The Day of Pentecost

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on Acts 2:1-21

Dear believers who have the Holy Spirit: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Christians long for another Pentecost; another Peter to rise up and call sinners to account for their sins so that they are cut to the heart and ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v. 37) Another day with lots of Baptisms. Another day when three thousand souls join the church after hearing one sermon.

Especially as churches are closing, Divine Service attendance is dwindling, and people are just plain getting bored with hearing God’s Word, we may wonder why the Holy Spirit doesn’t come with the sound of a mighty rushing wind and fill this room and cause tongues of fire to appear and rest on our heads while granting us to speak in tongues we have never before studied or spoken.

The first thing to clarify, is that there will not be another Pentecost. Pentecost was the fulfilment of the prophecy found in Joel as Peter preached, and was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit who would guide the apostles in writing the New Testament, in preaching God’s saving Word, and to work in the hearts of those who would hear the Word, which is for all peoples of all languages. Those prophecies have been fulfilled.

Secondly, don’t need another Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit. He continues to call sinners to repentance and faith through the preached Word as He did on Pentecost. Does that mean we will see three thousand souls saved in one day, after hearing one sermon? It doesn’t seem to be happening today, but He certainly could do so again.

What we need to realize is that the Holy Spirit works faith where and when it pleases Him. We might think He should work faith in our community and fill our church. He will do it if it so pleases Him.

We cannot control the Holy Spirit or tell Him what to do. We cannot manipulate Him by our own efforts or schemes. He is working wherever the Word is heard. He continues to call sinners to repentance. Will they heed His call? We will have to see. The question for each one of us is not “Will others heed His call?” but rather, “Will I heed His call? Will I turn away from my sin and repent, or will I harden my heart to His call?”

What we should realize is that even while the Holy Spirit is calling sinners to repentance and faith through the preached Word, hard, sinful hearts are rejecting His call, today just as they were on Pentecost. Yes, three thousand souls where saved, but how many heard Peter preaching? How many mocked the apostles and called the miraculous preaching of the Gospel in many languages nothing more than drunks babbling? Hard hearts will always reject the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance and faith.

Meanwhile, hearts that are convicted of sin cry out with those on Pentecost, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (2:38-39)

Repent and be baptized, every one of you. Already baptized? God be praised. Repent and return to your Baptism. Circumcise your hearts. Turn from your sin. Throw yourself upon God’s mercy. Confess your sins because you are baptized. You have been named with God’s name. You belong to Him. But then, if that is the case, He also belongs to you. He cannot and He will not refuse your call. He has promised to be your God. You have access to Him through prayer, confession and absolution, His Word, and holy communion. Return to His name, His way, to His promise. Return to Holy Baptism where the Holy Spirit was poured out upon you and where God’s own Word was made your inheritance. There you will find a Father eager to accept and welcome you home (from a Rev. David Petersen sermon for Pentecost).

Longing for the Holy Spirit to turn sinners to faith is a good, Christian desire, even if we will not have another Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is working through the Word to call sinners to repentance. The work that He does in others we can leave to Him. The work that He does in us, we can also leave to Him.

What work does the Holy Spirit perform in us? He calls us to repentance. He convicts us that we are sinful and need a Saviour. He also grants us faith through the Gospel, when we hear that we do have a Saviour, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. He gave His life as a ransom for us. He died for our sins. He has saved us from everlasting condemnation by being condemned in our place.

The Holy Spirit still works in us through our Baptism, reminding us that we were adopted as children of God through Baptism. He strengthens our faith and nourishes us to life everlasting through the body and blood of Jesus, which take away all our sin. And finally, on the Last Day, He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

All of the Truth

Sermon for Cantate based on John 16:5-15

Dear possession of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus told His apostles that it is to their advantage that He goes away because He would send them the Holy Spirit who would guide them in all the truth. This explains to us how the timid and fearful men who fled at the arrest of Jesus were later preaching publicly, even amidst opposition and threats, that He is risen from the dead. It explains to us how these men who struggled to understand much of what Jesus taught them while He was with them were able, by the inspiration of the promised Holy Spirit, to write the inerrant words of holy Scripture. The Holy Spirit guided them in all truth. They did not write man’s word, but God’s Word as directed by Him.

It is worth pointing out also that Jesus did not say that the Holy Spirit would guide them in some of the truth, but that the Holy Spirit would guide them in all of the truth. Everything we have in the Bible is the truth. Not just a version of the truth, as if there are other versions of the truth, but the Bible is all of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The Bible is thus reliable for us as we learn the truth. All our doctrine therefore must be from the Bible since that is how the Holy Spirit now guides us in all the truth.

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.

What is sin? The world says sin is being judgmental, intolerant, or unaccepting. The world accepts and praises every depravity and perversion, and thinks Christians sin if we stand up for the truth of God’s Word or say that their depravities and perversions are sin. The world will accept every idea, lifestyle, and religion, so long as it is not from the Bible, the only source of truth.

The world also has its own ideas about righteousness and judgment. They justify their every selfish behaviour as if they are righteous. They don’t believe judgment in hell exists. Everyone just goes to heaven. Except maybe people like Hitler, but certainly, they do not believe hell is something the average person needs to worry about, even though Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

Those who find the gate to eternal life are few because people prefer to follow the world’s definitions of sin, righteousness, and judgment, not God’s definitions as He gives us in His Word.

God defines sin as that which breaks His holy commands. God’s Law does not tolerate sin, but judges sin. God’s Law commands you to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbour as yourself. Because you are sinful, it is not possible for you to fulfil these commands. You do not live for God because you want to live for yourself. You do not live for your neighbour because you want to live for yourself. God’s Law condemns the entire human race. We are all guilty of sin, which means we are sinful not righteous.

Yet, we must understand that even though our unrighteousness is found in our failure to love God and our neighbour, our righteousness is not to be found in fulfilling the command to love God and our neighbour. Our righteousness is not to be found in doing good works. Our righteousness is not to be found in giving generously to charities or helping your neighbour. Our righteousness is found only in Christ. He is our righteousness. His blood covers our sins. We must be covered by Christ’s righteousness if we are to appear righteous before the judgment seat of God.

Note carefully who Jesus says is judged. He says that when the Helper comes, He will convict the world concerning judgment “because the ruler of this world is judged.” The ruler of this world is Satan, and he has been judged guilty and condemned of being a liar and perverter of the truth. Those who follow his lies are thus condemned along with him, that is why Jesus says that the world is convicted of sin because the ruler of this world is judged. They are convicted because they reject the truth of God’s Word and follow their own hearts, which are of one mind with the devil.

Those who follow the truth of God’s Word, even though we are convicted by the Law as sinful, are convicted that we are not righteous, and are convicted that we deserve judgment, nevertheless do not despair because we trust in Christ. Christ has taken our sin. He is our righteousness. He was judged in our place.

Thus, we do not seek righteousness in what we do. We do not think that we are right in God’s eyes because we help our neighbour, give offerings at church, or visit the sick. We are right in God’s eyes because Jesus’ righteousness covers us. Because Jesus’ righteousness covers us and we were purchased by His blood, we belong to Him. It is not some kind of part-time ownership or timeshare. First Corinthians says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (6:19)

You belong to God. All of you – your heart, mind, body, and soul; your time, your money, your possessions. So, when you consider how you should use any given hour of the day, remember that the hour belongs to God. When you consider how you should use any given dollar, remember that the dollar belongs to God. When you consider how you should use any possession, remember that the possession belongs to God.

Also remember that your use of God’s time, money, or possessions will not give you any merit or worthiness in His sight. The only merit and worthiness you have is Christ’s. Everything that you think, say, and do is covered by Christ’s righteousness and thus forgiven. Yes, I dare say that even if you squander all of God’s time, all of God’s money, and all of God’s possessions that He has entrusted to you, for the sake of Christ, God will not condemn you.

That is the freedom of the Gospel. The free forgiveness of sins frees you from doing what you are commanded to do. You are then free to use God’s time, money, and possessions in a God-pleasing way – not because you must in order to be saved, but because you want to. You have been freed from the slavery of sin and from the condemnation of the Law, and have been promised eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth.

Eternal life is, in the end, all that matters. Time, money, and possessions will all be burned and they have no future. You have been freed from the slavery to these elementary principles and have been granted freedom in Christ who gave His life for you on the cross to pay the price of your sins and rose from the dead to secure your resurrection to life everlasting.

Cling therefore to the eternal truth of the Word of God. Cling to God’s definition of sin, righteousness, and judgment, because your sin is forgiven, you are declared righteous on account of Christ, and the ruler of this world has been judged and cast out, and you have the promise of eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Plundered by the Stronger One

Sermon for Oculi based on Luke 11:14-28

Dear temple of the Holy Spirit: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The world is mad. It calls good evil and evil good. Jesus’ wonderful works are thus attributed to the devil, saying that He casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons.

This is not the only accusation Jesus suffered. He was accused of being out of His mind by His own family (Mark 3:21). He was accused of being a Sabbath-breaker (John 5:18), of leading the people astray (John 7:12), of having a demon (John 7:20), of being a liar (John 8:13), of being a sinner (John 9:24), of being insane (John 10:20), of being a blasphemer (John 10:33), and an evildoer (John 18:30).

Jesus shows how all these accusations, and especially the accusation that He is in league with Satan, are completely false. “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided house falls. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”

It is Satan who leads people astray. He is the liar, blasphemer, and evildoer. It is the devil who seeks to harm us and hurt us, as he hurt the poor man by making him mute. If Jesus was doing miraculous signs by the power of Satan, He would be doing the same things as Satan.

Yet Jesus shows He does everything exactly the opposite of Satan. Where Satan sends a demon to cause muteness, Jesus casts out the demon and loosens the man’s tongue. Where Satan causes suffering, temptation, and affliction, Jesus comforts, heals, and strengthens. Where the devil accuses, Jesus forgives.

Satan is the strong man. We are the goods that he guards, fully armed. The stronger one who attacks him and takes his spoil is Jesus. Jesus takes his armour away in which he trusts and saves us from captivity.

What is this armour in which Satan trusts? It is none other than the Law of God. He trusts that all mankind will belong to him eternally because the Law of God accuses us of every vile sin and wickedness. He thinks this armour is impenetrable because we are all guilty.

Satan saw firsthand what happens to lawbreakers. Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and though they were created to live forever, they died. The devil had seen God destroy the world with a flood. He had seen God rain fire and brimstone on the sexually immoral in Sodom and Gomorrah, send plagues on the Egyptians, and even overthrow His own people in the wilderness for their grumbling. He thought he had us as his prey, safe behind the armour of God’s Law which he trusted would make us all his.

But the stronger one came and attacked him and took away his armour in which he trusted. Jesus took away the accusations of the Law by being found guilty Himself. He doesn’t come to us in wrath and fury, but in mercy and forgiveness. The Law which Satan thought would condemn us all, instead condemned Jesus – the righteous dying for the unrighteous. The devil cannot hold us captive in our sin since Jesus has forgiven our sin. Jesus defeated Satan with love and mercy shown to us, and He has plundered us from the devil’s house. Demons are cast out and mute men speak.

Then follows a warning. There are no neutral parties. You are either with Jesus or you are with the devil. Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Whoever is indifferent or tries to be neutral will belong to Satan. Man is pictured as a house that needs an occupant. If the Spirit of God does not fill you, Satan will return with an even greater force. Jesus says, “When an unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

The Word of God teaches us that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own (From the rite of Holy Baptism, LSB p. 268). Therefore Christ instituted Baptism to claim us as His own, to make us His disciples, and to give us the Holy Spirit. There is no neutrality. In Baptism, Christ snatches us from the devil and makes us His own.

One who forsakes his Baptism, walks away from God’s Word, and thinks he is going to be neutral will be found by the demons to be a house swept and put in order, and without an occupant. Even more evil demons will come to roost and the last state of that person is worse than the first.

The same could be said of churches, families, even our country. Either God fills them, or Satan fills them. As church attendance in the western world drops off, Christianity is not leaving a void, because that void is being filled by the devil with his religions. This is why every doctrine that is false must be held as demonic and from Satan, even if it is a Christian that has been misled by the false teaching. There is no neutrality in spiritual matters.

For this reason, God gives us His Holy Spirit in Baptism to occupy us. We are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in us. He grants us faith. He works repentance in us so that we turn away from sin. He creates good works in us. He renews our spirit, will, attitude, and desires so that we strive to overcome sin and do good works.

The Holy Spirit fills our hearts so that there is no room for the devil or his demon hordes. The Spirit fights against every demonic attack and keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

The Holy Day of Pentecost

Sermon for Pentecost based on Acts 2:1-21 and John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Dear hearers of the Gospel: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pentecost is one of the three chief holy days of the Church, along with Christmas and Easter. Fifty days after Easter, it is the day that the Gospel goes into all the world. It is the day that the Christmas and Easter message is heard by peoples of different nations and languages. Pentecost is thus considered the day the Christian Church was born.

So that peoples of different languages could hear and understand the Gospel, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the supernatural ability to speak the Gospel in the languages of the people visiting Jerusalem from all over the known world. It was the miracle prophesied by the prophet Joel.

Pentecost was a reversal of what God had done at Babel. At Babel, God confused the language of all the earth.

The people of the earth gathered together in sinful pride at Babel. God had blessed Noah and his family, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” (Gen. 9:1) but not much later the people gathered in Babel so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the earth (Gen. 11:4). They wanted to make a name for themselves. They saw no need for God to get to heaven. They wanted to build a tower themselves that reached heaven. They trusted in themselves and were united in rebellion against God.

In order to squash their rebellion, God confused their language. No, God was not concerned that they could actually build a tower to reach heaven, but He was concerned at their rebellious attitude towards Him. They did not want to follow God’s instructions to fill the earth, so God confused their language and forced them to disperse and fill the earth. God crushed their rebellious pride as He took even their ability to communicate away.

Pentecost, however, was to unite all the peoples of the earth. It was to unify all nations in the promises of the Gospel. On Pentecost, God overcame the confusion of language, as each person heard the Gospel in his own language. This is because the Gospel is for every nation, for all tribes and peoples and languages (cf. Rev. 7:9). On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bore witness about Jesus, that His death was for everyone; that He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world; that He rose again from the dead to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

The Holy Spirit continues to do what He started on Pentecost. He continues to convict the world concerning sin (Jn 16:8).

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in Jesus for salvation. He convicts us of our rebellion against God and leads us to repentance. He convicts us that by ourselves, we are dry bones, but through Jesus, the Holy Spirit has given us the breath of life so that we will live eternally (cf. Ezk. 27:1-14).

The Holy Spirit must convict us of sin if we are to believe the Gospel. See, the Gospel is only good news for sinners. It is only good news if you need it. If you think you’re not a sinner, the Gospel is foolishness to you. If you think that you’re not a sinner, the Gospel sounds like drunken speech to you, just as it did to unbelievers on Pentecost.

However, the Holy Spirit has convicted us that we are sinners. We know that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

He has also convicted us of righteousness (Jn 16:8). Not our own righteousness, but that of Christ. Christ is the Righteous One, and His righteousness covers our sin. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

That’s why Jesus told the disciples that it is to their advantage if He goes away and would then send the Holy Spirit to them (Jn 16:7).

Consider this: after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples were still mostly timid and afraid. They hid in fear behind locked doors even after Jesus had appeared to them, proving that He has risen from the dead (Jn 20:26). They were still troubled with doubts arising in their hearts, even when Jesus was with them (Lk. 24:38). They still disbelieved and were confused and afraid, even as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them (Lk 24:41).

Then Jesus ascended into heaven and sent them the Holy Spirit, and everything changed. The apostles were no longer afraid, but they were bold.

When those in Jerusalem heard the sound of the mighty rushing wind and gathered together, Peter didn’t cower in fear even when people mocked them as being drunk. He boldly went out and preached to them. You know what he said? He called them murderers! He accused them of crucifying and killing God! (Acts 2:23) Peter knew what they were capable of. He had heard them shout “crucify!” not too many days before. Yet, he preached to them, calling them to account for what they had done.

And when the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees arrested Peter and John and dragged them before the same Council that had just crucified Jesus, even there, Peter did not cower in fear, but he accused them of the same thing as he had accused the crowd – the murder of Jesus (Acts 4:10). The threats of the council only resulted in the apostles praying for more boldness to keep preaching (Acts 4:29).

The apostles were changed. The Holy Spirit had made them bold to preach the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was to their advantage the Jesus went away and sent them the Holy Spirit.

This is also to our advantage. Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and He there intercedes for us. And He has sent us the Holy Spirit, who has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us in the true faith.

The Holy Spirit also makes us bold. We may not have to face a council who seeks to put us to death, but we will have to face death. We will have to face suffering, trials, and temptations. We can face all these with boldness and confidence, because this Pentecost we once again hear the Christmas and Easter message that God took on human flesh to suffer and die for us on the cross and He rose again, defeating death for us.

The Holy Spirit grants you to hear this in your own language, a language that you understand, so that you will believe and receive eternal life. Hearing the Gospel message of the Old Testament in Hebrew or the New Testament in Greek would be as useful to you as the instructions of a foreman to a worker at the tower of Babel. Thus, the Holy Spirit causes the message of the Gospel to be spoken to you in English, uniting you with the whole Church in heaven and on earth who have heard the Gospel in their own language.

The Holy Spirit continues the work He started on Pentecost. He continues to work through the message of the Gospel, creating faith which is nothing short of a miracle. Indeed, calling a sinner to faith is a greater miracle than making dry bones live, and this the Holy Spirit continues to do.

The Holy Spirit continues to work through Baptism, which has washed us clean from all sin. He continues to strengthen our faith through the miraculous meal of Christ’s body and blood. He continues to grant us to hear the Gospel in a language we can understand, so that we will be bold unto death and receive the crown of eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Living Water

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on John 7:37-39

Dear people who thirst for living water: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The province of Saskatchewan is susceptible to drought. The famous “dust bowl” conditions of the 1930s resulted in one of the most destructive prairie drought periods of that century. 1961 and 1988 were also years of drought, with the driest parts of the province receiving less than half of the average precipitation. The most recent drought period was from 2000-2003, with 2001 being the driest year in more than a century.

Most of you know very well the consequences that drought has on the province because of your involvement in farming or even just in living in the province through these times. Wetlands and wildlife are threatened. Municipal water supplies are diminished. The risk of forest fires is heightened. Livestock production is disrupted and crop yields are devastated. Drought has resulted in billions of dollars of losses to Saskatchewan agriculture (source: The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan).

You know what thirsty land is like, and you also know what it’s like when you yourself are thirsty. After exercise or working outside in the hot sun, you have found yourself dehydrated. After spending time in the hospital, dried out by medication and lack of fluids you may have found yourself very thirsty. After farming dry land in the hot sun, the grass crackling under your feet as you walk around dried up sloughs, your own tongue has also craved cold, refreshing, clear water, as the land has.

We can also speak of thirst in spiritual terms. David confesses in Psalm 32 that his sins left him parched. When he kept silent and did not confess his sin, he writes that his bones wasted away through his groaning all day long, for day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him; his strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer. A thirsty soul is one that is distressed because of sin and terrified over evil committed. A thirsty soul longs for the cold, refreshing, and clear water of forgiveness from God. Thus, Psalm 42 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Also, Jesus says in today’s Gospel lesson, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives living water that becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:10,14).

If we do not recognize our thirst, however, we have no desire for living water from Jesus. The preached Word is despised by those who are not thirsty for it; by those who do not recognize their own sinfulness; by those who turn inwardly to look to themselves to quench spiritual thirst.

But just as you cannot turn inwardly to look within yourself for water to hydrate you when you are physically thirsty, so you cannot look within yourself for living water to hydrate you when you are spiritually thirsty. You must get water from outside yourself. You must go to the fridge, to the well, to the water cooler to get a drink of water when you are physically thirsty. When you are spiritually thirsty, you must go to where Jesus gives living water: to the waters of Holy Baptism, to the spoken word of Absolution, to the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

You have undoubtedly heard the advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. We may not truly require quite that much, but water is very helpful in preventing fatigue, flushing out toxins, boosting the immune system, and so on. Drinking water regularly prevents you from getting to the point that you are parched.

There is no set rule for how much spiritual water you should drink each day. The Psalms speak of devotional time in the morning, noon, and evening (e.g. 55:17). Certainly, Sundays are the day of the Lord, for receiving living water from Jesus in the Divine Service.

Just as physical water is good for us physically, spiritual water is good for us spiritually. It is helpful in preventing spiritual fatigue and indifference. Spiritual water flushes out the toxins of sin and false belief, and boosts faith, our spiritual immune system which keeps us spiritually alive.

Because of our sinful flesh, we have cravings to drink all kinds of things that aren’t good for us spiritually. We seek contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure from all kinds of things in this world that will never give any of these things even though they promise to do so. We chase after worldly success, worldly pleasure, worldly mammon, worldly praise, but none of these things will quench our spiritual thirst. Rather, they make us even more thirsty, even if we don’t realize it.

Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives living water in the water of Baptism, the word of Absolution, and the bread and water of Holy Communion. Not because the water used in Baptism comes from heaven, but because the water is included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. Not because Absolution is spoken by a sinless man, but because Christ Himself has commanded repentant sinners to be absolved in His name. Not because the bread and wine of Holy Communion are special in and of themselves, but because Christ Himself instituted the Sacrament of the Altar to give us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all our sins.

Through these means of grace, Jesus gives us living water. It is living water because it brings us to eternal life. It is living water because Jesus died for us to give us eternal life.

The more we drink the living water that Jesus gives, the more our thirst is quenched. Not so that we would not need living water any more, but that we would desire it more and more. Living water quenches our thirst so that we are turned away from seeking contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure from drinking the waters of the world; those waters that will never give any of these things even though they promise to do so. Living water turns us away from chasing after worldly success, worldly pleasure, worldly mammon, worldly praise.

All of this happens from drinking the living water that Jesus gives, because through the living water, the Holy Spirit is received. “Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The Holy Spirit is received in the living water of the means of grace. The Holy Spirit creates faith in you and also works in you to turn you away from drinking those things that are harmful to your salvation. He quenches your thirst through the forgiveness of sins so that you are content and satisfied. He gives you living water to the point that out of your heart will flow rivers of living water. Living water from Jesus fills you to the point that the living water flows from you to others, so that you yourself become a conduit of Jesus’ love and forgiveness to others.

In our lives, we may experience physical thirst and drought, but we need never experience spiritual drought because Jesus freely gives us living water that quenches our spiritual thirst. Through the living water, the Holy Spirit is received who forgives our sin, brings us to eternal life, and causes us our hearts to flow with living water. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Born Again

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent based on John 3:1-17

Dear born again believers: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus says that you must be born again to see the kingdom of God. There is no side-stepping or skirting around the issue. If you want to see the kingdom of God, that is, if you want to receive eternal life, you must be born again.

Why must one be born again? Because what is born of the flesh is flesh. The sin that all mankind has inherited from Adam is in our flesh. Sinful parents cannot conceive sinless children. Thus the Psalmist writes, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps. 51:5) The Holy Spirit tells us through the Apostle Paul that all mankind by their first birth are by nature children of wrath and enemies of God (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:10). Being born of the flesh means we are born as sinners into this sinful world, so we must be born again by the Spirit if we are to see the kingdom of heaven. The first birth is into this world of sin. The second birth is into the kingdom of God and everlasting life.

We must be born again. We must be born of water and the Spirit. To be born of water and the Spirit means to be baptized. Baptism is a rebirth, as the Holy Spirit tells us through the Apostle Paul, calling it a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Baptism regenerates and renews; it gives a new life now and promises a new life in eternity. It is necessary because you must be born of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must come into you and change you into a new person because without Him you are captive to sin, captive to death, and captive to the devil. You must be born again to be released from the bonds of the sin, death, and the devil.

Does this mean that everyone who is baptized is born again? No, it does not mean that. It is possible to be baptized but reject the Holy Spirit by unbelief. The benefits of Baptism are received only through faith.

Jesus says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Whoever believes has eternal life. If you are baptized but reject the Holy Spirit through unbelief, your Baptism does you no good; it is of no benefit to you.

A believer, however, looks to the Son of Man lifted up on the cross. A believer looks with trust to Jesus on the cross because it was there on the cross that the price of our sins was paid. It was there on the cross that our punishment was laid on Jesus. It was there on the cross that Jesus earned us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

How do we get that forgiveness of sins and eternal life that Jesus earned for us? Through Baptism. We receive it through Baptism because we are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3,5).

Don’t try to figure it all out. That’s where Nicodemus got tripped up. He tried to make sense of the spiritual benefits of Baptism through his understanding of earthly things. Jesus responded to Nicodemus by saying, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Don’t try to figure out how. You can never do it. You cannot put faith under a microscope. You cannot put God’s promises under a microscope. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) In Baptism, we cannot see anything but water. We cannot see what God does in Baptism, but we trust His Word and His promises that He has attached to Baptism. Our faith is not in what we see, but in the promises of God.

John’s first epistle tells us that everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world (I John 5:4). We may not always feel like conquerors of the world. When we suffer we do not feel like conquerors of the world. When we fall into sin we do not feel like we have overcome the world.  Thankfully, overcoming the world does not depend on our feelings but on our faith.

We may have to face dark and trying times in the world, but that does not mean we have not overcome the world. We may have to face anxious and difficult times in the world, times when it seems death is drawing near. But baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death and resurrection. We will rise from the dead because He rose from the dead and we are baptized into Him.

Jesus, my Redeemer lives; Likewise I to life shall waken.

He will bring me where He is; Shall my courage then be shaken?

Shall I fear, or could the Head Rise and leave His members dead? (LSB 741 st. 2)

We don’t have to worry about life or death. We are baptized into Christ, so we are members of the body of Christ. Christ rose from the dead, so we will also rise. Our fears or our feelings will not keep us from rising from the dead. Our sins will not keep us from rising from the dead. Jesus, our Head is risen. How could the Head rise and leave the members dead? We have nothing to fear. The Head will not forget about the body. Jesus will bring us to where He is.

The fact is, we already have new life now. We have new life now because we have been born again by water and the Spirit. That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. God has claimed us as His own through Baptism, by putting His name on us. The Holy Spirit has saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal. He has washed away the old and put on the new.

Thus, we will see the kingdom of God. We have been born again by water and the Spirit, so we will see the kingdom of God. There is no side-stepping or skirting around the issue. We have been born again because we have been baptized into Christ. Christ, our Head is risen from the dead, so we also will rise, and we will see the kingdom of God. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on John 14:23-31

Dear recipients of comfort: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” When Jesus says this to you, it is not the same as when the world says it to you. It’s not the same as the world’s “Don’t worry; be happy” or the world’s “Everything’s going to be alright.” From the world, these are merely empty platitudes; clichés spoken because the world has nothing better to say.

I know what many of you are going through, as well as those who cannot even make it here on Sundays because they are shut in or in hospitals. Cancer. Alzheimer’s. Diabetes. High blood pressure. Depression. Disabilities. Infections. Heart attacks. Strokes. The list goes on. That’s not even to get into what the families affected go through, watching their loved ones so afflicted or mourning their death.

“Don’t worry; be happy”? Save your empty fluff.

“Everything’s going to be alright”? Since when is suffering and death alright?

No, save the hollowness of those words. Those empty phrases give no comfort. They give no joy and they give no hope. Such empty phrases don’t bring joy, nor do they make anything alright.

Do not think for a minute that Jesus’ words to you are of the same sort. They’re not of the same sort because they’re not empty or hollow. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” When Jesus tells you not to be troubled or afraid, He gives you a reason for it. That reason is twofold. First, because Jesus gives you peace. Second, because He goes to prepare a place for you.

Jesus had this discussion with His disciples on the night He was arrested. Jesus knew what was about to happen, as He had on many occasions told His disciples. He knew He was going to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. He knew He would be mocked and spit on, flogged nearly to death, and then crucified until dead. He knew that carrying the sins of the whole world, He would bear all of our guilt and all the punishment our sins deserve. He knew He would even be forsaken by God the Father for our sake. All of this is exactly why He tells His disciples, and tells you, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Let not your hearts be troubled because I am about to give you peace with God the Father by suffering hostility and hatred for you. I am about to earn you forgiveness and freedom from eternal suffering. That’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross.

What we need to realize is that all the sickness and affliction in the world is because of us and our sins. We would never get sick or suffer in any way if we weren’t sinful. We would never die if we weren’t sinful. If we loved God with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves, we would never be troubled or afraid of anything. We would have peace in ourselves and would have no need of Jesus.

Since we are sinful, we do not follow God’s will for our lives. We sin in thought, word, and deed. We deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. We deserve suffering and death in this life and we deserve suffering and eternal death hereafter.

God would not have it so. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to bear the punishment of all of our sins. He suffered so that we have peace with God and the price of our sins is paid.

Because of this, Jesus says to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither be afraid.” You do not need to fear the suffering of this life or even be troubled in death because all of your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God. Jesus’ death in your place has taken the sting out of death.

And Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you. You have a place being prepared for you that is not a nursing home or a hospital bed, but an eternal dwelling place with God in the new heavens and the new earth. It is a place of eternal bliss and joy and without sickness or death or sin. It is where we will dwell with God forever, seeing Him face to face.

When Jesus says “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He gives you the reason why you have nothing to fear: your sins are forgiven, you have peace with God, and He is preparing a place for you in eternity.

This Good News is what Pentecost is about. Pentecost isn’t about speaking in tongues. Pentecost isn’t about miraculous signs. Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit bringing to you the Good News of the Gospel so that you will know that your heart has no reason to be troubled and that you need to fear nothing. This message is so important that The Holy Spirit made sure that all those in Jerusalem heard it in their own language. This message is so important that the Holy Spirit still sends pastors and missionaries to bring this Good News to nations around the world in their own language.

The Holy Spirit brings to you the treasures that Jesus won for you. Jesus won for you the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life. But how can you get those treasures? How can you receive these gifts that Jesus earned for you?

You cannot find these treasures out in nature. You cannot find these treasures inside yourself. You cannot find the gifts of God anywhere except where the Holy Spirit gives them. The Holy Spirit brings these gifts to you in the means of grace – that is, in the Gospel and in the sacraments.

The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to you when you hear Jesus’ words that tell your heart not to be troubled because you have peace with God since your sins are forgiven. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to you when water is poured over your head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit according to Christ’s command and promise. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to you when you eat and drink the true body and blood of Christ given into death for you for the forgiveness of sins according to Christ’s command and promise.

That’s what Pentecost is about. It’s about the Holy Spirit bringing you Jesus. It’s about the Holy Spirit giving you the treasures through Word and Sacrament that Jesus earned for you by His life, death, and resurrection. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

So let not your hearts be troubled. Whatever afflictions and tribulations you are facing and are still to face in your future, know that you have nothing to fear. You have peace with God through the death of Jesus since all your sins are forgiven. You have a place being prepared for you in eternity. And the Holy Spirit continues to work in you through the means of grace to keep you in the faith, to strengthen you in the faith, and to comfort your troubled heart. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on Jn. 15:26-27, 16:4b-15 (Ezek. 37:1-14, Act. 2:1-21)

Dear vessels into whom the Holy Spirit has been poured: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today is an important church festival celebrating the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, as He promised on the fiftieth day after His resurrection from the dead. And the Holy Spirit continues to do today what He has done since Pentecost – He convicts and He bears witness about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit has promised to work through the Word and Sacraments. We have no promise that He will work in any other way. We have no promise that He will work through miraculous signs although He has worked in this way. We have no promise that the Holy Spirit will work through dreams although He has also worked this way. We also have no promise that He will work in any way other than through the Word and Sacraments – whether through feelings, nature, unexplainable events, or strange coincidences. He has only promised to work through the Word of God and the Sacraments which are the visible Word.

And what is it that the Holy Spirit does? First, the Holy Spirit convicts. Our text says that He convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit convicts the impenitent sinner concerning his sins because he doesn’t believe in Jesus (v. 9). The Holy Spirit finds the impenitent, those who will not turn away from their sins, to be guilty because they are unbelievers. The Holy Spirit declares the impenitent to be guilty of sin, thus convicting them.

The Holy Spirit also convicts the world concerning righteousness. He convicts unbelievers concerning their own righteousness. Those who do not believe in Jesus believe that they can by their own reason or strength save themselves. They imagine that they can do good that pleases God. They imagine that although they are a skeleton in a valley of dry bones, they can raise themselves up and live. The Holy Spirit convicts them concerning righteousness because they have rejected the righteousness of Christ. They reject the Righteous One, so they are found guilty of unrighteousness. They are thus convicted concerning righteousness.

Finally, the unbeliever is convicted concerning judgment. The unbeliever is convicted concerning judgment because the ruler of the world is judged. Everything that the unbeliever holds dear and treasures and idolizes has been condemned along with the ruler of the world. Satan has been defeated and judged. Those who do not believe in Jesus have Satan as their master, and thus they are judged along with him. Thus, unbelievers are convicted concerning judgment.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, thus He convicts not only unbelievers, but He convicts believers concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment also. For believers, however, this is an entirely different matter.

First, the sinful nature of the believer is also convicted of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts the believer that he has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Holy Spirit convicts the believer that he has sinned in thought, word, and deed. The Holy Spirit, through the Word, convicts believers that because of their sins, they deserve eternal punishment in hell along with the devil.

But a believer is not found guilty. A believer is convicted concerning righteousness because the righteousness of Christ covers all of his sin. Christ went to the Father, but He went to the Father by way of the cross. He fulfilled the Law of God for us who are unable to fulfil it, and He died on the cross, taking the punishment of our sins. He thus fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf and sent the Holy Spirit to convict us that our own righteousness is as filthy rags. But He also convicts us that the righteousness of Christ is given to us without merit or worthiness in us. He convicts us that although we were skeletons in a valley of dry bones, He has breathed life into us, making us alive in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

A believer, finally, is also convicted by the Holy Spirit concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The evil one, the accuser who seeks to stand before the throne of God and accuse us day and night of the sins we are guilty of having committed has himself been judged. Satan has been cast out of heaven and has been judged. Even more, Jesus took our place in judgment. Guilty of nothing, Jesus stood in our place and was judged for our sins. He was judged for every sin of thought, word, and deed that we are guilty of committing. Jesus took the punishment of all of our sins so that we can walk away scot-free. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of this through Word and Sacrament, because the Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus.

God the Holy Spirit still does what He has done since He was sent by God the Father and God the Son. He convicts the world concerning, sin, righteousness, and judgment, and He bears witness about Jesus.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bore witness about Jesus through the preaching of the Word. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles as they bore witness about Jesus. Through that preached Word, the Holy Spirit was also poured out on those who heard the Word, and three thousand came to faith and were baptized that day – three thousand souls from every nation under heaven. All those people of different languages heard the Gospel being preached in their own language! The Holy Spirit wants the Gospel understood, and to be heard by people everywhere, and He still continues this work today. That’s why we support the work of the Gospel here among us and through missionaries around the world. The Holy Spirit is still working through the Word to bring people of every language to saving faith.

Notice that the apostles were not babbling nonsense. The Holy Spirit did not make the apostles speak in tongues that nobody could understand, nor did He make them babble incomprehensibly. The Holy Spirit did not cause uncontrollable fits and convulsions, laughing or fainting, or cause the apostles to act drunk. It was the mockers who said they were drunk! So do not be fooled. The Holy Spirit who worked through the preached Word on Pentecost to bear witness about Jesus is the same Holy Spirit who works through the preached Word today to bear witness about Jesus.

People today who are engaged in babbling nonsense and fainting and fits and convulsions thus have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (I Cor. 14:33). The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. Babbling fainters bear witness about themselves. Convulsing gibberish-gushers bear witness about themselves. They draw attention only to their own foolishness. Whatever spirit is at work there, it is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. The Holy Spirit causes the Gospel to be understood, not become garbled and lost in circus acts.

It is the Gospel that saves. The Good News of Jesus’ death on our behalf which was preached on Pentecost is the same Good News preached in the Gospel today. We have no promise of miracles or signs or speaking in tongues. Peter indicated that the prophecy from Joel concerning prophecy, visions, and dreams was fulfilled on Pentecost (Act. 2:16). And First Corinthians says that tongues will cease (I Cor. 13:8). And Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign” (Matt. 16:4).

We fall into the same garbled circus trap if we seek signs outside of God’s Word. We are not to seek signs in dreams, feelings, nature, unexplainable events, or strange coincidences. The Holy Spirit has promised to work through the Word and Sacraments. We have no promise that He will work in any other way. The Sacraments are the only visible signs through which the Holy Spirit has promised to work. Scripture has promised that as water is poured over an infant’s head, the Holy Spirit is poured out in a washing of regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5). Scripture has promised that as we eat the very body and blood of Jesus in the fellowship of this altar we receive the forgiveness of sins (Mt. 26:28). Seek no other sign. The Holy Spirit works through the means He has promised. He still convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, and He still bears witness about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name (Jn. 20:31). The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus through the Gospel which tells you all of your sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross for you. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus through the Sacraments which give you the forgiveness of sins there promised. This is the work the Holy Spirit did on Pentecost and continues to do today – He convicts and He bears witness about Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.