O Holy Spirit, through the Word, guide us into all truth. Amen.
In the name of Jesus, who sends his Holy Spirit to comfort us, dear Christians:
Isn’t it impressive? The whole account could send shivers down the spine. The sound like the blowing of a violent wind, what seemed to be tongues of fire, the speaking in other tongues – other known languages – it all adds up to an impressive display of God’s power. But really that is not the most impressive part of Pentecost. Hidden in the midst of all these amazing signs of power is the way the Spirit really works, Peter stands up to preach. It is through the proclamation of the Word that the Spirit works to convict, to convert, and to keep. So Luther writes in his Large Catechism: “Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on him, and have him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel.” Scripture states: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The chief work of the Holy Spirit is to call us to faith and keep us in faith. He does that work through the Gospel. So on this precious Pentecost we pause to consider – The Holy Spirit comforts us by convincing us …
Jesus speaks to his bewildered disciples in the upper room or on the way to Gethsemane about his suffering and death. He also hints about his departure from them. He knows that this will make them deeply sorrowful. However, he wants them to begin to see a bigger picture and wants to comfort them with the promise of his Holy Spirit. So John reports the loving words of our Savior: “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going? Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
Jesus has ascended into heaven. Christ has sent his Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit doing? What is his job? Jesus later will say that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. That is what the Spirit does for us once again today. He comes to us and explains his work to us. That work is all about pointing people to Jesus as their dear Savior! So the Holy Spirit comforts us by convincing us of sin. This work is often referred to as the Spirit’s foreign or alien work. Our Lutheran Confessions state: “Christ’s Spirit must not only comfort, but also through the office of the Law ‘convict the world concerning sin.’ In the New Testament, as the prophet says, he must do the work of another, in order that he may afterward do his own work, which is to comfort and to preach grace.” The Spirit must first convict the world of sin. He comes to us through the Law and convinces us of the fact that we are lost and condemned sinners before God. He further convinces us through his foreign work of law preaching that we have no hope of saving ourselves by deed or decision. Through the Law he convinces us of our sinfulness. And he keeps doing this. In fact, the more we grow to know the Word of the Lord, the more we recognize and realize our sinfulness, our complete corruption, our thorough inability to please God. This serves to demonstrate to us our deep need for a Savior. As we run down the list of the commandments we honestly see how we have failed to live up to God’s standards. We fail to keep God the number one priority in our lives at all times – self gets the best of us so often! We fail to love our neighbor which means we have broken the fifth commandment in regard to murder. Yes, even those commandments that seem relatively easy to keep, we have broken. So we need a Savior. We need forgiveness.
And we might wonder where the comfort is in all this. Ah, but this is a comforting thing! Once we have been struck down by the law we have no self-reliance left. The sinful nature is beaten down by the sting of the law. So the Spirit through his alien work of law preaching takes our focus away from self to our Savior. Instead of looking at our own misdeeds, sins, and failures – we look at how Jesus kept the law perfectly in our place. This is how the Spirit convincing us of our sins serves as a comfort. He doesn’t leave us hanging in despair. He points us sinners to our Savior from sin! He announces to troubled sinners that they are forgiven in Christ! Forgiveness is yours dear friend – celebrate with the angels in heaven who rejoice over each sinner who repents!
The Holy Spirit also convinces us in regard to righteousness. In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer. The unbelieving world stands condemned before the Father. They have to earn his favor. The problem is the Father demands 100% perfection. Yet, in each person the sinful nature produces the opinion of the law that foolishly thinks, “I can do it! I can earn salvation for myself!” So many religions in our world appeal to this concept of self-salvation. They teach people to do what is in them and God will be pleased with it. It all seems to make sense. But it is a false, misleading dream.
Listen to the reality. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Yes, even the good that we do doesn’t cut it before God. We have no righteousness of our own. All righteousness comes not from what is in us, but from outside of us. You see, Christ is our righteousness. Those who are connected to Christ by faith are credited with his perfection, his righteousness. The good news we celebrate on Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit in calling us to faith by the gospel has connected us to Christ, so that his righteousness is now our righteousness! Without a Savior we are condemned! With a Savior we are forgiven! Thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit also convinces us regarding judgment. Because the prince of this world now stands condemned. Bad news for the world! This means that nothing in this world has any lasting value. Nothing in the world lasts – it rusts, its stolen, it loses value, it rots, it becomes useless. Nothing in the world comforts – a brief pleasure here or there, perhaps. But what comfort does money give you, when it comes with a continual lust for more? Remember gold and silver cannot buy forgiveness or comfort the troubled conscience. Nothing in the world saves. Only Jesus can forgive you and give you eternal life.
What is bad news for the world is great news for God’s people. There is nothing but comfort for those the Spirit has touched. For our hope, our comfort, our focus is in Christ alone. He is the only one who could save us and he did! He defeated the devil for us! Yes, the devil is doomed! One little word can fell him. In Christ we find ourselves free from judgment. In Christ we will hear judge Jesus say to us on the last day, “Well done!” We in turn will be surprised by the compliment and thankful to him for his saving work on our behalf. So it all comes down to faith or unbelief. This is what makes the Holy Spirit’s work so important for he works faith in us and keeps us in the saving faith. Without the Spirit we would be lost!
What comfort we receive from this important festival day! The Holy Spirit calls us by the gospel, enlightens us with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith! He does his work through Word and Sacrament. He does his work quietly and deliberately not drawing attention to himself but always shining the spotlight on Jesus!
May we stand comforted and convinced! Convinced of our sin. Convinced that the only righteousness we have is Christ’s righteousness. Convinced that the devil stands condemned – he can harm us none, he’s judged, the deed is done! May we leave truly comforted that our sins are indeed forgiven! May the Spirit lead us to faithfully apply these words of Jesus about his work to our daily lives. May we never be comfortable about our sins – rather let us daily come before God in sincere sorrow over our sins. May the Lord bless us to be comforted to know that as far as the east is from the west so far has our God removed our transgressions from us. So may the Spirit daily convince us – we are sinners who are forgiven in Christ alone, we are recipients of Christ’s righteousness, and our old evil foe has been defeated. In comfort and joy we live in thankfulness to the Father and the Son, for the gift of the Holy Spirit! To our gracious three in one God be the glory! Amen.