Cantate Sunday Sermon

God is Right and the World is Wrong

May 14, 2006

Saint John 16:5-15

The Holy Spirit is the Comforter.  He comforts us by telling us the truth.  People often look for comfort in lies.  They try adultery or drugs or something else that will give them the feeling they need.  But true and lasting comfort is deeper than how you feel.  It is a permanent condition or state.  It is the way things are and will be.  The Holy Spirit brings us true comfort by bringing what Christ has won for us and making it ours.  He tells us the truth about Christ and in telling us the truth about Christ He brings Christ into our lives and gives us our reason for living.

The Holy Spirit does not speak as the world speaks.  The world speaks as it knows.  It knows what it knows by observation.  The worldís wisdom is quite impressive, but it is limited to matters of this world.  Christians have no more common sense than heathen do.  When it comes to practical tips on how to get along with people, make money, be successful in this or that job, a Christian has no advantage over someone who doesnít know Christ.  I grew up in Clayton, Missouri, a town that was predominantly Jewish.  The public schools in Clayton were better than the Lutheran schools or the Catholic schools in the St. Louis area.  You donít have to be a Christian to understand what makes for success in this life.  People who think that the church should provide them with keys for successful living will generally find what they are looking for, but they wonít find the true Church.  They will find a counterfeit church that imitates the standards of the world.

 The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.  The Church is born by the power of the Spirit of truth.  The truth upon which the Church stands is the truth that our Lord Jesus teaches us in todayís Gospel Lesson.  It is the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.  Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  He will show that God is right and that the world is wrong about these matters.  What the world calls sin is not sin.  What the world calls righteousness is not righteousness.  What the world calls judgment is not judgment.  What God calls sin is sin.  What God calls righteousness is righteousness.  What God calls judgment is judgment.

What does the world call sin?  The world calls sin whatever offends the world.  Since everyone has a conscience and since the Ten Commandments agree with the conscience, the world praises the Ten Commandments.  But the Holy Spirit contradicts the conscience.  He tells Christians that they are justified by faith alone.  He tells them that Jesus took away all their sin on the cross and that they are forgiven freely by Godís grace.  This is the heart of the Christian faith.  It is revealed by the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, ďHe will take of what is mine and declare it to you.Ē  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.  The very heart of Christianity is a contradiction of this world.  Make no mistake about it.

When the world follows what appears to be true it doesnít recognize the Christian truth as truth.  This is why the religions of the world are all fundamentally different than the Christian faith.  Jesus says it is sin not to believe in Him.  This is the sin that makes you guilty of all sins.  It is the source of all evil.  It is what makes sin sinful.  But the world doesnít recognize this.  Why should faith in Jesus Christ make any difference?  Right is still right.  Wrong is still wrong.  The commandments are clear enough as standards for human conduct.  But Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin because they donít believe in Him.  

The world teaches a bloodless religion.  There is no need for God to become a man.  There is no need for a Savior to die.  Whatever trouble sin may cause, it is surely without our power to overcome it.  But the Comforter disagrees.  He says that sin is too deep for us to fathom.  It is too strong for us to conquer.  The evil that besets humanity Ė that resides deep down in our hearts Ė is too powerful for any human solution.  It required nothing less than the sacrifice of Godís eternal Son made flesh on the cross to forgive us our sins and to destroy the power of sin over our lives.  Jesus is not an option for sinners.  He is a necessity.  To reject Jesus in unbelief is to hold on to sin, to trust in sin, to embrace the very evil that enslaves us.  The world is wrong in what it says about sin. 

And for that reason the world is also wrong in what it says about righteousness.  Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness.  That is, He will show the world to be wrong about righteousness.  The world doesnít understand sin and so it cannot understand righteousness.  Righteousness is the opposite of sin.  By making sin less than sin it makes righteousness less than righteousness.  If sinners donít really need a Savior to bear their sins and to suffer the punishment their sins deserve, neither do sinners need a Savior who will fulfill the law for them and thereby gain true righteousness for them.  Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness because He goes to the Father where we cannot see Him.  Jesus offers a righteousness that we cannot see.  The world prefers what it can see and measure and show off before others. 

Thatís the essence of all human religions.  It is a matter of displaying to others how good we are.  It is adding up points, counting credit, gaining merit, winning recognition from the world.  Jesus says of such people, ďTruly, they have their reward.Ē  The world is wrong about righteousness.  True righteousness is not something you can see and measure and display to others.  True righteousness comes only from Christ who goes to the Father to intercede for us.  True righteousness is hidden from view.  It exists under the cover of great sin and weakness.  True righteousness is received in repentance, and what does repentance do?  Does it lift up its good deeds for recognition and praise?  No, it beats the breast and prays with the tax-collector in the temple, ďGod be merciful to me, a sinner.Ē  True righteousness is Christís righteousness.  Just as Jesus alone can take away sin, Jesus alone has lived a truly righteous life.  It is His suffering for us that takes away our sins.  It is His righteous living and dying that wins for us the righteousness that covers us and renders us justified before God.  The world knows nothing of this, but when it comes to such things, God is right and the world is wrong. 

The world is also wrong about judgment.  Everyone goes around judging his neighbor.  Itís as if religion is all about standing in judgment of others.  But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, shows how the world is wrong about this by showing that the ruler of this world is judged.  The devil is called the ruler or prince of this world.  He isnít in control of it.  He doesnít govern it.  But he does govern the thinking of those who belong to the world and donít know Christ.  Since these people donít enjoy the forgiveness of their own sins they must constantly be looking at the sins of their neighbors.  Since they donít have the righteousness of Christ that is received by faith alone, they must constantly be comparing themselves with others to see if they are more righteous than others.  Only those who know they are forgiven can forgive.  Only those who know they are righteous can cease the constant judging of others and rest secure in the knowledge that they have passed out of judgment into life. 

The prince of this world judges.  He judges Christians.  He judges them falsely.  He points to their sin and claims it claims them.  But thatís a lie.  He points to their righteousness and tries to convince them that this is how God sees them.  But thatís a lie.  God sees us robed in Christís righteousness, not our own.  God forgives our sins for Jesusí sake.  And God has judged the father of lies and murderer of souls.  He has judged him and thrown him out.  The judgment of Satan against us Christians cannot stand.  He stands judged himself. 

God is right and the world is wrong.  God is right about sin.  It isnít simply a matter of outward disobedience to the Ten Commandments.  Itís the total corruption of our nature.  Sinners are bound by sin.  They cannot set themselves free.  They are blinded by it.  They canít see things as they are.  Only by Christ taking sin away by suffering for it can sinners be forgiven and set free.  Yet the world looks at Christ as a new lawgiver, a great prophet, or a moral teacher.  They donít know sin and so they donít know that faith in Christ is the only hope for sinners.  

God is right and the world is wrong.  God is right about righteousness.  Only the doing and dying of Jesus can stand before God as pure unadulterated righteousness.  This is unseen by the world and therefore despised.  But to be clothed in Christís righteousness makes us holier than to parade around in the best and noblest and more revered works we could ever produce by ourselves. 

God is right and the world is wrong.  God is right about judgment.  It doesnít matter how the world sees us or judges us because God is our judge and God has already brought us out of judgment into the grace in which we stand.  It doesnít matter how the devil slanders us because he stands condemned.  The blood of Jesus Christ that washes away all our sins also silences the accuser.  Of what sin can he accuse us?  Of no sin at all because Christ bore all sin away. 

God justifies us.  He pronounces us forgiven and truly righteous.  He justifies us by His grace alone.  We donít deserve it.  He justifies us for Christís sake.  Christ Jesus is the One who took away all our sin and brought us true righteousness.  He justifies us through faith alone.  We receive this righteousness and forgiveness simply by believing the gospel that the Spirit of truth impresses on our hearts.  This is why we sing with joy this Cantate Sunday. 

O SING unto the Lord a new song;
For he hath done marvelous things.
With his own right hand, and with his holy arm,
Hath he gotten himself the victory.

The Lord declared his salvation;
His righteousness hath he openly showed in the sight of the nations.

He hath remembered his mercy and truth toward the house of Israel;
And all the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and evermore shall be, world without end. 


Rev. Rolf D. Preus

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