Seward United Methodist Church
Thursday, August 16, 2018
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Life In The Spirit

John 15:26-27 and 16:4-15

Today we celebrate the next chapter in the story of God’s work of salvation. Jesus’ work is not finished. But it is now the Holy Spirit takes center stage in what God is doing in the world. Jesus has ascended. He is no longer physically present with his Church but is now spiritually present through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent to the Church. Now that the Spirit is here, what does he do?

First, the Spirit makes Christ present and available to all believers. Jesus said “It is better for you that I go.” That was certainly a hard thing for the disciples to accept. They didn’t want him to go. But it was better that he did.

When Christ took on flesh, when he became incarnate, he took on all the limitations of flesh. And one of the limitations of flesh is that it can only be in one place at one time. As long as Jesus was in the flesh, his presence was limited to one place.

But when he ascended, he sent the Spirit. And the Spirit makes Christ available to all believers. In chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.” The theological term for this is the “interpenetration of the Trinity.” The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son. Likewise, the Son is in the Spirit and the Spirit is in the Son. And so if the Spirit is in us, then through the Spirit the Son is in us and with us. By ascending and sending the Spirit, Christ has made himself available to all believers at all times and in all places.

Second, the Spirit convinces us of the truth of the gospel. He convinces the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.

Only the Holy Spirit can truly convince us of our sin. On our own, we’ll always find excuses. We’ll always find a good reason to “argue away” our own behavior. Or we’ll compare ourselves to someone else and say, “I’m not a sinner! So-and-so is a sinner, and I’m nothing like them!”

But the Holy Spirit won’t let us get away with that kind of thinking. The Spirit will point us to the righteousness of Christ as the standard. And we know that Christ is righteous because God raised him from the dead and raised him to his own right hand. The resurrection and the ascension are the vindication of his life and ministry and death. Everything he was and everything he did was vindicated by his ascension.

The world’s sin is unbelief in him. Unbelief is not just intellectual doubt, but rejection. Very often we reject an idea because we don’t like it, then we go looking for a reason to doubt it. Faith is more than just an intellectual agreement with something. It is acceptance of it. It is submission to an idea.

Judgment is coming. And it has already begun. Judgment began at the cross. The cross is God’s judgment on sin. Sin deserves death. Christ took sin on himself on the cross, and he died. Sin deserves death.

It is the Holy Spirit who convinces the world of these things. But the Holy Spirit’s convicting work is not restricted to those outside the Church. The Spirit is also our Counselor. He is the one who convinces us of God’s love for us when we do not feel it easily. He encourages us. He heals us. He helps us. Romans 8 says God’s Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children.

Do you know that you are saved? Do you know you are God’s child? How do you know? Do you say, “Well, I just know it?” There’s nothing wrong with that! That is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit testifying with your spirit that you are God’s child. It is the knowledge of God that comes from being a child of God.

Third, the Spirit leads the Church into all truth. He is, after all, the Spirit of Truth.

One of the things about us human beings and the truth is that truth is so difficult for us. We can only take so much of the truth at one time. Would you ever go to a good friend and say, “Tell me everything that’s wrong with me?” You’d better not! Chances are you won’t have that friend for long if they really do it! We can only handle so much of the truth at once.

It’s the reason that God’s revelation is always progressive. It unfolds slowly over time. It’s the reason you can’t understand the whole Bible just by reading the first book! You won’t see the whole picture. And it’s also the reason that if there are things in the Old Testament that trouble us, and there should be, then we should remember that maybe those people had absorbed all the truth they could at that time. For example, the Old Testament said “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but the New Testament says, “Forgive your enemies.” Why the change? Well, maybe people just weren’t ready for forgiveness. So it was as far as God could take them to say, “Don’t repay evil with even greater evil.”

If you want to teach a child calculus, you’d better start with arithmetic and move up through algebra before you try calculus. Without taking intermediate steps, you’ll never get to

the end of the process. In the same way, revelation is a process. Scripture is no longer being written, but that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is no longer at work. He is still leading the Church on a journey of truth, a journey of knowing God and his will better.

And what the Spirit is doing for the Church as a whole, he is also doing for individual Christians. We are each on a personal journey of knowing God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. And walking with Jesus is never a strictly academic exercise. It’s not just about knowing intellectually. It’s also about being transformed by Christ. Moral transformation is necessary for us to know God. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” If you want to see God, you must let the Spirit lead you into all truth and be transformed by your encounter with the truth.

And finally, the Spirit empowers the witness of all believers. The Spirit teaches us about Christ so that we may teach others about him.

We are the instrument through which the Holy Spirit operates. The inner conviction of the Spirit must lead to outward testimony by the power of the Spirit. That is what prophecy is. Prophecy is the person who has been transformed by God speaking a message from God for the world.

It’s not up to us to convince the world. God makes it clear that only the Spirit can convince the world of the truth. But it is up to us to make the message available. That’s our partnership with the Spirit in God’s work of salvation.

Can you tell the story? Can you tell what you believe?

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We fail to be what God desires us to be. And the wages of sin is death. We all deserve death. Not just in this life but for eternity. But God loves us so much that he wasn’t willing just to let us go. He sent his own Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place, to take away our sin. And Jesus rose from the dead to prove that he had overcome the power of sin and death. And if we have faith in Christ and submit our lives to Christ, then we have eternal life.

That’s the story, in less than 20 seconds, that’s the story of what it means to be a Christian. Can you tell the story? Can you tell your story? Can you tell how you came to have this faith for yourself? Can you tell why you believe? We need to be able to tell the story and also to tell our story, how we came to be a part of God’s story.

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