Jesus Kept His Promise—He Sent His Spirit!
O LORD God, as I enter into Your presence on this Day of Pentecost, fill me with Your Spirit, even as You did the saints of old. Cause me, O Lord, to rejoice in Your forgiving love, to listen to Your abiding Word, and to share Your life-giving truths with everyone I meet as You give me opportunity. In Jesus’ saving name I pray. Amen.
God promised to pour out His Spirit in the latter days, so that His believing children would proclaim His truths as the final Day of Judgment approached. Deliverance and salvation would come to all who called upon the name of the LORD!
God sent His Spirit to fill the hearts of the early Christians, enabling them to speak of His wonderful works to visitors from all over the world, who were assembled in Jerusalem for worship. Peter explained that what was happening was in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
Text: John 16:6-11
Jesus told His disciples: “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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
In Christ Jesus, our ascended Lord and Savior whose word we can trust and upon whose promises we can depend, dear fellow redeemed:
Change is generally unsettling when it occurs, but it also often brings with it much that is good. Change forces us to rethink our situations and often can revitalize our entire approach to a particular relationship or activity. But change is seldom easy, for we human beings tend to be creatures of habit who become quite comfortable with set patterns and approaches in our lives. As Jesus addressed His disciples on Maundy Thursday evening, He spoke about changes to come. He would soon die, after which He would arise from the dead, and then finally depart to return to His heavenly Father. He would no longer be visibly present among His disciples, providing for them both His personal leadership and His direct instruction. This was not what His disciples had anticipated, nor was it what they thought they wanted. They were deeply troubled and saddened by this news. Jesus, however, then informed them that this change was actually for their advantage. If He were to stay with them, He said: “The Helper will not come to you.” But Jesus promised His disciples: “If I depart, I will send Him (that is, the Helper) to you.”
Who is the Helper? The Helper is the Holy Spirit. God’s plan for our eternal salvation involved sending Jesus into this world to become our Savior, but it also involved the sending of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Holy Christian Church. The Festival of Pentecost highlights the gift of the Holy Spirit and His work among us to create that Holy Christian Church. On the basis of our text let us consider this thought—JESUS KEPT HIS PROMISE—HE SENT HIS SPIRIT, first of all, to help His believing followers and then, secondly, to convict the unbelieving world!
How does the Holy Spirit help us believers? He does so in many ways. First of all, it is the Holy Spirit who works faith in Christ within our hearts. If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, then the Holy Spirit has been at work in your heart! The apostle Paul later told the Corinthian Christians: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3b). By nature we are all lost in sin and unable to know or believe in God or the truths of His Word. The Holy Spirit, however, using the means of grace produces faith within our hearts. The means of grace are the gospel in word and sacrament. Through baptism the Holy Spirit creates faith within the hearts of infants brought to Him. Through the preaching of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit leads children and adults to genuine repentance and then instills faith within their hearts. Paul told the Roman Christians: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (10:17). To acknowledge Jesus as our Lord is more than simply having an historical understanding that He lived and died, but rather it involves a Spirit-engendered trust and confidence in Him. It is that trust and confidence that the Holy Spirit creates and nurtures within our hearts.
Secondly, as Jesus says in the verses immediately following our text, the Holy Spirit helps us believers by revealing to us and then leading us to understand divine truth. Jesus had earlier told His disciples: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). The Holy Spirit guides our study of God’s word. As we prayerfully approach such study, we can have the confidence that the Holy Spirit will help us to understand that which God would have us know. Centuries before Jesus made this promise, the Old Testament Psalmist had written: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105). Are you searching for answers to the big and small questions of life? Do so by turning to your Bibles and seeking the Spirit’s guidance for your study. Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil may offer useful opinions from time to time, but God’s Word reveals absolute truth that will last throughout eternity. The Holy Spirit will not fail those who honestly seek good and godly answers.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit indwells the heart of the believing child of God. The Bible identifies the bodies of believers as being the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in them (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19). As such the very presence of the Holy Spirit serves as an encouragement for believers to do that which is good and right in God’s sight. His presence also ensures that believers will be empowered to accomplish those good and righteous goals, for He provides believers with those virtues necessary to live truly godly lives. Paul lists them for the Galatian Christians—“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22). After providing that list, Paul then goes on to encourage us believers: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Are you sorely lacking in patience? Would your relationship with your spouse, your children, your in-laws, or your neighbors be improved if only you could be more gentle and maintain your self-control? Do you find yourself lacking joy and restlessly void of peace? Turn to the Spirit—pray that He might work within your hearts those fruits He wants to grow within your life.
Finally, the Holy Spirit helps us by guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven. Paul tells the Ephesian Christians: “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (1:13b-14). You and I are that “purchased possession”—God purchased us with the blood of Christ. We are sealed by the Spirit, who promises to preserve us in our faith until we are ultimately ushered into the presence of our heavenly Father on the Last Day. Thus the Spirit plays a role in our entire lives as God’s children—bringing us to faith and preserving us in faith unto our ends! Yes, JESUS KEPT HIS PROMISE—HE SENT HIS SPIRIT to help His believing followers!
HE SENT HIS HOLY SPIRIT, as well however, to convict the unbelieving world! Jesus said: “When He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Jesus said that the Spirit would convict the world of sin “because they do not believe” in Him. The Bible tells us that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son into this world to save it. The Bible goes on to say that Jesus paid the price for the sins of the whole world. It tells us that God thereby reconciled the whole world to Himself. The world’s response, unfortunately, is to deny its need for redemption, to suggest alternate means of reconciliation, and to reject Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God and our Savior. The world questions God’s existence, criticizes what it views as His failures to provide proper protection (Have you noticed how natural disasters are called “acts of God,” while any fortunate weather is simply viewed as “good luck”?), and claims that the biblical truth that Jesus alone is the way to heaven is far too exclusive.
The Spirit of God has been sent to convict individuals of such thinking, leading them either to repentance or to ultimate condemnation on the Last Day. In his sermon on Pentecost, Peter reached the climax of his sermon when he concluded: “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The Spirit convicted some who were there. They were led to repentance and asked what they should do. Others simply grit their teeth or shrugged their shoulders and walked off, unfortunately rejecting their only hope of salvation and sealing their eternal fate once they died.
Jesus said the Spirit would convict the world of righteousness, because He went to the Father and would be seen no more. What does that mean? It means simply this—every human being needs to be righteous in order to stand before God on the Last Day. There are only two possible sources of righteousness for any of us. Either we have to produce it on our own, or someone has to provide it for us. The truth of the matter is that we cannot achieve righteousness on his or her own ability, for as the Bible testifies, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To think that we can provide ourselves with a righteousness that will stand before God on the Last Day is a delusion! That is why the “character determines destiny” thinking of the Masonic Lodge is hopeless, as is the “good deed each day” approach of the Boy Scouts. That is why the Five Pillars of Islam or any other program of religious self-help will never satisfy God. Jesus is the only source of true righteousness for any of us! It is God’s gift to us, as we are led by the Spirit to place our faith in Jesus. To reject Jesus is, therefore, to lose the only hope you or I have to obtain the righteousness that will avail before God.
The Holy Spirit uses the law of God to convict the world of the fact that its own righteousness simply is not sufficient. Those whose hearts are crushed by the recognition of their own sinfulness can and do gain the certainty and joy of knowing they possess a righteousness from Christ which will stand up on the Last Day. Those who reject Jesus will find themselves condemned for not receiving the gift God offers them!
Jesus said the Spirit would convict the world of judgment because the ruler of this world—Satan has been judged. In this life there are only two spiritual sides—the good and the bad. Either you are on God’s side or on Satan’s side. You cannot be on both! Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in this world are deceived by Satan’s lies and live their lives in opposition to God. Satan uses the illusion of power and his many false promises to lure people into serving him and to keep them bound in their spiritual ignorance and rebellion.
Jesus, however, has defeated Satan. He did so by overcoming death through His resurrection. He proclaimed His victory over His spiritual enemies when He “descended into hell”—Satan’s domain. Jesus has been entrusted with all authority in heaven and on earth (cf. Matthew 28:18) and, consequently, while many in this world ally themselves either knowingly or unknowingly with Satan in order to secure for themselves benefits in this life, they will ultimately fall with Satan when all who oppose Christ are finally sentenced to hell on the Last Day.
My dear friends, such thoughts are indeed sobering. They should be, for the judgment of God that will occur on the Last Day is no laughing matter. Still, we can rejoice for JESUS KEPT HIS PROMISE—HE SENT HIS SPIRIT to help us. May we ever rejoice in the Spirit’s presence and His help! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!