Roger's Postings

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Acts 2:1-21. Holy Spirit - for what purpose?? 23/5/10
(1) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. {2} Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. {4} All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" {12} Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" {13} Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine." {14} Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. {15} These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! {16} No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: {17} "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. {18} Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. {19} I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. {20} The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. {21} And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
Today we are reminded of one of the great gifts that are given to us by our God. His giving of the Holy Spirit would have to be one the greatest aspects of the Christian Church outside of Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. He is so important in our becoming and remaining believers in the Lord Jesus. But sadly, today, there is so much misunderstanding and wrong emphasis being given or attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, we have people overstressing some aspects of the Spirit’s work; and on the other hand he is almost ignored or is not given the opportunity to do his work. In both cases, it is to our detriment; and in fact, it can be very harmful.

Now this torch in some ways can illustrate this for us. Now it is a good torch – powerful and has a few little extras as well: But it has one main purpose - so that we can find our way around in the dark; so that we can focus on what is in front of us, so that we can see where we are going or what we are looking for. Now we have given to us here a super-dooper, special, Spirit: God's gift to us so that we can see our way through life: So that we can find Him who is life and be able to follow him.
But if all we are going to do is focus on the Spirit and the gifts that he gives, then he is no help to us. When he becomes the focus then we run into all kinds of dangers, as so many have today. Once again if we think of the torch: If I just look at the torch and all its gadgets as I wander along in the dark, then I will very quickly stumble and fall. Likewise, if all we do is look at what we can do with the Spirit, we will be looking in all sorts of directions other than where we should be, and again we will run into trouble.

On the other hand, we can have the Spirit there but not allow it to be of any help to us. If we deliberately walk in the other direction, he cannot be of much help to us. If we close our eyes, ears and lives to his work, then also we will be in trouble.

Sadly, there are many today who have placed themselves in danger by some of these ideas about the Spirit and his work. For us human beings there is the danger that we will over react one way or the other to this most special gift. So we need to continually be mindful of the fact that the Spirit is there with one main purpose in mind: to point us and others to the Lord Jesus and the path leads to and with him. Overlook that - divert the attention away from that central point and we will be on the wrong track - danger may well be in front of us.

What did Luther say was the work of the Holy Spirit, according to the Bible?
I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian Church day after day he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day he will raise me and all the dead and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

Here on Pentecost Sunday we are reminded of the tremendous power that is there when the focus is in the right place: when the Spirit is allowed to do his work. Just look at those disciples - prior to this happening they were scared rabbits - hiding away in fear of their lives - only too ready to deny knowing Jesus, when trouble was near. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit amazing things started to happen. They began talking to people of other nations in their own tongue, even though they had never learnt the language. Now many tried to fob it off by saying that these disciples were drunk. Yet they stood boldly even in the face of the worst and most powerful of enemies: those who had Jesus crucified.

They stood boldly and proclaimed their message not as a show of the great and wonderful gifts they had; as if they were special. No, what was it that they focussed on and spoke about? Nothing other than Jesus Christ and the importance of what he had said and done. That was the mighty works of God they spoke about, stood up for and even eventually died for. They really laid it on the line - to the extent that thousands repented there and then and were baptized. As a result, they too were given the same Spirit in their lives.

Jesus in his Gospel reading for today again gives us direction as to what the Spirit’s work is all about. There off course, it refers to the forgiveness of sins being very closely associated with the Spirit’s work in and through the work of the Church. But again, Jesus Christ is central to this proclamation: It is by his death and resurrection that forgiveness is possible. Where this message is proclaimed the Spirit is at work; first of all enabling the people to stand up tell this message and lay these things on the line: That by nature we are, because of our sinful, selfish lives, wandering in the dark, lost and on a one way trip to Hell. Unless we are brought to the recognition that we have failed to live and be the people that God intends us to be; and unless we are turned back to God in repentance, then trouble is ahead; nothing is surer. Then having done that the Holy Spirit assures one and all that there is a way out. That forgiveness is possible because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Then having been made right with God, and incorporated into God’s family through baptism he helps us to live in the way that is right and good for us. Then through the truth of God’s Word and the right administration of Holy Communion, we are reassured of this forgiveness and of the certainty of eternal life in heaven: That sin, death and the devil now no longer has power over us, and that now nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
That is all the work and purpose of the Holy Spirit - to enable people to give and hear that message. It is he who enables us to stand up and speak this message, both verbally and in the way we live and act.

But then, it also the same Spirit that helps people see, understand and believe that important message of the Good News of Jesus Christ: It is he who empowers us to hear, listen and understand that message and its importance for our lives. Remember without that help we are doomed - we will remain spiritually dead; unable to help ourselves - unable to do anything about changing our situation - we will just cry out in our hopelessness - seeing nothing but despair. But the Holy Spirit steps in and says through the Word that Jesus has given us, that there is a God who loves us and has given a way out for us - not because we deserve it, but simply because he loves us. He places that message - that salvation - that help there for us; and then he niggles away at our consciences - coerces us - prods us – and does everything he possibly can to help us to believe - so that we might simply trust that what he says is true; instead of turning our backs on it, ignoring it, or pretending that it is a load of rubbish.

All this is the main work and purpose of the Holy Spirit. Now if we seek him to do otherwise than focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that he offers, then we are doing him a disservice and placing ourselves and others in danger. The Holy Spirit is nothing unless he makes it possible for us to see Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, and what that means for us. So don't shut your eyes, ears and lives to what he is trying to do; nor allow yourselves to be diverted into looking elsewhere for the work and power of the Spirits work. Nothing can be greater or more valuable than that which the Spirit is seeking to do. That is, to get each and everyone of us to see Jesus for who is and what he has done for us: That done he has achieved the purpose for which he is here amongst us. Let us not get side tracked - or try to divert that gift of God from doing what he is sent here to do. But allow him to do his work in us and through us to others around us, so that we all may come to know of the forgiveness, help and happiness that God intends for us all, both here and in eternity. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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