Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder
May 25, 2014, Easter VI – Memorial Sunday
Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 66:8-20, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21
From the Acts of the Apostles:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”
From the First Letter of St. Peter:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.
And from the Gospel of St. John:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
A family was sitting in church and the sermon topic was on the Holy Spirit. Their youngest daughter tugged on her mother’s dress. Mom leaned to her side and the little girl whispered: “I know who the Father and the Son are, but what’s the Holy Spearmint?
The little girl was probably not the only one in church that Sunday who was uncertain about the third person of the Trinity. Of course, we’ve all heard the term Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. We’ve heard the expression, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” But how many of us truly understand who the Holy Spirit is?
So, who is the Holy Spirit? You might think that I should wait until Pentecost to talk about him, but God’s Holy Spirit is always with us, not just once a year. The Spirit of God is somewhat difficult to describe. The other two persons of the Trinity are much easier to characterize. God the Father created the heavens and the earth from nothing.
He spoke and the waters were parted and dry ground appeared. He hung stars and the moon in the heavens. He breathed life into man and woman. The works of creation enable us to understand God the Father.
We can also more easily understand, God the Son. He was the baby born of a virgin in Bethlehem; He lived and walked among us. He was the Son who obeyed His Father, even unto death on a cross. However, how does the Holy Spirit enter the equation? The famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said, the Spirit of God is “so mysterious, so secret his acts are so removed from everything that is of sense and of the body” that we struggle to understand and appreciate the third person of the Trinity. No doubt, the disciples did also.
So, the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity. He is fully God. He is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, has a will, and can speak. He is alive. He is a person. He is not particularly visible in the Bible because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 15:26). The truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person the same as the Father and the Son are within the Trinity.
We must remind ourselves of the time and setting of our Gospel reading. Jesus is at the table with His disciples. They are behind closed doors. The city of Jerusalem was preparing to celebrate the festival of the Passover meal. Judas has left the fellowship to arrange for his act of betrayal. Jesus has predicted Peter’s denial and the desertion by the other disciples. How much of His pending doom he specifically knew, remains a mystery to us, but from His recorded words, we can assume that He was expecting to die very soon. So, to prepare the eleven for His imminent death, He tells them about the role of the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit will empower them in a way that Jesus’ physical presence with them never could.
For apart from the help of the Spirit of God, we cannot live the Christian life as God would have us live it. We must know who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and how He does it.
So, Jesus tells His disciples: “I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16).
The Holy Spirit is given two special names by our Lord: “another Counselor” or “Comforter” and “the Spirit of Truth.” The Holy Spirit does not work instead of us, or in spite of us, but in us and through us.
Our English word comfort comes from two Latin words meaning “with strength.” We usually think of “comfort” as soothing someone, consoling him or her; and to some extent this is true. But true comfort strengthens us to face life bravely and keep on going. It does not rob us of responsibility or make it easy for us to give up.
Some translations of the Bible call the Holy Spirit an “Advocate.” An “advocate” is one who represents you at court and stands at your side to plead your case. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift from a generous and loving Father, given without conditions, independent of merit. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the source of a whole new relationship with God. And that’s because the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us.
As the “Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit is related to Jesus, the Truth, and the Word of God, which of itself is the truth (John 14:6; 17:17). The Spirit inspired the Word and also illumines the Word so we may understand it. Since He is the “Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit cannot lie or be associated with lies. He never leads us to do anything contrary to the Word of God, for again God’s Word is truth.
If we want the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, we must seek to glorify Christ; and we must make much of the Word of God. It is a life that is filled with joy, thankfulness, and submission. To be filled with the Spirit is the same as to be controlled by the Word. The Spirit of Truth uses the Word of truth to guide us into the will and the work of God.
The Holy Spirit abides in the believer. He is a gift from the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son. During His earthy ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now He was going to leave them and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter,” and the Greek word translated “another” means “another of the same kind.” The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God, for both are God. The Spirit of God had dwelt with the disciples in the person of Jesus Christ. Now He would dwell in them.
Of course, the Spirit of God had been on earth before. He empowered men and women in the Old Testament to accomplish God’s work. However, during the Old Testament Age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:12); and David, when confessing his sin, and he asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Ps. 51:11). When the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, He was given to God’s people to remain with them forever. Even though we may grieve the Spirit, He will not leave us.
The way we treat the Holy Spirit is the way we treat the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s body is the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20), so what he or she does with that body affects the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit wrote the Word of God, and the way we treat the Bible is the way we treat the Spirit of God and the Son of God.
The world cannot receive the Spirit because the world lives “by sight” and not by faith. Furthermore, the world does not know Jesus Christ; and you cannot have knowledge of the Spirit apart from the Son. The presence of the Spirit in this world is actually an indictment against the world, for the world rejected Jesus Christ.
And when Jesus says, “I will not leave you desolate,” He means “comfortless” or “orphaned.” We are not alone, abandoned, helpless, and hopeless! Wherever we go, the Spirit is with us, so why should we feel like orphans? There is no need to have a troubled heart when you have the very Spirit of God dwelling within you!
Orphans feel unwanted and unloved, but our Father shares His love with us. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).
It would be very tempting of me to end this sermon on that wonderful promise that God would never leave us desolate. Our lives are marked by many unexpected events that create turmoil and distress. Our world is still plagued by wars, famine, terrorist attacks, death and destruction.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day – a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives for the freedom we as Americans all share. Tomorrow, all across America people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and faiths will join together to remember the sacrifice that our service men and women have made in wars past and present so that we can enjoy our freedom – those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I could be here today. And we must also remember that Jesus Christ gave His life to guarantee our eternal freedom.
The last time the world saw Jesus was when Joseph and Nicodemus took Him from the cross and buried Him. The next time the world sees Him, He will come in power and great glory to judge lost sinners.
Jesus returned to heaven as the exalted Head of the church (Eph. 1:19-23); then He sent the Spirit at Pentecost so that the members of the body would be joined to their Head in a living union. Believers today, of course, did not see Jesus after His resurrection or in His ascension, but we are united to Him by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
When the sinner trusts Christ, he is born again and the Spirit immediately enters his body and bears witness that he is a child of God. The Spirit is resident and will not depart. But as the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, there is a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!
This truth is illustrated in the experiences of Abraham and Lot, recorded in Genesis 18 and 19. When Jesus and the two angels visited Abraham’s tent, they felt right at home. They even enjoyed a meal, and Jesus had a private talk with Abraham. But our Lord did not go to Sodom to visit Lot, because He did not feel at home there. Instead, He sent the two angels.
Our experience with God ought to go deeper and deeper, and it will as we yield to the Spirit of Truth and permit Him to teach us and guide us. If we love God and obey Him, He will manifest His love to us in a deeper way each day.
Jesus had been rejected by His own people, so He could not manifest Himself to them. In fact, it was an act of mercy that He did not manifest Himself to the world, because that would have meant judgment. He has revealed Himself to His church and left the church in the world to be a witness of God’s love. He is patiently waiting, still giving lost sinners opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1-10). One day He will return (Rev. 1:7) and the world will behold Him.
One of the best ways to ease a troubled heart is to bathe it in the love of God. When you feel like an “orphan,” let the Spirit of God reveal God’s love to you in a deeper way. Charles Spurgeon said, “Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” Your heart can become a “heaven on earth” as you commune with the Lord and worship Him.
God the Spirit not only comforts us during the terrors of the night but He keeps pointing us back to the truth about the Son of God. He is our counselor who stands with us during a crises and He is also the one who guides us into the truth. He brings the security of God’s love but also teaches so that we might live as faithful disciples.
So the Holy Spirit is given to all who love Jesus Christ, to empower us for His work, to teach us all things, and to give us a real and lasting peace in the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world.
How do you receive that gift of the Holy Spirit?
By being one who loves Jesus Christ.
How do you know if you’re someone like that?
By the way you desire to obey His commandments.
Let us pray:
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.