What in the World are we Gonna Do?


The 'world' I grew up in was considered Christian. The public schools had Christmas Break and Easter Break. Good Friday was a public holiday with businesses closed between the sacred hours of 12 and 3 when Christ descended into hell on the cross. In Basic Training we weren't made to go to church, but we had roll call Sunday morning and were marched there. Now, Christianity is one of many religions and not a favored one at that. Christians, especially pastors, are portrayed as hypocrites, hateful, secret serious sinners, and just plain ugly. What in the world are we gonna do?

Today is the Day of Pentecost. The Gospel reading appointed from John is about Jesus sending the Spirit of Truth from the Father. But notice how it skips the 4 verses between 15:27-16:4a. Those 4 verses and the 7 before it are about us living in a world opposed to us. The world's hatred is the context of our text. Listen to 16:1-4a. "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you."

Tell me; did not Jesus see the world we would be living in? Tell me; did He not did send the Spirit for these days? And the 4 verses skipped in the insert aren't even the beginning. In the 7 verses before this Jesus speaks of the world's hatred 6x's and shows how brutal and total it is. The world hates you because it hated Jesus first. The world hates you because you do not belong to it. And when you feel the world's hatred you often feel bad thinking you had to have done something to bring it on. Nope. Jesus says they will hate you the way they hate the Father and the Son: "without cause." In Greek, it's literally "they hated Me freely."

What in this fallen, hostile, deadly world are we gonna do? In the excised part of our insert Jesus lands where Lynn Anderson does. Jesus says, "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you." Lynn Anderson sang, "I never promised you a rose garden." This is what the Drill Sergeants harped on. Forty-seven years later I still hear them saying that since we were the first post-draft recruits we had no one to blame but ourselves if we were miserable. What in the world are we gonna do in this hateful, hostile, harsh world? Sing like The Shirelles saying: Jesus told me there would be days like this.

That is what is called cold comfort. Thankfully, we have yet to answer what in the world does the Lord do in days like this? Days of impossibility, trial, and burden? What did the Lord do in the past when His people were faced with such days? Let's first look not at the situation of being surrounded by a hostile hateful world, but one where His people are tapped out. When the Tabernacle needed to be built according to the precise heavenly pattern shown to Moses, what did the Lord do? Ex. 31:2-4: "I have chosen Bezalel ...of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze."

In not a life-and-death situation but one of need, the Spirit was the answer. And He is in the extremities of a world gone mad too. When the OT Church needs to be delivered from the King of Mesopotamia, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Othniel (Jud. 3). Timid, cowardly Gideon has the Spirit of the Lord come upon him and he defeats the Midianites (Jud. 6). Thuggish, brutish, even unbelieving Samson receives the Spirit of the Lord to do unheard of feats of strength (Jud. 13-16). Read how often the Spirit of the Lord has to strengthen, uplift, empower Ezekiel and Daniel living in the world of the captive OT Church in Babylon.

Don't stop here either. Go to the NT Church. It begins with 12 apostles and about 120 believers facing an unbelieving world and a persecuting church. Up till today Peter, the leader, showed himself a denier, a coward, one who put his hand to the plow and turned back, one who was more concerned about what would happen to another than what Jesus had just told him would happen to him. What changed Peter from cowardly retreater, emphatic denier, and mewly unsureness to bold proclaimer in Acts 2? A Dale Carnegie course? A Tony Robbin's seminar? Self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline? Please. What was Peter and the other's told in Acts 1:4, 8? "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, ... You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." The same Spirit that gifted Bezalel, empowered Othniel, emboldened Gideon, graced the lustful Samson, and sustained exhausted Ezekiel and Daniel worked miracles for Peter.

And you think because were not Pentecostals or Charismatics, because we believe that the Holy Spirit is not to be looked for apart from the Means of Grace, that the Spirit is not to be looked for or relied on at all. Think again. When Zerubbabel was faced with rebuilding the Temple in a world that was hostile to the Church, the Lord commands Zechariah to tell him, "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty" (4:6). Now faced with a world that hates us, persecutes us, we think God's answer today is, "Not by My Spirit but by your might and by your power"? Please. See if you can follow this.

In Gen. 6 the Lord is fed up with this hateful world. And He puts a time limit, 120 years, for how long His Spirit will strive with men. Finding only 8 who believed Noah's preaching of grace and salvation, the Lord washed the world clean of sinners. However, upon finding the same fallenness in the 8 that were in the world He destroyed, see Gen. 6:5 and 8:21, what in the world was He gonna do? What He did do is pledge never to again destroy the earth. Sorry you peaceniks, greenies, and globalwarmists who think that we can destroy the world before Jesus returns. Not going to happen. The Lord pledges, "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." Why? Jesus, the Promised Seed was planted in the womb of a virgin, born into this hate-filled world, to live the pure life necessary to keep the Law, and to die the damned death necessary to fulfill the Law's punishments. What in the world, what in this world that hates Him, persecutes Him, and killed Him, did Jesus do? Mt. 27:50 tells you. When Jesus breathed His last on the cross: "He cried out again in a loud voice and gave up the Spirit."

As sure as you've been baptized, you've been baptized into the Spirit. As sure as you've been absolved, you have the Spirit of Jesus, that He first breathed into the apostles. As sure as you've eaten Jesus' Body and drank His Blood, you've been fed by the Spirit. Now having been washed, forgiven, and fed by the Spirit in Jesus' name, for Jesus' sake, what in the world are you gonna do? Well, don't go by the NIV insert. It's wrong and shows that fallen men left to our own devices always skew toward the Law. Jesus does not tell the Apostles facing a world that hates them, a world that will think it's serving God by killing them, "You also must testify." Many times I've told you there's no power in imperatives. An imperative only tells you what the speaker wants done, demands done, requires done. It give you no power to do it. NASB takes it as future: "You will testify." As does EHV, "You are going to testify." I take it the way Young's Literal Translation and the Greek actually reads: "ye also do testify" It's a simple present indicative. Future or present: it's promise. In this world of irrational hatred and hostility their testifying is a certainty. And that right there is a miracle. A miracle preformed by the Spirit.

Jesus puts them into a whole different reality, really a different world. Jesus promises, "I will send you the Spirit." This is today. This is Pentecost and every Baptism, Absolution, and Communion ever since. These are the places Jesus promises the Spirit "goes out from the Father." In these places, descriptions fail, words pale, visible reality is usurped by something greater, something realer, something heavier. In these Means of the Spirit the 7 thunders utter their voices, but like John we're forbidden to record what they say (Rev. 10:4). In these 3 Means of the Holy Spirit is the 3rd heaven where like Paul we sees things which no one is permitted to tell (2 Cor. 12:2-4). This realm of great power and might is a world where words break down. Paul tells us: "We do not know what we should pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that are not expressed in words" (Rom. 8:26 (EHV)).

The realm of the Spirit of the Father and the Son is one of forgiven sins, power unimagined, life unending, and possibilities mere mortals can't even dream of. The realm of the Spirit, is a world where sinners claim holiness, the dying claim life, the helpless strength, the fearful courage. The English idea of 'spirit' and 'spiritual' has cast a veil over the Spirit making Him "a pale and unsubstantial member of the Holy Trinity." You can sense that can't you? But the Spirit active in creation (Gen. 1:2); in the mighty deeds of judges (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29), in her kings, in the church's history among nations (Is. 31:3), in the Word that came to prophets is anything but "pale and unsubstantial." Everywhere man's possibilities are at an end the creative possibilities of God begin. At that's the juncture we find the presence and the working of the Spirit of God. The NT ministry is Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided, Spirit-empowered. (Franzmann, Romans, 138-39). These are statements of weight, of substance. They are supernatural, but that means beyond nature not made up.

In the realm of the Spirit which you enter every time you're in the Word, splash about in your Baptism, or dine with Him in Communion, the question isn't what in the world are you gonna do, but what in the world is the Spirit gonna do, and consequently what in the world can't you do? Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Day of Pentecost (20220605); John 15:18-16:4