************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 20 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on October 9, 2017

Lord's Day 20
Acts 2:1-13
"The Spirit of Christ"

We've been looking at sound doctrine, biblical doctrine. Doctrine you can believe, rely on, trust, accept. I've been saying all along that sound doctrine is summarized for us in the Heidelberg Catechism and in the Apostles' Creed. Though lots of churches no longer have Catechism preaching, we do because what is in the Catechism is based upon the Bible. And, what God's people need is sound doctrine based upon the Bible.

Sound doctrine has told us all that we believe and confess concerning Christ. It has professed Christ's names, offices, natures, obedience, suffering, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, seating at God's right hand, and His return to judge the living and the dead.
I The Spirit of Christ
A Today, sound doctrine makes a confession about the Holy Spirit. But, BUT, do not think this means sound doctrine is done with Christ. Do not think this means sound doctrine has nothing more to say about Christ. Because when sound doctrine looks at the Holy Spirit, it is looking at the Spirit of Christ.

B We know from Scripture that the Spirit in all His fullness was first given to Jesus. Remember Jesus' baptism? The Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove (Mt 3:16). And, filled with the Spirit, Jesus endured the temptation of the devil. And, filled with the Spirit, Jesus preached and ministered and healed. And, filled with the Spirit, Jesus lived a perfect life, suffered and died in our place, arose from the grave, and ascended into heaven.

C Luke quotes Jesus as saying, "I am going to send you what my Father has promised" (Lk 24:49). Jesus, and Luke, are talking about the promise of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost Sunday the Spirit that was sent was sent by Jesus. Jesus sent the Spirit that first lived in Him.

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ.

D Don't ever forget this, my brothers and sisters: that the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. Those in the Pentecostal or charismatic tradition tend to forget or ignore this point. So, they talk about being filled with the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, being baptized by the Spirit, being slain by the Spirit, doing great and wondrous things by the Spirit. But this is not the approach of Jesus and the apostles. This is not the approach of sound doctrine. In the Bible, no one with the Spirit says, "I have the Spirit." Rather, they say "I have Jesus." No one with the Spirit talks endlessly about the Spirit. Rather, what they talk about is Jesus. Why? Because the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. Why? Because the ministry of the Spirit is to point us to Christ and the work of Christ. So, when sound doctrine talks about the Spirit it does so in terms of Christ.

II He Makes us Share in Christ
A More specifically, when sound doctrine talks about the work of the Holy Spirit, it is drawing our attention to how the Spirit joins us to Christ. In Christ -- and only in Christ -- is salvation. Therefore, in order to be saved, we must have a living connection with Jesus. Now the question is, how do we come to have that living connection?

Can we make that connection ourselves? Is it up to us to join ourselves to Christ? Is it our decision, our action, that joins us to Christ? It is in our power to take hold of Christ? You all know the answer to these questions. It is not in our power to join ourselves to Christ. We are not able to enter into a connection with Christ by an act of our own. We are not capable of joining ourselves into a living communion with Christ. We are no more capable of joining ourselves to Christ than bricks are capable of joining themselves to a building. No earthly architect is foolish enough to expect the bricks to tell him whether and when and what place they shall have in a building. How much more is this true for the church in which we are being built as a holy temple in the Lord (cf Eph 2:21-22). As bricks, we don't get to decide the when and where and how of our place in God's temple.

So, how do we make a connection to and with Jesus? How do we join with Him? Only through the Spirit. The Spirit takes the bricks, bricks that are unfit, and gives each brick the place it occupies in the temple of the Lord. That's the work of the Holy Spirit. That's the work of the Spirit of Christ. It is the Spirit of Christ that joins us to Him.

B The Spirit does this. The Spirit joins us to Christ. It is very important that we put it this way. If you ask the question: How are you saved? How is anyone saved? The answer that is usually given is, "I must repent and believe in Jesus Christ" (cf Acts 2:38). Though none of this is wrong, though I would never deny any of this, I cannot help but observe this is the wrong way to present the way of salvation because it answers the wrong question. The question we need to ask and answer is this: How does one receive Christ? How is one joined to Christ? And the answer is: By means of the Spirit. Notice the change: It is no longer what I do or what you do but what the Spirit does. I do not join myself to Christ; rather, by means of the Spirit, Christ joins Himself to me. I, who am dead in sin, am joined to Christ only by means of the Spirit. I, who am dead in sin, am made alive only by means of the Spirit. We are not saved by accepting Christ; rather, we accept Christ because we are saved. Or, to put it another way, anyone who is joined to Christ is saved.

Let me add, that no one and no thing can separate the Christian from Christ. It is not a case of the Christian clinging to Christ; rather, it is Christ Who clings to the Christian. Christ clings to the Christian and never, ever lets go. So, as Paul asks,
(Rom 8:35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

(Rom 8:38-39) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because of the ministry of the Spirit I am joined to Christ forever and on one can snatch me from His hand.

C How is the Spirit able to do this great work of joining us to Christ? Sound doctrine reminds us that the Spirit, as well as the Father and the Son, is eternal God. The Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. The Spirit is part of the almighty Godhead. His is power, might, glory, knowledge. He is above us and He is in us. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Don't forget the One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

D As part of the almighty Godhead, the Spirit joins me to Christ. But don't think the Spirit does this to you or me as isolated individuals. The Spirit joins you and me to Christ only as members of His body the church. No individual has the Spirit simply by him or herself. The life of Christ is in us as part of the body of Christ.

The work of the Spirit brings us into the church. Any work, no matter what its name may be -- whether you call it a mission, a ministry, a calling, a service -- needs to bring us into the church. If it does not lead to the church, it is not the work of the Spirit. There is no example in Scripture of a work of the Spirit that did not lead to the church. The Apostles, or rather the Spirit through the Apostles, built and assembled churches. The Spirit incorporates us into the body of Christ.

III Share in the Blessings of Christ
A Now, when we are joined to Christ we are also joined to all the blessings, the benefits, that are in Christ. When we are joined to Christ we are partakers of all that we need in order to be saved. Notice the order: the Holy Spirit first joins us to Christ and then the Holy Spirit joins us to all the benefits of Christ. The Holy Spirit first leads us to confess that we belong to Jesus. He joins us to Christ so we say, "He is mine." And, then, being joined to Christ, the Spirit also joins us to all that Christ has earned for us by His work as Redeemer and Mediator and Savior and Atoning Sacrifice. The Holy Spirit takes the work of Christ and applies it and carries it and works it in our hearts.

B So, what are the benefits of being joined to Jesus? What is it that the Spirit works in our hearts?

The first benefit is regeneration, what we call being born-again. We can describe regeneration as the planting of new life in a heart that is dead in trespasses and sins. In regeneration the sinner is brought from darkness to light, from corruption to holiness, from death to life. In regeneration we receive new life, the life of the resurrected Lord. Regeneration must be a work of the Spirit. It must be because no one who is dead can decide to be alive. It must be because it is impossible for a sinner to want to be born-again. It must be because no sinner wakes up one morning and says, "Today I want to be regenerated." Because of the sinful nature that is not something anyone ever wants.

I don't remember what store I was in, but I saw shelves of skeletons for Halloween. Skeleton after skeleton. Rows upon rows of dry bones. I suppose there is a factory somewhere churning out these skeletons by the thousands. Did you know that we don't need a factory? Dead skeletons have been produced every since man has fallen into sin. Because that is what man is thanks to the Fall into sin: a dead skeleton. By nature, we are nothing but dead skeletons. So in front of me this morning, unless you have been born again by the Spirit of God, is nothing but row after row of old dry bones. Some of you might recognize that I am borrowing from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was given a vision of dry bones:
(Ezek 37:1-10) The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. (2) He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. (3) He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." (4) Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! (5) This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. (6) I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'" (7) So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. (8) I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (9) Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" (10) So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army.
Wow. Wow. Can you imagine all those bones coming to life? Can you imagine all those skeletons getting tendons and flesh and skin and breath? This is what the regenerating work of the Spirit does: it brings life to dead skeletons, to dry bones. The mighty power of God -- the power that raised Christ from the dead -- is displayed in the regenerating work of the Spirit.

The first benefit of being joined to Christ is regeneration. And regeneration, in turn, is the seed that brings forth conversion, faith, repentance, and sanctification. Regeneration is the seed that brings forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything else in the Christian life grows from this first benefit of the Holy Spirit.

C We don't know exactly when regeneration takes place. No one but God knows. But we do know it happens in the lives of our children. And, we have every reason to believe many of our children are born as regenerated children. This is why it is so important for our children to be under the influence of the church. If a child is regenerated by the Spirit in infancy, it is foolish to allow that child to be subject to the influence of the world. A child born-again of the Spirit must be placed in the sphere where the Spirit works: namely, the church. If you remove a child from the sphere of the church, from the sphere where the Spirit works, how can regeneration lead to the other fruit?

What is true for our children is true for every believer: every born-again believer needs the ministry of the church in order to grow and develop in the faith. Every born-again believer needs the ministry of the Word and Sacraments because that is how the Spirit works in the lives of those He has joined to Christ.

Sound doctrine confesses belief in the Spirit. Sound doctrine confesses that the Spirit joins us to Christ so ours is new life. That is the work of the Spirit. No man can do that. Sound doctrine confesses that the Spirit brings me to the knowledge of sin and corruption. He brings us to repentance. He leads us to faith. The Spirit does all of this. Sound doctrine confesses that the Spirit is the One that stays with us, dwells in us, strengthens us, upholds us, instructs us, and comforts us.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? Do you believe what sound doctrine confesses?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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