+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +
Text: John 14:16
Theme: The Paraclete With Us Forever
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God desires a deep connection with all people. Christ came to reconcile. But unbelief and the Holy Spirit are utterly incompatible. When human arrogance or apathy rejects the word of God the Holy Spirit is driven away. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Still, we can never say when the final opportunity is for conversion in someone’s life. The Shepherd seeks for lost sheep. The wind blows where it will. To speculate on such things is to infringe upon the jurisdiction of God. Still, these matters are critically relevant to us because they concern the well-being of souls. We don’t know when the window of opportunity for repentance will end. But we can be sure that conversion is always an act of grace. It is always facilitated by the Word of truth. No one can will it to come to pass. No one can put demands on God.
How can it be that “God our Saviour desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,”1 and yet there will be many who are lost forever? All who are lost eternally bear their own guilt. All who are saved, are saved only by grace. The Scripture says, “For it is by grave you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works.”2 Why do some reject the love and mercy of God? We cannot say. Sin is a deep abyss. God’s love is deeper still. Christ died for all.
Mysteries will remain. Yet even when we don’t understand- and perhaps our reservations are sometimes serious- we nevertheless take God at His word. He instructs us to test the spirits, that is, to measure all teachings against the truth of His word. The world is full of half-truths and we’re prone to swallowing them hook, line, and sinker. But we are never to test or challenge His word. It only invites judgment. The Scriptures are often passed over so lightly today you’d think they were nothing but an obsolete resource or a novel curiosity. Even among Christians the Bible often carries little weight. Satan changes His guises more often than a snake sheds its skin, but his tactics always involve subverting God’s word and drawing people away from it.
We easily rationalize to ourselves the bending of God’s commands. The Third Commandment says we should Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy3, yet many consider their church attendance to be only optional. The Fifth Commandment says we should not murder, 4 yet we often fail to support our neighbour like we should, speak out against abortion, and euthanasia, and support the sanctity of life. The Sixth Commandment says we should not commit adultery, 5 and yet divorce, living together, and sexual immorality are nearly as high among Christians as the rest of the population. Are we not flirting with disaster? No unrepentant sinners are exempt from judgment. There are no exceptions. Any conscience at peace while in direct disobedience of God’s will is experiencing a false peace.
Dear friends, a conscience at ease is a conscience that takes refuge in the promises of Christ. His Good News rings out clearly today. Here it stands. The irrefutable promise of Christ, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”6 Strong, tender, and compassionate, these words are pure gospel. In the face of opposition, in the face of loneliness, in the face of marginalization, in the face of death, their Lord and Master will not desert them. His promise stands in the context of the sending of the Spirit and the revelation of the Father. Jesus is the image of the Father and the convener of the Spirit. Then He says, “Because I live, you also will live.”7
What proof do we have that this Jesus is trustworthy? The Holy Spirit directs us to the pinnacle of His work. On the cross it all hangs in the balance. The angels cover their eyes in terror and vexation. The crowds mock and jeer Him. His followers flee in cowardice and fear. The heart of the Father is rent. But the sacrifice is completed. The atonement is accomplished. The Lamb’s blood is shed. Your slate is wiped clean. Heaven stands open. Christ holds the key. No one can snatch you out of His hand.
It is not coincidental that the great events of history have connotations for our participation in Christ’s kingdom. The apostle says the flood of Noah symbolizes baptism. St. Peter references one of the most cataclysmic events in history to draw a parallel with the radical nature of Christian baptism. Just as God purified the whole world with the flood He cleanses the individual through baptismal water. Both are the fulfillment of divine promises. Both involve putting to death the old and bringing to life the new. Think, dear friends, how humbling it is that the Almighty God gave His only Son into death so that you might be buried and raised with Him in baptism. In Christ you are a new creation.
Now, I hear some of you saying that you don’t feel very new. Life knocks us around and often tempers our optimism. Yet, that is the beauty of Christ’s promise and His presence. It goes far beyond our fickle feelings. Faith is anchored to something much deeper, much more stable. The tempests rage around us but the foundation is unshakeable. Don’t confuse your feelings with faith. Faith takes us beyond us, beyond the narrow confines of our earthly horizons. God does not lie. The power of death has been overcome. Understanding this perspective allows us to live sacrificially for others. A great proportion of the world remains enslaved to their fear of mortality. But they can see light and freedom- liberty to love unconditionally- reflected in us. Consequently our text says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.”8 Paul stood publicly in the midst of the great thinkers of the day and proclaimed to them the one true God in Jesus Christ. How alone must he have felt!
Christ could foresee the struggles His disciples would go through. His consideration of us is no less thoughtful. If you are feeling alone, abandoned, deserted or neglected, know that you have fellowship in the company of believers. If you are feeling orphaned emotionally, or psychologically, or physically; know when you receive His body and blood that you are participating in the sacred meal of the whole heavenly family. The intimacy we have with God in this way extends beyond anything we have on this earth. Christ didn’t endure the crucible of the cross to later abandon us. He lives and in Him we have life. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 1 Timothy 2:3-4
2 Ephesians 2:8-9
3 See Exodus 20:8
4 See Exodus 20:13
5 See Exodus 20:14
6 John 14:18
7 John 14:9
8 1 Peter 3:15-16
Sixth Sunday of Easter
25 May 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt