By Pastor Jerome Teichmiller
The Work of the Holy Spirit
John 14: 23-29
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning's meditation is recorded in the Gospel lesson for today, the book of John, chapter 14, verses 23 through 29, particularly these words: “ All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” This is our text.
In the name of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, dear Christian friends! Given today's text, it would be very easy to launch into a sermon about how important it is that “We Love Jesus.” After all the text starts out: “ If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” So the outline needs to be 1)Love Jesus, 2)Obey his teaching, And 3)God will be with you and bless you! And the elders can pass out “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers to everyone as we leave this morning.
“But wait a minute,” you say -- “That's not Lutheran! What happened to “Grace Alone!”? And you would be absolutely right. The problem with that outline is that it tells us that God's blessings come to us because we first loved him. That's the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches -- The Bible teaches that we love Him, because He FIRST loved us! God's grace and love for us comes first, long before our love for him leads us to obey his teaching. And Jesus makes that perfectly clear in our text for today -- because he tells us just where this love; this faith, that we have for him; will come from.
Jesus said, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all thing and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Why does the Holy Spirit have to teach? Why does the Holy Spirit have to remind? Because you and I, just like all sinners are by nature, spiritually Blind, spiritually dead, and enemies of God. Luther made this so perfectly clear in his explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostle's Creed, “I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, or come to him.” My sins get in the way! My selfishness gets in the way! My pride gets in the way! I cannot by my own reason or strength love Jesus as I ought to love Jesus. I cannot by my own reason or strength obey the teachings of Jesus the way I ought to obey him. If it relies on my doing, it won't get done!
But there is hope! There is an answer to unbelief! There is an answer to disobedience! And that is the comforter, whom God himself will send to us. After Luther finished saying, “I can't do it!” He tells us how it can happen --- He said, “BUT, the Holy Spirit, calls me by the Gospel, enlightens me with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps me in the one true faith” -- And not just me! -- “Even as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole church on earth, and KEEPS it in the one true faith!” The Bible is perfectly clear -- “No one can say Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit!”
So how does the Holy Spirit work in us? Jesus said in our text, “The Counselor will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Today is Pentecost. Today we celebrate that day, 50 days after Easter, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Disciples with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, small tongues of fire sitting on their heads, and foreign languages that they had never spoken before. Was the Spirit already in the world before that first Pentecost -- Absolutely! We've already said, “No one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” And there were many believers before that first Pentecost -- Adam and Eve / Moses / Abraham / David / Isaiah / Mary and Joseph / The Disciples -- All had faith in God's promises of a Messiah. All believed that God would send a Savior from sin. All had the gift of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost.
So what was Pentecost? It was a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told his disciples to wait until they received power from on high! This band of frightened followers, who on Maundy Thursday had forsaken him and fled -- who on Easter Sunday had hidden behind closed doors for fear of the Jews -- needed this power from on high! They needed the Holy Spirit to obey what Jesus had told them to do -- to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the outmost parts of the earth. That first Pentecost day, they left their locked room, went out into the streets, and proclaimed the marvelous works of God to all who would listen. These disciples needed the strength the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, gave them that day, to obey Christ's teaching.
What about you and me? Do we need the Spirit's power to love Christ and to obey his teaching? Absolutely. But you and I do not have tongues of fire sitting on our head this morning! And although I did hear a little German being spoken in the narthex this morning – that's not a new language around here! So how does the Holy Spirit come to us, create faith, sanctify and keep us in that one true faith? How does the Holy Spirit, as our text said, “teach us all things and remind us of everything Jesus said to us?”
Today, the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace -- through Word and Sacrament. As we repeat the Scriptures in the liturgy, as we sing the Scriptures in our Hymns, as we read the Scriptures in our lessons, as we study the Scriptures in our sermon -- God, the Holy Spirit, is calling us by the Gospel, enlightening us with his gifts, sanctifying and keeping us in the one true faith. In the worship service, through the Word, the Holy Spirit reminds us of everything which Christ taught his disciples -- and you and me.
And the Holy Spirit makes it even more personal -- as God calls us by name and washes away our sins in the sacrament of Holy Baptism -- and again when through the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion we receive the very body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ -- given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins!
The Holy Spirit, working through the Means of Grace, through Word and Sacrament makes it possible for us to love Him who first loved us. And the Holy Spirit, working through the Means of Grace, gives us the strength and the courage to obey Christ's teaching. Our love for Jesus, our obeying his commands is nothing more than God's Grace alone, through a God given faith alone, which is ours in Christ Jesus alone.
And that gives us a peace which the world does not understand! Jesus said in our text, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The person who trusts his own love for Jesus will always wonder, “Do I love him enough?” The person who trusts his own obedience to Jesus teaching will always wonder, “Did I obey him enough, did I do everything he wanted me to do?” And there will be no peace -- only a fear of punishment for a love not deep enough, or an obedience not good enough.
But because our love and our faith is based, not on what we do, but on what God has done and still does for us -- our hope is sure and certain. We have peace. We have nothing to fear. Through faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit we know our sins are forgiven, we know that we are children of God, and we know that our future with God in His kingdom of heaven is sure and certain. No fear -- just peace from God which passes all understanding. To God alone be the glory! Amen.
And may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.