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BASIC TRAINING-DR. HOLY SPIRIT, THE BEST DOCTOR THERE IS
Dear friends in Christ,
The Nicene Creed is very familiar to us. We confess our faith by uniting our voices with the Nicene Creed in just about every Communion service. It serves as one of the three Christian creeds, along with the Apostles’ Creed and Athanasian Creeds. The background of the Nicene Creed was written because of a false teacher named Arius. Arius did not believe Jesus was God as the Father is God. He believed that Jesus was a creation of God the Father. Arius is famous for his phrase, “There was a time when Jesus was not.” We ought to say, “There was never a time when Jesus was not.” In other words, he is eternal. Jesus is from forever to forever because he is God. That’s why the Nicene Creed first formulated in 325 AD says, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made.”
But the Council of Nicea of 325 AD where the Nicene Creed was formulated, dealt only with God the Son. The Nicene Creed of 325 AD only said the following about the Holy Spirit “And in the Holy Spirit.” That’s where it ended. I believe in the Holy Spirit. But the followers of Arius would have had the same questions about the Holy Spirit. Was the Spirit also a creation of the Father like God the Son? For the next sixty years there was discussion about that very point. In 381 AD the church gathered in Constantinople and another revision of the Nicene Creed was made. Instead of only reading “and in the Holy Spirit, the creed reads like it does today, “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who in unity with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.” Today as part of Basic Training and Groundbreaking Sunday we study the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt that we can call him Dr. Holy Spirit, There is No One Like Him.”
Why am I saying “Dr. Holy Spirit?” The ancients believed that the center of all emotions came from the pump in the middle of our chests. While that isn’t true, every language does speak of the heart as the center of one's innermost character, feelings, or inclinations.” The center of one’s character, one’s feelings and inclinations is evil. Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” I have heard only twice in my life where someone said they thought they were good and perfect. One of those recanted.
Transplants of the heart are sorely needed. Ezekiel tells us the Spirit does that. Judah, the people of God from whom Christ would come, were in the midst of the Babylonian Captivity. They were marched away from their homes to Babylon by Babylon. The reason? Judah had turned away from the Lord. They had hardened their hearts to him.
Yet the LORD loved Judah enough to grab them by their tunics and shake them up to bring about an attitude change. They would return in seventy years. Through the Spirit he would transplant hearts who would turn to the Lord and not away from him. The Holy Spirit would perform heart surgery. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” But this was not true only of a remnant of Judah but for all people. All people need heart surgery done by the Holy Spirit to turn their inmost feelings and inclinations back to the Lord.
Before one goes into surgery, a person finds out there is something wrong inside. If it is cancer surgery, questions like “how far it has spread?” or “will they get it all?” are on the mind. They bring sleepless nights and constant angst. The Spirit of God, working through the Commandments makes the diagnosis. There is sin all right and plenty of it. It has spread throughout us. The picture is not pretty.
What I am about to say is hard to listen to. Ezekiel says we have hard hearts. It is the truth and the truth hurts. Far too many want to live in denial:
• Diagnosis number 1 - Ephesians 2:1 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Paul wrote these words by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the people of Ephesus. They were spiritual but way off track. They built a beautiful temple to Diana, a goddess in the ancient world. They were madly in love with her. The temple they built to honor here was a wonder of the ancient world. Diana didn’t have any answers. Diana was dead. Diana didn’t even exist. What was true of the Ephesians is true of us. No one is a natural when it comes to following the Lord. We are dead. Our hearts are hearts of stone. We need surgery, Dr. Spirit’s kind of surgery!
• Diagnosis number 2 Romans 8:7 “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” The sinful flesh is in us. No one comes into this world wanting to please the Lord. In fact, this passage says the opposite. “I-ism” and “Me-ism” is the natural religion of man. There is one thing Charles Darwin was right about. People are interested in their own survival. Look out for me. Only the Holy Spirit can change that.
• Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Notice the phrase: “Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Recently I visited on of our assisted living homes I visit. In one home I visit with six widows in their eighties and nineties. They are sweet and really mentally sharp. I was joking with them and said that when I was at the Seminary I took a class in mind-reading. One of them, wheel chair-bound, suffering from diabetes since she was five and can’t see or hear very well said, “You get out of my mind!” That struck me funny coming from her, but she stated the truth. At any age people can have physical problems but who knows what lurks in the mind. That’s why we say we have an inner core that is sinful. Transplant is the only cure.
That’s why we need the Spirit of God. Dr. Holy Spirit does that. Spiritual heart surgery is his business. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
In the very same chapter where the apostle Paul wirites we are dead in our transgressions, he says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” In other words, making people spiritually alive, to believe in Jesus as Savior, is not our work or decision, that is the Spirit’s work. He chooses us; we don’t choose him.
One winter night in the mountainous West a five year old child was lost. After night had fallen, the townspeople heard the bad news and organized search parties to search the forests and mountainsides. Bobbie could be found. The next morning, after an all night search, the father became disgusted and kicked against what he thought was a log covered with snow. But when the snow fell off the “log,” a little body stretched out his arms, yawned and sat up and said, “Daddy, finally, I found you.” Bobbie’s dad was sure glad to find his son. But in reality little Bobbie didn’t find anyone. He was found.
On many occasions people talk about searching for God and discovering the divine. They talk about the search for certainty. Many even say, “I found God!” All we need to do is remember the story about the apostle Paul. He wasn’t looking for God but God found him. In Luke fifteen, the “Lost and Found” chapter in the Bible, the sheep were lost and not the shepherd; the coin was lost, not the woman; the son was lost and not his father. I Corinthians says, “No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said, “You didn’t find me, I found you.” We are members of God’s church today, but it was not our decision, the decision was God’s. He found us on the outside and brought us in.
Martin Luther said it like this in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
The Holy Spirit has tools to change out our hearts. A church was established in the city of Thessalonica when Paul was chased out of town in three weeks. “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Did you hear that? They were saved by the “sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit sanctified (set them apart from the unbelieving world) through the Gospel. The good news of Jesus, the Gospel – the full and free forgiveness of our sins by him who sacrificed himself, is the vehicle that the Spirit uses. In Baptism we are connected with Jesus who said “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” In the Lord’s Supper we receive Christ’s body and blood that was shed and given for us for the forgiveness of our sins. We are assured “Faith comes by hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” The Word and Sacrament are the means the Holy Spirit works. Martin Luther said it like this, “We must constantly handle, preach, bear and inculcate the Word until the Holy Spirit comes. There is no other way to achieve that desired end. To sit in the corner and gape heavenward and wait to see him come is sheer folly. The Word is the only bridge and path by which the Holy Spirit comes to us.”
We are breaking ground today to provide operating rooms for the Holy Spirit to do this precious work. This is where Bible classes will be held. We call it Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, Catechism. They are not about basket weaving, or investment choices or career decisions, the classes are about Jesus, Calvary and the empty grave of Easter Sunday. They are classes about God’s love and forgiveness and compassion where ultimately the Bible is the textbook. Where the Bible is, the Holy Spirit is at work. Where the Holy Spirit is, heart surgery is going on. The most essential surgery there is, by the best heart surgeon there is.