Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Natural man deceives himself so that he thinks he has a direct access to God on account of his own character, preparations, or actions. As in, if only he can do the right things, pray the right things, be righteous enough, kind enough, spiritual enough, some sort of enough, then the Holy Spirit will inhabit you and you will hear directly from and speak directly on behalf of God.
Similarly, the naive amongst us think that if you are just good enough, smart enough, kind enough, and just make yourself pleasing to others enough that they will in fact like you. So when people are impolite, down right rude, mean spirited, or cruel you think you did something wrong. When in reality, you may have done nothing wrong. You may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone who has miserable life or who was having bad day went off on you.
But both situations are related to each other. For we think that we control what happens to us. When all you can control is your response to what happens. Often you are powerless to do anything about what is going on in the world around us or how people feel or behave. You can maintain up your boundaries and your own values. You can demand people stop mistreating you and extricate yourself from those who do. But you can’t control them and make them happier, better, or nicer. The same way we can’t control God. We can’t convince Him to do anything. God. Simply. Is. And He is love. (1 John 4:8) He has commanded you to have no other gods (Exod. 20:3) because He has—in love—given Himself to you. The reality is we don’t believe it. We believe we must earn His love. Just as young children tend to think they have done something wrong if a parent gets angry even when the parent’s anger has nothing to do with the child. Or if their mom and dad divorce children sometimes spend years thinking they did something wrong that led to it. For we all innately believe, and by many experiences are convinced, that we must act in a certain way to get anyone’s love, let alone God’s love. Or more to point today, we think we must act a certain way to receive the Holy Spirit.
But Christ our Lord says, “I will send the Helper to you.” (John 15:26) He doesn’t say, “I will send Him if you are good." He says, “I will send Him to you.” And then because you and I are convinced we have to earn any gift God gives—which really makes it a paycheque not a gift—we also think that if we are good enough the Holy Spirit will come to us directly. So that some of us are thereby are more spiritual than others. Because, after all, I have purified myself. I have had direct communion with the Holy Spirit so that I hear from God and you do not, or at least not as clearly.
This is natural man’s religion. That I can prepare myself for the Holy Spirit. That I can make myself pleasing to God. To which Jesus says, “Hogwash!” Christ our Lord speaks of His Spirit—the Helper, the Advocate, the Comforter—whom He will send. (John 15:26) He sends Him not because you deserve Him. Not because you’ve earned Him. He sends because following Jesus means you will be mistreated. (John 16:1-2) It doesn’t matter how pleasing you are to others. How kind, how nice, how smart, how good. If you follow Jesus there will be times you will be mistreated, because—as Jesus explained just before this (John 15:18)—“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” After all, Jesus the kindest, best, most honest, most loving man who ever lived, what did we, the world, do to Him? We killed Him. For the world hates Jesus. Because we in this world do not like the truth. We are uncomfortable with it. We lie to ourselves. We lie to others. We deny various truths constantly, for a whole host of reasons. And if you have been called out of the world (Col. 1:13) by faith in Him—so that you speak His truths, and live out His love, mercy, and kindness as He has outlined in the 10 Commandments and practice His forgiveness of those who sin against you—instead of all people loving you, you will often experience rejection.
And so Christ sends His Holy Spirit to you. By His Word. His word of warning that these things will happen. (John 16:4) So you can have your eyes open wide. So that you won’t be a naive fool. So that you remember and are comforted if and when it should happen. And it won’t just be the world who will do it. It will be those of the household of God. (John 16:2) Those who claim to be fellow believers. They will cast you out of churches, or synagogues, out of gatherings of people who call themselves by His name. But Jesus tells you that when that happens it is because they never knew His Father nor Him. (John 16:3)
But moreover our Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel speaking of His day—the day when He would send His Spirit, the day 50 days aft His resurrection, just next Sunday—that He would sprinkle us with clean water—pure water, purifying water—water that will wash away your sins. (Ezek. 36:25) Water that will give you a new heart and give His Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:26-27)—which proceeds from Father but is sent by Him (John 15:26)—so that this image we have in our heads that only the super holy, the super spiritual really get the Spirit is hogwash. For where is it that Christ our Lord washes away your sins with water? (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38-39; Tit. 3:5) Gives you a new life (Rom. 6:3-4), a new heart, a new faith (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28:19)? And grants His Spirit to you? (Tit. 3:5; Acts 2:38-39) In the same place He promises to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19) By baptizing them into this new life in Christ. For baptizing and teaching is what makes disciples. (Matt. 28:19) Not living it out. Not practicing the faith. To be sure, that’s important. Your good works are needed by your neighbour: by your spouse, your child, your employer and employees, by your country. Living out your faith is good and pleases God. But that is not what makes you a disciple. Baptism. The new heart He gives you—which has new desires (Ezek. 36:25-27)—and His word which constantly renews your mind (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 12:2; 10:17) and lines up your mind with your heart of faith. This is how disciples are made. So that works of righteousness flow from those who are baptized. (Eph. 2:8-10)
And remember that when next Sunday comes —when we hear of outpouring of Holy Spirit—we only know for certain that 12 men received the HS in that immediate way. The other 3000 who received the Holy Spirit on that day did so by water and word. (Acts 2:38-39, 41) For this is how God works in His mercy and love. Like a Father who gives good gifts to His children He uses means like Baptism to impart His Spirit. Not your works.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.