They don't tie their future to a country they're only passing through. The Spirit in you which is not of this world is forever calling you to another time, another place, another world. Things will never be alright here. Things won't be alright till you've passed out of this world into the world without end.
Stop wondering why you're so agitated, annoyed, and upset with this world. Only those of the world can be at peace with the world. You are of the Spirit; therefore, you will only find comfort, rest, peace in the things of the Spirit. Deep calls to Deep in Baptism, Absolution, and Communion. The Spirit of God in you longs for the things of God, and that longing can only be answered by the Spirit of God where He lives and moves on earth. By the Waters of Baptism the Spirit of God quenches your thirst for God. By the Words of forgiveness the Spirit of Jesus quiets your accusing conscience. By the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives you provisions for your journey through this world that ends into the one that doesn't.
Because you're of the Spirit and not of the world, world events mean different things to you than they do to the world. Jesus says that when you see all hell breaking out in this world, when men are fainting from fear about what is coming upon the world, you are to view these horrible things as birth pangs, as indications that heaven is about to become visible on earth. When men and women hang their heads in sorrow, in despair because their world is dying, you are to lift up your heads in joyful expectation because your redemption, your rescue from this fallen world is almost here.
Here is the most important thing to know about your life in the world. You have the Spirit of Jesus while living in the world that rejected, crucified, and still persecutes Him. You will endure, overcome, and win, but as the Lord told Zechariah this won't be by your might or power but only by His Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost (20070527); John 15:26-27, 16:1-11