"Power Connection" #82-38
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 24, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Does It Matter What You Believe?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: John 15:26-27, 16:14-15
Jesus said, "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning... He (the Spirit) will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, His Good News can be yours today by faith. Amen.
At one time or another all of us have probably experienced a blackout where, for some reason, there was no electricity because a fuse burned out, some electrical lines went down in the midst of a storm, or, perhaps, a transformer burned out. There was a broken connection. The refrigerator did not work, the heating and air-conditioning did not work, computers and phones were useless. There was no power.
In our Bible reading for today, on the very night when Jesus was betrayed, He told His disciples that they were going to experience a loss of power. On their own, they would soon realize that they were powerless to deal with the deep issues of life. But the good news was that He, Jesus the Messiah, was not only their strength at the moment; He would be their power for life forever.
Now, at that very moment, I think that they all believed that but times and events were coming that would test that confidence. They had witnessed Christ's power as He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed 5,000 people at one time, as he forgave sins, and calmed the stormy seas. But the very events of Jesus' upcoming death on the cross, His bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven would challenge their confidence, their faith, and tempt them to trust in their own power alone!
So, try to imagine with me for a moment that you were with Jesus at that very moment in history. It is Maundy Thursday, the day before Jesus would be crucified. He had spent time in the upper room celebrating the Feast of the Passover with His disciples. He had humbly knelt to wash their dusty feet, something only the servant of the house would do. Then He rose and led them through the Passover Feast which the leader of the house would do. He even transformed that sacred meal into a supper of His continued presence with His followers, giving them His forgiveness and power for life, assuring them that He would be there with them whenever they celebrated this meal together.
There would be walks together to the Garden of Gethsemane, conversations about what was going to happen. Then Jesus would be arrested and hear the mobs cry out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Now with fear surging through their veins, and I'm sure ours, all would desert Jesus and hide behind locked doors.
Jesus' conversation is filled with honesty and comfort. The connection with Jesus would seem to be broken by His suffering and death. It would look like a blackout experience for all who put their faith in Him. Amidst honest words of the challenges for the lives of those who followed Him, Jesus quickly added words of comfort, assurance, and power to those who were His. Could this be true when everything looked so chaotic? Could there be blessing amidst suffering and struggle?
A question I'm sure they asked, maybe one you are asking today is, "Why did Jesus have to leave this earth? Why did things have to change for them? Wouldn't it have been much easier to believe if we could see Him in person?"
Truth be told, as long as He was here on earth and not exalted in Heaven as the God/Man for all, He would allow Himself to be limited. He was located in only one place at a time. During His earthly ministry, His physical, human body was not present everywhere. This would change, though, once for all after He ascended into heaven and was glorified at the right hand of the Father. It was indeed wonderful and necessary for Him to be here on earth, fully human, to take our place, to live our life, to die our death, and to rise again. Because of that He knows what it is like to be human, to be tempted. He understands us better than we do ourselves. Like us, He experienced temptation, hunger, pain, suffering, and even death. He was truly human.
At the same time, it was vitally important for His disciples then and now, to understand that He is also true God, with a divine and infinite connection with God the Father. Jesus' promise to His disciples that night as they walked to Gethsemane was that on the day of Pentecost a new connection would be available to them, a spirit-filled connection to the God-Man who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The Savior for all who is coming again to judge the living and the dead!
The day of Pentecost, the day that the Spirit of God would be poured out onto the world, to bring the blessings of Jesus, the One sent by the Father to all who would believe, that's the day that the presence of Jesus would be expanded from being a limited, local Savior to One who could be for you, within you, wherever you might be in this entire world, and even through you as the One who loves you eternally!
Who could grasp such a thing? Who could believe such a thing? The disciples would need the very power of God for such a wonderful thing. And that's what today is all about!
The Holy Spirit would fix that broken connection with Jesus and light up their understanding in a new and a powerful way. What they didn't understand about Jesus Christ at the moment would finally make sense. When the Comforter would come as a gift from the Father and the Son, it would be like the lights coming back on in their hearts and in their minds!
You see, when the power of the Holy Spirit is at your disposal, through the Word of God, just like them, you too can begin to understand that Jesus' life, and death, and resurrection, they were literally the eternal payment for your sins and the sins of the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you too can be reconnected to God by believing and trusting in this incredibly Good News. This new power was so electrifying; the disciples, then and now, would no longer be able to keep this message only for themselves. Now those who believe in Christ would have the opportunity to light up other people's lives. As Jesus' disciples share this great news, the very same Spirit empowers others to believe as well.
For the three years that Jesus was with His disciples, they depended on Him. Now, that His physical form would be leaving them, they feared losing Him. Yet Jesus gives these words of comfort, "You will not be forsaken. You will not be left alone. The Holy Spirit, the Counselor, will be there to provide for all your needs." These are still His promises to you and to me.
Jesus says it then; He says it now. "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me."
Today's a day, then, to celebrate this wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit as a Counselor, Comforter sent by Jesus to bless you!
The Greek word for this Encourager, Counselor is paracletos, which we translate as paraclete. It brings to mind a legal context, a time when you are standing before the judge in need of an advocate. One who could come alongside you just when you need it most! The Holy Spirit, as a gift of Jesus by the Father, is like an eternally good defense lawyer as your advocate, as your help, as your guide.
That's why Jesus would ascend into heaven. They would still have Him present in their lives, but not merely in the flesh, but totally present within them by the power of the Holy Spirit! Wow!
In fact, the Spirit's job is to make the things of Christ ours, just as He did with those disciples then. He would be Christ's representative here on earth, even closer than a brother. He would give confidence in Christ to all who would believe. He would make the teachings of Jesus Christ clear, meaningful, and understandable for us, even giving us the confidence and courage we need to spread this truth to the ends of the earth.
That's God's power to be connected to Christ no matter what you're facing today. If today you are trusting in Christ, yearning to know and follow His Word, if you are confident in Him to face the challenges of today, that's the Spirit.
The Bible is clear, "The Spirit will glorify Jesus, for He will take the things of Christ and make them known to you!" Reconnected, empowered, the Holy Spirit through the word of the Bible and the sacraments of the church, He brings you to Christ, empowers and strengthens your faith. That's a power connection that lasts forever!
He will assure you that Christ's forgiveness for the world; is a forgiveness for you. He will strengthen you to walk in that faith, now and forever no matter what you're facing. It's a power connection beyond our strength, one that can only come from God as a gift! That's the Spirit!
Several years ago engineers building a new bridge over the East River in New York, they discovered a wrecked hull of a ship, sunken many years before, lying right where the center piers were supposed to be built. Powerful machinery was brought in to remove the ship, but the ship wouldn't budge.
Then, one of the engineers had an unusual idea - why not have the tide raise the ship. Some strong cables were attached to the hull of the sunken ship when the tide was low. The other ends were fastened to a barge floating above. As the tide came in, the barge gradually lifted the sunken ship powerfully out of its sandy grave. It was then towed out into the ocean and sunk at a spot that would not cause future problems.
This is how the Holy Spirit works with us even today. He comes with great power. He lifts us up from unbelief to faith or from a weak faith to a strong faith. He comes to make the connection with the things of Jesus Christ possible. As we read and listen to God's Word, the Holy Spirit is there to help us understand, to help us see Jesus Christ more clearly. In Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is there through water and the Word, bringing Jesus Christ into our lives, assuring us of God's love and the forgiveness of our sins. In the Lord's Supper the Holy Spirit is there reminding us that Jesus Christ is truly present in this holy meal assuring us that He loves us and will forgive our repentant hearts. One of the most important works or tasks of the Holy Spirit is to convict us about our need for a Savior (John 16:8-11).
The Holy Spirit was a Gift to the disciples which changed their lives then. Fear, doubt, lack of confidence, a lack of understanding, they were no longer holding them back. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they now knew with confidence, the Christ of faith. When Pentecost came, the doors of their hiding place where thrown open, and they began to let everyone know about this wonderful gift that God had given them in Jesus Christ. In fact, they went from being silent cowards to confident public witnesses of Jesus, their Savior, the Savior of the world. How, by the power of the Spirit!
You see, when you realize that you have something that is an incredible gift, that changes your life because of the One who gave it to you. It's easy to talk about that with others. You're no longer afraid because of your inabilities or struggles; the gift overcomes all that.
If someone were to give you an expensive or priceless gift that you were not expecting, one that you could never afford, such as a huge diamond ring, a new elite sports car, a three-iron once owned by Rory McIlroy, or an all-expenses paid trip to Disneyland or Hawaii, you couldn't wait to tell your friends, or anyone who would listen, about your good fortune.
That's just a glimpse of the joy that the disciples felt on that first Pentecost. This gift was far beyond their expectation. By the Spirit, now, they fully understood why Jesus had to die. The Resurrection made sense. They were connected! The Holy Spirit filled them with a new power and a full understanding. They ran out into the street saying, "Look what I have. Look what you can have too!"
They were different people. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, by faith in Jesus Christ, you are too.
By the Spirit, believers realize the eternal weight of what it means that Jesus died on the cross to totally pay for your sins and mine. Incredibly, in Christ, we become righteous in God's eyes, and by the power of the Spirit, the connection is made, the light comes on. The Apostle Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." To be a witness of Jesus is to be prepared to share what you have received from Him.
Or like Peter and John said in Acts 4:20, "We cannot help but speak the things which we have seen and heard." This Jesus is incredible, they are saying, His blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation, they are so powerful, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, a witness wants you to know that too.
That's what I hope to do for you today, my friend. Jesus doesn't call believers to be lawyers arguing and debating with people about Him, so I'm not going to do that. He doesn't tell us to get in people's faces and make them angry and upset. Our task is simply to testify to the truth of ourselves without Christ and to be witnesses of Him as the only One who can and did call us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says it best. "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." That includes every one of us. If we talk about truth here, it's biblical truth, it's Christ's truth. His Word calls us to repentance and to faith. His Word tells us what is right and wrong. His Word brings life and salvation to light. I'm testifying so that you too can believe in Him for yourself!
In World War II, the American and British prisoners of war in one camp had built a homemade radio. One day, they heard the news that the German High Command had surrendered and the war was over. They roared in celebration; men walked around singing and shouting, waving at the guards, even laughing at the dogs. They knew something the Germans didn't. Three nights later, the Germans finally heard the news. They fled into the darkness, leaving the gates unlocked. The next morning, the British and Americans walked out free. Yet they had truly been set free three days earlier by the news that the war was over.
This is the power of Pentecost. This is the power of the Holy Spirit as we come to faith in Jesus Christ in this broken, sinful world. By the death and resurrection of Jesus, real freedom has been won for us, for all. It's true, right now and by the power of the Spirit, it's a freedom that can be yours by faith today. The Bible brings us a freedom that most of the world doesn't know anything about. We are free from sin. We're free from death and the devil. We're free to live abundantly now and into eternity. We are free to live for others, because God in Christ has done all things well for us. By the Spirit, through God's Word, we've been connected to Christ, who has reconnected us to God the Father. That's victory. The broken connection with God has been fixed; it's been delivered. Connected to His Word; the power is flowing. The light is burning bright. It's the power of faith in Jesus, by the Spirit, that will change your life forever. Count on it. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for May 24, 2015
Topic: Does It Matter What You Believe?
ANNOUNCER: Does it matter what you believe? That's our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. The word believe has kind of become a slogan, as though you just have to be sincere and whatever you believe, somehow it helps you.
SELTZ: Yeah, I've seen that slogan on plaques, and rings, and necklaces, and tee shirts, all over the place. Mark, that question assumes that there is really no absolute truth in which to believe; and then, as long as we are convinced that something is true and believe in it, that is all that is necessary.
ANNOUNCER: Sort of like saying if you believe in something strong enough, it will surely happen. It'll come true for you.
SELTZ: Right, but unfortunately, that is not the case. Just believing in something will not make it come true. Truth is something independent of belief. For example, I can believe with all my heart that my team will win the March Madness basketball tournament, but that doesn't guarantee that they will. In fact, this year, my team didn't even make the tournament.
ANNOUNCER: Then, belief, really, is only as good as the object in which you put that trust.
SELTZ: Exactly. The power of faith is not the act of believing. When the Bible talks about faith, it doesn't emphasize the act of believing so much, but rather the object of our belief. In John 3, it says, "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36 KJV). Jesus Himself says it very clearly, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6 KJV).
ANNOUNCER: Contrast that with how things are today, people are putting more emphasis on believing whatever they want rather than believing in what they can trust.
SELTZ: I think you are right, but now believing in the right thing is vital, but passionately trusting in the truth is important too. Faith is not just accepting the facts. It is believing with trust! For example, faith in Jesus is believing what the Bible says about Him is true, and because of that I am willing to put my life in His hands. I trust He can forgive me. I trust He can grant me eternal life. I trust that He can guide me with His Word. He's the power of true faith.
ANNOUNCER: I think that puts faith in the right perspective. Jesus is unique, that's why the Bible says there is only one faith in which we can put full trust and confidence. It's because of Jesus; it's because of what He uniquely has done for all, that's why faith in Him is powerful and unique.
SELTZ: Well said. Just look in the Bible and you'll see all kinds of stories and events to that effect. Remember the story of Paul and Silas in the book of Acts when they were in prison and God caused an earthquake to free them from prison. The doors swung open, the chains were broken. When the guard saw this, he knew that if these prisoners escaped, it would mean his life. This event would change his life. Then, he saw Paul and Silas didn't escape, so he cries out, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul and Silas said it very simply, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your whole household."
ANNOUNCER: And it wasn't just generically "believe and you'll be saved" or "trust in your own efforts and you'll be saved."
SELTZ: Absolutely not. He said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." In the Bible, Jesus must be the object of true faith. He is the One in which you can trust. He is the One who suffered and died on the cross for our sins. He is the One that rose from the dead and promised us that we too would rise one day to join Him in our heavenly home.
ANNOUNCER: Scripture makes it clear that to believe doesn't mean that we merely accept some facts about something or even passionately believe in something; that makes it true. It is more than going through the motions of acknowledging something or getting all fired up for a cause.
SELTZ: Right, what makes the difference is the object of our belief. And, of course, we passionately believe in Him. The writers of Proverbs says it this way, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." And the Apostle Peter said it even more plainly, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
ANNOUNCER: Passion in the right place!
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. The power of true faith is its object and there is no better object for our faith than the Lord Jesus Christ. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"From All That Dwell Below the Skies" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
"He's Risen, He's Risen" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)