Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sermon for 5/30/21: Feast of the Holy Trinity

Faith and the Bottom Line
John 3:1-17

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, but he seems not to be your typical member of the Sanhedrin. He doesn’t have the fear of Jesus that many of his brothers in the Sanhedrin clearly have. So he comes to Jesus—by night, of course; he doesn’t want his moves detected by the spies of the Sanhedrin. And he makes a rather bold confession: “Jesus, we know that You are a Teacher sent from God, for no man can do the things You do unless God is with Him.” This is a remarkable confession because Israel was looking for a powerful and charismatic deliverer, not some poor rabbi. How could Jesus be any help at all, let alone be their Deliverer?

But Nicodemus had a sense that there was something different about Jesus that defied easy explanation. And the first words Jesus spoke to him didn’t help. Nicodemus had not asked anything of Jesus, but Jesus knew what was on his mind. Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus answered Jesus: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” What Jesus is saying challenges everything Nicodemus had ever believed, and everything the Pharisees stood for.

Nicodemus suffered from a deadly spiritual blindness—a disease we all have—a blindness convinced that it must see to believe. And somewhere along the road of life, this is an affliction that plagues us all. Maybe you have felt as I seem often to feel. As I look back over nearly 47 years of life, 21 of them as a pastor, I ask myself: “What have you accomplished, not only as a pastor, but as a man?” Frankly, I don’t see anything. I even get “friendly” little reminders that others don’t see that I have accomplished much either. But there are things I cannot see. I may never have any evidence of the blessing that has been received from a word of comfort I have spoken to someone, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. I may never “see” how something I have said or done as a father has been a blessing to my children, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Still, I have this almost insatiable desire to see how I have been a blessing to someone, to see the fruit of my labors. And others want to see the same thing. They want to be able to put a statistic to my efforts; they want a bottom line. And I know that your experiences, though different in substance, are likely to be very similar to mine: personally, professionally, and spiritually.

That was the problem Nicodemus had. He could not see, literally, how what Jesus said could be true. To Nicodemus, to be born anew meant, somehow, to re-enter His mother’s womb and to go through the whole experience of being born once again. He had to see it. And I believe the Church today has that same problem. We need results; we need to see bigger attendance numbers; we need to see bigger offerings. My brothers and sisters in Christ, faith is not about what you see; it is about what you hear. It is not about seeing the growth of the Church, for that is a gift neither you nor I have, and it is arrogant and unfaithful to suggest that we do. When Jesus told His disciples that the life of faith is the life of the cross and that faith does not promise a wonderful life here, but rather is an invitation to come and die, most of His disciples could not get away from Him quickly enough. It is not about what you can see. It is not about putting the work of the Holy Spirit to a statistical analysis. It is about being faithful to the Word of God, and hearing the Gospel, and believing that the Holy Spirit will do with the Church just what He has said He will do.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Your eyes can be and will be liars. But the Spirit, who can be heard, will never speak anything but the truth. The Word of the Lord will never tell you anything but the truth. When you see the Sacrament of Holy Baptism administered, all you may see is water being administered by an unworthy pair of hands. But the Word of the Lord says that the new birth, birth into a life of faith that leads to eternal life, is what is really there. When your pastor speaks the Words of Holy Absolution into your ears, the mouth doing the speaking may be offensive to you—you may not even like the guy—but if the Lord has put him there to speak “in the stead and by the command of…Christ,” then it doesn’t matter what you see; what matters is the truthful Word you hear. When you are offered the Holy Supper, it is not much to see. But the bread is the very body of Christ, and the wine is His very blood, both given for the remission of sins. That is something you cannot see; you can only hear and, then, receive. Today is the celebration of the Holy Trinity. There is no evidence you can see of the truth that God is, at the same time, One essence and Three divine Persons. But as the Athanasian Creed says, if you do not believe that, you cannot be saved. It is not what the eye grabs hold of, but what the ear hears from the Word of God, and the heart believes. It is not what you see, but what you hear. Thanks be to God for ears to hear and faith which receives His Word with joy. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

         

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sermon for 5/23/21: The Feast of Pentecost

Unworldly Peace
John 14:23-31

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

 

Historians tell us that the conclusion to the First World War brought a prevailing feeling of relief on both sides: relief that the slaughter and carnage had ended and that, hopefully, with the coming of peace, life could return to normal. President Harding, during his campaign, made a plea for a “return to normalcy.” But post-war life never really did return to normal. The landscape of life had been forever changed. The twenty years that separated the two wars were years of great instability. There was an economic boom followed by the Great Depression. Soaring optimism was soon replaced with a deep pessimism about the world’s future. The promise of peace had been lost, and the world would soon be engulfed by another world-wide conflict that required the atomic bomb to bring it to an end.

This promise of peace that Jesus gave His disciples, the peace that would accompany the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, was spoken on the night before His crucifixion. Jesus spoke of peace even as He was about to endure emotional and physical abuse against Him—abuse that the world had never before seen and has not since. It seems an odd place to speak of peace; then again, it is an odd peace that He offers. But there was an important lesson for His disciples to learn from this. The peace the Holy Spirit would bring would be a sense of profound relief, a subtle and yet real peace that the disciples of all times would enjoy; a peace that would inspire in them a quiet confidence and a sure hope. But this peace would be difficult to maintain in this world, for it would be under constant assault by those who do not want God’s peace to prevail. This peace would make great demands of His disciples.

That this would be the case was indicated by Jesus telling His disciples that the peace He would leave them and give them was not like the peace this world gives. There is a kind of peace this world offers and gives. It is very different from the peace of Christ, but it is sought by so many. When you are poor, for instance, and that seems to be a great affliction, you may think that riches mean peace. Or, if death draws near, you may think, “Oh, if only I could live, and vanquish death, I would have peace.” Such peace, however, is not the peace Christ gives, nor is it the peace the Spirit brings. He allows the affliction to remain, but employs a different tactic to bring you peace. He changes your heart. When you are mired in suffering and affliction, the Spirit turns your mind from it and fills you with His peace. And so, in the midst of dying, there is life; in the midst of poverty, there is contentment with what the Lord has given; in the midst of trouble, there is peace and joy. This peace is not something you can achieve with your understanding, nor fathom with your wisdom. It is the gift which Christ alone bestows through His Spirit.

           You know how hard all of this is. You know how hard it is to be joyful in both good times and bad. And you know that some possess these abilities in a greater measure than others, for we are not perfect; indeed, none of us will become so perfect in this life that we will never again experience a struggle. In poverty, you will still face the temptation to think that riches are the answer, and that they will bring you peace and satisfaction. When you face your own death, or that of a loved one, you will still want to think that a continuance of life will bring perfect peace and complete joy. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to continue what Christ has begun. Do not be discouraged if you still fear death, and do not think, that if you are still frightened at the thought of death, the Spirit is not in you. The work of the Holy Spirit is not one that is finished; it is fulfilled day to day. And this process continues in you as long as you live; the peace of Christ will find itself in you even amidst doubt and sorrow and fear. If there were none of these things, the Holy Spirit could not comfort you with the peace of Christ!

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” This peace of Christ is a peace given and received in the still waters of Holy Baptism. This peace lives and is real even when everything around you is full of overwhelming turmoil. Even when things are so upset that you cannot see how there is place for peace, the peace of Christ comes as the gift of His grace through His Holy Spirit. Your heart is stilled and your soul filled with comfort and with a quiet confidence in that One who gave Himself for you and who has gained for you the gracious will of Your heavenly Father. It is this great grace that we celebrate on this Day of Pentecost. The Spirit who has come from the Father and the Son teaches you to know the great goodness and grace of Jesus Christ, a grace that conquers sin, death, and all affliction, and gives you the peace which only He can give. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

          

This peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

HYMN: O Father of Creation


Looking through the Easter Vigil, the thought of putting the creation account into rhyme intimidated me. I deliberately skipped over it as I was choosing texts to work on, thinking I’d let John Fleischman do it, or try to do it myself at the end of the project...if ever. And then I got on the train yesterday. I don’t know what happened—I can only guess that the Holy Spirit was knocked into me one of the times when I bumped my head on the overhead storage bin. But in the space of four hours, I had a rough first draft of a creation text. 

Now, the question of whether or not it’s any good...well, I’ll leave that up to you, gentle reader. As always, feedback is love.


O Father of Creation

for the Easter Vigil

The Creation—Genesis 1:1-2:3



1. O Father of creation;

O Word, begotten Son;

O Holy Spirit, brooding:

By You is all begun.

By water You have washed us,

Creating us anew.

Now bless Your new creation.

Conform our lives to you.


2. God made in the beginning

The heavens and the earth.

The earth was void and shapeless,

Awaiting life and birth.

Then God beheld the darkness;

He said, “Let there be light.”

The light He called the “daytime”;

He called the darkness “night.”


3. Again God spoke, creating

Upon the second day

A broad expanse of heaven,

A powerful display,

To separate the waters

Above from those below.

He called the space “the heavens.”

He spoke, and it was so.


4. The third day, then, God gathered

The waters by command.

The “seas” He called the water,

And “earth” He called dry land.

“Let earth grow vegetation,

Both fruit and plant with seed.”

The herbs and orchards sprouted,

And it was good, indeed.


5. The fourth day, God created

The greater light, the sun,

And lesser moon and starlight

For when the day is done.

He set them in the heavens

For seasons and to shine.

So day and night divided

By His command divine.


6. “Let water swarm with creatures.

Let nestlings soar above.”

The whale and dolphin flourished,

The eagle, hawk, and dove.

Then God said, “Now be fruitful

And multiply, each one,

To fill the sky and waters.”

The fifth day thus was done.


7. The sixth day God commanded,

“Come forth, now, creeping thing.

Come forth, the moose and bovine.

From earth, My creatures, spring.”

All creatures came as ordered;

In each was life bestirred:

The snake and all the livestock

According to the Word.


8. Then God said, “In Our likeness,

Let Us create mankind.

And let them have dominion

O’er all that We designed.”

And so, in His own image

And likeness God made man.

God made them male and female;

Thus humankind began.


9. The seventh day, God rested,

Creation’s work now stilled,

His mighty work completed,

Accomplished as He willed.

As we await the new Day,

The “very good” restored,

We praise You for creation,

Our great Creator Lord.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

HYMN: O Christ, the Living Water


Vacation has been good for my writing production, I guess. I’m still working on the Easter Vigil project. This text is based on Isaiah 55, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. The Lord says through the prophet Isaiah, For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” These words are a tremendous comfort when I’m tempted to think that the growth of my congregations is up to me.

Anyway, here it is. Feedback is love.


O Christ, the Living Water

for the Easter Vigil

Salvation Offered Freely to All—Isaiah 55:1-11


1. O Christ, the living Water

Who satisfies our thirst,

Who cleanses hopeless sinners

By sin and death accursed,

Oh, bathe Your whole creation—

A great baptismal tide—

Where holy blood is mingled

With water from Your side.


2. “Come, thirsty, to the waters!

Oh, come and drink for free.

Buy milk and wine in bounty

And eat abundantly.

Why waste your wealth and labor

And not be satisfied?

Eat richest food in plenty

And in His Word abide.


3. “A covenant He makes you

Of love that never ends.

Oh, seek the Lord and call Him;

On Him your hope depends.

Forsake your way, O wicked!

Unrighteous man, repent!

For God will have compassion.

Our God, He will relent.


“My thoughts and ways are higher

Than your ways,” says the Lord,

“For powerful in purpose

Shall be My holy Word.

Like rain to feed creation

From heav’n above shall spill,

My Word returns not empty,

But works My holy will.”


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

HYMN: The Sacrifice Appointed


I recently posted a text to be used as part of the Great Vigil of Easter, a text based on the text of Israel’s delivery from Pharaoh at the Red Sea. When I write hymn texts, I don’t often write paraphrases of Scripture. However, as I work on this project, that’s precisely the challenge that was given to me. So as I continue to work on this project, I’m trying to do something that’s not exactly in my wheelhouse. 

This current text takes up Genesis 22:1-18, the testing of Abraham’s faith in God’s command to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. It always strikes me how Abraham tells the young men who accompany him and Isaac, Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” Abraham trusts God, and so he believes that, even if God goes through with His command and Abraham must slay his son, God will restore Isaac to him. Or maybe he trusts that God will not make him go through with the sacrifice. And, sure enough, God relents at the last minute. I hope that faith is reflected in this text. As always, feedback is love and life.


The Sacrifice Appointed

for the Easter Vigil

The Testing of Abraham—Genesis 22:1-18



1. The Sacrifice appointed

Is Christ, the Paschal Lamb:

The Substitute most pleasing,

The self-appointed Ram.

He let Himself be captured

In thickets of our sin,

And in His cross and Passion

Our ransom he would win.


2. “O Abraham,” God called him.

And he said, “Here I am.”

“Take Isaac, your beloved,

Your son, the precious lamb,

And go to Mount Moriah.

The place I will declare.

Then slay him as an off’ring.

Oh, burn him for Me there.


3. So Abraham cut lumber

To load it on his steed.

And with his men and Isaac

He left to kill his seed.

They went as God commanded,

The offering to burn.

“Stay here, young men,” said Abram,

“And we will both return.”


4. But Isaac, son once promised,

Said, “Father, please delay.

We bear the wood and fire;

Where is the lamb to slay?”

Then, trusting his Creator,

In faith said Abraham,

“Dear Isaac, trust the Father.

God will provide the lamb.”


5. Then Abram built an altar

And bound his only son.

Then on the wood he placed him;

God’s Word and will be done.

His preparation finished,

He took the knife in hand

And raised it over Isaac,

Obeying God’s command.


6. Then Angel called from heaven.

“O Abraham, delay!

Harm not your son, nor kill him.

I see your faith today,

For willingly you offered

Your son as sacrifice.

You trust My word of promise;

My Son will pay the price.”


7. So Abraham relented 

And, lifting up his eyes,

He saw a ram behind him:

A gift from God he spies.

He took the ram and killed it,

An offering most sweet

In place of his son, Isaac:

A sacrifice complete.


8. Once more the Angel called him:

“I swear by My own name

To multiply your offspring,

To multiply your fame,

To bless in you the nations.

O Abraham, rejoice!

Your son you freely offered;

You heard your Father’s voice.”


Sunday, May 09, 2021

Sermon for 5/9/21: Sixth Sunday of Easter


CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video.

 

Pray in the Name of Jesus

John 16:23-30

 

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

 

There are few things in life more frustrating than not being listened to by those who should listen to us. When there is trouble in the home, inevitably one of the root causes of the trouble is someone, or maybe everyone, not listening to the others when they should be listening. And it follows that the failure to listen is a problem for our praying. We don’t pray as we should, or as well as we should, because we do not listen to God as we should. Our prayers should be formed and informed by the richness of the Word of God and not by the poverty of our hearts. To pray rightly, we need to listen to God and not so much to our own sinful hearts. We speak of prayer as “talking to God,” which it certainly is, as far as that goes. But prayer is really a conversation, and a conversation is never a monologue; it is never one person speaking to the exclusion of the other. Above all, we need to be listening to God.

Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.” But sinners like to believe these words mean that you can ask for anything you want, and as long as you are praying with sincerity, and if you add the tag line, “in Jesus’ name,” God is going to give it to you. Prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen refer to this approach to prayer as “name it and claim it.” If you pray for something by name and claim it as your own, and truly believe that God will give it to you, then God is duty-bound to give it to you—be it a better-paying job, healing from some disease, a new car, or any number of things. But those are the kinds of things that can happen when prayer becomes a monologue rather than a conversation in which we do a lot of listening to God first and foremost; when prayer becomes more a matter of our telling God what we think we need rather than listening to Him tell us what is important, and what we need to be bringing to Him in prayer. These words of Jesus may sound as if they are putting an emphasis on our speaking to God. But we need to understand what He means when He says that we are to pray in His name.

Quite simply, to pray in the name of Jesus means to pray in faith. It means to realize that we can come before the throne of grace in prayer only because our Savior has gone to that throne before us and has claimed us there as His own. This is what opens the path that leads to the Father’s gracious ears. And faith wants to hear nothing but the voice of God, for it is in that voice that truth and wisdom are heard.

This is also why we can never merely entrust prayer to our hearts. You know the condition of your own heart, and knowing that, you also have a pretty good idea of what is going on in the hearts of others. Scripture tells us that the human heart is desperately wicked. Jesus said that it is out of the heart that murder and adultery and all kinds of other evil come. That is what flows out of the human heart when left to itself.

And this is why, to pray rightly, we must listen to God first, last, and always. When Jesus asked if His disciples were going to leave Him, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life...” If this is so—and it most certainly is—then what better way of praying can be found than to use those words God Himself has given us first to hear? These are the words of forgiveness and life; words that tell us that, “if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” They are those words that remind us that we belong to God; that in Holy Baptism He has called us by name, and we are His; that He will never desert those who bears His name. They are those words that tell us that. when we pray faithfully—that is when we pray in faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord—God will hear and answer our prayers; not because we are so good and pious, nor because we have phrased our prayer in a certain way, but solely because the merits of Christ have gained for us the gracious ears of God.

When we try to go it alone with our salvation, you know what happens: we are lost. The same is true with our praying: unless we listen first to the Word of God, unless we let the Lord have His say, we cannot know how to pray. If you want to know how to listen and pray, then you are exactly where you need to be. The best way to prepare for prayer is to be engaged in the praying of the Church, in the divine service of Word and Sacrament. And that should lead you right into meditation: meditation on the sure and certain Word of God. Faithfully read your Bible; review your Catechism; utilize your hymnal. In these gifts, you have enough to listen to and to keep you praying for the rest of your life.

To pray in the name of Jesus means to pray in faith: faith which comes by hearing the Word of God. May God bless our praying, that it would be faithful to His Word and, therefore, fruitful in the blessing such faith receives. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

HYMN: Lift Up Your Eyes, O People


Now that I’ve gone through the Propers for the 1-Year Lectionary, I’ve wrestled with a direction to take with writing hymn texts. It was easier when I had a blueprint: I wanted to write a text for each of these Sundays of the Church year, so I’d write until I was finished. But it’s harder when you’re waiting for inspiration to strike.

Recently I was inspired to work on a text based on an ancient sermon for Matins of Holy Saturday. A friend and fellow hymnologist, the Reverend John Fleischman, had written a text based on the Exsultet text of the Great Vigil of Easter. When he saw my text, he suggested that we team up to write texts for every Scripture reading of the Vigil. What an intimidating project to pursue! Then again, after jumping into turning the Litany into a hymn text as one of my first five texts, apparently my hubris knows no bounds! Well, actually, I was at a loss at first.

However, as it always seems to work out, I received inspiration while attending a pastors’ conference today. Instead of tackling the first text, which is the creation account in Genesis 1-2, I decided instead to look at the crossing of the Red Sea, which is Exodus 14:10-15:1. I wrote an eight verse text in the space of about three hours. Only at conferences do I seem to write so quickly. That doesn’t guarantee a *quality* text, but I’m fairly confident that this will pass my personal muster. As far as the tune goes, that’s still up in the air.

Anyway, here’s the text. Any feedback would be appreciated. Despite my hubris, I’m not so proud as to think my work can’t be improved.


Lift Up Your Eyes, O People

for the Easter Vigil

Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea—Exodus 14:10-15:1



1. Lift up your eyes, O people.
Your enemies draw near.
Cry out to God for mercy.
Fear not! The Lord is here!
He never will forsake you
To perish in the dust.
He hears your plea and answers,
In Him alone you trust.

2. God’s people fled from Egypt,
From slavery and shame.
But Pharaoh, with his soldiers,
Pursued, his rage aflame.
The people cried to Moses,
“Does Egypt have no graves?
We do not wish to die here;
‘Twas better to be slaves.”

3. But Moses said in answer,
“Fear not! Stand firm, and see,
For God will work salvation:
From bondage you are free.
Behold, the fierce Egyptians
The Lord will sweep away.
The mighty God of Jacob
Will fight for you today.”

4. The Lord said unto Moses,
“Lift up at My command
Your staff above the waters,
And stretch out your own hand.
Divide the sea, I tell you,
And bid My people go
Across the land, now barren,
Where waters once did flow.

5. “Yes, Pharaoh will pursue you
With all his fearsome host,
But I, with all My glory,
Will silence ev’ry boast.
And Egypt will be certain
That I, your God and King,
Protect My chosen people.
Now blunt is Egypt’s sting.”

6. So Moses, at God’s bidding,
Stretched forth his prophet hand.
The waters, then, God parted.
His people crossed dry land.
The plume of flame came after
To panic Pharaoh’s hoard.
“Retreat,” they cried in terror,
“Before their mighty Lord.”

7. Then said the Lord to Moses,
“Stretch out your hand again.
The sea will close upon them,
Confounding Pharaoh’s men.”
God spared no man of Egypt,
All swallowed by the sea.
But Israel crossed unhindered.
God heard His people’s plea.

8. The people saw His power.
They saw and feared the Lord.
They sang with joy to praise Him,
Their faith in Him restored:
“I AM, the God of Jacob,
Has triumphed gloriously,
For Egypt’s horse and rider
Are thrown into the sea.”

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Sermon for 5/2/21: Fifth Sunday of Easter


CLICK HERE for the audio file.

CLICK HERE for the video file.

 

The Spirit and Judgment

John 16:5-15

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

       

Jesus was preparing His disciples for living through that time from Good Friday to Pentecost. He had to prepare them for those faith-shaking events of Good Friday, for the glorious revelation of Easter, and then for His visible departure on Ascension Day. The thought of Jesus leaving them, mingled with the warnings of trouble and persecution, so filled the disciple’s minds and hearts that they could find no words. So Jesus addresses them gently, calmly telling them that His departure would bring something both wonderful and necessary. He describes for them the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was the encouragement His disciples needed, and which the Church in all ages needs as it lives and works and awaits the return of Christ. And for us who live as yet by faith and not by sight, these are the words of encouragement we need, too.

The first part of this three-fold conviction is that the Holy Spirit will convict this world of its guilt with regard to sin; and not just any sin, but the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. How often Jesus was distressed with the unbelief of men and their rejection of Him. He wept as He looked over the city of Jerusalem, knowing full well that disaster that would soon engulf them, all because they had not received Him as the Son of God and their promised Messiah. And yet, He would not use His divine power to force men to give Him their allegiance. Jesus did not, and does not now, want to make men His slaves by force. He wanted them to be His children by faith in Him and nothing else. And all of this meant that when the Savior’s visible presence in this world was removed at the Ascension, He would still provide the means by which men would come to faith in Him. And this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. The disciples were to carry on after the Ascension. But men cannot be convinced into the kingdom through mere human arguments. The disciples would need the Spirit of Truth to lead them into the truth, to convince this world that the sin of sins is the rejection of Jesus Christ. This conquest of the hearts and souls of men, through the persuasion of the Gospel, can be accomplished only through the Holy Spirit.

The second conviction of the Spirit involves convincing this world about the righteousness of Christ. Jesus was Himself righteous in everything He did. And He did not leave without making His righteousness something that can be had by any and all who believe in Him. Jesus goes to the Father in righteousness because He has fully accomplished the salvation of the world. At the Resurrection, Jesus could throw off the bonds of death because the Father approved of all His Son had done. And, at the Ascension, Jesus could return victoriously to heaven because He had won righteousness for all. Now, this righteousness can be yours, indeed it is yours, without cost, through faith in what Jesus Christ has done to gain this righteousness for all.

And now, the Holy Spirit takes up this unending struggle for the minds and hearts and souls of men. And we need to understand that this is the basic struggle that is going on at all times. Against all the efforts of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh to dominate the human soul, the Holy Spirit works to convince this world of the righteousness of Christ. And we cannot be indifferent about the outcome of this battle. But thanks be to God, for Jesus did not ascend into heaven until all was complete. And now the victory is sure, for the Holy Spirit will convict this world about the righteousness of Christ. This is His second conquest, and conquer He will.

The final phase of the Holy Spirit’s triple conquest is that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment. The picture of the dying Savior on the cross gives no hint that Satan, with his head crushed, lies beaten beneath the cross, but it is so. There are a lot of unconvinced people in this world. Millions are serving the prince of darkness as if his is the winning cause, and they are trying to curry his favor. This is why a false prophet may stand in high regard. This is why the man who disparages the clear words of Scripture may achieve a great measure of earthly attention and success. This is why certain kinds of immorality and evil, like adultery and abortion, are not merely condoned, but are even glorified. And may we not forget that in the judgment against Satan, our sins are also included. Every act of unfaithfulness, every jealousy, every careless word, every refusal to love our neighbor is stamped for what it is: sin.

Thanks be to God, for the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment because the prince of this world is judged. And in every heart that God has drawn to Himself in faith, this assurance is created by the Holy Spirit: Satan and all who belong to him are judged; they cannot deceive the faithful of the Lord, even though they may appear as angels of light. Right up to the Day of judgment, the Holy Spirit will enlighten you and all believers and keep you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. What a day of wrath and despair that will be for Satan, for his false prophets, and for all who have insisted on wallowing in their sin. For then the veils will be torn away, and to every eye it will be revealed that Satan is judged, and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords forever and forever. This is the the three-fold conquest of the Holy Spirit, that ceaseless victorious warfare which He wages down through the centuries until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. The world will be convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and we, together with all believers, will be prepared to meet our glorious Lord and enter into the joys of eternal life. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.