Convictions Of Truth In A World Gone Mad

Text: John 16:5-15

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Today when we read from the Gospel of John, we hear that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.  That is to say; the Holy Spirit is all about truth! 

But what truth will this Spirit guide us into?  In other words, what is truth? 

The question of knowing what truth is, is an age old quest.  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle spent their lifetimes trying to understand truth. We are even reminded of Pontius Pilate when he asked the question “what is truth?” just before he washed his hands of the guilt he had in Jesus’ death.  

So again, what is truth? 

In our modern day and age, we are hesitant to answer this question.  In fact we prefer to believe that truth is slippery and difficult to nail down.  Because if truth is so slippery, then no one really has it, and that is rather convenient because then no one can really tell anyone what is right and what is wrong.

Indeed, we live in a time where what is true for one person, is true for them, and what is true for another person… well, it is apparently true for them as well.  That is to say, we live in a time where each individual person is the measure of truth – truth is what each person makes it to be for himself or herself.  And this way of thinking has a name.  It is called relativism. 

Relativism basically teaches that there is no such thing as objective and universal truths.  It teaches that what is true for one person may not be true for another.  It teaches that everybody is their own authority, which means that a person can live the way they want, think the way they want, and do what they want, because that is what is true for them.  And nobody can tell them otherwise. 

So, if a person’s personal truth tell them to live a life of unrepentant sin – nobody has a right to say otherwise, because there is no such thing as sin for the person, since they define their own morality. 

You see how this works?  Relativism allows a person to have their own personal truth.  And again, personal truth depends on what the individual believes is right and what is wrong for them.  And not only is this extremely convenient, it appeals to our human nature that wants to be in charge of our own little universe. 

Tragically, our hearts love to sing the apparent truths that we have made up and embraced.  Our personal opinions are what matter and what we exalt.  And so we use our personal slippery truth to justify anything we want to do. 

Indeed we live in a time when one person can have their truth and another person can have their truth.  And as long as these two personal truths do not come into conflict, everyone can get along with bliss and happiness. 

But the catch 22 is this: as humans we are not isolated islands.  We all interact in society as citizens, neighbors, and employees.  So, as it can be expected, the personal truths that we make up for ourselves can come into conflict with other people’s personal truths that they have made up, which leads to conflict.  Typically, what happens is that we hate anyone who would dare tell us that our truth is warped or that our lives are wrong. 

To be a little more specific, let us consider the example of sin.  There are many different convictions about sin in the world.  Some believe sin to simply be a ‘weakness’ in mankind, whereas, others would see sin as a ‘sickness’ in mankind.  And there are other opinions about sin too.  Some see sin as a result of a lack of education, poverty, and a lack of resources.   To them, sin is a result of a social deficiency – the lack of good resources for a certain group of people.  And finally, but not least or last, some see sin as nothing more than an oppressive term used by the church to keep certain people underneath its thumb and to keep people from having fun.  And as long as we do not try to definitely define what sin is for everyone, there will be no conflict.  But as we know, society cannot operate this way.  This kind of thinking leads to chaos and anarchy, no matter how hard we try to keep peace.

There is more to this.  The world also has its varied opinions on what constitutes righteousness as well, that is to say, goodness. To some righteousness is to follow your heart and do whatever makes you happy.  Others believe righteousness - goodness - is found in being a good citizen and a good neighbor to those in need.  There is a third option; these folks see goodness as doing virtuous and morally upright things – not smoking or drinking or chewing or dating girls that do.  Again, even though we can try to keep peace by the way of relativism, this does nothing more than create instability because everyone lives not by truth but by lies.

Let us not forget judgment either.  The world has a lot of opinions on this topic as well.  Some do not believe there is such a thing as the last judgment, which means that whatever we do now in this present life will not have an eternal consequence.  These are the ones that cry out, “You can’t judge me!”  On the other side of the coin, there are others who believe that there should be a judgment.  They may or may not hold to an eternal judgment, but what is for sure is this, they want judgement in this life for people who violate their understanding of sin and for people who do not honor what they believe to be good.  The judgment might be to punish people with jail time.  Or the judgment might be to label them as a hater or a closed minded bigot or to possibly slap a lawsuit on them. 

And we mustn’t forget the devil. The devil is also at work here too with relativism. The devil is happy when we walk around in our own invented truth and our own invented awesomeness because we are right where he wants us, we are separated from God’s truth. 

Tragically, what we are hearing today is that we use our own personal truths – what we make up for ourselves - as a way of making ourselves feel good.  We tell ourselves what we want to hear and what we want to hear is how awesome we are – how right we are and how everyone else is wrong. 

We must stop in the midst of this chaos, though, and consider our Gospel reading.  We must make sure to acknowledge that when Jesus said the Spirit will lead us into all truth, He did not mean we each have our own personal spirit in our pocket who will lead us into our own personal truth. But rather, He is talking about the Holy Spirit who leads us into all of God’s truth.

And, dear friends, God has only one truth.  It is the truth of His Word.  It is the truth that the Holy Spirit gives to us! There are not multiple definitions of sin and righteousness and judgment, for that would make multiple Gods.  There is only one God and one truth; truth that is universal and objective – truth that stands overtop of all humanity. 
You see, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit proves the world wrong about sin and righteousness and about judgment.  That is to say, the Holy Spirit of Truth shows us that our own truths are nothing but grass that withers and fades.  He leads us to believe and understand that the only truth that lasts forever is God’s truth.  And our truths that we make up for ourselves… well, He shows us that they are lies, lies from the pit of hell.

Yes, we must pause and hear from our Gospel reading that the Holy Spirit proves the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment, because the world does not believe in Jesus, and Jesus is right.   Indeed, do not be deceived by the definitions of sin in the world, but hear the Holy Spirit through God’s Law that is proclaimed to you – know that your sin of unbelief is the chief sin that needs to be absolved and forgiven.

And we mustn’t stop here, but we must also hear that the Holy Spirit proves the world wrong about righteousness and goodness – and therefore shows you and me where we are wrong as well.  In other words, The world has its idea of what is good, which is strangely like what it wants at the moment.  But Jesus came and showed Himself alone to be good in this world.  He shows up the world’s self-righteousness, and ours, for the sham that it is.  The world could not stand Jesus because of His claims; however, the world could not keep Christ in the grave, but Jesus lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit, one God, now and forever.  And now the Spirit gives you everything that is Jesus’.  Sin is paid for.  Death is dead. The righteousness of God made known in Christ, is yours. 

And finally, the Holy Spirit proves the world wrong about judgment.  There will indeed be a judgment.  All of humanity lives in a morally significant universe.  Our actions and deeds and lives will have consequences in this life and for eternity.  However, we are not judged at the end for breaking the popular opinions of celebrities or breaking what is deemed politically correct at the moment, but rather we are judged for breaking the Lord’s Law as expressed simplistically in the Ten Commandments.  No doubt about it, there will be an end someday to this life, and there will be a judgment, contrary to what Oprah or the latest Cosmopolitan opinion poll may tell us.  Why, because of Jesus – who was raised from the grave. He says so! 

Dear Baptized Saints, hear the good news of the Gospel, though!  Christ was crucified and judged in your place.  In Jesus, you are already judged.  Christ was judged as a sinner – as you.  He was damned – for you.  And because Jesus was damned and judged for you; therefore, you have nothing to fear when the Lord comes again in judgment – or at any time before that.

Relativism is a bankrupt ideology my friends. It comes straight from the pits of hell.  It causes the world to be wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment; however, the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments has come to you and will continue to come to you so that you might be given convictions of truth – real truth.    

Truly, the Holy Spirit has brought God’s precious convictions of truth to you in the Word.  And the Holy Spirit will continue to bring truth to your ears, so that you may believe and know who you are and what the Lord has done for you, in the midst of a world that flaps back and forth like a flimsy reed blowing in the wind.  Yes, the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments will keep your hearts fixed upon Christ, the author, and perfector of your faith… unto the end.

Baptized Saints, there is indeed sin, righteousness, and judgment; however, Christ became sin for you, Christ is righteousness for you, and Christ rescues you from judgment.  This is all most certainly true.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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