THE VICTORY CHANT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dear friends in Christ,
Jacob Hiltzheimer is getting confirmed this weekend. He is a unique young man with a unique name. I don’t mean necessarily Hiltzheimer, I mean Jacob. Jacob was a key man in the Bible. Jacob means “heel grabber.” Jacob was a twin. His brother was Esau. They were children of Rebekah and Isaac. Jacob was born grabbing at the heel of Esau his twin but older brother.
Eventually God changed his name to Israel. That’s a story too. He had a unique experience in life that no one else has had. He literally physically wrestled with God. Almost seems unbelievable, but look it up in Genesis 32. Jacob wouldn’t let go of God until God blessed him. Israel means to “wrestle with” or “contend with God.” Jacob’s children, the whole Hebrew nation, received that name. It certainly was appropriate. All they did was contend with God.
I had the distinct privilege to baptize this Jacob. He was my first baptism at Messiah. He will also be my last catechumen. Our prayer is that Jacob Hiltzheimer grows and becomes a modern day pillar of faith like his namesake did.
On this Pentecost Sunday we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is there to help him. He is here to help us all.
Let’s borrow some words from Julius Caesar who once spoke to the Roman Senate saying, “Veni, vidi, vici - I came, I saw, I conquered. Let’s twist that a bit to give us the “Victory Chant of the Holy Spirit.” 1) He came; 2) we saw; 3) He conquered.
There was tension in that Upper Room that night we call Maundy Thursday. There was tension at the table at which the disciples and Jesus reclined to celebrate the Last Passover Supper and the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus made statements like this: “Where I am going you cannot come;” “One of you will betray me;” “In a little while you will see me no longer. How about this? "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Unsettling words, aren’t they? The world hates Jesus’ followers because they hated Jesus first. That’s something to remember as Christian people. That’s something to remember, Jacob
They saw how true that was from the victory parade on Palm Sunday to the vicious attacks on Jesus later in the week. There was even worse coming a couple of hours ahead. Jesus would be taken captive and crucified.
But Jesus made this comforting promise: "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.” The Holy Spirit, the Counselor, was coming to them.
What was Jesus talking about? The day we are celebrating today, besides Jacob’s confirmation. Jesus was referring to the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost – fifty days after Easter. What a transformation the Holy Spirit would bring to the apostles. They had been so thick-headed and thick-hearted. They didn’t get it. They didn’t get it when it came to Jesus.
To them Jesus was to be king of Israel, not the universe; a savior of a nation but not the Savior of all people.
Because of that the apostles had it wrong. Instead of needing mercy they were thinking personal grandeur. They wanted power and prestige. Paradise was not on their mind through the forgiveness of sins. They argued about who was the greatest among them. Peter was even called out for being an instrument of Satan as he tried to interfere with God’s salvation plan. Thomas missed the boat on Jesus by doubting his promises and power. Come Holy Spirit! Straighten them out! Come Holy Spirit and grant them faith and understanding!
Such is our prayer too. Come Holy Spirit and grant us understanding! Remember the movie “The Natural?” It was all about a baseball player who had it all. He was born to play baseball. Everything came easy on the baseball field. His life, however, was a mess.
When it comes to following Jesus, no one is a natural. The Bible is brutally honest. In Romans God says we are born “hostile toward God”; in Ephesians “born dead in transgressions and sin”; in Corinthians we are “spiritually blind.”
This is reality. We are conceived and born in sin. We have a betrayer inside of us called the sinful self. We are naturals, all right, of the wrong kind. Our confirmand today, Jacob was a cute cuddly baby. Mom and Dad were smiling. Not once did they try to teach you how to sin. Can’t say that about your older brother though. But Jacob, you knew how to sin. Like we all do. We are all the same way. We all lack perfection. We lack understanding of God. We lack a trust of God. We have way too much pride and self-centeredness; we gripe and complain. Come Holy Spirit! We need you!
And he has come. Jacob, I baptized you. Terri and Tre knew you needed to be baptized. The Holy Spirit comes in Baptism. “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” You are the perfect child. You are connected to Jesus by the Spirit’s power.
Jesus says the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” All three persons of the godhead are mentioned. Jesus says the Holy Spirit goes out from the Father. And then he says “the Spirit testifies about me (Jesus).” We could use this text next week too on Trinity Sunday.
Jesus says the Spirit is the “Spirit of truth.” That is not a surprising title since the Spirit is God and God never lies. But how is the Spirit the Spirit of truth? The Spirit is ultimately the author of this book. “Holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Here is where the truth is revealed. Spend a lot of time in this book.
I find it interesting how so many fight against two teachings of the Bible – how the heavens and the earth came into being and how this book came about. Yet they are the most settled teachings of Scripture in terms of numbers. God tells us 2500 he is the Maker of the heavens and earth. He tells us 2000 times this book is his from beginning to end. This book is truth. The Spirit of God inspired it. Here is where the answers are found. Here is where God gives us sight, spiritual sight to see and know that the Spirit came and now we see.
As a pastor I am so thankful. This is the Word of God. It speaks for itself. It defends itself. Every week you know where the sermon is coming from – the Bible. Every week you hear God speak to you. There is no stopping you to listen to him speak in between by opening it up and reading it.
We called it confirmation class. We call it catechism, but it was really Bible class. We studied how the Spirit revealed God’s truth so that we see.
What did we study? How Jesus conquered! Jesus says in another place, “The Holy Spirit convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin.” One of the most common words for sin in the Bible comes from the sport of archery. It means to miss the mark, to miss the bullseye at which someone is aiming. The bull’s eye that God expects every one of us to hit is absolute perfection. “Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.” When we fail to hit the bullseye, that’s sin.
The nagging conscience, the guilt we feel is the result of missing the bullseye. The Pharisees who lived at Jesus’ time were good people when judged by the standard of the community around them, but when judged by God’s standard they missed the bull’s eye.
I hope this is also true of us, that by community standards we are respectable people. One should expect that from people who claim to be God’s children. But when we hold our lives up to God’s standard, the Ten Commandments, we miss the bull’s eye….by a lot. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin.
But we search the Scripture, we come to this place of worship and we hear not only about ourselves, but also the truth about Jesus. Our churches serve are clinics for the soul. They are treatment facilities for what really ails us. There is hope; there is recovery. It lies in the Spirit-wrought truth that he reveals in the Scriptures. There is forgiveness of sins earned for us by the perfect life of Jesus. There is a reason why he lived on this earth for thirty three years. There is a reason why he didn’t just parachute to this earth a week and a half in advance of Calvary. Thirty three years of perfection. The word used in the Bible is often righteousness. His righteousness becomes ours by faith.
But it didn’t stop there either. He became sin for us. The Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Jesus became the greatest sinner the world has ever seen. He carried them all. He suffered the penalty for sin – separation from God and death. By that separation our sins were paid for in abundance. How do we know that? We just celebrated it. On the third Jesus arose from the dead. The payment was accepted. The resurrection is proof. The weight was taken off our shoulders. How do we know? The answers are here. The Spirit reveals these truths in the book he wrote. He reveals to us that Jesus came, we saw that he has conquered. That’s the Spirit’s victory chant.