The Day of Pentecost “TRUTH: Ugly or Beautiful?”
May 23, 2021 John 15:26–27; 16:4b–15
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ;
When we think of ‘Pentecost’, we think of the amazing tongues of fire, & the miracle of speaking in unlearned languages. But, those are not the things Jesus focused on when He taught His disciples about the coming Pentecost. As we hear from John 15 & 16, He focused on the Spirit who would come with ‘The Truth’; The Helper would ‘convict’ and ‘comfort’.
So let’s think about those things. My Goal today is that when you think of the ‘Holy Spirit’, you think: ‘The Spirit of Truth.’
Many of us fear the truth when it comes to revealing something about us. We all know things about ourselves we just don’t want to face. Like the first time a young store clerk called us ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ & we suddenly realized a truth = we looked ‘old’. Or maybe it was the day we stopped trying to pull out those grey hairs because we could no longer keep up. It’s a problem with all ages; we don’t want to face the truth that we are getting older.
All of us have other things we don’t want to admit to: /we eat unhealthy things, /we’re lazy housekeepers, /we have poor work habits, /we’re disorganized, /we’ve peaked in our career, /we drink too much, /we gossip too much; … /we watch movies we shouldn’t, /we read books we shouldn’t, /we click on internet sites we shouldn’t; /we don’t help others & volunteer as much as we should. In this fallen world, & among sinful human beings, The Truth is Ugly. We don’t want to face the Truth. But The Truth is very important to God.
It’s more important than that one-time-event of fire & language; those were merely outward signs. The real meaning of Pentecost for the Church is the celebration of the coming of the Spirit of Truth == who is the Holy Spirit of God, & was promised by Jesus before He went to suffering & the cross. Twice John used this phrase ‘Spirit of Truth’; *what does that mean for us? We say we want ‘the truth’ in our life, from our friends & from the media;
but we tend to shy away from the ugly truth about ourselves. So, *how can we be happy about this Spirit’s arrival — if He’s bringing the truth?
This is evidence of The Fall: The fear of the truth is so real, that all mankind, in every generation, has tried to avoid the truth. Instead of facing it, people twist it, & ignore it.
People like to say ‘truth depends on your viewpoint’, or on your culture, your religion, & your politics. Sadly, even the Christian Church today does not all agree what is the foundation of truth. People deny that there is ‘absolute truth’; and if you argue there is just one right standard of measurement about this life, & God, & morality, you will be branded as ‘mean-spirited’, closed-minded, intolerant, biased, or even racist.
As Biblical Christians, we confess that there IS an absolute truth that applies to all
men, women & children; all nations, cultures & languages. The Bible. And even tho we will use that Bible measuring stick of truth on others, we resist it’s use on ourselves.
That’s exactly what King David learned in the OT, in 2 Samuel. Giving-in to lustful thoughts, David commits adultery with Bathsheba, & she becomes pregnant. David worries more about his reputation than about the evil he’s committed. He quickly has her husband, Uriah, killed in war; and then to look all ‘noble’, David takes-in this grieving widow as one of his wives. David hopes that no one suspects; but God knows the truth.
God sends His prophet Nathan to David, who tells the king a troubling story.
The problem, Nathan says, is that a rich man with a large flock prepares a meal for a guest. Instead of taking one of his own many lambs for the feast, he takes & serves-up the only ewe-lamb of his poor neighbor. King David, the former shepherd, is enraged & demands true justice. David proclaims, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.” And then, by the Spirit of Truth, Nathan declares the ugly truth about David: “You are the man!” (2 Sam 12:5, 7).
The Ugly Truth is hard to swallow when it’s applied to US. Even when he could see true justice for someone else, David excused himself from the truth. WE do that, too. But the Spirit of God came thru Nathan, and the truth cut into his heart & mind: “you are that man.”
Only The Holy Spirit could make his hard heart hear & accept his wicked actions of adultery, lies, & murder. From the Spirit of Truth, David stood exposed, and he wrote in Psalm 51:
“I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”
Another problem is this: Even if people believe there IS truth, they have a hard time thinking that it matters. This is a problem when people think they are accountable to no one.
*Does the truth matter to those in government when they’re caught in scandals & cover-ups, but no one holds them accountable? *Does the truth matter when church leaders are caught in abuse, or misuse of funds. *What about those in business who are producing unsafe products, or selling our personal data = does the truth matter? It does matter. What is the truth?
*Can we fix ‘climate change’ or can’t we? *Does biology matter in gender or doesn’t it? *Did masks prevent that microscopic virus, or not? *Is canceling history, or canceling someone’s twitter account, a real solution to our disagreements? *Are reporters giving us accurate news or just their own biased opinion? It’s no wonder we’re cynical; we know truth matters, but it gets ignored & abused. Many people believe that truth is whatever you feel is right for you, regardless of reality. That attitude was shown when the very Son of God spoke of truth in front of the Roman Governor in Judea, and Pilate sneered, “What is truth?”
THAT’S why Pentecost had to happen; not for ‘tongues of fire’ or ‘languages’, but to bring-in the NT era of the ‘Spirit of Truth’; which is God’s gift to the world of His anger, His mercy, & our salvation in Christ. The Holy Spirit brings The Word = the written Scripture of God; He reveals that God is truth; the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit is truth. God Himself embodies all that is real, and ALL He has spoken by His Word is true. This is the reality that confronted King David. This is the reality that exposes the ugliness of our soul as it’s naturally turned away from the truth of God. The Spirit worked thru Nathan the prophet, and David repented.
And now, as prophesied thru Joel, in this NT time, Pentecost means that this same Spirit of Truth comes to US as promised; convicting the “world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Jesus says it is for our own good that He sent The Spirit, and that we will be guided into all the truth. (Jn 16:8–9).
Like David, WE worry & try to keep ugly truth hidden; we make up fancy excuses so we ‘look good’. By faith, we do confess the truth that God rules over heaven & earth; & that He created us & all things; that doesn’t hurt to confess. But it’s hard to admit when the truth exposes our sin; after all, ‘so many others are far worse than us’ -we think-. But, *is that really true? When the Spirit of Truth came that Pentecost Day, and Peter preached the truth of their sin, 3,000 were ‘cut to the heart’; the Spirit exposed their dark rejection of God’s Son, & His Word of truth.
THAT is the Spirit of the Lord’s NT Church in action; and it’s just as Jesus promised: The Spirit of Truth is the ‘convicter’. And every time He comes, He makes us look in the mirror to see what David saw: ‘YOU are the sinner!’ Pentecost means the Spirit comes to us with the Ugly Truth.
Now, the good thing is that that is just half the truth. The Holy Spirit works with the WHOLE truth; and so there’s more. There’s also a BEAUTIFUL Truth.
This is why we are willing to come here in church to face our Holy God, and listen to the first truth = the ugly truth. The Spirit brings us the message that Jesus came to the earth ~in the flesh~ & delivered this promise: “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.” (Jn 15:26). After the Spirit convicts concerning sin and judgment, the same Spirit reveals the truth of ‘righteousness.’
This means that the Spirit delivers to us the righteousness that our Savior has won for us by shedding His blood on the cross. This Gospel of Jesus delivers the Beautiful Truth that, despite our sin, God rescues us. This is God’s reality that we can trust. We celebrate the coming of the Spirit without fear of the truth that it brings. The Spirit comes with His witness: Jesus /suffered in your place; /He died for you, /rose for you, /reigns for you, /& prays for you; /He teaches you how to live; /and He will come back for you.
The Spirit of Truth continues to bear witness, that because of Christ’s ‘righteous’ redemption nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God.” (Rom 8:38–39). This is the real miracle of Pentecost. The Spirit causes us to believe the miracle-of-mercy; that as we confess our sins, God declares Jesus as our forgiveness. God hated David’s sin, but then provided him a Savior. Likewise, God has not rejected US. “…the blood of Jesus …cleanses us from all sin.”, says 1 Jn 1:7. That is God’s full message. By His Son, God welcomes us into fellowship with Him. Pentecost bears witness to this Beautiful Truth.
Both truths matter, and go together. The Spirit’s real work is to bring us God’s Word of both the Ugly and the Beautiful. As written thru John: If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
St. Paul admitted that he was the worst of sinners; & he said: who will save me from this body of death = this ugly truth? Thanks be to God, thru Jesus Christ our Lord! Wherever God’s Word is, the Holy ‘Convicter’ is exposing sin’s darkness, and is shining the Light of Life in Christ Jesus.
On that Pentecost Sunday, The Spirit of Truth arrived to establish the NT Church of Christ, which is the place where God’s people have the whole truth. Today we rejoice that the Holy Spirit is here to glorify the Savior; to give us gifts. As Jesus said: “all that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that (the Spirit) will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” (16:15). Here, in His Church, that becomes real.
The Spirit of Truth comes to give the gift of faith so that we may receive the forgiveness of sins, life, & salvation thru God’s Word & Sacraments. As we hear in Ezekiel 37, we go from being ugly, dry bones = to being beautiful new creatures in Christ, thru the Spirit & water of Baptism. By this grace, we have become the living ‘house of Israel’ in this NT time.
And here we rest in the shadow of the cross, and He absolves us of our sin each week;
we hear His Word spoken to guide our lives; and we join in this fellowship in the Lord’s Table by His Spirit, and in the Truth of His Word.
The truth is, in all the world, the Christian Church is the only place where there is true life for all who confess the ugly truth of sin and the beauty of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. That is the witness of the Holy Spirit. And the Lord wants ALL people to know & believe what YOU do; His gospel is for ALL dry bones. The Spirit of God comes to exchange our guilt for righteousness, our shame for forgiveness, our death for life, and our ugly for beauty. And that’s the whole Pentecost truth in Christ Jesus.