4-28-24 Cantate

Bible Text: John 16:5-15 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus

Jesus speaks the words of our Gospel to his eleven disciples the night He is betrayed; the next day He will be crucified. When He says He is going away, “But now I go away to Him who sent Me,” He is talking about His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His ascension into heaven. He says it is to their advantage. Because if He doesn’t go away, that is again, if He doesn’t suffer and die and rise again, then the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will not come to them. Because if Jesus doesn’t suffer and die and rise again, the Holy Spirit will have nothing to give them. The Holy Spirit doesn’t take of His own and give, some dazzling gifts of tongue-speaking or vision-seeing. He takes of what is Jesus’ and gives. And what Jesus gives is His life on the cross. What He gives is peace with God, because He suffered God’s wrath against our sin and all of it was swallowed up in His holy sufferings. What He gives is innocence and righteousness, because He obeyed His Father’s will perfectly and left nothing undone. He gives life eternal, because death is dead under His feet and His resurrection belongs to us, because He died for us. He gives victory over the devil because He crushed that liar’s head and judged him so that he cannot judge us. The Holy Spirit gives what belongs to Jesus and He gives it to us.

Who wouldn’t want this? Who wouldn’t want what the Spirit gives? He gives life, free forgiveness of all sin, reconciliation with God, peace of conscience, true righteousness, victory over the devil? Who wouldn’t want this?

Jesus answers. And He will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in Me. No one wanted it. The whole world, that means everyone, you, me, everyone, needed and needs the Holy Spirit to convict and convince, or we would throw it all back in God’s face and say, I don’t want it. This is a beautiful thing to think about. How much your God loves you. Because He knows this. He knows that after all is done, after He created you so wonderfully and beautifully and gave you all that you have, all your joys and laughter and good things, and after He sent His own dear Son to suffer your punishment, because He could not stand for you to suffer it, still you would reject it, but He does it all still. And He sends His Spirit to convict you and convince you and turn your heart of stone into a heart of flesh, to know the truth and trust in your Lord. This is the great love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and for it we will praise Him now and forever and never run out of things to sing and to say about Him.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin because they do not believe in Jesus. He doesn’t convict them of sin because they don’t believe that murder is wrong. They do, at least for the most part. The world does know, because God has implanted it in our minds and souls, the basic difference between right and wrong, what is sin and what is good. But if you were to ask people to give you a list of the worst sins, no one would tell you that not believing in Jesus is at the top. Your conservative would list off abortion and homosexuality and your liberal would list off racism and xenophobia. And then they would fight with one another and spend hundreds of billions of dollars determining who is right and who is wrong. And then when one side wins, people will still be racist and selfish parents will still murder their own offspring and perverts will still do awful things. The world and all its fighting and striving and spending for the power to lay down the law, will never get at the root of it all, they will only be playing an unwinnable game, because they have only diagnosed some symptoms and failed to see the disease.

The Holy Spirit shows the disease. And it is that the world does not believe in Jesus. O, but they believe in God! No, there is no God but Jesus, there is no God but the One who suffers on that cross for a world that He loves and that does not know Him. And this is the sin that is the root and cause of all other sin. No political solution will take care of it, no country’s constitution will answer it. Only the Holy Spirit who takes of what is Jesus and gives it to us. The remedy for sin and evil is not social programs, is not smaller government, bigger government, it is the preaching of Christ the crucified. And the world doesn’t believe it. So the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.

And He convicts the world of righteousness, because Jesus goes to the Father and you see Him no more. The world thinks it knows all about righteousness. You can see it, you see. I can see if you measure up to my standards. You can see if I measure up to yours. And we can both see, at least on the outside, whether we measure up to God’s commandments. And that is as far as the world can go. It is superficial in the extreme. When God sent Covid on us, it was amazing to see, and it stands as the testimony of our time to our judgmental character, it was amazing to see how each side judged one another. On one side, if you didn’t wear a mask, you were a murderer. On the other side, if you did wear a mask, you were a moron, and probably a communist. This is how we operate by nature. We judge according to outward appearance, and sometimes we’re right, and the extent to which we are right fills us with a pride that is far worse than the sin we’re judging. I know I’m right that masks didn’t work. So my pride vindicates my judgment of the people who didn’t know. And that pride is so far worse than the supposed sin I judge.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t point to a righteousness that you can see. Because all our righteousness, all our outward good works, are a mask to cover up a pride and a selfishness and an unrighteousness that stains us to the very core. It is a sham before God. The world is playing games and in the court of God it is like watching little girls pretending they are princesses and fighting and bickering over who is going to marry the imaginary prince.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness, because Jesus goes to the Father and you see Him no more. There is righteousness. You can’t see it, but it is the only righteousness that avails before God. And God sees it. He saw it. God saw His Son suffer in purity, without play acting, without hypocrisy, with real sighs and groans, in total innocence, yet bearing your sins, because He loved from the bottom of His heart, He loved you and He loved His Father, and His blood flowed freely because of it. God saw that. And God sees that as His Son pleads for you and stands in innocence before Him.

The word that is translated “convict” is also the word for “convince.” And the Holy Spirit not only convicts the world of a false, a sham, a surface righteousness. He also convinces us of a true righteousness. That we are holy, innocent, pure before God, not because of anything we have done, and not because of anything we are inside, but because of what we don’t see, but God does see, the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the Holy Spirit never tires of taking from Jesus and giving to you: God declares you, the sinner, righteous, with the righteousness of His own Son, so that by faith alone in Him, you stand before God pure, as if you had obeyed the law perfectly and had no pride and loved purely, because Jesus has, and the Holy Spirit takes from Him and gives to you. That is what your Baptism is. That is what this Holy Supper is. That is what the words of Christian preaching are and of the absolution. The Holy Spirit taking of what belongs to Jesus and giving it to you.

So finally the Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The false belief of the world is that they can stand before God without Jesus and live. It is what every false religion pretends. It is what most who call themselves Christians in America think. It is the default religion of the flesh. I am a decent person. I haven’t killed. I haven’t cheated. I haven’t robbed. I believe in “God,” so I am good. So every religion, from atheism to paganism to American moralistic, therapeutic Deism, teaches you how to avoid God’s judgment by doing stuff, by claiming your own goodness, by denying that God really judges your sin.

And the Holy Spirit exposes it as the sham that it is. You think you can hide your sin from God? You can’t even hide it from other people. God is no fool that you can hide behind some few outward works and pretend to be righteous. God sees the heart. He demands perfection. And you have not given it. And you will stand before His judgment. And you will not be able to hide a thing or to say a thing in your defense based on what you have done. That is what the Holy Spirit preaches to the world and all its silly religions. He shows us they are wrong about judgment.

But He shows us more. He shows us Christians that we are not judged. The devil is judged. The ruler of this world is judged. He presumes to accuse us of sin, to throw in our face the sins we have confessed before our God, to say that because we have sinned we cannot be God’s children. But he is judged. His arrows all lie broken. His lying head is crushed under the feet of our Savior. We don’t presume to plead our own innocence before God. We set before our God the righteousness of Jesus, His life, His innocence, His death for us, His blood that cleanses us, and clothed in Christ, we fear no judgment from our Father. He is our Father, and the proof of it is not in anything you are or have done, but in what Jesus is and has done. The Holy Spirit takes of what is His and gives to you.

The devil hates this Christian truth. It is the chief aim of all his attacks. Because the truth destroys him and exalts us with Jesus to the right hand of God. Jesus sent the Spirit of Truth to lead the apostles into all truth. He did. They wrote down in clear words what Jesus said and did to save us. And that is the word of the Bible, of the New Testament. We have all we need to know about God and about ourselves here. He led them into all truth. And at the heart of this Bible, this Word of God, is that the Holy Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus and gives it to you, and so God declares you righteous again today, by His grace alone, through faith alone in your Lord Jesus, to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen. Alleluia Christ is risen.

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