the spirit of truth
6th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 905, 502, 979
Text – John 14:15-17
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, & He will give you another Helper, 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 & will be in you.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
Six chapters earlier, in speaking to a very different crowd, Jesus said, “You belong to your father the devil, & you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar & the father of lies.” (John 8:44 ESV)
That’s in very sharp contrast to the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth comes to us as a gift from our Father in heaven. The father of lies lives within us naturally from birth, because we were conceived & born in sin.
An ancient piece of wisdom put it like this: There are two ways, one of Life & one of Death, & there is a great difference between the two. Which way are you on? It’s said, “The truth hurts.” Have you been hurting any lately? Or do you find it less painful to deny or ignore the truth? Do your feelings ever get in the way of a clear grasp of reality?
In the text for this sermon Jesus tells the disciples that God the Father will give them the Spirit of Truth. Would you expect that to hurt? Are you willing to suffer inconvenience, even pain, in order to receive the Spirit of Truth? How about making sacrifices that really cost you something, do you see that in your future? Has it been a part of your past?
“If you love Me you will obey what I command.” That’s how Jesus begins this latest teaching session, & to our sinful ears the word “obey” is such a nasty one. Obedience is okay if the person we’re supposed to obey is competent & likeable. But it seems that more often than not, the person we’re supposed to obey is incompetent, unlikable & living in some kind of dream world. Obedience is a lot to ask in that situation, & all people struggle with making that large a sacrifice. Yes, it costs us in order to obey someone we do not like or respect. Receiving the Spirit of Truth can hurt, & it will ask us to make sacrifices.
In the book of Romans, Paul wrote, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices… this is your spiritual act of worship.” (12:1) That kind of worship is not just going through the motions. That kind of worship is willing to pay an ongoing price for it. That kind of worship is not simply being in church an hour or two a week.
A living sacrifice is one that worships God every hour of every day of every week. A living sacrifice finds its very purpose for living in Christ. That is the obedience that flows out of love. It’s that obedience which Christ is talking about when He says, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” That obedience is not a chore, but a joyful pleasure.
That kind of obedience is in very sharp contrast to much of our lives, isn’t it? Even for Christians, obedience does not often strike us as joyful pleasure – not even obedience to our loving Heavenly Father. We need the Spirit of Truth to guide & advise us, to provide Godly counsel as well as strength, courage & wisdom.
That Counselor, whom Jesus sends, lives within us. All Christians are aware of His presence, even when, & maybe especially when, we do not feel like obeying Him. It’s then that our conscience, our sense of guilt, starts talking. It’s the Spirit of Truth that counsels us so we understand God & His will.
It is the Spirit of Truth who transforms you by the renewing of your mind. So the Apostle Paul calls us to conform no longer to the pattern of this world. Our sinful nature just wants to blend in. The Spirit of Truth calls us, & guides us, to stand out. Making sacrifices stands out in our society because you see or hear so little of it in the day-to-day course of events. The response of many emergency workers on 9 – 11 typified sacrifice & obedience, but those are not the routine items you find in the news. It’s only as our mind is renewed by the power of God’s love that we are able to test & approve what His will is in the specific, nuts & bolts type, activities of every day of our lives.
For some, just getting out of bed in the morning requires the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, because the father of lies is whispering in their ear, sleep in just a little longer. For others the decision to stay with, rather than bail out of, a marriage grown cold, requires the Spirit of Truth, because the father of lies is saying that any sane person would have left long ago.
The father of lies tells members of small congregations that they will never grow. What’s the use? Why bother? Just throw your hands up & surrender. The Spirit of Truth encourages us to work for God’s kingdom, not out of the hope of success, but purely in response to what Christ has done with the sacrifice of His very life.
St. Paul wrote, at Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” The Spirit of Truth comes to show us our sin, so we might turn from that way of death & all the more appreciate our forgiveness – the way of life that baptism set us on.
The Spirit of Truth teaches us to live by faith & not by what our fearful & timid mind may see. In the setting of the Gospel reading, Jesus had once again told His disciples that He’d be leaving them. They were afraid & confused. They lacked the understanding that the Spirit of Truth would bring them.
Unbelievers completely lack understanding & can live only by sight, since they have no faith. They have not the Spirit of Truth & can never know pure reality or truth. When I talk with them I feel compassion because they are so obviously deceived & misguided. They know nothing of the Holy Spirit’s activities such as creating, bringing peace or healing. The world turns to Twitter & Instagram to find healing & peace through the airing out of the sin rotting within. Jesus said, “Yet a little while & the world will see me no more, but you will see me.” (John 14:19a ESV) That’s because we see by faith. The world sees only by sight.
We know truth. The world knows only lies. Martin Luther called attention to the fact that possession of the truth is one of the greatest privileges given to man in this life. Our God has given us the very Spirit of Truth. There’s nothing that is able to comfort us in trials & tribulation as much as to be certain of our position. We know that our Redeemer lives.
The knowledge of this position, that of being the eternal children of God, has made men withstand all kinds of suffering & adversity. It has even made people willing to take upon themselves a martyr’s death. The lack of truth, the presence of doubt, will bleed a man’s soul dry, & rot him from the inside out.
That’s one thing I so disliked about being involved in Top Secret operations with the Navy. We could never know for certain just what the truth was. Cover stories & lies were everywhere. Reality was a mirage – a game played with smoke & mirrors. Jesus Christ is not only the way, He is also the truth, & Jesus has given us the Spirit of that Truth.
God’s children are enabled to know the ultimate & final reality, the whole truth & nothing but the truth. In verse 20 of the Gospel reading, Jesus says, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, & you are in me, & I am in you.” Our Savior lives within us. The Spirit of Truth lives within us. We can never be rejected by God. Only we can reject Him.
To Jesus, love is not merely sentimentality, or feelings of bliss & happiness. Love, to Jesus, is a very concrete thing, a having & a keeping of the known commandments as found in the Bible. Christians often separate their love of Jesus from the Word of God only to discover in times of trouble that they have lost Him, & know not where to find Him. But Christians who love Jesus in His Word know where Jesus is whether they feel His presence or not. The revelation that Christ promises cannot be disconnected from the Word of God. The Spirit of Truth is given us in order that we might know, understand & appreciate that Word.
There is no reality to be trusted apart from the Word. Holy Scripture, as revealing Christ, is so deep & wide & high that no one during a lifetime will be able to exhaust the content of it.
Websites print memorials for people who’ve passed away, often containing a picture of the person who died, & sentiments like, “You’re not forgotten in our hearts.” Such a forlorn remembrance is not the way the Spirit of Truth reminds us of Jesus’ words. He does not memorialize Christ in some sort of divine obituary through dead words in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead & brings us a living message. The Epistle lesson stated, “Christ died once for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Christ has risen from the dead, & in baptism the Holy Spirit raises you in Christ.
As Jesus said earlier in the Gospel, “…unless one is born of water & the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5 ESV) It’s the Spirit Who gives life. God has begun a good work in you that the Spirit of Truth will not fail to complete. And that Spirit comes along side us daily in order to teach us the truth.
John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, & remind you of everything I said to you.” You are cleansed. You are forgiven. Those are words of truth that do not hurt, & they create obedience in us. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet