Sermon: Being Guided by the Holy Ghost
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” [John 16:13]
Today is Trinity Sunday, a time when we recite the Creed of St. Athanasius, and a time we remember one of our fundamental beliefs as Christians: our belief that God, though One, is also three Persons. This is what we call the Blessed Trinity; and this belief distinguishes us as orthodox Christians from those who are not.
Interestingly enough, today our lessons concentrate on the one Person in the Trinity that seems to be the most misunderstood. He is the Holy Spirit. It is clear that the Holy Spirit or, as we like to call Him, the Holy Ghost, is the most mysterious of the three Persons. But in many ways, He now is the most important of the Three until Christ comes again. Even Jesus acknowledged this importance when he said:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
So, what do we know about this Third Person in the Blessed Trinity? Well, the first is that He is extremely important. Jesus knew that His disciples would never grow, never find their strength or their voice without Him. In fact, the Holy Spirit is so important that to blaspheme Him is the ONLY unforgivable sin!
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
Although we may blaspheme Jesus at one time or another, that sin can be forgiven, readily. But if we are to blaspheme the Holy Ghost, it is such a grave sin that it will not be forgiven. This is how important the Holy Spirit really is.
The second thing we know about the Holy Spirit is that He imparts on us seven spirits:
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Personally, I find symbolism fascinating and powerful. These seven spirits are represented by the menorah, which holds seven candles. Thus, some of the candelabras that you see in churches will have seven candles, and they do this on purpose, to harken back to the Temple of God in Jerusalem, to this book of Revelation, and to the seven Spirits of God that Saint John saw.
The seven Spirits of God, according to most catholic scholars are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God. Six out of the seven spirits are taken directly from Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verse 2:
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
The seventh Spirit, piety, appeared in the Volgate in this verse of Isaiah, but not in the original Hebrew text.
However, what is important here is that with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes spiritual gifts, and in one of our Epistle lessons last week, we were told about some of these gifts:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
Finally, and most importantly, the third thing that we know about the Holy Spirit is that He guides us:
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
Here is the conundrum. How can we tell if what we are being told is from the Holy Ghost? Why couldn’t it come from the “great deceiver?” I am not sure that I have the best or most comfortable answer, but there is something that is made clear by our lesson on this point. It is in the very next verse:
“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
That which is of the Holy Spirit is true. Truth is His hallmark. So if something proves to be false, it is not of the Holy Spirit. But also, that which is of the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus and glorifies the Father. This is extremely important.
One of the devil’s most effective methods to deceive is to take just enough truth and intertwine it with the falsehood he wants to perpetuate. It sounds good and true, but it really is to deceive. It sucks us in usually through a faulty act of logic. Thus, when the devil was tempting Christ in the desert, he quoted Scripture, but only the part that would help lure the unsuspecting into the trap.
In the Garden of Eden, he did the same thing in that he wrapped his lie in a bit of the truth. Satan told Eve that if she ate of the tree, she would not “surely die” but rather she would be like a god, her eyes would be opened, and she would know about good and evil. The truth was that their eyes WERE opened when they ate of the fruit; they DID learn about good and evil – and that is what made them ashamed. The rest was a lie, but there was a kernel of truth mixed in to make the whole thing appear true.
This reminds me of the three men from different countries looking at the same painting of Adam and Eve. The Englishman looked at the painting and said, “Look at their reserve, their calm. They must be British.” The Frenchman shook his head. “Nonsense,” he said. “They’re naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French.” The Russian gentleman smiled. “Your both wrong,” he said. “No clothes, no shelter, one apple to eat, and they’re being told this is paradise. They are Russian.”
The work of the devil is to deceive. The work of the Holy Ghost is to guide us into truth. The Holy Spirit counteracts the work of Satan. We can tell when the message is from the Holy Spirit because it discloses the full meaning of the Gospel, strengthening it and clarifying with it the divinity of Christ. On the other hand, Satan spreads deception and falsehood, weakening the Gospel and denying the divinity of Christ.
So, what does this mean for us? How do these lessons make us better Christians? Well, first, it gives us understanding. There are many who claim that they are being guided by the Holy Spirit; but they lie. Some lie in order to defraud people out of their money. But the worst thing about these con artists is that, not only do these people con their targets out of their money, often they con them out of their faith, as well.
Then there are those, who so cavalierly believe that there is no such thing as the Holy Spirit, they will invoke the name to convince others that their position is legitimate. They will say that the Holy Spirit told them that this was what God wanted. Yet, they will also be quick to deny Christ and to deny the glory which should be given to God.
Both of these are shameful acts which will be punished in the next world, but for which WE must be on our guard in this world. This is why Christ Himself cautions us to be “as wise as serpents” but “as gentle as doves.”
But this is the negative. The positive is that the Holy Spirit is here to guide us. He is the Great Comforter; the Great Counselor. And he HAS visited this church!
We gathered last week to talk about what God has placed in our hearts. The message is clearly Christian. It glorifies God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The message was for us to grow in our faith and grow in our love for one another. What could be more quintessentially Christian than this message!
Many of us have a fear of things associated with the Holy Spirit. It seems strange, and it may be different. But let us NOT fear the Spirit. Let us embrace Him fully. Let’s ask Him to guide us and nurture us. Let’s ask Him to lead us to all truth and help us to glorify God: Father, Son, AND Holy Ghost. And let us NOT let the great deceiver tempt us away from this great mission upon which we are about to embark. Remember what FDR told us: We have nothing to fear but fear itself!