Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 8, 2014 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (Should I Be Afraid of the Devil?) Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: John 16:1-15
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, Spirit help when we need it most. Amen.
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you were at your wits end, or when you couldn't take another step, or when you were so exhausted with no strength to do what you needed to do and then help came right when you needed it, there just in time? What a feeling, right? What a relief. What a blessing.
Help that comes just in time is help that we all need! It can make all the difference in a person's life.
It sure made a difference to an older woman's life one rainy evening. There she was; flat tire in the middle of nowhere, in a place that was unfamiliar to her. In fact, the younger man driving down the road almost didn't see her stranded there. But in the dim late afternoon mist of this rainy day, he saw that she needed help, so he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His old Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.
Even with the smile on his face, this older woman was worried. Was this man going to stop to hurt her? He didn't look safe, he looked poor and hungry. Now he could see that she was frightened.
So, he approached and he said, "I'm here to help you, ma'am. Why don't you wait in my car where it's warm and dry? By the way, my name is Bryan."
So, he crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire, but to do it he had to get cold, wet, and dirty; and his hands hurt doing the work in the chill of the day.
As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid.
She asked him how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She had already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. His help was priceless to her. But Bryan never thought twice about the money. This was not a job to him. This was helping somebody in need, and by God's grace, people had given him help just when he needed it a time or two.
He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, "the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance that they needed, and think of me."
Now, a few miles down the road the woman saw a small café; so she went in to get warm and dry and to grab a bite to eat.
She got to her table and the waitress came over and brought her a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. The waitress had a sweet smile, one that couldn't be erased even by being on her feet all day. The lady noticed that the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, too, but she never let the strain and the aches change her attitude.
How could somebody who so obviously had so little be so giving to her, a stranger? Then she remembered Bryan. After the lady finished her meal and the waitress went to get her change, she slipped right out the door. She was long gone by the time the waitress came back.
The waitress wondered where the woman could be, and then she noticed something written on the napkin under which were four $100 bills. There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote. It said, "Somebody once helped me out the way I'm helping you."
Well, there were tables for her yet to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into her bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could that woman, that stranger, have known how much she and her husband needed it at that moment? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard.
She knew her husband and how he worried so, she knew how hard they both were working and praying, but this night there was a little more peace; so as he lay in bed sleeping next to her, she leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss and whispered soft and low, "Everything's gonna be all right honey, I know it will. I love you, Bryan."(Author Unknown)
Help in time of need, help that you don't deserve, help that makes all the difference in the world. That's just a glimpse of the kind of help that Jesus is talking about today. Pentecost is not merely a nice story of help for a helpless lady on the side of the road or a couple who needed a few more dollars; it's help from God in Christ, by His Spirit, to overcome all that is against you, overcome all that is keeping you from the life, joy, and peace that God wants for you to have in His Son.
Today is Pentecost Day in the Christian Church. And as simply as I can say it, it means that the work of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness, life, and salvation He earned for every person in this world; that work doesn't remain a relic of the past. Its blessing, its power, its grace is here for you right now in the gift of His Holy Spirit through the Spirit-filled Word of God!
That's why Jesus told His fearful disciples then and still tells us today, "I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I don't go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
The Holy Spirit is "God the Life Giver," who draws us to Jesus Christ, who opens our hearts to faith in Him for our salvation. Jesus sent a Helper to humanity because even believing in Him was beyond our power and capability.
Luther reminds us of the Bible's teaching concerning the Holy Spirit in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed, saying, "I believe in the Holy Spirit," and then he explains, "I believe that I can not by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith." Real, eternal, Godly help in time of need.
On that first Pentecost Day, Jesus fulfilled His promise to send such a Helper and that Holy Spirit still comes for you and me to bring the things of Jesus Christ, earned on the cross, stamped with the power of His resurrection, to bring those to us personally so that we might indeed be reconciled to God!
Jesus sends the world the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Encourager, the Comforter, because He knows that we need Him even if we don't feel that need right at the moment!
Have you ever heard of an "intervention?" An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one or many people, usually people who know and care for that person, to get someone to seek professional help. Very often, the "someone" in question doesn't even feel like they've got a problem. Everyone else can see it but them. It could be because of an addiction or some kind of traumatic event or crisis or some other serious problem. It could be a problem because of an addition to alcohol, compulsive gambling, drug abuse, compulsive eating, or other disorders, self harm. Those who love you, they decide that because you can't help yourself, they will find a way to make help possible, intervening, making a person face the facts and then being there to lovingly be supportive of the healing work that must be done!
The Holy Spirit's first work in a person's life is a kind of Spiritual intervention, to show us our need for God, to show us the destructive consequences of our sin, its destructive power in life. Jesus can't say it more clearly: "When the counselor/the helper comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment."
In fact, when God's Word tells us that our lives are not as they should be and that we need to change, that's the Spirit intervening for our sakes!
Are we willing to let the Spirit do His Work? Are we open to His power to convict us of our own sinfulness and show us our need for a Savior?
When our righteousness is exposed for what it is, a sham, that's the Spirit intervening in our lives. Incredibly, people today are no different than people who have come before us. We are people who think we are the smartest, cleverest, deserving people that have ever walked the planet. We think we can solve our problems without God, we think that we can build meaningful lives without His Word; we think that our "spirit" is enough for whatever we face and in that sense we are no different than any human being who has come before us.
So, incredibly, when we finally realize how foolish that is, how self-defeating that is, how eternally bankrupt that is, that's the intervention of the Holy Spirit!
Jesus' words in our text pull no punches. We need the Spirit to help us understand the eternal hole that we've dug for ourselves, we need to see our need for righteousness for life itself, and we need to understand that Jesus came to deal with it all, to face the judgment of God in our place, to execute justice and mercy for our own good. Thank God that He sent a Helper, because all of us have made such a mess of things that matter most in our lives!
What a beautiful thing the Holy Spirit does when He convinces you and me that we need the help that only God can provide.
Just think about that first Pentecost Day again, when the Apostle Peter stood up and called people to sorrow and repentance for their sin! What moved those people to call for mercy? The accusation of the Holy Spirit, that's what! Peter scares them to death (or should I say, he scares them to life?) He does that when he proclaims that all of us have put Jesus on the cross because of our sin, that all of us stand in utter need, vulnerable to the destructiveness of our own sinful flesh, the temptations of the world and the soul-killing power of the devil himself.
Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, makes them aware of the hopelessness of their circumstance without the forgiveness and grace of Jesus.
But, that's not all. Thank God that's not all. The Good News of that first Pentecost is not that the Spirit merely convicts and judges rightly; the great work of the Holy Spirit is that He convicts to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ alone. He brings you and me to repentance to bring us to life in abundance!
On Pentecost, when people shouted, "What must we do to be saved," hear the Spirit's Word through Peter. It's not some moralism of "try to do better or give it your best;" no, it's a Spirit-filled offer of grace to call you home to the God who created you and redeemed you to be His very own again!
Peter says it clearly, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the Name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, and you will receive the Holy Spirit!"
Jesus says of that Spirit, "The Spirit will take what is mine and He will make it known to you!"
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God invited people then and now to put all their hopes and dreams for all of life in Jesus Christ by the Spirit's power. He seeks to lay on you all the blessings that Jesus earned on your behalf; Spirit help in time of need!
What a feeling that is to have something so special, so meaningful laid on you as a gift, right? Think of that warm blanket laid on you by your loving spouse in the middle of a cold winter night when you've fallen asleep on the couch. Or think of that hug that is laid on you by one you love after a tough day at work or a personal defeat in life. There's nothing like it.
Sometimes what's laid on us can mean everything. Sometimes the right cover can mean the difference between life and death! Each year, thousands of lambs are born only to be orphaned by the death of their mother. The shepherds and farmers are faced with a serious problem for the orphans; other mothers instinctively don't accept those that are not their own. Without a mother, these lambs would starve to death. So the shepherds have to spring into action; if the mother had a lamb that had died too, they would quickly skin the animal and cover the orphan lamb with its skin and present the lamb to the ewe. Smelling the skin of her own laid on that orphaned lamb, the mother accepts the orphan as hers; covered, accepted, safe, and alive. Help received just in time!
The work of the Holy Spirit is much like that; to show us our need, to help us understand the gravity of our situation without God, not to scare us or leave us as orphans; no, it is to deliver the Good News of the embrace of God's grace, the covering of His undeserved righteousness, and the enduring gift of His life in ours.
That's the Spirit, the Helper come just for you in your time of need. If you know the joy of trusting in Jesus as your Savior this day, say with me, "That's the Spirit for us and for our life and for our salvation."
When it comes to life and salvation, the Bible's clear; "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit," says the Lord!
Jesus sends a Helper, One who spearheads a Divine intervention for us all, ultimately to deliver the cover of God's grace to us in Jesus by faith! Through the Word of God the Spirit shines the light of righteousness to expose our sin and need, to offer us by grace the very righteousness of Jesus as a gift! Divine intervention!
Through Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the Spirit delivers to us the very grace of God earned and accomplished by Jesus through His cross and resurrection. Divine intervention! Through God's Word, the Spirit guides us, gives us wisdom and maturity to face the challenges, even the temptations of the day. Divine intervention!
Help in time of need, Spirit help in time of need, when you are faced with challenges beyond your capabilities and strength; that is just the place where the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by the power of His Spirit, can make all the difference in your life. That's what Christians are celebrating today around the world; the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus Christ to His people, for their lives and service.
Oh what a joy to be alive in the Spirit of God. If you are not a Christian, the Spirit is tugging at your heart right now through this Word. Won't you get to know Jesus with us? Call us, write to us, go online to see the resources there to help you get to know Him by the power of the Holy Spirit! There's a joy, a peace, an elation there for you, a Helper sent by Christ Himself for you in your time of need!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 8, 2014 Topic: Should I Be Afraid of the Devil?
ANNOUNCER: Should we fear the devil? Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, one of our listeners says you are freaking him out! After hearing your sermon regarding spiritual warfare, he wonders if he should be afraid of the devil.
SELTZ: Mark, let's put it this way; the reality of a malevolent spiritual, invisible, supernatural reality should be something we take seriously, that's for sure.
ANNOUNCER: And we're not talking here about movie fantasy because demonic evil is something that's very real, isn't it?
SELTZ: Very much so. In fact, let's make sure we understand what we're talking about. Jesus said that "God is spirit" (John 4:24). The invisible, spiritual realm is very real and it's all around us. Good angels and rebellious angels are part of that reality.
ANNOUNCER: And the Bible tells us that the devil himself is a rebellious, fallen angel.
SELTZ: Right. In fact, Ephesians, chapter 6 tells us that the real battle that we're in is not primarily about what is visible. Verse 12 says it this way, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: Well, should our listener, then, be afraid of the devil?
SELTZ: I would answer, "Yes and no."
ANNOUNCER: What do you mean?
SELTZ: I would say "Yes" in the sense that if you and I try to go up against Satan's schemes on our own, we won't be very successful. The devil is not God. He does not have God's power and attributes, but he is stronger than sinful, fallen human beings. Do you remember in the Bible when the sons of Sceva tried to cast out a demon on their own?
ANNOUNCER: Right. We find that written up in Acts, chapter 19 and they got beaten up pretty bad in the process.
SELTZ: Yes, that's right; they were no match for the devil on their own, and neither are we.
ANNOUNCER: But you also said, "No."
SELTZ: And that is also true; because in Christ, in His strength, we have no reason to be afraid of the devil. Ephesians 6 says it this way, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil" (Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV). This is much different than going it alone. The bottom line is the devil is no match for our risen Savior Jesus.
ANNOUNCER: So how does that work itself out in our lives so that we're not trying to face Satan and his temptations on our own?
SELTZ: Ephesians 6 explains further. In addition to letting us know that the strength of the risen Lord who has overcome Satan is exactly what we need, or is exactly what enables us to stand under his assaults, the verse goes on to tell us about the gift of "spiritual armor" from God to us to protect us in the battle. Verse 13 says it this way, "Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: Right; and it goes on to say, then, that this armor of God also includes the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.
SELTZ: Right. Satan is defeated by the truth of who God is and what life is all about under Him. The devil is a liar, but Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So, Satan's lies crumble when confronted with God's truth. And while the devil is about everything that is wrong, God brings His righteousness through Jesus Christ to us and to the world. Our hearts are protected by God's right way for life.
ANNOUNCER: God's Word also provides us with shoes and a shield.
SELTZ: We don't have to be afraid of Satan when we walk in the Gospel-the power of forgiveness in life. Those shoes, if you will, they help us to walk a path of peace. And the shield of faith protects us from the accusatory arrows that Satan shoots at us. God is trustworthy to protect us; we don't need to fear.
ANNOUNCER: And our heavenly Supply Sergeant also gives us the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit?
SELTZ: Yeah, everything we need, right, Mark? God equips us with everything we need in the spiritual battle; knowing our salvation in Christ that fends off doubt and despair that the devil would throw our way. And the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. When we are immersed in God's Word of love for us, there is no room to fear the Evil One. And remember what the Apostle Paul finally says in the spiritual armor section of Ephesians 6. He calls us to pray. Prayer drives out fear as God strengthens us and hears us.
ANNOUNCER: Using these gifts that God provides, we actually can put the devil on the run.
SELTZ: And that's good news!
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Come Down, O Love Divine" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
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