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The Spirit of Truth? No Thanks.

26 May

Have you ever had the awkward experience of someone offering you forgiveness for something you didn’t do? When I was in seminary someone “forgave” me for dropping an air conditioner out of a third floor window. It did happen; it’s just that I was several hundred miles away on my internship when it occurred.  So of course I felt it necessary to justify myself and explain that I had nothing do with the dropped air conditioner, and therefore don’t need your forgiveness. How dare you forgive me when I don’t need it!
I think that sense of justification is usually how we feel about Jesus’ forgiveness too. We often look for reasons to avoid the need for forgiveness first. We convince ourselves we aren’t that bad, I’m basically a good person, I was justified in my actions, lots of other people are worse, I didn’t intend any harm, I was trying to do the right thing, it’s not my fault, I had good reason. Or we just can’t think of ourselves as broken enough to really need forgiveness. Stay close, Jesus, and if I need you, I’ll let you know. But unless you hear from me, you can just be on call. Because I really don’t need THAT much forgiveness.
The fact of the matter is that we really don’t want forgiveness. We want to not need forgiveness. We don’t want Jesus to forgive us; we want Jesus to tell us we’re doing OK without him.
So Jesus has to send his parclete, counselor, helper, advocate, the Holy Spirit: to remind us of what Jesus said and did, that Jesus is about the forgiveness of sin, calling to our attention the fact that we need forgiveness. Jesus calls this the Spirit of Truth.
Truth isn’t always easy, isn’t always refreshing. Truth can be harsh, even devastating. Alcoholics and addicts being told the “truth” about their condition is anything but fun. Having the oncologist tell you the “truth” about terminal cancer is hardly easy. Have you ever had a loved one tell you the “truth” about what a jerk you’ve been? Truth can be hard to hear. Which is why we so often resort to justifying ourselves instead. Then, we don’t need to hear the truth.
So whether we like it or not, Jesus has sent to us the Spirit of Truth, to point out, again and again, exactly what it is we need to be forgiven for; to reveal to us, again and again, how broken and far from God we actually are; to speak to us, again and again, how shallow and cheap our self-justification is. No wonder we try to ignore the Spirit of Truth when she speaks.
It seems we’ll do anything to avoid hearing the truth of our situation, to make ourselves feel better about our need for forgiveness. We claim that we have a good prayer life, we raise good kids, we give money to charity, we serve the church, we’ve spent minimal time in prison, we’ve even made a decision to make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior. So what? What we’re really saying is, “Thanks for dying and everything, Jesus, but I’m doing OK. I’m sure there are some people that really need you, but why don’t we just be friends? I’ll do you favors by going to church and pretending to be spiritually superior, and if I really need it, you can return the favor by forgiving me. Deal?”
That’s kind of like getting a cancer diagnosis and telling the oncologist, “I’ll do you a favor by eating whole grains when I want to, and you do me a favor by curing my cancer if I ever need it. Deal? I’m sure I don’t really have cancer. It’s just not that bad. I’ll let you know.”
We need to hear the truth: We need forgiveness. Desperately. Continuously. Immediately. We need forgiveness because we worship our own gods of personal preference and comfort. We use Jesus’ name to justify ourselves. We tear apart relationships if it makes us look better. We hold resentments against people who’ve hurt us. We hoard our money. We justify violence. We do just enough religious stuff to ease our consciences. We quit when following Jesus gets hard. We look for enemies so we have someone to hate and someone to blame.
Jesus has sent the Spirit of Truth to tell us the truth. The truth is that we really need his forgiveness. We need to know that on our own we are hopeless. His forgiveness is our only hope.
And, Jesus has sent the Spirit of Truth to tell us the truth. And the truth is that we already are forgiven. Jesus will never abandon us or ignore us. His forgiveness has already brought us to God. We are set free from the power of our own brokenness. Christ’s forgiveness comes to us unconditionally, continuously, right now. It is for us. It is for you.
The Spirit of Truth is with us forever. We need Jesus’ forgiveness. And he has given it to you. It is already done for you. It will continue for you. Forever. Amen

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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Sermon

 

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