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The Helper, the Holy Spirit…Will Teach You All Things

Jun 09, 2019

Passage: John 14:26

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Pentecost

Detail:

John 14:26: “[And Jesus taught the first disciples:] But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you.”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. What makes Christians different from all other people? They know and rejoice over the fact that beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are forgiven all their sins and that God is therefore utterly and completely on their side apart from anything they do; that this love of God is theirs solely and purely out of the free gift of God’s love and mercy in and through Jesus Christ. That is, Christians know that God is for them; and that this is true on account of Jesus Christ. Period. The Christian’s conscience is free. Luther wrote in the Large Catechism: “Although we have sin, the Holy Spirit sees to it that it does not harm us because we are in the Christian Church…”. (Tappert, The Book of Concord, p. 418) And from these words we are taught about a vital progression that confirms this wonderful confidence we have been given:

The Holy Spirit brings us to Christ’s Church, His Holy Body, and here in Christ’s Church, the Holy Spirit ensures that our sins will not harm us as He works and gives to you and me the forgiveness of sins through the Word and Sacrament of Jesus Christ. This is how we know that although we have sin, it will not condemn us; it will not destroy us, because here in the Church -- Christ’s Body -- and we have the forgiveness of sins, and so we are safe in the hands of our Gracious God in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This confidence is what makes Christians like you and me unique. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect (we all know we’re not). It doesn’t mean we won’t struggle (because we most definitely do). It doesn’t mean we don’t have sin anymore (we carry it around just like anyone else). It doesn’t mean that we will not suffer nor be persecuted (we will, and we very well might be). But it means that even through these things, we are positive that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ proclaimed and administered to us, the Holy Spirit works through these means to give us the forgiveness of sins and membership into the Body of Jesus who then holds us in the palm of His hand and says to us that even though we will go through tribulations, we can take heart, He holds us. God is for you! Amen.

These things are true on account of Jesus living, and dying, and rising to save you. But we must know that while “[c]reation is past and redemption is accomplished…the Holy Spirit carries on his work unceasingly until the last day.” (Tappert, p. 419) There is still a work of salvation going on. Luther reminds us, “Now we are only halfway pure and holy.” (Ibid., p. 418)

There is still work to be done not only for those who do not yet know the gospel to receive saving faith through the Holy Spirit who creates faith in the hearts of people through the Word of Christ, but also for our ongoing reception of the Word of Christ to keep us in Christ, to keep us in faith. The Holy Spirit has not only sanctified us (past tense), but he still sanctifies us (present tense). And as we rejoice in the forgiveness of sins given to us, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts to love God and to desire to adopt a pattern of life that yields to the Holy Spirit leading us to keep God’s commandments. We do this not to save ourselves – and thereby deny grace – but to live in affirmation that we are forgiven children of God who freely show their love to God by obeying His commandments. And then we confess how we fall short, return to our forgiveness, and then rise to live for God again by keeping His commandments. This life is what shows us to be Christians. This is the life that shows a person has the Holy Spirit.

All of this is to say that we need the Holy Spirit and He is the One we celebrate on this Day of Pentecost! Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be sent in His [Jesus’} name (v 26) which is another of saying that the Holy Spirit is Christ’s Spirit; God’s Spirit; and He leads us in the place of Jesus; as Jesus’ representative in our lives.

We need this kind of help, don’t we? Today’s gospel from John 14 is in the greater context of Jesus’ farewell discourse to His original disciples. He was preparing them for His departure, and it is a very scary thing that when we come to depend on someone, to even imagine losing that person. Therefore, close married couples who choose to rely on each other, and live together in marital love, can’t even imagine losing their spouse. And if they do, facing tremendous grief and pain. This is also why children have such a difficult time leaving the nest. O, they may put on great airs to present themselves as confident adults, but it is pretty much terrifying for many to venture out on their own without their parents. And this is how it is when we’ve come to rely on a good teacher, or instructor, or mentor, and the day comes for us to spread our wings and fly…but its scary, really scary…we doubt – we really do – if we can ever make it on our own. And to be honest when it comes to being able to hold to faith in the Lord while living in this world, we really can’t on our own. On account of our sin, we are pathetically unable to be walk with God. We just don’t. We’re too rebellious, too weak, too unstable, too destructive.

Thus, all forms of imagined “holiness” about the Christian life are examples of self-indulgent pride and delusion. Without the Holy Spirit working through the Word of Christ and granting faith in the forgiveness of sins, there is no holiness, there is no sanctification. People without the Spirit of God who act as though they are religious, and commandment keepers, are frauds who put on a show to look good, but in their hearts are still walking disaster areas. They are without faith in the Only Righteous One, and they are without the Holy Spirit.

So, again, we really need help. This is where Pentecost comes in. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Part of the concentration course in the army was to climb a high structure and get to the part of the structure that had a very high plank to walk across from one structure to another. The plank was about a foot wide, so that if you put your feet side-by-side, both feet could stand on the plank, but the goal was not to stand on it, but to walk across it, one step after another. Now, the drill sergeant conducted his orientation with us before we commenced the exercise. His directions were clear: when we started walking across the plank, we were to keep our eyes on the plank and keep looking ahead. At the same time, he made it clear not to look down below the plank. (“Don’t look past the plank and your feet, and stare at the ground below!”). The instruction was simple and clear. What could go wrong?

What could wrong, did go wrong. I remember thinking that walking across that otherwise very intimidating plank was really a piece of cake. Yes, it was very high off the ground, but I was cruising and because of my idiotic misplaced confidence, I defied my drill sergeant. You know they say that original sin can be demonstrated even within little children. Put them along side a circle you draw on the ground and tell them that by no means they are to step inside the circle. Then leave; walk away, and guess what is probably going to happen while you’re gone? Well that little child was me in the army. I got going and of course I was going to defy my drill sergeant! I looked down past the plank and it was a gigantic mistake. I froze up and that was the day I realized that I don’t like heights, and at that moment in time, I was in big trouble.

Jesus was telling the first disciples that He was going to go. And all the disciples could do was start to panic. They knew intrinsically that they were going to have problems without the Lord. And we are given this word to make sure that we come to realize that we can’t make it alone (no matter how tough or strong or independent we think we are…even that person who is going to show the world that they can do whatever they set their mind too…that same person is going to die someday and there is nothing they can do to save themselves). The fear started coming out and we hear of it in John chapter 14. First, Thomas spoke and asked the Lord: “How can we know the way?” (verse 5); then second, Philip spoke and requested of Jesus: “show us the Father” (verse 8); and thirdly and finally, Judas (not Iscariot) asked the Lord, “how…will [you] manifest yourself to us?” (verse 22). They all wanted to know, because they also knew that they would never make it on their own.

And this is the key realization that we too must have dear Christians. Life was never made by God for us to do it by ourselves. It is God’s will for us to discover that He is OUR Father and that WE are His CHILDREN. And that He intends to save us by having the Holy Spirit lead us to the household of faith, the Holy Church, where we do not pray, “My Father who art in Heaven,” but “OUR Father who art in Heaven.” Oh, our sinful flesh wants to be maverick and sing with Sinatra, “I did it my way,” but this is a way that leads to death. We were rather created and recreated to be in a communion, to be in Christ’s body, to be in a community; and to have brothers and sisters in Christ to live and walk along side of us. I saw an article this past week. There has been a pretty good conscientiousness about the difficulties of being in that “sandwich” generation where some folks are taking care of their children AND their parents at the same time. This is hard, very hard, and stressful, but the article brought out another growing problem. There is a growing population of people who live their lives with no-one who needs them, with no one to take care of. This is a lonely existence and if we think that it is somehow an easy ideal, then we are deceiving ourselves. We were not put here to live by ourselves and to avoid caring for others. We were put here rather to learn to love and to extend ourselves to others. Service is love. There is no better picture of it. One of the reasons I love being a grandfather is getting to see my wife in action. Stepping back and seeing how great she is with our grandchildren. When they are around their grandmother, they know they are loved and that they are safe. It is one of the most exciting visions I have ever had. It is amazing!

So, there I was on that plank. Desperate! Alone! Trapped! Stuck! And scared! And my sergeant said, “Don’t move!” He ran up the structure and got onto the plank along side of me. He told me to use my peripheral vision to walk forward while following his lead. He guided me step-by-step to the other side. He saved me. Do you remember the movie Top Gun? At the beginning of the movie, two American fighter pilots are returning to an aircraft carrier after just having been in a dogfight with enemy MIGS. One of the U.S. pilots, however, was really rattled and was essentially starting to have a panic attack while flying back. His partner in the other jet who was flying ahead of him, turned around and flew back, then came along side of him and led him back step-by-step to the carrier. He saved him.

Jesus in John 14 taught that He was sending the Holy Spirit. He would conduct a helping ministry not to give the disciples something novel, but to bring to their minds the Word of Christ and lead them to remember it in such a way as to explain it and apply it for themselves and for others. Through this ministry of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would become apostles and would be carried along by the Spirit and inspired to write the Word of God as recorded in the New Testament and through this gospel, the Holy Spirit would continue to come along side-by-side people, giving them faith, and leading them to Jesus Christ. And this is His ministry to this day. He is your helper. He teaches you Christ’s Word. He gives you faith. And He says, “Don’t move!” Then He gets along side of you and says, “Follow me!” And leads you to safety. He leads you everyday to Jesus Christ; and He does it through the Word of Christ!

In the Old Testament God dwelt with His people through the Tabernacle and the Temple, but today He dwells with us through His Holy Church, the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit was given you at your baptism Christian, and He continues to come to make you holy – set apart in the righteousness of Jesus Christ – as He forms faith in you through the Word of Jesus preached and the body and blood of Jesus given and shed for you. This is His way of coming along side of you and leading you to Jesus and keeping you in the forgiveness of sins. And as you abide in this relationship with the Holy Spirit, you are so filled with Thanksgiving! You confess with your fellow believers: “We are children of God! And now we WANT TO keep His commandments. We WANT to live for Him who keeps us in the forgiveness of our sins!” And as the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, we too experience Christ’s peace that He gives us. It is a peace that knows that all is well; that even if we must go through tribulation, we know that we are in the right place!

This teaching in John 14 – as Kostenberger points out – “is the only place in the NT where the Father and the Son are both said to indwell believers.” Already you have been brought into the not yet of future glory through the “now” of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Revelation 21:3 states that “the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” (John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, p. 441) God has come along side of you to guide you through life step-by-step. The Holy Spirit is doing it. How does it feel? What does it look like? He brings you to Christ’s Church, His Body; you are in a community of believers, the Holy Spirit works here through the Word and Sacrament of Jesus Christ and keeps you in the forgiveness of sins; this great gift of grace pours over into the Spirit leading you to walk with Him – live in conformity with His way – to keep the commandments of God; and as you joyfully live this way, you see you fall short, so you return to your baptism, you confess your sin; and the Holy Spirit leads you to know your sins are forgiven; you rejoice, you respond by living a life of love, you obey God’s commandments and the cycle continues over and over again. This is the Pentecost Life; this is your Life as the Holy Spirit guides you to Jesus every day!