The Spirit of the Truth

Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 28:25 mark.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What the Lord said to His disciples, He also says to you: I still have many things to tell you, but you are not able to bear them now. It’s true for every single one of us. It doesn’t matter if it’s a few years of Sunday school, two years of confirmation instruction, or 50 years of adult Bible study: Jesus still has more to say. His word is inexhaustible. We can never get to the end of it, or finish it. He said to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them everything that I commanded you. That will not be finished until our lives our finished. We will never be able to hear everything the Lord has to say. As one Christian put it, we never graduate from studying the Scriptures until we meet the Author face to face.

He always has more to say. He sends to us His Holy Spirit so that we will hear what He says and believe it. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, we will never believe it. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t make up something else to tell you, something other than what Jesus has said. It is not, as some people think, like a relay race or a tag team, where the Old Testament God says one thing, and then Jesus says another thing, and then the Holy Spirit—well, who knows? The Spirit might say anything, even something that contradicts the Scriptures! No, the Spirit speaks what He hears from Jesus, who has everything from the Father. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit speak to you a single word made flesh, so that you will always hear and believe Him. “Thus, the entire Holy Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, directs all people to Christ as the Book of Life, in whom they should seek the Father’s eternal election” (FC, SD, XI:66). That is, in Christ alone you find out that the Father has chosen you for salvation.

But we cannot hear all of the words all at once, not on a Sunday, or during a single Church Year, or during confirmation instruction, or at any other time. We cannot bear it all. So He delivers it to us throughout our lives, giving us just what we need at a given time: the same Word given to all and given to each. And He gives you this unchanging word over and over, because everything else around us changes. Nothing is stable, nothing is secure; everything shifts and moves at all times—and more and more, it seems. So we prayed a few minutes ago that among “the many changes of this world,” God would fix our hearts where true joys are found. They are not found within this world, but in Jesus who has overcome the world.

Jesus says that His disciples will have sorrow, because He’s about to be crucified, and they won’t see Him for a while. But then they will see Him, and when He sees them, then they will rejoice and no one will be able to take their joy from them. They have sorrow when He dies, but when He appears in their midst and shows them His hands and side, then they rejoice. No one can take their joy from them because no one can take Jesus from them. No one can kill their joy, because no one can kill Jesus anymore. He is their joy, and He is alive forever.

When the world rejoices in its rebellion and sin, its lies and its murder, which it has from its father, the devil, we mourn. We weep and are sorrowful because we know that the world’s joy—everything the world celebrates and pushes and holds up as good—leads to its destruction. “If we rejoice with the world, it is to be feared that we shall also mourn with the world. But let us mourn while the world rejoices, and we shall afterward rejoice when the world mourns” (Tertullian). We weep now, but we will rejoice. Our sorrow will turn to joy, and the world’s rejoicing will turn to weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The world is not able to receive the Spirit of the Truth, because it does not see or know Him. “But you know Him, because He remains alongside you and He is in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. Still a little and the world will not see Me. But you see Me, because I am living and you will live” (John 14:17). Jesus said that His Apostles will bear witness of Him (John 15:27), just as the Spirit bears witness. And John says that this is how you can distinguish between the Spirit of the Truth and the spirit of error or delusion: those who born of God listen to the Apostolic, Spiritual Word. Those who are not born from God do not listen to the Apostolic, Spiritual Word. Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the Truth, and everyone who is from the Truth hears Him (John 18:37).

The changes of this world haven’t slowed down since Jesus ascended into heaven. Your life will undergo changes; your Christian life won’t be all sunshine and light, as Jesus’ admonition to remain faithful until death tells us. Sometimes you will have sorrow, and sometimes you will be happy. But your joy doesn’t depend on any of that. It doesn’t depend on whether things are going well for you or badly; whether you feel good or bad. True joys are found in Jesus, and He is fixing your hearts in Him. Your heart cannot be fixed on what is always changing, always shifting, always up and down. That is the opposite of what is “fixed.” But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He wants to fix your hearts on His, so He keeps speaking His words, He keeps delivering you the forgiveness and life you can’t find in yourself or in the world. He will continue to feed you His body and blood, which we are about to receive this morning.

There is a now and then there are the things to come. When you were baptized, when you first believed, perhaps when you were young, or before you had some serious struggle or difficulty—perhaps at the time of that now you were confident in your faith and knowledge. But life is filled up with a thousand challenges to your confidence. The devil never stops his fighting and attacking and lying. Jesus tells us it will be so, and the Spirit repeats these coming things. Unless the Christ whom we do not see had sent us the Spirit, we would not be safe for a single moment. The Church would not last even a single day. So the Father sent the Son, and the Son sends the Spirit from the Father. The Father is the eternal Speaker, and the Son is the eternal Word who is spoken, and the Spirit is the eternal Listener, and Jesus makes it clear that as far as the Apostles and we are concerned, this is the way that the Spirit of Truth guides us in the Truth. The Spirit proclaims to you by the word of Jesus everything that He has heard, and in this way keeps you with Jesus before the Father.

Whatever else shifts in your life, however the waves and winds push you, you can find your fixed star where Jesus has promised to be for and among His baptized people. And what He began in your baptism, He will finish. John sees a vision of that finish, that ending (which is really a beginning): a new heavens and a new earth; a new Jerusalem; look, I am making all things new, Jesus says. New and new and new, and all things new. The old things, sin and death and sickness and sorrow, will no longer be remembered, because they will have no place in the new creation. He will wipe away every tear from your eyes and death will be no more. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain anymore. And it is done. It was finished in Jesus’ own suffering and death and pain and tears. The only thing that remains is for John’s vision to become our reality.

Jesus has much more to say to you and to all of us. Do not neglect His Word, by which He binds you to Himself. The world listens to all the words that swirl around us, words on the internet, in the news, on the TV channels that are designed to stir up division and hatred and to make us think that our political positions are our highest loyalties. We will set the world to shame only if we listen much more to Christ and His Apostles and His Prophets, only if we read the Scriptures more than we read the internet, only if we pray more than we argue with strangers. “If you remain in My word,” He says, “you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (8:31-32) from sin and death altogether. And do not neglect His Supper, by which He feeds and strengthens you. And do not neglect the gathering together of God’s people in Christ. Here is where you will find the Rock who does not change, among all the many changes of this world. He alone is your joy. He has much more to say to you, until the day when He sees you and you see Him, and there will be no more sorrow, only joy.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 5/13/22

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