5-23-21 Pentecost (Confirmation)

May 23, 2021
Passage: John 14:23-31
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Dear friends in Christ, especially you, Hunter and Debbie and Adam and Layne and David and Zana and Preston, grace to you and peace from God the Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, you prayed in the garden that not one of your disciples should be lost. Grant this to us today. Look in your boundless pity upon these young men and women, for whom you suffered and for whom you gave your life; pour your Spirit upon them; fill them with courage to fight against the devil and the world and their sin; make them to stand on your holy Word and suffer all even death rather than fall away from you; keep them in your church, loving you as you have loved them. Let not one of them be lost to your Kingdom or to your Father. You promised that if we ask anything in your name, you will give it. We ask today. Preserve your sheep. Keep them faithful to the end. Bless their parents to raise them for heaven. Bless this congregation to pray and act for them. Bless me and Pastor Richard now and throughout their lives to teach them the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

I don’t want you to think that Pentecost is simply some far-off historical event. It did happen in history, of course, 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. But you know who runs history, you know who decides the outcome. He’s your Creator. He’s your God. And you know why He decides and governs history. He decides it for your good, because He wants you forever as His children, cleansed of your sin by the blood of His Son. So Pentecost was not simply for the 3000 who confessed the name of the Lord that day. It was for you who confess the name of the Lord today and for the rest of your lives and into eternity.

Tongues of fire appeared on the disciples’ heads. They spoke in different languages. The Holy Spirit rushed down on them. It was visible. It was audible. They could see it. They could hear it. As the people of Israel saw the fire and heard the thunder when God appeared to Moses and gave His Law on Mount Sinai, so now the people saw the fire and heard the rush of wind that shook the house as God the Holy Spirit appeared to the disciples on Mount Zion.

This was both the culmination, the goal, of all history, of everything God had done to this point, and at the very same time, it was the beginning, the start of all God wants to accomplish in the future.

Pentecost was the culmination, the goal, because everything God did up to this point in history would come to nothing without this day. Understand this, because when you do, you will see how precious and invaluable a treasure you have, that you get to hear about Jesus. Never take it for granted. It’s God’s goal, what He’s spent all His power and his honor and His own Son’s life and blood on. So that you get to hear it and become His children. What the Father has done in sending His Son into human flesh, what the Son has done by His life and death and resurrection, this all needed to be preached to you, to sinners, for whom all of it was done. This is a divine necessity. Because God wants it. Remember that Jesus says the stones would cry out if the disciples didn’t. He says that not only His life, not only His suffering and death, not only His resurrection, but also its preaching is necessary. It must happen. This is God’s goal. And the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost because God insists on carrying out this goal, to make Christians for Himself, children of God, born again as a new creation in Christ their Savior, baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Second, Pentecost is the beginning, the start, of everything God wanted to accomplish from eternity and everything God has accomplished in your life. The Lord Jesus said, “It is finished,” on the cross. All the sins of the world, all the sins you yourself have committed, everything that stains your conscience, everything that has so deserved your God’s anger and punishment, all of it has been met by the blood and agony and death of the God-man, your Lord Jesus Christ. It is finished. What begins on Pentecost is the preaching of this end of sin and death and this crushing of the devil, the preaching of Christ’s cross, to the entire world, so that everyone who believes may not perish but have eternal life.

That it would go into all the world God shows here by all the different languages the disciples begin to speak. It’s often amazed me how practically useless this miracle was. Everyone there could understand Greek or Aramaic. There was no need at all for them to hear Jesus preached in their native language. And, in fact, the great sermon Peter preaches, which leads to the baptism of 3000 people, Peter preaches this sermon not in Phrygian or Egyptian or any other of the languages the Holy Spirit gave him power to speak, but in Aramaic or Greek, languages he already knew. Instead, this power to speak in new languages was nothing but a sign, pure and simple and emphatic. The Holy Spirit was insisting on bringing Jesus to all nations, to all languages. The people of Babel tried to gain heaven for themselves by their own prideful exertion of work, and God showed them the total futility of their efforts. No sinner will ever gain heaven by his works. He will only work himself into confusion and pride and alienation from God. So God confused their languages and they scattered. But now God has opened heaven. The Son has broken through, returned to His Father wearing our human flesh, reigning in heaven with the very body and blood that now opens heaven to us. And from this open heaven, the Holy Spirit descends. And He showers these many tongues, these many languages, on the disciples simply and emphatically to make a point, that this Christ, the Son of God, is Lord over death and hell, that He opens heaven to you, and He’s for you, your Brother, no matter who you are, what language you speak, what color your skin, what time you live in.

This is why the Pentecostal practice of speaking in tongues today is so embarrassing. Not only are they just making up languages and talking nonsense, they’ve completely missed the point of Pentecost. It’s not the languages. It’s not the fire. It’s not the healings. It’s the preaching of Christ, the Lord. This is the great miracle. This is what we need. This is the Spirit’s work. This is God’s great and eternal goal. And He fulfilled that goal not only then but today in your presence.

So listen, confirmands, to the words of your Lord Jesus. The apostles wrote down His words and you hear them today because of Pentecost, because the Holy Spirit turned those frightened, cowardly disciples into courageous preachers of Christ’s cross, who gave up their lives to write down what their eyes had seen and their hands had touched – your Savior, the Lord Jesus. It was with you in mind that the Holy Spirit came that day. I’m not saying that to flatter you, but to teach you how seriously God takes your salvation and so how seriously you should take it today and every day of your lives. Jesus says it to His disciples, “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” So the Holy Spirit taught the apostles. And He brought to their remembrance all Jesus’ words and all that Jesus did. And they wrote it down for you. So that you can hear it now from my mouth. This is exactly what Jesus prayed for you; as He headed to the cross and sweat anxious blood in the garden, He prayed these words, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” And this is you.

So listen to His Word. This is what He says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Keep it, yes, but the Greek means guard, protect, it’s what you do with a treasure. If you love your Lord Jesus, you will guard His Word as your dearest and most precious possession, and the more you guard it and listen to it and live according to it, the more you will love Him, because you will see again and again what love He shows to you. He will give you life, not only a future life in heaven, but real life, life with God, on this earth. He’s already done it. He gave it to you in your Baptism and now He’s taught you what no money could buy, what no king or government could bestow: that you are not the aimless product of some mythical evolutionary process; you’re not a highly developed animal; you’re the careful creation of your God. That he created you to love and to obey his commandments, and your disobedience and selfishness and lack of love have deserved hell, separation from God and His goodness, His curse and condemnation. But He has not given you what you deserve. Instead He has taken it all upon Himself. The Father has sent His Son to be your brother and to suffer in your human flesh what you owed. And your Lord Jesus has now risen and conquered death and sent His Spirit to forgive your sins and to change your heart, so that you want to love your God and obey His commandments and look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. This is what the Spirit teaches. This is the word that you guard and treasure. It gives the only life worth living. You know where you came from. You know where you’re going. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, how to live your life. You know where to find forgiveness. You know that God will work all things for good to those who love Him. The whole world with all its wealth can’t compare to the riches of this knowledge. And here is the peace that Jesus promises. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid.

The world won’t give you peace. It will offer you security and safety, but only for a price and only for a time. It will tell you to compromise and give up on your confession of Jesus or face the consequences of shame and ridicule and pain and financial distress. So it will promise you peace. But it won’t deliver it. The numbers are countless, confirmands, countless, who have got caught up in this world and so broken their confirmation vows. They’re sold a cheap and easy peace with the world, a surrender to their sinful desires, and they give up life with God and peace of conscience and love of Jesus for it. God protect you from this always.

When Jesus says, “Don’t let your hearts be afraid,” the Greek word is “be cowardly.” Don’t let your hearts be cowardly. Don’t be a coward, Jesus says. I’ve taught you this from Jesus’ Word and so you know what it means to be a coward. It’s cowardly to give in to your laziness and not pray and read your bible at home. It’s cowardly to not come to church, not to want to learn more and more Jesus’ word. It’s cowardly to cave into the world’s perverted opinions on marriage. It’s cowardly not to fight against your sins, your lusts, your anger, your selfishness. It’s cowardly not to confess your sins. And it’s cowardly not to come before your God and beg His forgiveness. Let not your heart be cowardly, Jesus says. The Spirit God gives you is a Spirit of might, of power, of courage, and He inspires that courage by giving you the truth of your Lord Jesus. Guard His Word, because here you have peace with God, eternal peace. Here you meet every day with your God who loves you and has fought to His death for you and lives to fight for you still. Here you have a God who will always forgive you and who guarantees this by the body and blood He will now put into your mouth. Here you are never alone. Heaven is on your side. All God’s angels. All the saints in heaven and on earth. God Himself is on your side. So stand on His Word and never be ashamed of it. Love your Lord Jesus, because He has loved you and continues to love you now.

This is what the Holy Spirit came down from heaven to teach you. And He has taught you. You love the Lord Jesus. He is your Savior from all sin and death and the devil. This is why you are here today and will receive Christ’s body and blood. You love your Lord Jesus because He has first loved you. Guard His word as your dearest treasure. Know this is not a graduation, not a milestone among many. This is your life. And it’s a wonderful life. This is peace with God, heaven on earth. God keep you faithful. And may He who has begun this good work in you continue to complete it until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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