Just like Ascension is often called the Forgotten Festival of the Church Year (Did you remember it?!) the Holy Spirit is sometimes called the forgotten person of the Trinity. Today we remember the vital work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to faith in Christ and helping us live our faith in Christ with a series of devotions that follows Luther’s Explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles Creed. It starts…
1. That I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.
One of the pictures God chose to use in the Bible to help us picture the work of the Holy Spirit is birth or rebirth. “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit,” Jesus said. You know I can still remember the day I chose to be born. Maybe you can too. I recall thinking to myself, “Self, you should become a person.” So I carefully planned when I would be conceived and then choosing August 13th 1967 as my day of birth. Now you are all giving me those looks that says we always knew something was wrong with you we just didn’t know what. You are crazy. And you would be right if I actually meant what I said. It is ridiculous to talk that way and honestly it takes glory away from our great Creator God, doesn’t it? And yet some people today claim they do that for their spiritual birth. They claim they decided to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. They decided when to be reborn. They are wrong. Talking such ways is ridiculous, sinful and takes glory away from our Savior God, from the Holy Spirit. Consider what God says about our spiritual condition by nature.
Ephesians 2:1 (NIV1984) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.
What can the dead do? NOTHING!
1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV1984) The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Who can understand apart from the Holy Spirit? NO ONE!
1 Corinthians 12:3 (NIV1984) Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Except by the Holy Spirit. Join me on this festival day in confessing and repenting of any ways by which we have deliberately or unintentionally stolen the glory of the Holy Spirit by taking credit for our faith life in any way. Let’s make sure the way we talk gives Him the glory. For we confess we cannot by our own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him.
Hymn: CW#186 vv 1-2 “O Spirit of Life, O Spirit of God”
2. That the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.
Someone once called the Holy Spirit the mouthpiece of God. There is good reason for that. Listen to what Peter tells us.
2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV1984) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
What a blessing to have the words of God Himself available to us each and every day. We have that only because of the Holy Spirit. There may have been some 36 different human authors over a period of about 1600 years writing the 66 books of the Bible, but the Holy Spirit was the real author. He is the mouthpiece of God and you know what the mouth of God can do. It can say, “Let there be light,” and there is light. It can create a universe in an instant or take 6 normal days. It can say this nation rises and this empire falls and they will. And it can do more than that. It can take a dead person and make him alive, physically or spiritually. The Holy Spirit did that for me and you just like He did for the Thessalonian Christians. Hear the words of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NIV1984) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so we confess that the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel.
Hymn: CW#282 “Lord, Open Now My Heart to Hear”
3. That the Holy Spirit has enlightened me with His gifts.
Some of you here are parents. All of you are children of someone and so whether you are a parent or someone’s child and your parents in any way tried to be what God expects of parents you know that parents don’t just bring children into the world, birth them, and leave them to fend for themselves. Parents continue to provide care for their children. They want the best for their children. They stay involved in their children’s lives, maybe sometimes too involved. God the Holy Spirit does not just bring children of God to spiritual life and then leave them to fend for themselves. He wants the best for us and provides for us in God’s Word. He helps us to live fighting the desires of our sinful natures so we don’t bring consequences of sin into our lives and the lives of those we love. Listen to some of the good things the Holy Spirit has for us. They are called fruits.
Galatians 5:16-25 (NIV1984) So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Is there anyone here who wouldn’t benefit from more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? They are hanging from the tree of God’s Word waiting to be plucked. They come from the Holy Spirit. But just like parents can prepare a great meal for their kids and have all sorts of good gifts for them to use the children still need to eat and use. So do we. What do you think? Does your life reveal an appreciation for the fruits of the Spirit? Are they desired, prayed for and sought in the Word of our Holy God? That’s the only we they come and so we confess that He enlightens us with His gifts.
Hymn: CW#181 vv. 1,2,5 “Come, Oh, Come, Life-Giving Spirit”
4. That He does this for the whole Christian Church on earth.
Have you ever out of place? By that I mean have you been in a situation where you started to realize, these people don’t think like I do. They don’t have the values I do. They don’t believe what I do. If so you are not alone. Remember the prophet Elijah? How he felt he was the only believer left in Israel? He wasn’t. He just felt that way. God had others Elijah didn’t know about. Sometimes we might feel that way. The number of Bible believing Christians seems to be shrinking in our country. Christian influence on our nation as a whole certainly is. At these times we get to joyfully remember that the Holy Spirit is working in other people too. That’s why God had Paul urge us.
Ephesians 4:3-6 (NIV1984) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Romans 8:26-27 (NIV1984) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
One body. One Spirit praying for all the saints, all the believers. This is the Holy Christian Church. All believers everywhere. Sadly today we live at a time when the Holy Christian Church which is an invisible unity has been splintered into literally thousands of visible Christian Churches. The Devil has been too successful in interjecting false teachings alongside of God’s word that prevent us from expressing the unity of the Spirit with many others. We look forward to the time when we will. We rejoice that God’s Word works wherever it is proclaimed and despite the false teachings the Devil lays aside it. We are happy to confess that the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth.
Hymn: CW#182 “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling”
5. That He will give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NIV1984) Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
You know I can’t imagine a scenario that has me saying in any way shape or form, especially to a woman, something like this. “That’s a nice tent you are wearing.” And yet God tells us we are wearing a tent. A tent is simply a dwelling place. A place to live for a time. Tents are temporary. And with the words the Holy Spirit had the Apostle Paul write in 2 Corinthians He is simply reminding us that heaven is our home. Our current bodies don’t work right. We groan. We are burdened. All those aches and pains and organs and systems failing help us to long for our heavenly dwelling that is permanent. We won’t be wearing a tent but glorious resurrection bodies that will never falter or fail. Where is the Hoy Spirit in all of this? He is the deposit placed in us as a guarantee. Our bodies are temples, dwelling places for the Holy Spirit and He is there to guarantee to us that God’s promises are true, heaven is our home and it is coming. Let’s think about that. You know whenever you buy something important and expensive you look at the guarantee. It’s an indication of the manufacturers reasonable expectation of how long that product will go without failing in any way. And so a lot of electronics come with 1 year warranties. Cars will come with a 3 year 36,000 bumper to bumper and some come with an impressive 10 year powertrain warranty. I heard on the radio not long ago of Penny Mustard Furnishings 287 year warranty on some of their furniture. How about the Holy Spirit’s? It’s forever. Beat that! And so we confess that He will give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. And since we’re Lutherans we like to add our own version of Amen, say it with me, “This is most certainly true.
CW #190 vv1-2 “We now implore God the Holy Ghost”