June 9, 2019
The Work of the Holy Spirit!
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Did you know that today, Pentecost Sunday, is the third of the three major festivals of the Church year? It’s true! Historically, the Christian church has placed Pentecost Sunday on an equal par with both Christmas and Easter. Why? Look at it this way, my friends: Christmas and Easter remind us and assure us of what the Lord God Almighty has freely done for us. Christmas and Easter remind us and assure us that the Son of God Himself came into this world to live for us, to die for us and to rise again for us and for our salvation. Pentecost reminds us and assures us of how all the benefits of Jesus’ saving work become our personal possession.
With that glorious truth in mind let’s see how our sermon text for this Pentecost Sunday focuses our attention on: The Work of the Holy Spirit! There are two things we want to see this morning. First, let’s see how God the Holy Spirit works in us. Then, let’s see how God the Holy Spirit works through us.
There is one “key” word in our text that I would like to spend some time discussing. It is the word that is translated here as “Counselor.” In the Greek this is the word “paraclete.” As a verb this Greek word very literally means, “to call to one’s side.” As a noun this Greek word can be translated as, “counselor, comforter, or helper.” This noun is used only five times in the entire New Testament Scriptures— all by the apostle John. It is used four times in reference to the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7) and once in reference to Jesus (I John 2:1). As we gather to celebrate the Festival of Pentecost today let’s look at the four times that this word is used in reference to the Holy Spirit so that we can indeed grow— grow in our understanding of, grow in our appreciation for the work of God the Holy Spirit.
We’ll begin with our text for today. John records these words of our Savior, “When the Counselor (Paraclete) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” As we heard in our reading from the book of Acts this morning (Acts 2:1-21) Jesus fulfilled this promise to His disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Scripture very clearly emphasizes that the work of the Holy Spirit is focused on one central activity, my friends. As the “Spirit of truth” God the Holy Spirit “calls people to His side” so that He can “testify” concerning Jesus! That’s precisely why Martin Luther taught us to confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” If it were not for the Holy Spirit working in us we would not and we could not believe or trust or confess Jesus as our Lord! (See 1 Corinthians 12:3).
How? How does the Spirit “work” in us? What “means,” what “tools” does He use? For that we turn to two other passages where John refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Counselor,” as the “Paraclete.” First let’s look at John 14:16 & 26. In the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday Jesus said to His disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth…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.”
We live in a world where people are turning to all kinds of “counselors” and all kinds of “guides” to “help” them find their way through life. For some people their “guide” is measured in dollar signs and material possessions. For others their “help” through life is found in power and popularity. For still others the quest for physical pleasures becomes the “guiding force” in their life. People are searching for help, my friends! That is why psychics and mediums are still very popular today! That is why there are so many 1-866 numbers where for only $7.00 to $13.00 per minute some “counselor” will help you understand both yourself and your life. In the end, however, each and every one of these so-called “guides” utterly and completely fails! In the end, each and every one of these so-called “counselors” leaves people feeling abandoned and empty, used and tossed aside like last Sunday’s newspaper.
As the “Counselor,” as the “Helper,” as the “Paraclete” God the Holy Spirit “calls us to His side” through the written revealed Word of God— the Word which He Himself has given to us through the apostles and prophets! When we are feeling lonely, when we are afraid, when we are overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future or burdened by the guilt and the failures of our past, when we are faced with illness or injury or even death— what we as the saved children of God need to do is open up this Book and listen! Yes, no matter what situation you find yourself in, my friends, your “Counselor,” your “Paraclete” “calls you to His side” to comfort you and to encourage you and to strengthen you through the power of His holy Word! That’s why it is so important for us to have contact with God’s Word on a regular basis. This is how the Holy Spirit continues to work in us each and every day!
There is one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us, however, that is absolutely necessary even though it is not always pleasant. In John 16:7-8 we hear Jesus say, “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. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” Part of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is indeed to “convict” us of the “guilt” of our sin. When we consciously rebel against the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth by either doing something we know we should not be doing or by refusing to do what we know our Lord wants us to do, when in weakness we stumble and fall in our walk with our Lord, the Holy Spirit will strive to “call us to His side.” Then using the powerful message of the Law He will “convict” us. He might use our conscience to make us realize our guilt. He might use our parents or our children or our friends to point out our sin. He might use something that is said in a sermon or something that is brought up in a Bible class to make us feel like we’ve been “caught” or “found out.” No matter how He “convicts” us, my friends, the Holy Spirit always has just one primary goal— to point us to the cross of Jesus (Pointing to the cross), our only source of forgiveness. So if and when the Holy Spirit works in you by “convicting” you of the “guilt” of your sin, remember: He does this because of His tremendous love for you! Nothing makes the Holy Spirit happier than when a repentant child of God looks to the cross on Calvary’s hill and trusts in what Jesus has done for them.
Once the Holy Spirit has worked in us through the power of His Word then we will understand and appreciate and rejoice in the work that the Holy Spirit does through us. Look at the second verse of our text for today. Jesus says, “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
We all know how faithfully Jesus’ disciples “testified” to others about what Jesus has done for this world. Now it is our turn, my friends. Now it is our turn to “testify” to others about this world’s only Savior from sin. And if for any reason you feel hesitant, if for any reason you feel unable to “testify” about Jesus let me point out two things. First, the Greek word that is translated here in our text as “testify” — both in connection with the Holy Spirit as well as in connection with us— this word can also be translated as “witness.” All God has asked you to do is be His “witness” in this world. Tell others what Jesus means to you! Tell others what Jesus has done for you! Secondly, remember that Jesus Himself has promised that the Holy Spirit will help us as we “testify” about our Savior! (See Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12) He is our faithful “Counselor”! He is our faithful “Helper”! He is the One who works in others by working through us!
In some ways it is unfortunate that the Festival of Pentecost rarely receives the kind of emphasis that we give to both Christmas and Easter. At the same time it is perfectly understandable. As the “shy” member of the Holy Trinity the Holy Spirit does not want the spotlight shined on Him. Whether it is the work that the Holy Spirit does in us or whether it is the work that the Holy Spirit does through us His goal is to always keep us focused on what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross).
My prayer then on this Pentecost Sunday is that we will all strive to make the Holy Spirit smile! Make Him smile by maintaining regular contact with the Word that He has given to us. Make Him smile by keeping your heart and your life focused on the cross of Calvary’s hill! Make Him smile by “testifying” to others about Jesus!
To God be the glory!