A great article/devotion from out district president on the work of the Holy Spirit
Encourage Newsletter Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan
The Third Article – The Gifts Keep On Coming
The Third Article: Sanctification
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Curiously, Martin Luther's explanation to the Third Article does not start with the Holy Spirit. As he begins to describe the work of the Holy Spirit, he makes clear that the same understanding applies to the work of the Holy Spirit as the Father and the Son. God the Father gives all that we need to support this body and life. God the Son gives Himself as the one sacrifice for all on the altar of the cross. He begins his explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit by debunking the myth that we can somehow choose to believe. Everything is given to us by grace, even faith. The Holy Spirit works through the Gospel and the gifts of grace to bring us to faith and sustain us in the faith.
Luther's explanation contradicts any idea that we can somehow invite Jesus into our hearts. Faith, as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, is pure gift and we understand as that which is created by the Holy Spirit. These simple words have been helpful to many Lutheran Christians who have found themselves surrounded by American evangelicals and the pressure for a "decision." As a teen-ager, I was invited to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event that concluded with a series of people telling the story of when they became Christians, always with a dramatic story of a time when they chose to believe. Though I was never called, I raised my hand and was prepared to tell them how as a baby, I became a Christian, not because of anything I had done, but because the Holy Spirit had created faith in me. The point of this assurance is not to argue with American evangelicals, but to bring comfort to troubled consciences with the certainty that we are God's baptized and forgiven children.
The reason that we gather together for worship with others is because the Holy Spirit is still at work through the Gospel and God's gifts, the Means of Grace. The same Spirit who brought us to faith is still at work through the Word and the Sacrament as a volunteer reads Portals of Prayer to a group of residents at a nursing home. The same Spirit is at work as children are taught that Christ rose again from the grave at Vacation Bible School. The same Spirit is at work the pastor preaches the Word and as distributes the Sacrament. We do not remain in the Christian faith because of our own volition, just as we did not enter the Christian faith because of our decision. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith and keeps us in the faith and what a comfort that is to us throughout our days.
Prayer – Almighty God, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts that He may rule and direct us according to Your will, comfort us in all our temptations and afflictions, defend us from all error and lead us into all truth that we, being steadfast in faith, may increase in all good works and in the end obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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