THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD'S SPIRIT
Dear friends in Christ
Our church is beautiful. It is inviting. It is well-kept. Thanks, Tim and Roni, and all who have served as Property-chairmen in the history of this congregation. Thank you to all who were here and were involved in the design of the church. It is particularly pretty at night. When you see the floodlights light up the building, this church looks spectacular. When floodlights are placed correctly, you don’t see the light fixtures. A person’s attention is drawn to what the light is focused on. That’s the building.
That’s not a bad analogy to the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God is often said to be the hidden partner of the Triune God. The Scriptures tell us that the job of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus. The spotlight is on Jesus. The Spirit is the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior. He brings attention to him.
While Lent is a time when we focus on why we need Jesus, we wouldn’t have a clue without the Holy Spirit. Today we look at “The Important Work of the Holy Spirit.” 1) He gives us life; 2) He makes us family; 3) He strengthens us in suffering.
The Holy Spirit does indeed give us life. In fact, he gives us life in two ways. That’s what Paul says. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because ofhis Spirit who lives in you.” In 2010 maverick geneticist Craig Venters made headlines because it was said of him that he created life. He said, “We built life from four bottles of chemicals… that's over a million base pairs [of chromosomes]. We assembled synthetic DNA and transplanted it into a recipient cell and that new chromosome started being read by the machinery in the cell, producing new proteins, and totally transformed that cell into a new species coded by the synthetic chromosome…So it's the first living self-replicating cell that we have on the planet whose DNA was made chemically and designed in the computer. So it has no genetic ancestors. Its parent is a computer.” The claim he makes has holes in it. He transferred the DNA into a living cell. Then the cell started to follow the chromosomal patterns that had been implanted. Admittedly he did something that had never been done before, but he didn’t create life. Life is the work of God. By the way, eventually Venters admitted that he had not created life as much as altering it drastically.
Paul says of the Spirit of God that he “raised Jesus from the dead.” He will do the same to our mortal bodies on Judgment day, “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. The Spirit raised Jesus and will also raise us from the dead.
Paul loved to speak about the resurrection and what it means. It is the heart and core of the Christian faith. It proves the Divinity of Jesus. Life is not just about DNA, genes and chromosomes, it is about the soul that only the Spirit of God restores to the body. That’s what happened to Jesus on Easter morning. His soul was restored to his body and he arose. How? He is God with the Holy Spirit and the Father.
The resurrection gives proof of the value of Jesus’ work. When Congress was discussing national health care, our president told the opposition party that he had won the election and therefore had a mandate to go ahead the way he wanted to do. Strategically President Obama made a serious error when he said he was going to do it his way. He didn’t win by a landslide. There has been a lot of pushback. The resurrection of Jesus tells us, however, Jesus did win by a landslide. It is the exclamation mark behind all Jesus did. It says to all that everything about Jesus is of utmost importance. Pay attention.
The resurrection is the guarantee that what Jesus did is complete and trustworthy. He died to pay for your sin. He rose to assure you that the payment was accepted. Just think if Jesus had not risen. The resurrection is the beef, the substance that tells us that what he promised is true. We have forgiveness of sins.
Paul then brings Jesus’ work to you personally. The same Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, is the same Spirit who “will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” If our bodies rest in the ground on Judgment day the Spirit will raise them.
But then Paul addresses the second way the Spirit gives life – not only physically but spiritually too. Paul says in another place our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” He resides in us. There is spiritual life in us. That’s why the Lord uses terms like “being born again” or “he makes us alive in Christ Jesus.” The Spirit lives and dwells in us.
When? How? The Bible says that the gift of the Holy Spirit is one of the gifts of Baptism. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” How do we know for sure? First, because God said so! Secondly, Do you believe in Jesus? Then remember the following passage, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” See, that wasn’t your decision, was it? That’s the Spirit’s work.
The Holy Spirit is a tenant we never want to kick out. He earned his stay by doing a remodel free of charge. He changed us from unbelief to belief, from darkness to light, from delighting to sin to fighting against sin. Paul says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
With the Holy Spirit living in us, he gives us power and incentive to clean up the trash. Courtney said that a dear schoolmate and her child and the baby’s grandmother want to visit her. It is natural to hear that the possibility of visitors compels people to think that it is time to clean. Remember who lives in you - the best friend that anyone can ever have – the Holy Spirit. So clean up your temple and keep it clean.
Don’t live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. When he talks about living according to the flesh, that means one thing – me, me and me. The sinful flesh is selfish.
My daughter lives in Colorado which legalized the recreational use of marijuana. A little town near where they live has license applications for four pot shops – more than any town needs. She says that marijuana has brought the criminal element to towns. Stores bought marijuana is very expensive. The criminal element sees this and sells it in the cover of night more cheaply. They can hide more easily now. The culture of Colorado is changing. Not for the better. Pot causes people to be lazy. It is a proven stepping stone to worse drugs. People smoke pot to get high! The Bible commands us to practice self-control. What a horrible example for kids! Just wait a few more years to see what happens to the kids in this culture.
I saw an article written in a national publication about a mother and husband of means with young teens who went to Colorado for a ski vacation. She and her husband decided to do some Mary Jane after the kids were in bed. She wrote, “When you are traveling with precocious tween kids who are super judgy about any type of smoking and recoil from the stench of beer (I assume the very thing Mom and Dad taught them), how do you even broach the subject of marijuana? Mommy needs her glass of wine is now mommy needs her hit of weed? It feels wrong, but maybe that's why it's so exciting to even contemplate.” Dare I say she was bragging in a national publication? How about that line, “It feels wrong, but maybe that's why it's so exciting to even contemplate?”
To the sinful flesh sin is exciting. Kind of like driving a car too fast! Kind of like getting another notch in the belt! Or drinking too much and living to tell about it! She was going against her own conscience. You know what happens when you do that repeatedly? It gets to be rock hard where little phases it. Listen again to Paul, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die.” There is a very important principle. You keep a filthy temple, the Spirit moves out. Continual sin and unrepented sin makes him feel unwelcome.
There’s a better way, the only way. “But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” When the Bible says we are dead to sin, or as he speaks here “putting to death the misdeeds of he body,” he is saying the new nature, thanks to the Spirit, doesn’t want to have anything to do with sin. That’s why the battle rages on in us. Remember if war stops, we have either died and have gone to heaven, or the Spirit no longer lives in that temple. Let your prayer be, “Holy Spirit, enter in and remain inside of me.”
That same Spirit makes us family. Paul makes a contrast between having the Spirit and not having the Spirit to being part of a family and being a slave.
A slave is someone who is not at his own disposal, but is his master's property. He is there to serve his master's needs, to be at his beck and call every moment. The slave’s sole business is to do as he is told. In so many ways we seem to be a slave to sin. “The good I want to do,” Paul said, “I don’t do and the evil that I don’t want to do, that I keep on doing.” We keep on sinning and can’t seem to do anything about it. Satan loves it. That seems to make us a slave to Satan. What a horrible thought that is.
What the curse that sin brings but death. “The soul that sins is the one who will die.” You can say all you want that you don’t want to die, but that is blowing in the wind. Death doesn’t listen.
Paul adds still another. Sin makes us slaves of fear. Fear what? Sin and death and Satan! But how about this? God! Remember what happened when Adam and Eve sinned. They hid or tried to hide from God! Isaiah said it when he was given a chance to peek at God. “Woe is me! For I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips and I live in among a people of unclean lips!”
But hold everything! The Holy Spirit changes everything. He connects us with him who died for sins and was raised again. When we were connected with Jesus we are forgiven. We are given credit for Jesus’ perfect life. We are justified or treated ‘just as if I had never sinned. We are members of the family, God’s family. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.”
Paul uses two different languages to tell us God is our father. Father is translated from the Greek word; Abba is translated from the Aramaic. Father in any language should mean something positive – love and care! Earthly fathers aren’t always good at it but our Heavenly Father is.
And there are privileges that go with family status. I saw a photo of someone I know on Facebook. He is a Grandpa. He was holding his ten month old grandson. It was an AWWW photo. Grandpa has a smile on his face. His grandson is nuzzled into grandpa’s chest has a smile on his face and an air of contentment in his eyes. Someone posted, “Hey Grandpa, did your grandson just find out he is in the will?” It made me smile. But you know something? We are in the will, the Father’s will thanks to the Spirit who connects us to Jesus who connects us with the heart of the Father. We are promised a place in our Father’s house.
This prospect gives us incentive to get to the finish line and beyond. Paul says, “If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Life has plenty of suffering we have to share in. Everyone has their own set of problems. Jesus understands. He endured them too. That’s what we learn in Lent. Lent is about the Passion of Jesus. Passion means sufferings. Yet the time came for it to end. “It is finished!” he said. Then came the glory. That’s our expectation too thanks to the Holy Spirit connects us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s work is so important.