Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Sixth Sunday of Easter + May 21, 2017
Text: John 14:15-21
As we approach Ascension Day (this year, May 25), we continue to hear powerfully encouraging words from our Lord about how He continues to be with us, even though hidden from our sight.
This time, our Lord tells us that we will be distinct among men. The first way He says that we will be distinct is to say that, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” To love Jesus is more than an act we can conjure up. It’s more than thinking He’s a great guy and having affection toward Him. This is the result of faith, not our own doing, that we love Jesus. This is God’s incredible work that He has created a clean heart within us and renewed us with a right spirit. The reason we know if we love Jesus by faith is that we keep His Word. Those who love Jesus treasure the Word of God, hold it sacred, gladly pore over it. They experience spiritual awakening, feeling the terror of God’s Law when He thunders against our wickedness, being raised up by the sweet consolation that our sins are forgiven through the precious blood of Jesus, and living in the joyful freedom of our salvation.
Yet, beware because the devil is a sly enemy. He delights in convincing people that they can love Jesus and close their ears to His Word. He would love to have you believe you can be a true Christian and never pray, put worship on the bottom of your priorities, and close your heart to your neighbor so you don’t care if he perishes in body or soul.
Just as we are too sinful to love God on our own, we also don’t have it in us to continue in this faith even for an hour. Therefore, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive.” He is the One who converted our hearts at the beginning, and brought us to know and believe in Jesus (the other Helper). He is also the one who will keep us in this confession and faith, even while the world and the devil war against the true God and all who belong to Him. The Spirit of truth is in us to keep us as the people who bear God’s Name—Christians.
Because of this, Christians are the target of attack. We look vulnerable to the world, because we follow a God who saved us by dying on a cross. But our living Lord assures us that He does not leave us as orphans (fatherless). Rather, He gives a whole string of promises: “I am coming to you…you will see me…you will live…you will know…I will manifest myself to you.” In fact we are not Fatherless, but we have the greatest and most powerful keeper of all, the Triune God.
Because of all this, Christians are distinct from the world.
You are distinct from the world because you love God and keep His Word. His Word is a lamp to your feet. Where the rest of men choose the guidance of their own darkened hearts, you have a light from above. That light shows you who God is, proclaims the glories of His creation, instructs you in what it means to be a human being, and gives definition and meaning to your relationships.
You are different because you know your Father in heaven, and that He is the One who faithfully provides for you. While the world scrambles for resources and men covet each other’s goods afraid they will be left destitute, you rest in God’s care even though we may have to wait for it for a time. What other people in the world have a promise from heaven, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”?
You have a Savior who gives you a peaceful conscience through your Baptism—“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” While others numb their conscience with drinking and drugs, you have an advocate in heaven whose blood speaks for your guilt and who causes you to be judged by His perfect obedience.
You have the Holy Spirit, the Helper who is with you forever. The world religions all rely on the fortitude and self-dedication of their followers. Not so with your God—“I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from Me you can do nothing.” You are not on your own in your faith or your life in Christ. Jesus has given you His Spirit of Truth who puts His Word into your heart and causes it to bear fruit. He gives you strength for your struggles, and reassures you in your doubts.
What other people have a god so near to them as the Lord your God is to you? The answer is no one but the children of the Triune God. Amen.
 Hebrews 13:5
 1 Peter 3:21 (Epistle reading)
 John 15:5
 Deuteronomy 4:7