Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pentecost 2012

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 16:7
Theme: The ‘Proceeding’ Spirit

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Pentecost unshackled the Holy Spirit. The Father’s sending of the Son advances with the sending of the Spirit. As long as this dimension of creation endures the Holy Spirit is at work. We will know with absolute certainty when the work of the Holy Spirit is finished because we will see Christ in glory. Today is the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost means ‘fiftieth’. Fifty days after His resurrection from the dead Christ gifted His fledgling church with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit appeared as tongues of fire resting on the disciples. His work was immediately evidenced in their ability to speak the gospel in different languages. The Holy Spirit works no differently today. He attends the preaching of the Word- convicts people of sin, grants faith, and nourishes the faith He gives. From baptism to the grave the Holy Spirit connects us with the work of Christ.

The evidence of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring in Acts today is not an historical footnote. Visible as tongues of fire the Spirit enabled the apostles to speak in foreign languages. They were not muttering or babbling. They were not drunk as some on-lookers supposed. They were articulating the gospel to those who were not yet followers of Christ. From Rome to Mesopotamia, Libya to Asia- all visitors to Jerusalem- they heard the gospel being expounded in their native language. The faith of Abraham was now to be disseminated to the world. The Royal Son of David was now forging a global kingdom. Satan’s dark haunts now had the light of truth breaking upon them. That light continues to penetrate today whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit uncovers idolatry, convicts of immorality, illuminates ignorance, emboldens the faint-hearted, comforts the anxious, grants peace to those in turmoil, etc., etc.

Pentecost, then, is never simply about historical remembrance. It is the penultimate act of the Holy Trinity’s concerted effort to rescue humanity from self-interest and Satan’s deceptions. It is penultimate because we look for noting more except Christ’s return in glory. His return is what the Holy Spirit seeks to prepare the world for. It is largely as thankless task. Sinners are not easily severed from their idols. And once converted, we are not easily kept from wandering back into the darkness.

Dear friends, consider closely what the Scripture says about the Holy Spirit today, “When He comes He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”1 As long us unbelief and self-righteousness hold sway in the human heart the Holy Spirit has only one message. He preaches the law to break down hardened hearts and self-serving wills. For those hardened in unbelief He decrees only judgment. Only in this way will sinners despair of finding salvation in themselves or elsewhere. But immediately when help is sought, when the seed of faith begins to swell and sprout, the promise of grace is His recurring theme.

He brings life out of death. “Son of man,” the Almighty queried Ezekiel, “can these bones live? O Lord, God, You alone know.”2 Yes, in Christ. How? Baptism is the Spirit’s means of connecting the individual with the salvation of Christ. As such, it is a mandate and consequence of Pentecost. The Jews used designated water for ritual and ceremonial cleansing- an external preparation showing the individual was receptive to God. The Spirit uses baptismal water for spiritual regeneration- an inward sanctification showing God is receptive to the individual.

Despite a firm belief in the divinity of the Holy Spirit and His presence among God’s people, the nature of how the Holy Spirit is present and works is often misunderstood. We live in an age when value and credibility are measured largely by emotional experience. Feeling dominates reason and the heart takes precedent over the mind. Mass marketing is efficient at capitalizing on this phenomenon. Advertising is directed at your emotions, not your intellect. We are told at every turn to satiate our desires and do what makes us feel good and not worry about the consequences. This explains why people with incomes considerably above average are still often in debt. Or why people become addicted to habits they clearly understand are bad for their well-being.

Spiritually, people’s desire to measure truth and value by their feelings often seeks legitimacy by reference to the Holy Spirit. It may be assumed that if one feels strongly led to do or not do something, the Holy Spirit must be the cause. Taken to the extreme, every whim or desire can be claimed to be a motivation of the Spirit (or God generally). When this inner and individual subjectivism reigns supreme, there is then no objective or external standard by which to measure truth. This is always a dangerous scenario for it may lead to direct contradiction of the will of God. Regardless of how strongly I feel that another person’s spouse is meant to be with me, adultery is always wrong. No matter how strongly my feelings justify my addiction, it is still wrong and I can’t claim the Holy Spirit allows otherwise. The Holy Spirit never leads us into anything that is in contradiction to God’s external, revealed will.

Nor is the Holy Spirit merely a validator of personal decision-making. To state it quite frankly, the Holy Spirit is probably not that concerned with the mundane decisions of our lives. We may fret and worry about whether we should keep our current job or seek a different one; get a new car or fix the old one; meet the current request or a different one. We may desperately want to know what God’s will is in a certain matter. But as long as either choice doesn’t involve dishonesty or unrighteousness, God will bless our decision either way. That doesn’t mean that through prayer we shouldn’t seek God’s will, we should. But the Holy Spirit’s chief concern is our life of sanctification. Our decisions regularly involve the teachings of Scripture and that is where the Holy Spirit’s work is essential. Jesus said, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me.”3 This testimony happens through word and water, bread and wine.

The end goal of the Holy Spirit is always the same. The Holy Spirit always seeks to lead the unbeliever to Christ. And the Holy Spirit always seeks to lead the believer back to Christ and to be more obedient to Christ. There is no independent agenda or activity of the Holy Spirit. Like the apostles, the Holy Spirit has no other message, no other power, no other persuasion, no other comfort than the crucified, risen, ascended, and coming Lord Jesus Christ. His was the suffering, His the humiliation, His the sacrifice, His the atonement and these redound to the Father’s glory and the Holy Spirit’s praise. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Day of Pentecost
27 May 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 16:8
2 Ezekiel 37:3
3 John 15:26